By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
LSU’s first spring under Ed Orgeron ended unceremoniously with a rain storm, but it was far from a washout.
Though inclement weather forced the Spring Game indoors before halftime, enough football was played in the 15 practices and three scrimmages preceding to draw some conclusions.
Here are a few takeaways as the Tigers head into summer workouts.
STOCK UP: Devin White
Replacing two third-round draft picks at linebacker will be no easy task for Dave Aranda next season, but White’s spring leaves much room for optimism.
Recruited as a running back out of Spring Hill High School, White switched to defense as an early enrollee last spring in pursuit of more immediate playing time. Often times last fall, White and Aranda would be working one-on-one during practice, with LSU’s defensive coordinator breaking down the finer points of SEC linebacking play to his young pupil.
That quality time appears to have paid off. White looked fantastic all spring, particularly in the Spring Game. Squaring off against Matt Canada’s multiple-motion, shift-heavy offense, White diagnosed every complexity, hardly taking a wrong step. The speed, strength, and quickness he displayed were astonishing, but not surprising, given his history as a productive prep ball-carrier. The intelligence and discipline he played with were the pleasant surprise LSU fans can relish heading into the fall.
With likely top-10 pick Arden Key out all spring, White was the best defender Aranda played during the spring. He looks more than ready to take over for Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley, both of whom used a year under Aranda as a platform to the third round of the NFL Draft. If White continues his current rate of development, he may very well follow in their footsteps, if not surpass them as a future first-rounder.
STOCK DOWN: Quarterback depth
I have real concerns about LSU’s options under center next year.
That’s not to say I don’t trust Danny Etling. In fact, I think Etling is more than capable of being the signal-caller of an SEC title-winning squad. He’s accurate, decisive, athletic, intelligent, and has a better arm than most think.
But Etling underwent back surgery shortly after the spring game, and while Orgeron classified it as a “minor” procedure, there’s nothing minor about a doctor taking a knife to your back. Back surgeries tend to be complicated and require precision both during operation and in rehab.
All in all, Etling should be fine, and I expect, despite his subpar spring game and Orgeron’s decision not to name a starter under center just yet, he’ll comfortable be LSU’s starter come this fall.
It’s the guys behind him I’m concerned about.
Neither Justin McMillan and Lindsey Scott, currently second and third on the depth chart, were top 1000 recruits in their respective classes. Sure, recruiting rankings aren’t the end-all, be-all of college football, and players can often outplay their evaluations. But it’s also an indicator of the talent gap both players would need to overcome to be SEC-calber QBs.
Both have their strengths. McMillan throws a nice ball and is a good athlete. Scott is smart as a whip and was incredibly productive in high school, capable of making plays with his arms and legs. But neither has shown much of an ability since arriving at LSU to be impact players.
Where things get interesting is with Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan, the two freshman quarterbacks Canada will have on roster next year. Narcisse has an SEC frame, with elite athleticism and arm strength, but he’s not polished, and he’s still working through the rust brought on by two knee injuries in high school.
Brennan has the arm tools to be an All-SEC quarterback, but his frame needs muscle, and unlike Narcisse, he was not an early enrollee, so he’ll be playing catch up in the fall, though he has spent ample time around the program since signing in February.
One of these two should emerge as Etling’s eventual back up. One of them is all but surely LSU’s future quarterback. Who will edge out the other will be a fascinating fall storyline to follow.
STOCK UP: Kevin Toliver II
Remember Toliver, the five-star from Florida who was one of the best freshmen corners in the country in 2015?
You could be forgiven if you don’t, because Toliver didn’t see much of the field in 2016, due to a combination of injury, suspension, and poor play. Donte Jackson took the mantle as the man opposite Tre’Davious White and never looked back.
There were some concerns, in White’s absence, about that second corner spot, but Toliver put them all to bed this spring. He was superb in the Spring Game, blanketing DJ Chark and snagging an interception.
At 6-foot-2 and with long arms and quick feet, Toliver is the prototypical pro corner, potentially the next NFL prospect from DBU. Consistency will be his key in 2017. He’s even more gifted than White, a first-round pick; if he can find some semblance of White’s reliability, Toliver could be the lockdown corner every SEC program needs.
STOCK DOWN: O-Line Depth
Injuries limited what Jeff Grimes could put on the field for LSU’s offense up front this spring, so perhaps the difficulties endured by the Tiger offensive line will be a positive in the long run.
But with Will Clapp and Toby Weathersby sidelined with ailments, LSU’s line looked short on quality and depth.
That’s not a surprise: take away two of the best linemen from any group, particularly at center and tackle, and that’s bound to happen. But this is a position that has to be better in big games (Alabama), and it was a liability in the spring game, allowing several sacks, hurries, and generating little in the run game.
Add in the subsequent arrest and suspension of Adrian Magee on felony burglary charges, and LSU has some questions to answer in the trenches.
STOCK UP: Grant Delpit
Delpit earned a Spring Game start in the absence of John Battle, who was nursing a minor injury, and looked ready to take on that role full time.
What a talent LSU has on its hands in Delpit. The IMG Academy product flew around the field, making several physical stops and dropping back into pass coverage for one superb pass break up.
Rangy, long, and athletic, Delpit has the physical tools to play immediately. Orgeron even said he could be a starter come the fall. With he and fellow early enrollee JaCoby Stevens on board, Corey Raymond’s secondary is set up for success now and in the future.