LSU’s new-look defense debuts in spring; here’s why Les Miles calls the start ‘memorable’ _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Quarterback Anthony Jennings throws Saturday at LSU's first football practice of the spring.

Anthony Jennings drew praise from LSU coach Les Miles after Saturday’s spring scrimmage, saying he won the day over fellow quarterback Brandon Harris.

Jennings is encouraged by his play and progress this spring, but to say he was as enamored with his performance as his coach would be stretching things.

“Coach Miles said I was pretty crisp, but I think my standards are even higher than his,” Jennings said after practice Tuesday. “I have to play better, practice better and get those guys around me better.”

Strong words perhaps from the incumbent junior, who is expected to fight Harris for the starting job through the spring and theoretically up to game week of LSU’s Sept. 5 opener with McNeese State.

But maybe that’s what Jennings needs: a bit of fight and confidence bordering on cocky.

After all, Miles gave Harris the edge after LSU’s first spring scrimmage. For his part, despite holding a vast edge in experience — Jennings has completed 86 more passes, attempted 182 more passes, thrown for 1,159 yards and five more touchdowns than his sophomore counterpart — Jennings at least publicly is welcoming the challenge.

“Competition brings out the best in everyone, and I don’t want anyone to get complacent,” he said. “Each and every position on the team has competition. That word comes up a lot around here.”

The Chark report

Sophomore wide receiver D.J. Chark played enough in 2014 to lose a year’s eligibility, though he didn’t play enough to earn a letter.

This season may be a different story. Chark apparently has caught at least three or four touchdown passes in LSU’s two spring scrimmages and is earning glowing reviews from his teammates, like Jennings.

“I think his confidence is going through the roof,” Jennings said. “He’s one of the most explosive guys speed-wise we have.”

Asked if he was catching everything thrown his way, Chark replied, “That’s the plan. Pretty much.”

He said his route running still needs work.

“We (the receivers) all need work, but we’re getting better every day,” he said. “Playing against our DBs you have no choice but to get better.”

Jones on Steele

Like many defensive players this spring, linebacker Deion Jones was asked to compare former defensive coordinator John Chavis to new coordinator Kevin Steele.

“There’s really not much difference,” Jones said. “They expect the same things. He is kind of serious, but that’s just his passion for the game and how much he wants us to be successful.”

Chavis and Steele coach linebackers. Jones said he is benefiting from the close relationship with the new coordinator as he tries to pick up the nuances of his brand of defense.

“He’s a great coach. I’m learning a lot of things,” Jones said. “He’s a players coach in the team room, making sure we have everything we need.”

Just past halfway

Tuesday’s practice was LSU’s eighth of 15 allowed by NCAA rule each spring. The Tigers have seven sessions left, including the Spring Game on April 18 in Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers practiced outdoors Tuesday under sunny skies. The team wore helmets, shoulder pads and shorts and started with the always-spirited Big Cat drill, which pits offensive and defensive players against each other in wrestling match-like showdowns.

Injury report

Defensive end Tashawn Bower was seen leaving the practice facility in a walking boot on his left ankle.

LSU Pro Day on TV

The SEC Network will provide live coverage of LSU Pro Day starting at noon Friday.

SEC Network football analyst Greg McElroy will report from LSU, while former LSU All-American Marcus Spears will help provide in-studio coverage.

The telecast will also be available at and on the WatchESPN app.