Spring Break-down: QBs/RBs/WRs

TSD publisher Ben Love begins his look-back at 2014 LSU spring practices with an examination of the Tigers' quarterbacks and offensive skill positions.

More than a week removed from the end of LSU spring football, TSD is bringing the proper perspective to the proceedings, gauging where the Tigers stand this offseason and how Les Miles' men addressed some of the most prevalent questions at each position grouping.

Today we examine the quarterbacks and offensive skill positions. Be on the lookout for an offensive line (and tight ends) recap tomorrow and defensive assessments later in the week.


How They Exit Spring … Contrary to how the five-week practice period began, early enrollee Brandon Harris is now the 1 to sophomore Anthony Jennings' 1-A. Both exit spring in the hunt for the starting job, but Harris has a slight leg-up after out-playing Jennings in the spring game. A tale of the tape from that game has Harris as the better deep passer and scrambler while Jennings was more accurate inside of 20 yards. If Harris can become a better decision-maker on a consistent basis than Jennings, who's still struggling in the pocket and taking too many sacks, the job will be his outright. Redshirt freshman Hayden Rettig, who threw the ball well this spring, is LSU's number three heading into the summer.

Harris wasn't afraid to mix it up this spring
Addressing Spring Storyline … The original storyline question posed in the above primer on Feb. 27 was: "Does the offense begin to evolve some away from LSU's standard formations/staples?" The answer: Kinda. Yes, coordinator Cam Cameron installed and drilled his signal callers on the read-option, but we didn't see it in the spring game (as expected). There was also a higher percentage of plays run from the Shotgun and even sometimes from what appeared to be a Pistol formation look. So the Tigers may be evolving away from being predominantly pro-set, but it was pretty obvious Cameron hasn't put in the whole enchilada yet. One area where we did see change was in the targets. Tight ends and backs accounted for 14 of the 21 catches in the spring game. Of course this doesn't as much represent an offensive movement as much as young quarterbacks who are keen on the check-down and no longer have the likes of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham toasting DBs.

Offseason Priorities … Harris and Jennings must take divergent mental paths after their public performances in the spring game. Jennings, who also didn't play his best ball in the Outback Bowl, needs a big helping of confidence. After his hero moment in the Arkansas game last November, Jennings hasn't had a lot go right for him when the lights were on. It's important he rekindle some of that spark he carried into TigerTown as an early enrollee, when many of his teammates, including Zach Mettenberger, raved about Jennings' moxie. Harris, on the other hand, must stay grounded. It's becoming more evident that the Bossier City native is going to have to play in some capacity in year one, even if as a rotational quarterback. An offseason's worth of humble pie, on top of staying in the weight room and diligently learning the playbook, will best prepare Harris for what could be a season of learning on-the-job in the toughest conference in America.


How They Exit Spring … Going across the board LSU enters the summer in need of numbers at tailback, gamers and at least one freshman starter at receiver while resting just fine at fullback. The Tigers had only two scholarship tailbacks, but both have experience in rising seniors Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee, the latter of whom dealt with an ankle injury this spring. Magee is the preferred option of the pair, but with the way Frank Wilson uses his backs by committee, LSU will need its two signees at the position to hit the ground running. At receiver the situation is more dire. Position coach Adam Henry isn't seeking depth as much as he is frontline starters. Outside of redshirt sophomore Travin Dural, there may not be a sure thing currently in the corps. Many guys had chances this spring, but due to injuries and inconsistency, no one really grabbed the reins. At fullback Connor Neighbors and Melvin Jones are a nice one-two punch, giving LSU equal parts power and athleticism out of the backfield.

Dural is always capable of the spectacular at receiver
Addressing Spring Storyline … The question posed in spring primer: "Who's better than everybody realizes yet at wide receiver?" The answer: Well, no one really, except maybe a flex tight end. For my money Desean Smith was the second most impressive pass-catcher from the spring game after Dural. The Tigers will almost certainly have to target him when flexed or in the slot in 2014, utilizing his 6-foot-4, 241-pound frame. But the storyline question originally had in mind the following players – John Diarse, Quantavius Leslie, Avery Peterson and Kevin Spears. Leslie had a big third scrimmage behind closed doors, but everything else from this quartet over the spring was plagued by inconsistency. From dropped balls to the inability to get separation from LSU's secondary to a new guy wearing green every day, it was not a pretty picture at receiver the past few weeks.

Offseason Priorities … Health and speedy progression from the freshman trio of Malachi Dupre, Trey Quinn and Tony Upchurch would be a good start. It's become a common refrain in Bayou Country that LSU will have to rely on one or two freshmen in the receiving game, so, like Harris on the passing side, these first-year players have to come in ready to go with a sharp mindset. At running back Magee, who did return to play in the spring game, needs to continue to heal that ankle while Hilliard has to stay on track with his weight. LSU no longer needs him to fill time at fullback, so No. 27 must be ready to tote the rock along with Magee and freshman Leonard Fournette this fall. That will require a certain level of conditioning for the senior from Patterson.


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