LSU coach Les Miles: Brandon Harris got “significantly” more first-string snaps. Or did he? _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris (6) fields questions from the media during LSU's 2015 football media day at their football operations center on campus, Sunday, August 16, 2015, in Baton Rouge.

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First off – and this goes for everyone – we don’t know how anyone is “looking” or “doing” or “playing” because practice is completely closed. We must rely on the word of LSU coach Les Miles and players.

There does seem to be a strong feeling around the program that freshman Arden Key will eventually take a starting job at some point this season. He’s pushing Tashawn Bower hard. The defensive end spots are certainly not guaranteed for anyone, though Bower and Lewis Neal are penciled in for now.

Key is receiving rave reviews from just about everybody – not only about his athleticism, speed and skills but his smarts. He’s quickly picking up stuff coach Ed Orgeron is tossing his way.

To your next question: This is as hot a topic as the quarterback battle (not really, but it is getting attention). Corey Raymond said Sunday that Dwayne Thomas is very much in the mix with Ed Paris and Kevin Toliver for the starting job opposite Tre White.

Toliver said Sunday that he expects himself and Paris to rotate at the position. Paris said in the spring that this is “my time.” So who’s gonna be the starter? Who knows.

I think those chances are better this year than they were last year. This is a stab in the dark, but there’s probably a 50-60 percent chance he does “run away” with the QB job and start every game – barring injury. Signs point to him being the leader in the battle:

He’s been taking the first snaps with the starters since Day 1 of camp

He’s been taking the majority of the snaps with the starters since the Day 1 of camp

He worked exclusively with the starters during summer workouts while Jennings was suspended for six weeks

According to many, he’s developed and progressed mentally since last year, when he struggled with the playbook

Again, tough to tell how the D is looking since we can’t watch practices or scrimmages. However, those who did watch the scrimmage and do watch practice feel the defense is ahead of the offense. Les Miles has mentioned that a time or two.

This is a difficult question. Les Miles doesn’t necessarily have a quick hook with QBs, but, if Harris has turnovers and mental lapses, I could see him quickly bringing in and possibly keeping in Jennings.

With Jennings, he knows what he’s gonna get – a guy who doesn’t make too many mistakes but isn’t too explosive. That’s why he played with him in the last seven games of last season. He’s the safe QB, the one LSU can win 8-10 games with but, probably, not much more. He’ll probably go the safe route again if Harris has costly mistakes.

Players and coaches are raving about the linebackers’ speed. Deion Jones, Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith all are speedy guys who can lay hits. Riley and Jones have been doing it for years on special teams, and Beckwith surged into a starting role mid-season, finishing second on the team in tackles.

However, depth could be a problem. LSU has just seven scholarship linebackers, and DC Kevin Steele said five of his linebackers are ready to play now – Jones, Beckwith, Riley, Lamar Louis and Donnie Alexander. Injuries on the D-line and linebacker group – because of depth – could spell disaster.

I think that’s a possibility. The unit is talented and deep and, somewhat, experienced. The Tigers seem to feel like they’ve got as many as five to six who can play. That means spreading it out a little more. You might see less fullback and more three and four-receiver sets this season.

D.J. Chark has emerged enough as an option that the staff moved Malachi Dupre to the slot when the Tigers get into a three-receiver set just so Chark and Travin Dural can split out wide. Trey Quinn and John Diarse are solid slot guys who can block, too.

Freshman Tyron Johnson, the state’s No. 1 player, is in the mix as well. Some compare him to a bigger Quinn.