LSU picked a starter at quarterback.
Now, coach Ed Orgeron must anoint a starter at a host of other spots.
At least five starting spots are up for grabs as the Tigers head into their final weekend before game week begins. The list includes right guard, nickelback, free safety, the inside linebacker rotational player and the hybrid position played by Arden Key.
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Saturday’s final full scrimmage of camp last weekend didn’t determine any of those positions. In fact, one of those spots has a new starting candidate, Orgeron revealed on Tuesday after practice.
Freshman Saahdiq Charles has joined redshirt freshman Lloyd Cushenberry and freshman Ed Ingram in competing at the right guard position, a battle that the coach describes as very close.
“(O-line coach) Jeff (Grimes) and I talked about that (position),” Orgeron said. “There’s not a lot of separation right now. Some guys do some things better. Big Ed is a great player. I got no problem if he starts. I got no problem if Saahdiq starts. I got no problem if Lloyd starts. All three would do a good job. We’re going to go throughout the week to find out who’s going to start.”
LSU’s two AP preseason All-Americans are now both recovering from injuries.
The position became vacant during the first week of camp, when Maea Teuhema, suspended for “academic stuff,” transferred from the program. Coaches moved Cushenberry, backup to center Will Clapp, to right guard. He competed early on with sophomore Donavaughn Campbell, but two injuries during camp affected Campbell’s chances. He was not at practice Monday and Tuesday while recovering from injuries.
“He’s missed a lot of time,” Orgeron said.
Ingram, a Texas signee, emerged during the second week of drills, and Charles joined the group recently. Charles, of Jackson, Mississippi, began camp playing left tackle, but he’s moved around.
“Saahdiq is playing a lot of positions,” the coach said. “He’s No. 77. Sometimes I think we’ve got four 77s on the team he plays so many positions.”
Orgeron says there are open jobs at four other spots, with the season opener Sept. 2 on the horizon. Here’s some insight on each
Candidates: RFr. Ray Thornton, Fr. K’Lavon Chaisson, RFr. Andre Anthony
Vacated by: Arden Key (injury)
Scoop: Key rolled up a school-record 12 sacks from this hybrid edge-rushing position last season, but it feels more and more like he won’t play in the season opener. That leaves the spot in talented but inexperienced hands. None of those three players has ever played in a college game, but they’ll all play some, Orgeron said. Aranda suggested that Thornton could play the role on running downs and Chaisson could serve as the pass rusher.
Coach O said: “They all three bring three different things to the table. Andre is still a little gimpy (from an ankle injury suffered in Week 1 of camp). We’re going to play all three of those guys more than likely. It doesn’t matter who’s going to start. They’ll all be in the rotation.”
Candidates: Fr. Kary Vincent, RFr. Xavier Lewis
Vacated by: Dwayne Thomas (exhausted eligibility)
Scoop: Vincent, a Texas rookie, should be “considered a starter,” Orgeron said earlier this camp. He’s standing by that statement, but the two could rotate. Lewis, a redshirt sophomore who served as the nickel in spring, has come on strong of late. He had his best scrimmage of camp last weekend, Aranda said, reminding the coordinator of Dwayne Thomas with his timing of blitzes.
Coach O said: “We’ll go throughout the week and check it out. We know Xavier is ready. We’re going to see how well Kary can be ready. That’s the factor.”
Candidates: Sr. Ed Paris, Fr. Grant Delpit
Vacated by: Jamal Adams (forfeited eligibility for NFL)
Scoop: Coaches also “consider Delpit” a starter, Orgeron said, but the grizzled veteran Paris is fighting to keep his spot. Ranked as high as the nation’s No. 4 safety prospect, Delpit enrolled in the mid-year in January, participating in spring practice. He surged up the depth chart quickly, replacing an injured John Battle with the starting group during the Tigers spring game.
Coach O said: “We consider Kary (Vincent) and Grant (Delpit) as starters, whether they start now or are in the rotation. They’ll play for us in the rotation.”
Candidates: Fr. Jacob Phillips, Fr. Tyler Taylor, Sr. Jonathan Rucker
Vacated by: Kendell Beckwith (exhausted eligibility)
Scoop: This spot is the third rotational inside linebacker behind starters Donnie Alexander and Devin White. Alexander’s situation is a murky one. He’s been spotted in a gold jersey at practice, signifying limited contact because of injury. He underwent shoulder surgery in April. “Inside linebacker,” Orgeron said when describing open positions Tuesday, “who’s going to go in for Donnie?” Orgeron and Aranda insist that Phillips, Taylor and, even, fellow freshman Patrick Queen (at Rover ILB) will see rotational play. Tyler and Phillips seem to have the best shots behind Alexander.
Coach O said: “It’s neck and neck between Tyler and Jacob. Both of those guys … Rucker can play there too.”