From position moves to new installs, from Matt Canada’s screams to Ed Orgeron’s themes, from Drake Davis’ emergence to Devin White’s maturity, we’ve learned a lot during the first 12 days of LSU spring practice.
As the Tigers head on spring break — they’re off April 7-17 — we dive into the five most important things we learned so far in spring. There’s more to come, too. Orgeron’s group will have two more practices, April 18 and 20, and the spring game April 22.
That said, the bulk of the learning for us is over. The Tigers’ practice April 20 is the annual student appreciation day, a less serious day of sometimes goofy drills involving students, and the spring game is not expected to reveal much.
1. Searching for an identity and a QB
The Tigers continue to search for an offensive identity and starting quarterback. The two searches are a joint effort. The chosen QB — pro-style or dual-threat — will dictate the offensive identity. Canada has employed an assortment of offenses over his career, manned by both kinds of quarterbacks: the pass-heavy, up-tempo, no-huddle spread scheme at Indiana; the QB-run spread attack at Northern Illinois; and the shift-heavy, power run spread scheme he ran last year at Pitt. Canada told The Advocate on March 23 that he was a “long ways” from settling the QB battle and thus identifying his offense. He reaffirmed that Wednesday in an interview with ESPN. “There’s a lot of pieces in place for us to do what we want to do,” he said. “Not quite sure what that’s going to be yet. As a coach, that’s our job — put our best players in a position to make plays.”
2. The H-back is here
Don’t call them fullbacks or tight ends any longer. They’re H-backs, Orgeron said earlier this spring to describe his new position group. Canada brought with him more than just a new, spread offense. He’s combined two position groups to form one, the H-back, a position synonymous with the spread. H-backs can line up virtually anywhere, players say: the backfield like a RB or FB, in the slot like a WR, at TE and off the line of scrimmage behind a tackle. H-back aren’t only blockers either. J.D. Moore is learning how to run passing routes, for instance. Canada threw shovel passes to his H-backs last year at Pitt. Moore, Foster Moreau, Bry’Kiethon Mouton, Caleb Roddy and others have spent the spring learning versatility to play in each spot.
3. Missing: defensive depth
The Tigers lost as many as eight starters from last season’s team. Guess what that means? Depth trouble during spring, before a wave of signees joins in the summer. The Tigers had to move an outside linebacker (Michael Divinity) to inside because of depth. LSU has just two true scholarship ILBs and one of them, Donnie Alexander, is out for the last two spring practices and the spring game while recovering from shoulder surgery. Meanwhile, three of the top four bucks, the hybrid edge rusher in Dave Aranda’s scheme, are out for spring: Arden Key (person reasons), Sci Martin (injury) and Isaiah Washington (academics). Who’s left? Andre Anthony and Ray Thornton, moved from the F-outside linebacker spot. Those two players have never played in a game. Thornton and Divinity’s shift from the F-OLB has left it in the hands of just one player who’s seen significant playing time, Corey Thompson.
4. A fluid interior O-line
The outside of LSU’s offensive line appears to be set in stone, but the interior positions are a fluctuating group. OL coach Jeff Grimes said earlier this spring that K.J. Malone, at left, and Toby Weathersby, at right, are his two starting tackles, and he doubts that will change. However, the two guards are somewhat open positions, and center isn’t completely locked down either. Will Clapp will play center or one of the guards, that’s a given. Maea Teuhema is a likely candidate to snag one of the guard spots. Redshirt junior Garrett Brumfield, freshman Austin Deculus and sophomore Donavaughn Campbell appear to be battling for the other guard spot, if Clapp plays center. Lloyd Cushenberry’s solid spring at center (Clapp is out while recovering from shoulder surgery) is giving Grimes pause. Maybe Cushenberry can play center, shifting Clapp to guard.
No quarterback in LSU’s starting battle has grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns just ye…
5. Secondary filling holes
LSU’s secondary lost three of five starters from last year. Safety Jamal Adams, nickelback Dwayne Thomas and cornerback Tre’Davious White are all gone. All three are likely to get drafted, and Adams and White could land in the first round. The replacing has begun. Ed Paris is manning Adams’ spot, but young guys like Grant Delpit are pushing him. Kevin Toliver, a partial starter for the last two seasons, is healthy and holding down the CB spot opposite Donte Jackson, and sophomore Saivion Smith isn’t far behind him, either. Then there’s nickel, where Xavier Lewis began spring drills running with the starters. Walk-on Abraham Wallace and sophomore Kristian Fulton are behind him.