Ed Orgeron’s voice boomed across the practice fields, and Brandon Harris took first-string snaps at quarterback. Highly touted freshman end Arden Key worked with the veterans, and rookie Donte Jackson flashed his speed while running with the starters.
Oh yes, things are a changing.
LSU opened preseason camp Thursday with a pair of practices, and one of them offered a glimpse of possible change at the two most concerning areas of the team — quarterback and defensive end.
Harris, embroiled in a heated QB competition with junior Anthony Jennings, took snaps with other projected starters. Jennings, last year’s starter who was recently reinstated after a June arrest, was behind center with reserves around him.
“He’s starting first,” coach Les Miles said referring to Harris’ reps. “Starting first is not as important as finishing first and certainly not as important as playing dominant football when we get to Saturdays.”
That was just a snapshot of some Day 1 surprises as the Tigers and coach Les Miles rev up for the 2015 season with a three-week camp. The team splits each day into two practices, with veterans/starters in one and freshmen/younger players in another.
The hype surrounding Key got heavier Thursday when reporters spotted him participating in the veteran practice, challenging presumed starters Lewis Neal and Tashawn Bower. There were other rookies working with veterans, too, but Key is the only one who missed summer workouts. The Georgia native arrived in town Wednesday to report for camp after he was cleared too late to join other freshmen in June.
“He wasn’t here over the summer,” defensive tackle Christian LaCouture said. “For him to go out there in the morning (veteran) group, wow. I told him last night, ‘Go out there with confidence. If you mess up, you mess up. Don’t worry about it. Just go to the next play.’ ”
Four other first-year players practiced with veterans — all of them on defense. Defensive end Isaiah Washington, a four star prospect out of Karr, and three freshman defensive backs — Kevin Toliver, Jackson and Xavier Lewis — worked at the veteran practice.
What’s it all mean?
Miles says not much, and he warned not to assume one rookie is better than another based on the practices in which they participate.
Still, the intrigue surrounding quarterback and defensive end — two critical and uncertain spots — increased on a sizzling hot Thursday in Baton Rouge. During interviews, players spoke politically about the ongoing slugfest at quarterback between Jennings and Harris.
They danced around questions about the duel. After all, it was Day 1 of camp — 29 days before the Tigers host McNeese State in the season opener.
“We have faith and both of them,” linebacker Deion Jones said, repeating the normal team mantra.
Quarterbacks were not made available for interviews.
Reporters were allowed into practice for about 15 minutes Thursday — just enough time to see Harris getting the reps with other projected starters during drills. Harris took snaps with starters Leonard Fournette at running back and John Davis Moore at fullback. Behind Jennings during drills: backups Darrel Williams and Tony Upchurch.
It’s another sign that the quarterback competition between these two — 17 months in — is as close as ever.
The defensive end spots might be just as competitive. The Tigers lost starters Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter, and the projected starters — Bower and Neal — are low on experience. Washington and Key’s participation in veteran practice is a sign. LaCouture can see it.
“I think those two will probably play quite a bit this year,” he said.
Miles raved about Key’s physical shape on reporting day Wednesday. His absence from summer workouts in drills doesn’t seem to show, the coach said.
Key, 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, showed it off Thursday. His physique, even, had linebacker Lamar Louis sending messages to ex-players.
“He reminds me of Danielle (Hunter),” Louis said. “The way he came in, way he moves, way he looks. Told Danielle that a little while ago.”
Key, a Georgia native, wasn’t the only one getting love from the veterans. Jackson, a speedy prospect out of Riverdale, showed his blazing feet during drills, eliciting some “oohs” and “aahs” from a few players.
How fast is he? Miles said he ran a 4.36 40-yard dash over the summer.
“He’s that fast. He’s that fast, all I got to say,” said defensive back Jalen Mills, thought to be one of the quickest on the team.
How about a race?
“I’m not going to even race him,” Mills said. “Nah.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.