But at TSD we’re already looking ahead to the 2015 edition of the Tigers and how Les Miles & Co. can fine-tune a team with a lot of returning starters and talent.
Here are four areas on LSU’s team that are in need of spring cleaning.
---------------------------1. Quarterback . . . and not just personnel
- Some areas or positions need refining, a touch-up, but this is one where a clean slate is required. Cam Cameron and the quarterbacks need to start over from the ground up. In other words this spring has to be about teaching, teaching and more teaching at the position. Stress the fundamentals and how you want them to play; the playbook isn’t as important at this juncture. Cameron, who had been in the pro game for so long, even said during the 2014 season he didn’t fully realize how much foundational work would be needed to get his quarterbacks to a level ready to take the field.
So this spring it’s imperative both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris, as well as early enrollee Justin McMillan, get the background necessary to succeed, or at least have a chance at succeeding. This will ensure a (theoretically) equal playing ground for those battling to be the starter in 2015. Then there can be no excuses about a lack of trust of any of the quarterback options. Ultimately this job will be won in August, but it won’t matter who emerges as the top signal caller if they’re not operating at a higher level following a spring of badly needed instructional work.
2. The Defensive Ends
- This time a year ago LSU had in the fold at end rising seniors Jermauria Rasco and Jordan Allen as well as junior standout Danielle Hunter. Now – after Allen transferred, Rasco finished his final year of eligibility and Hunter declared for the NFL Draft – the Tigers are virtually starting over with their bookends on defense. Those next in line: juniors Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal, sophomores Deondre Clark and Sione Teuhema and redshirt sophomore M.J. Patterson.
It’s critical this spring that each of the above players connects with new position coach Ed Orgeron and understands what he expects of them while developing their games. Two new starters will be selected from this bunch (which may include redshirt sophomore Frank Herron, who can also play defensive tackle), and players who can rotate in will be identified as well. Bower, and to a lesser extent Clark, spent time as platoon players in 2014, capable of playing all three downs, while Teuhema, and to a lesser extent Neal, occasionally saw the field as pass-rushing specialists. They’ll all be expected to do more next fall.
3. Positioning Mills and the ripple effect
- The first two areas are pressing needs that straddle the line between question marks and red flags. This is more of a clarity issue so that the secondary can begin to sort out its rotation. Will Jalen Mills, who recently announced a return for his senior season, head back to corner or man the free safety position he owned this past season? It certainly seems more likely, based on sheer numbers, that Mills will return to an island. But here’s a look at how the rotation projects to play out in both scenarios.
Mills to corner: Tre’Davious White and Mills start at corner; Jamal Adams and either Rickey Jefferson or Corey Thompson start at safety; Rotational players for nickel and dime sets include Dwayne Thomas and either Edward Paris or Kevin Toliver
Mills at safety: White and Paris, Toliver or maybe even Donte Jackson start at corner; Mills and Adams start at safety; Nickel and dime players include Thomas and Jefferson (or perhaps one of the corners that doesn’t start)
At least in my estimation option one feels a lot more appetizing, and it’s not really all that close for me. Option two relies on a first-year starter at corner and buries a talent like Jefferson or Thompson on the bench for most of the game. In the first scenario depth at safety is more properly taken into consideration and utilized while the new, young corners are able to be worked into dime packages and not asked to start on an island.
4. The Offensive Line
- Like the Mills example above, this isn’t a red-button issue. LSU is fortunate to bring back three-fifths of its starting offensive line from a season ago now that Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins are set to return. Hawkins is almost certainly going to be the starting left tackle while things aren’t quite as clear for Alexander. He’s been told he’ll get a shot at tackle – Alexander began his LSU career at right tackle – and that shot will come this spring. It would be preferable if position coach Jeff Grimes and Miles could make a judgment call shortly after the spring game.
That way it’s known whether LSU is going to have to elevate a new starting guard or tackle in August. With Alexander at right tackle, Hawkins on the left side and junior Ethan Pocic filling a starting guard post, the Tigers would need to identify a new guard (along with a new center, which will be either Andy Dodd or William Clapp). Should Alexander move back to left guard, LSU would need to find a new starting right tackle. There’s a difference. And perhaps it’ll be the play of those new guards/tackles in consideration that makes the decision for Grimes and Miles. If Josh Boutte or Garrett Brumfield plays like a man possessed, it’s easier to leave Alexander at tackle. In a similar fashion if K.J. Malone or Jevonte Domond steps up big at right tackle, Alexander can go back to left guard.