Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Spring Practice

In the spirit of football, I'm calling an audible.

Yesterday, I promised more on the basics of recruiting, but then I remembered. "Oh yes, spring practice has started." I will just save my continuation of yesterday's topic (already written, actually), and instead talk about spring practice.

It is said that the typical player will make the biggest improvement he will ever make during his first Spring Practice. I don't know if that's true, and I certainly don't have any proof, but it makes some sense. The seniors are gone. The incoming freshmen aren't there yet. Instead, there is a group of about 60 or so scholarship players getting the most one-on-one coaching that they will get the entire year. There isn't the pressure to get the first string all the snaps to prepare for an upcoming game. It makes sense that young players, kind of far down the depth chart, will have a great opportunity to improve.

Anyway, onto spring practice. Of course, the headlines will be made by the quarterback competition. Our outstanding starting quarterback, Jamarcus Russell, has left to make his name in the NFL, leaving 5th year senior Matt Flynn and former all-world high schooler Ryan Perilloux to battle it out. While I anticipate an open competition and a vigorous battle, I fully expect Matt Flynn to emerge as the starting quarterback and Perilloux to be his backup entering fall. While it will get headlines, I don't see this as the big battle of the spring.

The real battles will be at wide receiver, safety, offensive line, and defensive end. Only Early Doucet has a spot claimed at wide receiver, with Brandon Lafell, Chris Mitchell, Jared Mitchell, and Ricky Dixon fighting for the other spots. Lafell is the most experienced, and J. Mitchell seems to have the inside track on C. Mitchell and Ricky Dixon, but he will miss about half of Spring Practice playing baseball. Craig Steltz is going to be one of the safeties, but the other safety spot is totally up for grabs. Danny McCray? Curtis Taylor? Someone else? It's a lot more uncertain than the QB spot. The battle at these two position will heat up more when the true freshmen show up. LSU signed outstanding wide receivers and safeties in this class, and they will push for playing time in the fall.

At defensive end, LSU has to replace Chase Pittman, a two-year starter. My dark horse for this battle is Rahim Alem, who I thought looked really good during garbage time of blow out games last year. If Ricky Jean-Francois can't get his eligibility straight, I think Alem could be outstanding. If Francois comes back, he's an NFL level talent.

On the offensive line, we have to replace two starters (Dyakowski and B. Johnson). There are a lot of young offensive linemen on this team, and it will be very interesting to see who emerges from that group to take those spots. If Will Arnold ever manages to come back from his injuries, it will solidify the offensive line considerably. As it is, I think the offensive line is going to be the strength of the offense next year.

So when you read about spring practice in The Advocate, TigerDroppings, or wherever, pay special attention to the wide receivers, safeties, defensive ends, and offensive linemen who are getting the reps. You'll find out a lot about what LSU will look like next year.

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