Spring Lessons: Offense

TSD publisher Ben Love shares a position-by-position look at what he's learned this spring about the 2015 LSU offense.

SKILL POSITIONS


QB: There’s still not much separating Anthony Jennings, the incumbent, and Brandon Harris. Both have taken their lumps this spring, intercepted in scrimmages, and both have received their share of praise from Les Miles. This race was never expected to be decided in the spring, but, perhaps more than any other position, these two could benefit from strong showings in Saturday’s outing in Tiger Stadium – not only for their confidence, but to show the SEC that LSU is making some strides under center. Early enrollee Justin McMillan is likely heading toward a redshirt, barring injury to one of the two experienced signal callers.

RB: Cam Cameron recently called Leonard Fournette the most improved player on offense for LSU. That’s saying something given his talent level, and it probably speaks most to his degree of comfort in the system and that he’ll be “the guy” with seniors Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee departed. Fellow sophomore Darrel Williams also looks in great shape this spring, ready to take on the two freshmen challengers at the position this summer. Don’t sleep on Williams as one of the backs LSU will lean heaviest on this fall. Still, the biggest takeaway is this has shifted to Fournette’s team on offense.

FB: Early enrollee David Ducre, as predicted, has spent some time at tailback this spring due to scarcity at that spot (with only Fournette and Williams in tow). But he’ll line up at fullback as soon as the two rookie tailbacks hit campus, and Ducre is arguably the leader in the clubhouse as things stand. The freshman is already the most athletic fullback the Tigers have had in years, after Connor Neighbors and J.C. Copeland were much more in the physical mold. Ducre has shown nice pass-catching chops. Receiver convert Tony Upchurch has been the only other player taking reps at fullback and could morph into more of an H-back role in Cameron’s offense.

WR: Everything Fournette is at tailback, Travin Dural is at receiver. The fourth-year player from Breaux Bridge has stood out as the best at his position – a polished pass-catcher, dynamite athlete and leaper and, lately, a willing and physical blocker. It’s that last dimension that separates Dural from sophomore Malachi Dupre, whose production in this offense is largely tied to whether Harris is lined up at quarterback. The wild card this spring has been D.J. Chark, who has had several productive scrimmages serving more or less as Dural’s understudy. He may not crack the top four next fall after all the freshman arrive, but Chark – and his blazing speed – are a given on special teams in the return game.

TE: Senior Dillon Gordon rules the roost and has even been involved sparingly as a receiver this spring, but he’s most effective as a sixth offensive lineman. After Gordon the next two in line have been Colin Jeter and Desean Smith. Their usage depends on the situation, with Jeter the more proven run-blocker and Smith a natural receiving tight end. Ironically, though, Smith weighs six more pounds than Jeter, so an uptick in playing time could be heading Smith’s way if he can continue to solidify himself as a passable in-line blocker.

OFFENSIVE LINE


OT: The two fourth-year players have been consistent starters on the bookends – Jerald Hawkins at left tackle and Vadal Alexander at right tackle. There’s a whole lot of peace of mind for position coach Jeff Grimes knowing that in a moment’s notice Ethan Pocic can flex out to either one of those spots (where he’ll end up as an NFLer anyway) and LSU not miss a beat. One of the biggest questions this season facing the Tigers is how well they’re able to backfill for La’el Collins on the blindside? Through a month of spring practice, Hawkins is showing he’s up for the challenge and that the drop-off won’t be severe from Collins, soon to be a first-round pick.

OG: Other than quarterback this is the most up-in-the-air area for LSU’s offense in terms of selecting starters. The four primary players battling for two spots: junior Josh Boutte, redshirt sophomore K.J. Malone and redshirt freshmen Garrett Brumfield and William Clapp. Malone is arguably the most game-ready and should be considered the current leader at left guard. Brumfield is slightly undersized but gives Grimes an athletic option at right guard. Clapp is a bit of a wild card as he’s equally adept at left guard and center (see note in section below). Boutte has spent most of his career as a reserve tackle and could possibly factor in at right guard, although he’s viewed as probably fourth of these four options. Then of course there’s the Pocic Factor . . .

C: Ethan Pocic is LSU’s most versatile offensive lineman. He’s been the starting center for the majority of this spring but has also pushed out to left guard some lately with the first team. When Pocic is at center, Malone/Clapp have been at left guard and Brumfield at right guard. When Pocic is the starting left guard, giving LSU a strong side to run to, Clapp is the first-team center and Boutte comes more into the equation as a heavier right guard option than Brumfield. So, as many teams do in spring, the Tigers have experimented and haven’t yet settled on a first five. Much of the decision-making will come down to two factors: 1. Where do they want Pocic? 2. Do they need more mobility or beef at right guard? Finally, third-year player Andy Dodd is the third option at center.



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