HOUSTON – On the eve of LSU football’s 2014 season opener versus Wisconsin (8 p.m., ESPN), there are certain things we think we know about the Tigers and others that won’t be clear until the lights are on and toe meets leather inside NRG Stadium Saturday night.
In that spirit, contrasting what seems to be known versus the mystery remaining in LSU’s game plan, I’ve compiled a series of my expectations, based off personnel information gathered during game week, for tomorrow night’s contest as well as a short list of the most intriguing LSU-related items yet to be revealed.
WHAT I EXPECT
Jennings to start, Harris subbed in liberally
- Les Miles says LSU will play two quarterbacks and that he knows who his starter is. Look for the Tigers to turn to sophomore Anthony Jennings in that role, leaning on his Outback Bowl experience as a starter, but expect freshman Brandon Harris to figure into the plans early and often. Harris has the keys (running decisively, throwing deep) to unlock an eight-man box that Jennings just doesn’t have … or at least not to the same level. He’ll be needed against Wisconsin.
Quinn to factor in more than Dupre
- This isn’t necessarily a statement of confidence for how things will go all season long between the two standout freshmen receivers, but Trey Quinn has played more football this August than Malachi Dupre has. Dupre’s injury kept him from practices and multiple scrimmages, and truth be told he was the one of the two that needed more time with Adam Henry and Cam Cameron to refine his route-running and overall game.Publisher's Note (Fri. p.m.): Reports have indicated that Malachi Dupre did not make the trip to Houston with team due to injury. Premium members can get more information on the TSD Message Board by clicking HERE
Herron to start with Thomas available, but limited
- Redshirt junior defensive tackle Quentin Thomas is to be commended for playing on with a (reportedly) partially torn bicep, but being so close removed from the injury – it’s only been about three weeks – I have a hard time believing he’s anywhere near 100% or able to play starter’s minutes for a full game. Redshirt freshman Frank Herron is the more likely option to start next to Christian Lacouture. Thomas should play but any more than say 25-30 snaps and I’ll be surprised.
Mills to play from start to finish
- Simply put this isn’t the Jeremy Hill situation from a year ago. In fact it’s the exact opposite in several ways – there’s no video evidence tied to the arrest of Jalen Mills and it was also the junior safety’s first offense. Miles danced around the topic somewhat earlier in the week, so this news isn’t official, but you can expect Mills to start at free safety and play wire-to-wire.
WHAT I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE
How Frank Wilson is going to divvy the backfield carries
- This is as fascinating as it gets for me. Three running backs with legitimate credentials, all capable of starting at numerous places around the SEC, and yet only one football for LSU to play with each down. Seniors Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee have earned their stripes while precocious freshman Leonard Fournette and his significant talents are crying out for carries. How many touches does each get? And in what order do they play? Great problems to have for Wilson, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
(P.S. I’ve been asked roughly 50 times this week on radio and by family and friends the same question: What’s Leonard going to do? My official answer for the world: Could be 8-10 carries for half-a-hundred yards or could be pushing 20 totes, exceeding the century mark and finding the end zone twice. Really could be either, and neither would surprise me. Like I said, this one – and the uncertainty around it – intrigues me.)
How the linebacker rotation works and if it actually goes deeper
- So many times last season John Chavis didn’t have trustworthy rotational options at linebacker, keeping it primarily a four-man corps (the three starters plus Lamar Louis in the middle in 2013). Now that’s changed. Another year of seasoning and positional dedication for Kendell Beckwith and Deion Jones make them more than viable options for Chief. Especially with Beckwith, how much does he play against a run-heavy Wisconsin? Is this finally a year Chavis can keep fresh legs on the field at linebacker? The players say yes in interviews but it needs to be seen between the lines.
Which non-RB playmakers Cameron tries to get into space and where
- Unlike LSU’s last game, played in the rain in Tampa, the friendly confines of NRG offer the Tigers a fast track to use their speed offensively. I’m interested to see who coordinator Cam Cameron targets in open space and how. Travin Dural and John Diarse figure to be the first two receivers up while Trey Quinn was a proven pass-catcher in Fall Camp. Then there’s Desean Smith at tight end. This category could also extend itself to a running quarterback. With all the ways Cameron can call this game differently from the Outback Bowl, I want to see what he comes up with against the Badgers and who he trusts with the ball.