The injuries the LSU football team has endured through seven spring practices are not limited to one side of the ball.
The offense is without star running back Derrius Guice, who has missed the past three practices with an ankle injury. Two of its projected starting linemen, center Will Clapp and offensive tackle Toby Weathersby, haven’t participated as they recover from shoulder procedures. Guard Donavaughn Campbell and fullback J.D. Moore have worn gold jerseys, signifying limited contact.
But the attrition of defense — especially along the front — has affected continuity, which is evident through the past two scrimmages, coach Ed Orgeron said.
“This is the second scrimmage in a row that (the offense has) won,” Orgeron said following Saturday’s scrimmage. “Obviously, we have some injuries up front on defense, and some guys are not practicing. But we need to get better. They completed some deep balls on us today, and some things that we need to get fixed.”
Edge rusher Arden Key is out of spring practice because of what the team called “personal reasons.” Two of Key’s backups, Isaiah Washington (academically ineligible) and Sci Martin (unspecified injury) are both out. Defensive end Christian LaCouture has worn a gold jersey throughout spring, and defensive end Glen Logan also missed Thursday’s practice.
Though offensive instillation continues, Orgeron appears to be more impressed with the progress of the offense under new coordinator Matt Canada than he is disappointed with the defense. The first-year coach said the Tigers racked up 628 yards of offense in Saturday’s scrimmage, including 391 yards on the ground on 66 carries.
“Overall, where we are at this point of spring, I’m really pleased with our offense,” Orgeron said. “The motions, the shifts — the diversion of the offense is really good."
Three quarterbacks received the majority of the reps in Saturday’s scrimmage, Orgeron said. Projected starter Danny Etling completed 4 of 10 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown, Orgeron said, while presumed backup Justin McMillan connected on 5 of 6 passes for 79 yards and a score. Lindsey Scott also completed 2 of 3 passes for 23 yards.
Of the receivers Orgeron mentioned, Russell Gage hauled in three passes for 52 yards, including “a tremendous play,” the coach said. Drake Davis was on the receiving end of a 39-yard touchdown, and Dee Anderson caught two passes for 30 yards.
But the rushing attack of Darrel Williams and Nick Brossette highlighted the day, Orgeron suggested. With Guice out, the duo combined for 165 yards on on 34 carries.
“We’re basically running from a spread offense,” Orgeron said of the changes in the ground attack under Canada. “Very little (I-formation), very little pro formation. That’s the only difference. But the blocking scheme is very similar. The runs are very similar. There’s a lot of carryover from what we used to do.”
Lawrence, Thornton stepping up
Though some of the Tigers’ key pieces on the defensive front are out, two second-year players are making the most of their opportunities.
Orgeron said defensive end Rashard Lawrence and linebacker Ray Thornton have stepped up in the absence of other players. Orgeron said Lawrence, a sophomore from Monroe, has “improved the most” of the defensive linemen.
Thornton, a redshirt freshman from Killeen, Texas, has cross-trained at both the buck and F-linebacker spots this spring.
“I tell you what: Ray Thornton had an excellent practice today,” Orgeron said. “He made some great tackles out there, did a great job. He’s going to be a tremendous player for us.”