If there has been any significant sound generated by the rest of the LSU football team heading into preseason practice, it’s been hard to pick up, drowned out by all the noise concerning the quarterback melodrama starring Mr. Jennings and Mr. Harris.
This may come as a shock, but Anthony and Brandon aren’t the only two players on this year’s team.
And the considerable questions the quarterback derby presents for LSU aren’t the only ones facing the Tigers as they report to campus Wednesday.
Here’s a look at five key issues LSU needs to sort out between now and the Sept. 5 season opener with McNeese State that don’t involve the quarterback position:
1. Will LSU’s thinning defensive line depth accelerate the shift to the 3-4?
Defensive end Maquedius Bain’s decision Monday to transfer to a junior college after he was reinstated to the team last week was a shock to the system and makes LSU’s personnel shortage on the defensive line more acute.
Being generous, the Tigers are down to six viable defensive ends and six viable defensive tackles, including the return of Mickey Johnson for his senior season.
With or without Bain, the defensive end battle was going to be a taut one, with Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal probably ranking as the two shakiest projected starters on LSU’s entire depth chart.
Coach Les Miles has mentioned incoming freshman Arden Key more than once as a player to watch.
Defensive tackle is a big issue behind starters Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux.
With such concerns, might not LSU use more 3-4 this year under new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele than originally planned?
2. Who will play cornerback opposite Tre??Davious White? The All-Southeastern Conference shutdown man that White is means the Tigers’ other corner will see plenty of business this season.
Going in, it looks like a tantalizing three-cornered contest between sophomore Ed Paris and freshman Kevin Toliver II (the nation’s No. 1-rated cornerback prospect battled Paris in spring practice) and incoming freshman Donte Jackson, widely regarded as the nation’s No. 1 athlete prospect.
LSU really can’t go wrong at this spot talentwise, but someone has to rise to the top.
3. Who will play center and right guard?
Again, the talk about LSU’s quarterback position — in this case Jennings’ legal status before charges against him were dropped — drowned out just about everything else Miles said during his appearance last week before the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge.
But one thing he said stood out: Will Clapp will start at center?
It seemed surprising that Miles would indicate, even in an off-handed way, that the redshirt freshman Clapp would beat out the sophomore Dodd, but Clapp played with the starters in the spring game.
Right guard is also a potential landing spot for Clapp, though right now the bet is on junior Josh Boutte (and yes, it’s pronounced just like the name of former LSU quarterback Josh Booty).
4. Who will be Leonard Fournette’s prime backup and fullback?
No one is going to eclipse Fournette as LSU’s president of the running back pack, but the role of his running mate is something to be sifted out.
Last year. that job changed hands like a relay baton between Terrance Magee and Kenny Hilliard (both departed seniors) and then-freshman Darrell Williams.
Williams has the natural edge in experience — he’s LSU’s second-leading returning rusher with 302 yards and three touchdowns on 64 carries — but it’s not an insurmountable lead.
LSU’s homegrown duo of Catholic High’s Derrius Guice and University Lab’s Nick Brossette are talented and confident enough to push past Williams if he’s not warm to the task.
Another freshman’s name to remember: Lanard Fournette, Leonard’s younger brother, who battled injuries as a senior last year at St. Augustine.
Who blocks for the tailbacks is another matter.
LSU’s top two fullbacks from a year ago are gone. The job appears to have defaulted to John David Moore, a converted tight end, but Williams could play fullback if pressed.
5. Who will kick?
It’s easy to overlook the place-kicking position because it’s traditionally been a high-performing spot for LSU.
But late last season, junior Colby Delahoussaye went into a late funk (he missed four of 15 field goals and two of 36 extra-point attempts) and was replaced by Trent Domingue.
Domingue was only 2-of-4 in the field-goal department, with what turned out to be a crucial block against Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl.
At SEC Media Days, Miles briefly mentioned Delahoussaye as the place-kicker while Domingue and Cameron Gamble would battle for kickoff chores. But something about this position doesn’t seem settled just yet.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.