Spring Notebook: Two freshmen getting first-team reps, Big Cat back

LSU has practiced in pads twice this week, and the team will hold a 60-play scrimmage on Saturday as the Tigers continue to progress through spring ball.

Physical practices tend to produce some bumps and bruises, as one would expect,

Nose tackle Tyler Shelvin is one of a few defensive linemen who’re banged up at the moment, which opened the door for early enrollee Siaki “Apu” Ika to take reps with the first-team defense. It hasn’t taken the rookie long to make a strong first impression.

“He’s looked good,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “He struggles a little bit at times when he gets tired. Obviously, when he’s fresh, he’s hard to handle one-on-one. He’s an excellent young man.”

Ika weighs in at 364 pounds at the moment, according to Orgeron. Center Lloyd Cushenberry, who has had the pleasure of trying to block him, estimated Ika weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 380 pounds.

LSU wants the massive freshman to get down to 330 pounds by the fall, which Orgeron said will be doable once he goes through LSU’s offseason conditioning program for the first time.

“He doesn’t back down from anybody,” Orgeron said. “He’s a good pass rusher. He’s nimble on his feet. His coaches taught him very well how to use his hands. He’s quick off the ball. He’s going to be an excellent linemen for us.”

Ika hasn’t been the only early enrollee working with the first-team defense of late. Orgeron said Derek Stingley Jr. has been working opposite Kelvin Joseph with the first group. Kary Vincent Jr. has also been rotating in.

BIG CAT BACK

The Big Cat drill, a staple of the Les Miles regime, has made a somewhat-surprising comeback to LSU practices this spring. Orgeron on Thursday explained how that came about.

It started with Grant Delpit, LSU’s newly-minted No. 7, who approached Orgeron and asked if the drill could come back. The coach agreed, and LSU has begun the past two practices with it.

“I was ok with it,” Orgeron said. “I love it. I love the Big Cat drill. I always thought it was a good drill. The players like it. We go 10 one-on-ones. I showed it to the team and I call them out. They never know who it is going to be. Everybody thinks that they’re going. They’ve got to be ready.

“I choose the matchups that are pretty equal, and they battle.”

Nobody besides quarterbacks are exempt from being called to the middle of the circle. LSU has even gotten specialists in on the act, with kickers facing long snappers and punters squaring off, Orgeron said.

“MOST IMPROVED”

Left tackle Saahdiq Charles had an up-and-down sophomore season after forcing his way into the starting lineup as a true freshman.

Pass protection has been an area of emphasis, especially before LSU put on the pads this week, and coaches have noticed a marked improvement from the protector of Joe Burrow’s blindside.  

“I think the most improved lineman right now is Saahdiq Charles,” Orgeron said. “We spent tireless hours working on his footwork and technique. He’s maturing, and right now I think he’s one of the most improved played on the team.”

Orgeron also mentioned center Lloyd Cushenberry and right guard Damien Lewis as solid performers from that offensive line. Those two were arguably LSU’s steadiest performers up front last season.

About James Moran 1331 Articles
James Moran was named Editor of Tiger Rag in August 2018. He previously served as the associate editor since 2014. He covers LSU football and baseball and is a graduate of the LSU Manship School of Journalism.

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