ULTIMATE QB DECISION RESTS WITH LES
There are a lot of things Les Miles entrusts to longtime friend and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, embarking upon his second season at LSU. But, according to Cameron Sunday, making the ultimate determination on the Tigers’ starting quarterback isn’t one of them.
Cameron told reporters he and the rest of the offensive staff have input, something he believes Miles values, but the final call about who trots out first against Wisconsin – Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings – belongs to The Hat.
“Les will make the right decision. Our job in the quarterback room is to make sure every guy is ready to play like a starter,” said Cameron. “We have a first starter, a second starter, a third starter, a fourth starter and a fifth starter. We’ve got five guys in that room. We expect them all to prepare like starters, and when the opportunity arises the expectation is simple – go in there and play like an LSU starter.”
From there Cameron commented on the different strengths his quarterbacks possess. They’ll cater the offense to those strengths, but ultimately there’s a baseline standard for any signal caller that takes the field.
“Now, every guy’s skillset is a little bit different,” Cameron continued. “None of the guys are exactly the same. We’re not going to run the same thing with every guy, but we do expect them to do certain things. We expect them to be tough, we expect them to lead, we expect them to be able to execute our running game and our audible system, and we expect them to flourish in whatever passing game fits them. One quarterback, two quarterbacks, three quarterbacks, four quarterbacks, five quarterbacks, it doesn’t matter. They all have to play, and they have to play well at a championship level for us to get what we want done.”
FULLBACK A MATTER OF LOSING SANITY
While much of the attention in LSU’s backfield revolves around the tailbacks, there are a pair of physical fullbacks in the mix for position coach Frank Wilson heading into the 2014 season.
According to Wilson, part of what it takes to man the fullback spot for the Tigers is losing a grip on sanity. Wilson said that’s one area where sophomore Melvin Jones is still playing catch up in comparison to senior starter Connor Neighbors.
“Connor is our starting fullback,” Wilson explained. “Melvin is developing. He’s an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield. The mentality to play the fullback position is unique. You have to at times lose your sane mind to go in there and do the things that are asked of them. Melvin in a sense is not insane enough. He’s starting to lose his sanity. He’s getting there. It is a tough position, and we ask them to do tough things.
“We’ve been very fortunate the last several years to have great fullbacks like J.C. Copeland and James Stampley and Quinn Johnson. Right now I think Melvin is at a stage in his career where he’s starting to recognize that and he’s embracing it.”
OL RECRUITING A WORK IN PROGRESS
One of offensive line coach Jeff Grimes’ primary missions upon his arrival at LSU was to recruit. The Tigers were in desperate need for depth with the potential to lose the majority of his starting unit after this season.
The Tigers signed only two high school linemen in the Class of 2014, so Grimes quickly hit the trail, recruiting coast to coast. He’s had plenty of success through the first eight months of his tenure in Baton Rouge.
He landed junior college tackle Jevonte Domond, who’s already enrolled and is competing at right tackle. The Tigers already have three offensive linemen committed in the Class of 2015 — Maea Teuhema, Adrian Magee and Matt Womack.
But that’s only the start for LSU.
“We’re headed in the right direction, but we’re nowhere near being done,” Grimes said. “If you’re going to recruit nationally, it takes longer. We’re still right in the middle of it, but we’ve got some good guys and I feel confident we’ll have a great class.”
VERSATILITY THE GOAL AT TE
With six scholarship tight ends on the roster, position coach Steve Ensminger knows he’s got a deep group this fall. As he explained on Sunday, Ensminger is equally excited about the differing types of quality, noting the 2014 mix of players will allow LSU to do what it’s done in recent years while also tacking on some new responsibilities.
Ensminger’s comments also help explain the way the Tigers’ staff views the recruitment of tight ends and why LSU enjoys being able to put two on the field simultaneously.
“We’re big on two-tight end sets, which allows us to pound people and everything else. But we’re trying to recruit a big one and an athletic one, so now we can put two of them on the field and be multiple in formations,” said Ensminger. “We can be in a one-back set with two tight ends in the ballgame, which puts a little bit more pressure on the defense. This year I feel really good about it. We’ve got some big ones that can really block, and we’ve got some athletic ones that can really run routes. I think we’ll be able to get into different personnel groups and do everything we want to do.”
WHO STEPS UP AT DT
Quentin Thomas left a big gap at defensive tackle when he went down with an injury earlier this week. Though his prognosis may not be as severe as originally thought, LSU has had to move forward with its contingency plans for his absence.
You’d think losing the most veteran player from the greenest unit on the team would create some grey hairs on the defensive coaching staff. That’s not the case according to defensive coordinator John Chavis.
“You have holes that you have to fill,” Chavis said. “Sometimes they’re unexpected, but the next guy gets ready to go. We’ve got several guys that can be the next guy. We’ll get the next guy ready to go and go play. It’s unfortunate for Quentin, I really feel for him. But we can’t look back. We have to look forward and move on.”
Les Miles hinted during his press conference Sunday that redshirt freshmen Frank Herron has already emerged as the replacement for Thomas in the starting lineup. Herron came to LSU as a defensive end but moved inside early in his career.
Defensive line coach Brick Haley said Herron’s size made that move necessary, but that he’s really blossomed at his new position.
“As you start to get bigger, you move closer to the ball,” Haley said. “He had a great summer, worked his butt off. He felt like it was his natural position, and now it’s hopefully going to pay off for him.”
MAINTAINING DBU’S LEGACY
Corey Raymond inherited one of the richest defensive back traditions when he returned to LSU as an assistant before the 2012 season.
Some fans are still waiting for him to put his stamp on it. After all, it was Ron Cooper in charge during the heyday of DBU, when guys like Eric Reid, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu transferred their collegiate success into NFL paychecks.
Now Raymond has helped assemble one of the top defensive backfields in the conference. Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson form a solid corner tandem, and the Tigers have a wealth of talent filling out the depth chart behind them. Competition continues to rage at safety, but the LSU coaches love the options they have there.
So what will it take for Raymond’s group to live up to that DBU legacy?
“As long as we stay fundamentally sound, do the right things on and off the field, we’ll be very successful,” Raymond said. “That’s the key, doing everything the right way. You’ve got to want to come to LSU and be part of secondary that doesn’t just want to be good, they want to be great.”TSD's Ben Love and Hunter Paniagua contributed to this report