It’s molten hot outside. You could fry the proverbial egg on the sidewalk or, more in keeping with our current context, on top of Donnie Alexander’s helmet.
The only redeeming quality to late July as it melts, literally, into early August:
Football season is closing in like Arden Key on a quarterback.
Well, eventually, that will be a thing.
Honest-to-goodness football will get underway Thursday night — of the preseason variety, but still, as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame Game. Check your local listings.
On the college scene, preseason camps are bursting open across the fruited plain like little presents of footballness. At LSU, camp begins Sunday.
For the Tigers, the clock to the season opener Sept. 2 against BYU starts ticking louder and louder like the soundtrack in “Dunkirk.” Here’s a look at five burning (appropriately) questions before LSU takes on the Cougars:
1. Does Danny Etling really have to watch his back?
Etling’s post-spring game back surgery is the most talked about operation in Louisiana since Operation Dynamo (Sorry, another “Dunkirk” reference, but it’s a great movie). He arrived at the SEC spring meeting in early June saying he felt great — but if that’s the case, why does Ed Orgeron invoke the name of freshman Myles Brennan every chance he gets? Brennan, who wasn’t on campus for spring practice, has been promised a chance at the starting job. Promises should be kept, but can LSU really afford to turn its back on Etling and his monopoly on playing experience? It seems extremely improbable, but backs are tricky things. Still, if healthy, it defies logic to picture anything but Etling taking the first snap against BYU.
LSU’s preseason camp scrimmages will be completely live, contact-heavy, game-like practices …
2. What do we make of the interior remodeling job?
Junior Will Clapp is this season’s Ethan Pocic, a man for all seasons, or positions. Clapp was a guard who is now a center but could be a guard again if LSU’s coaches aren’t pleased with the chemistry of their starting guards. Right now it’s a mixture of Maea Teuhema, Lloyd Cushenberry and Donavaughn Campbell. However, the possibility exists that Cushenberry could slide to center and Clapp moves back to guard if the need becomes apparent. It’s not likely, but camp is the time to give a plugs-out test to the backup systems and give LSU’s current interior alignment a go/no-go for launch.
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D.J. Chark has both hands wrapped around the role of LSU’s top target. But if there is to be balance to the Tigers’ new Matt Canada-designed offense, they’ll need more hands on deck. Who will be the No. 2 receiver? The slot man? Orgeron said sophomore Drake Davis “looks like Tarzan when we let him run down the field and catch the ball.” It’s great for LSU that Davis looks the part, but he caught all of one pass last season for 19 yards. Senior Russell Gage (five catches, 62 yards, one touchdown) may finally get his chance to shine, but statistically last season, he ranked behind fellow returning players J.D. Moore, Derrius Guice and Foster Moreau.
4. How will Arden Key's return — or absence — impact the defense?
Key’s health and ultimate return has been an even bigger story than Etling’s back. Such is extent of both Key’s intrigue (why he sat out spring practice for personal reasons no one at LSU will officially say) and his immense talent. If he can come back at virtually any point of the regular season and display the skill that allowed him to lead the SEC in sacks per game last season (1.09), the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft may await. Yet, the likelihood that LSU will have to play at least part of the season without him — despite Orgeron’s recent claim that Key still has a chance to play against BYU — remains large. One man’s problem is another’s opportunity. In this case, it's a chance for freshman K’Lavon Chaisson, a highly rated freshman pass rusher, to make his mark — at least until Key returns.
Ed Orgeron on Thursday revealed the latest update on the player who’s caused the loudest buz…
5. If John Battle is indeed one of the starters at safety, who lines up with him?
Like most coaches, Orgeron is a disciple of the philosophy that you must be strong up the middle. For LSU’s defense, that line runs all the way to the two safety positions in the heart of the Tigers’ secondary. John Battle, a junior, is entrenched at one safety spot, but the other is up for grabs. Being a senior, Ed Paris would tend to be the default owner of that position, but given the way Orgeron keeps mentioning his young safety talent, that doesn't appear to be guaranteed. In perhaps the preseason’s hottest position battle, Paris will have to fight off a talented trio of freshmen: Todd Harris Jr. from Plaquemine, JaCoby Stevens and Grant Delpit, who could get a chance to take his first collegiate snap in his hometown of Houston.
This is part of a 10-part series counting down to the start of LSU's preseason camp July 31.…