Friday, February 29, 2008

Annual Rites of Spring

Spring Practice is here. It has started already for some schools, and it starts for LSU today.

To recap, each team gets 15 formal practices in the Spring. They can take them whenever they like. They can practice 3 times a day for 5 days if they want. Most, obviously, don't do that. I believe LSU likes to practice about 4 times per week until the practices are used up.

Things to watch this year?
  1. Obviously, the quarterback situation. Everyone knows about Ryan Perrilloux, and the fact that he is currently suspended. There's some talk he could be reinstated soon. Or he might not be reinstated for months. Either way, the battle between Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch to be the alternative to Perrilloux is one that even the national media will be paying close attention to.
  2. Cornerback, another oft-discussed issue with the 2008 LSU football team. We lost two starting cornerbacks, and rarely played the #s 3 and 4 cornerbacks. There are no heirs apparent to Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon. The backups last year were rising sophomore Jai Eugene and rising junior Chris Hawkins. Hawkins, in my opinion, looked pretty good when he got into the games in garbage time. Eugene struggled at corner, though he played well in special teams. Keep in mind that Eugene never played corner in high school, and even though he was a coveted recruit, he has had to learn the position from scratch and may simply be taking a while to learn it. Don't be surprised, though, if redshirt freshman Phelon Jones passes one or the other of those guys.
  3. Position changes. Reportedly, freshman tight end Jordon Corbin has been moved to end, but expect even more changes than that. Freshman corner John Williams is rumored to have moved to offense. There have been rumblings that one of the Mitchell receivers may move to corner. Fans have clamored to move safety Harry Coleman to linebacker. Who knows what will actually happen, which is why it will be fun to watch.
  4. Right side of the O-line. We obviously have to fill the right tackle position vacated by Carnell Stewart, but there are some who say that the right guard position occupied by Lyle Hitt last year might also be up for grabs. Rising sophomores Joseph Barksdale and Jarvis Jones are the key challengers for those positions, and Barksdale figures to break into the starting lineup.
  5. Offensive line depth. You need more than 5 offensive linemen, and for the first time in a number of years, LSU looks to have real depth at line. Several redshirt freshman will be jockeying for position, as will rising sophomore Matt Allen, who had a lot of positive buzz at this time last year but did not get on the field as a redshirt freshman. Redshirt freshmen Josh Dworaczyk, T-Bob Hebert, and Ernest McCoy all have high hopes of making it into the 2-deep. If Will Blackwell has been moved to offensive guard as has been reported, he has his work cut out for him.
  6. Tight end. We all know that Richard Dickson is a stud receiving tight end, but this team lost both of its primary blocking tight ends to graduation and another of the reserve tight ends left the team. Redshirt freshman Jordan Corbin has reportedly moved to defensive end, leaving us with only 3 scholarship tight ends on the Spring roster, two of whom have never played a down. What was once a position of absurd depth is now a position where we may end up relying heavily on one or more of the true freshmen. There should be a battle between Alex Russian and Mitch Joseph to be the blocking tight end opposite Dickson.
  7. Wide receiver. I want to know two things: 1) will Terrance Toliver step up his game? He started out strong last year, but his production tailed off towards the end of the season. He has all the tools, and it's just a matter of developing them. If he steps up, he'll be very difficult to defend; and 2) Will any of the other receivers emerge as a true threat? Rising juniors Chris and Jared Mitchell haven't produced much so far in their careers and it's probably do-or-die time for them. Ricky Dixon and RJ Jackson are rising redshirt sophomores who also need to establish themselves. Any of these guys who do not take a step forward risk falling behind incoming freshmen.
  8. Linebacker. LSU replaces 2 of 3 starting linebackers, and I fully expect rising junior Perry Riley to take one of those two spots. The other one appears up for grabs between Shomari Clemmons and Kelvin Sheppard. Rising sophomore Kelvin Sheppard has the most experience of the two. Jacob Cutrera is a pure middle linebacker so does not figure to compete for a spot outside. Don't be surprised if there is a position change somewhere to bring another body in to compete for a linebacker spot.
Of course, some of the things that emerge this spring will be rendered moot by the true freshmen coming in the Fall. Cornerback is one of those areas where a true freshman may really make waves, because Patrick Johnson is a stud. Wide receiver is another position where a true freshman or two may play, but I doubt any true freshman will break into the top 3. Ryan Baker also may break into the rotation at linebacker.

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