Amidst a spring with a slew of open questions ranging from the arrival of a new offensive coordinator to plugging many holes on defense, LSU’s first scrimmage serves as de facto testing lab for a program predicated on stability.
Yet Tigers coach Les Miles isn’t inclined to lay out the criteria his slightly shuffled staff used as gauges for the assessing progress two weeks into spring workouts along Skip Bertman Drive.
“I want to seep physicality and the ability to throw it and run it, tackle it and hold on to the ball,” Miles said early Thursday.
Clearly, any hints at tweaks or alterations to an offensive scheme under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would be met with interest, but it’s unlikely -— based on Miles’ statements — that the scrimmage would allow anyone to glean greater insights.
Right now, the plan is for the unit to operate solely out of first-and-10 situations, and not dig too deep into the play-call chart Saturday.
“We’re going to call the things we’ve been calling to this point and see if we can execute it,” Miles said. “That would be the basic plan.”
At quarterback, senior Zach Mettenberger is entrenched on the topline of the depth chart, but any scrimmage work might be an early metric to deciding a pecking order further down the list between sophomore Stephen Rivers, early enrollee freshmen Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings.
Asked whether the assessment is based on which of the trio looks better overall or in specific packages out of the playbook, Miles remained cryptic.
“Both,” he said.
As for what separation exists between Rettig and Rivers, age might be the biggest factor.
“Rettig is, understandably a freshman, and trying to figure it out,” Miles said. “Rivers has been around here a little longer and has a better understanding of things.”
Knitting together shreds of anecdotal evidence offers some insight into the dynamics at play on the offensive side of the ball, where in past stops Cameron in the NFL and college ranks has shown a tendency to make his system malleable to his personnel but naturally apply his own methods in practice.
Much has been made of Cameron, who arrived after spending five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, speeding up the tempo during practices, but in the past, the veteran coordinator has said he wants workouts to closely mimic game speed. Meanwhile, Miles has spent time this week working along side offensive line coach Greg Studrawa where “there’s enough young guys there that will benefit from having some extra coaching.”
“Teaching is like riding a bike, because once you’ve learned it, you have it,” Miles said. “Teaching it is a lot harder than riding a bike.”
There’s also been a concerted effort to track and record dropped balls by receivers and tight ends, a nod to improving accountability among pass catchers, Miles said.
Center ElliotPorter is back in practice this week, but Miles was complimentary of freshman Ethan Pocic, who was envisioned more as a guard. “He’s really a nice athlete, a really bright guy,” Miles said. “He’s accomplishing the center (position) very quickly, and we’d expect him to play in games at center very quickly.” ... Senior linebacker Lamin Barrow’s move to middle linebacker might not be required if D.J. Welter continues on his current trajectory. That move, though, would be predicated on Welter needing “to be of the best three,” Miles said. “I can only tell you that he’s much more sincere about his reps. There’s a lot more attention to detail, and for him to win that job he’s going to need that.” ... LSU might use a by-committee approach to fulfill it’s eight- to nine-man defensive line rotation. Right now, freshman Christian LaCoutre is being cycled through different spots. “We’re getting LaCoutre a lot of works at a lot of different reps,” Miles said. “That’s really going to benefit him, because he’ll end up being a back-up position in the fall and that will get him a lot of spring reps.”