30 days, 30 topics inside the world of LSU football.
TSD is previewing and analyzing the 2014 edition of the Tigers from every angle, bringing you a daily dose of "Summer Session" each weekday through June 11, three days before the unofficial kickoff to football season at SEC Media Days.
TODAY'S SESSION: POSITION BATTLES
Every year a number of starting jobs are solidified by strong Fall Camp performances. From Bennie Logan distancing himself from the pack in 2011 to Alfred Blue running away from the rest of the rushers in 2012, it's commonplace for players to emerge from August position battles as starters.
Today I'm taking a look at all the projected LSU position battles set to unfold in two months. For my take on which player has the upperhand in each situation, check out my projected starting offense and starting defense, both published last week.
One last note: I'm only going to focus on battles for starting jobs. There are dozens of examples of players who will be jockeying for position on the depth chart below the ones, and sometimes in a platoon situation, but the aim of this piece is to identify those going at it for the first team.
- This will be the headliner of Fall Camp 2014 and, given the position, perhaps rightly so. Harris got invaluable experience as an early enrollee in spring ball, making the true freshman a very viable candidate for the job. He's going up against a sophomore in Jennings who experienced the highest of highs in mop-up duty last fall before falling flat in the Tigers' bowl game versus Iowa. It may not be the most competitive of the battles, but it will easily attract the most eyeballs. Cam Cameron is going to have to choose from two guys that have a combined one college start under their belts to take on Wisconsin in Reliant Stadium in the opener.
RB Battle: Leonard Fournette vs. Terrence Magee
- This might be the most fun battle of the group because it has the feel of best versus best. That and the fact that there will be no loser in this one. Both guys are going to play and get the rock a ton in 2014, there's just a little matter of which will walk away from August with some mild bragging rights as the starter. Then there's the fact that one is a true freshman – and arguably the greatest recruit the program has ever signed – while the other is a senior, having paid his dues behind a multitude of backs before breaking out as a junior. Again, there's really no losing in this one, but I can't wait to watch.
WR Battle: Freshmen vs. Returners not named Dural
- Everyone in Tiger Town seems to have his or her own pick to click from the freshmen receivers. Most are high on Malachi Dupre, and for good reason, but there's also chatter everywhere you go that Trey Quinn and possible Tony Upchurch could feature in year one. Whichever player you prefer, or whichever ones, they're all going to get their shot to outshine an average returning corps with little experience. Aside from Travin Dural, none of the veteran wide-outs produced consistently in spring practice. The likes of John Diarse, Quantavius Leslie and Kevin Spears will have to step their games up to keep Dupre & Co. from grabbing the second starting spot, opposite Dural, and filling out the playing rotation. Youth could well be served in this one.
- Now we zero in on possibly the tightest battle entering August. It's debatable, sure, but position coach Jeff Grimes had a whale of a time differentiating between the two this spring. So he didn't, saying to TSD following the spring game that the two are even going into Fall Camp and that the competition is a healthy thing for LSU's offensive line, which returns starters at the four other positions. Fanaika is a senior, in his second year with the program after transferring from the JuCo level, as is Washington, actually coming into his fifth tour of duty in Baton Rouge. If Fanaika can keep his weight down, he'll be a strong candidate to replace Trai Turner, but Washington has a slight leg-up in the experience department.
- From the tightest battle to one that feels a little contrived – more that LSU Nation seems to be willing it to happen from their computers and phones than the staff is anticipating it. Welter, a redshirt senior, is entrenched as the starter from a season ago while Beckwith, a sophomore, has all the physical advantages over Welter but lacks overall knowledge of the defense and is making the full-time transition to Mike ‘backer (so the coaches say at least). I'm not really sure how tight this one will be, primarily because Beckwith will still be soaking up so much from Welter in Fall Camp. However, if Beckwith starts to develop and turn a corner this August, it could be a stepping stone for bigger things to come for him as the season progresses.
- I've listed Thompson as Martin's primary combatant, but the reality is youngsters Rickey Jefferson, Jamal Adams and possibly John Battle will get their cracks at the senior, too. That's how deep LSU is, with good options, at safety in 2014 opposite presumed starting free safety Jalen Mills. Martin ran away with the job this spring, but Thompson wasn't available for the duration, recovering from knee surgery late in the 2013 season. He's expected to be a full-go come August, so Martin will have plenty of competition, trying to hold off the same player that overtook him as a starter last fall. Lot of options in this one. Will be interesting to see which way position coach Corey Raymond goes.