Spring practice at LSU is officially over, with a special celebratory "Spring Game" on Saturday, open to the general public.
As everyone knows, Spring Games have taken on new meaning in the wake of the excitement brought on by a certain someone who arrived in Tuscaloosa a little over a year ago. More on that perhaps tomorrow, but I want to talk about the actual players right now.
The big battles of the Spring were at quarterback, right tackle, safety, and cornerback. Everyone knows the quarterback situation and why the battle between Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch was so important. To hear talk, it appears that Lee has put a little distance between himself and Hatch. Lee simply has a stronger and more accurate arm, and can make the throws better than Hatch. Lee just has to learn game management and how to make the right decisions and he can be a very good quarterback. He's got the physical tools, and reportedly has a very good work ethic. He just has to put it all together. Let's hope what he has won is the backup quarterback position.
Jordan Jefferson will arrive in the fall to challenge, but I really believe the staff would much prefer to redshirt Jefferson, though he may have to play if Perrilloux has further problems. I think it's unrealistic, however, to believe a true freshman has a real chance to beat out a veteran at a position with such a long learning curve as quarterback. There is just too much to learn, and too many ways that the practice time that Lee has gotten will help him. Jefferson will be in the mix later in his career, but won't play this year unless there is attrition of quarterbacks or the veterans are ineffective.
At right tackle, we have to replace departed senior Carnell Stewart. True sophomores Joseph Barksdale and Jarvis Jones engaged in a good battle for the position throughout Spring, but it appears that Barksdale leaves Spring with the upper hand. Both Barksdale and Jones earned substantial playing time as true freshman reserves last year, and both figure to be on track to crack the starting lineup before long one way or another, but for now it appears Barksdale will be our 2008 starting right tackle barring injury. This is somewhat as expected, as Barksdale came in much more heralded (though at defensive tackle rather than offensive line) than Jarvis Jones, who frankly has been a big surprise since joining the team.
Cornerback is obviously a position where there is much wringing of hands and furrowing of brow. We lost two seniors to graduation, and we had no one behind them get any substantial playing time. The battle in the Spring was between four young players: Junior Chris Hawkins, Sophomore Jai Eugene, and redshirt freshmen Ron Brooks and John Williams. Hawkins and Eugene ran with the 1's all Spring, and there were reports either Brooks or Williams may switch to offense at some point. Eugene of course was a very highly prized recruit in Les Miles' first full recruiting class. That class honestly has been somewhat disappointing, but if the members of that class are ever going to make a move to the top of the depth charts, now is the time. I do not have any feeling on how these corners will look in the Fall when the games start, but for right now it looks like Eugene and Hawkins are our starting cornerbacks.
The arrival of Patrick Johnson in the Fall could shake that up. He's a very highly regarded 5-star recruit out of Florida that many people think can win the job outright. He has been described as the most physically gifted cornerback to come out of high school in several years, and the best cornerback prospect LSU has ever had.
Last but not least, at strong safety we have to replace All-American Craig Steltz. The competition is between last year's backup Harry Coleman, who played so well in the BCSNCG when Steltz had to leave with an injury, and sophomore Chad Jones, who looks like an eventual All-American type but seems like more of a free safety than a strong safety. Chad Jones skipped out on participating in baseball in order to concentrate on this competition. These two guys split time at the 1's, and it appears the battle for the starting safety spot is not even close to being decided yet.