LSU has the Heisman Trophy front-runner this season in the backfield and this was almost an all-offensive burning questions piece. Interesting. I (Billy) saved the day and instead of wondering if Brandon Harris will take his next step forward (he will), I worried about who's going to step up on defense among the freshmen. Without further ado, the Tiger Blitz staff's burning questions heading into fall camp.
Billy: Which true freshmen will emerge on defense as contributors?
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Offensively, there's a ton of experience on that side of the ball and plenty of players entrenched in their roles already on the roster. Defensively, Dave Aranda is continuing to install his "guerilla warfare" style defense and there's plenty of opportunities for true freshmen to contribute right away.
Will it be Devin White? White (above) was one of the top athletes in the country and after enrolling in January, was thrust into a starting role this spring with Kendall Beckwith out. Les Miles said at SEC Media Days that he fully expects White to play and play a lot. Will he be a difference maker for the Tigers though? With LSU's depth at linebacker questionable especially with Aranda's new scheme, White must make plays in real, live games right off the bat. First test? The physical Wisconsin Badgers.
Another linebacker that should get some time right away is Rahssan Thornton, who is the prototypical BUCK linebacker in Aranda's scheme at 6-3, 220. The Texan will bring skills as a pass-rusher to the defense that will help when Arden Key rotates out. I don't think Thornton moves Key out of that starting role, but if there's one thing you need in this scheme is that BUCK to be playing up to par, which Thornton will help with.
With Beckwith back and Key making the transition to BUCK as well, my money is on Rashard Lawrence (profile below) to make a push for major playing time, if not to be starting by the end of the season. The hulking former five-star LSU defensive tackle will bring some juice to this attacking scheme that will see him supplant one of his teammates along the line. I'm that high on Lawrence's talent.
There are other incoming freshmen like Michael Divinity, Kristian Fulton, Saivion Smith, Eric Monroe and others that could see playing time, but those three ought to get it started for LSU on the defensive side of things.
Josh: Who will emerge at slot receiver?
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Malachi Dupre (above) and Travin Dural are already solidified starters at wideout, but who will step up and take the No. 3 spot. The departures of Trey Quinn and John Diarse leave a void behind Dural and Dupre, but the Tigers have a bevy of former four and five star high school players that have the talent to contribute right away.
With Dural sidelined for the spring, Jazz Ferguson spent most the time at practice working with the first-team offense and started opposite side Dupre in the spring game. Ferguson is a big physical possession receiver and has decent speed for his size. D.J. Chark who flashed his elite speed in the Tigers bowl game victory, is another candidate to earn the slot position. The addition of wide receiver coach Dameyune Craig has made the receiver more physical and LSU coach Les Miles spoke highly of Chark.
Ultimately, Chark should come away with the starting the nod because of his ability to stretch the field vertically and provide another treat in the passing game.
Christian: Who’s playing where on the offensive line?
USA Today Sports - Derek E. Hingle
Of all the questions swirling around LSU’s preseason in regards to the squad’s that will start on each side of the ball, the team’s fall camp is assured to answer at least one question, even if Les Miles remains unsure of the final solution.
Who’s playing where on the offensive line?
SEC Media Days on July 11-14 made it a little clearer.
When speaking of the offensive line, Miles began with Toby Weathersby, whose official biography on LSUSports.net lists the 6-foot-5, 292-pound sophomore as the “top of the depth chart at right tackle after a strong performance in spring practice.”
“We would expect Toby Weathersby to be right tackle,” Miles said on July 14. Between the citings, Weathersby seems certain to be at right tackle.
Next, Miles continued by way of mentioning K.J. Malone next, then the three returning starters from last season: Maea Teuhema, Will Clapp and Ethan Pocic.
When asked about the possibility of changes and swapping rumors around the offensive line — especially shifting Pocic elsewhere instead of center — Miles, and Pocic, flattened the conspiracy.
Here’s what else was said:
“K.J. Malone would be the left guard or tackle,” Miles said. “Will Clapp will be a left guard or tackle. Ethan Pocic returns to center. And Josh Boutte, who really has been in position to play a lot of football, should he decide to have a great fall, he may be one of the more dominant players that we have.
“I think Maea Teuhema will be a really good left tackle. Okay. He can also be a really good left guard, right guard, or right tackle. Okay. So Karl Malone could be a very good -- Jr., could be a very good -- Sr. could be a very good player, too, but Jr., left guard, left tackle. And we have Will Clapp at left guard. So we're really at a pretty good spot. On the left side we had Toby Weathersby at the right tackle and, frankly, we expect that he will be a tremendous participant for us at that position. Boutte, Josh Boutte at the right guard, may be the most big, physical man that we have on our team.”
“Well right now, with our preparation and everything, they got me playing center,” Pocic said on the same day. “It’s more of a, what’s best for the team. Right now they want me at center. Coach Grimes told me to get some reps at it just in case someone goes down or something. But I see myself as a center, and I think that’s the best way for me to help the team.”
Among the unmentioned from Miles or Pocic at Media Days was Chidi Okeke, a redshirt freshman from Anambra, Nigeria.
Okeke’s official bio on LSUsports.net says this: “Projected to compete for the starting left tackle spot in 2016. Used a strong spring, in which he was one of the recipients of the Most Improved Award, to position himself as a contender at left tackle.”
With this, there’s still an open-ended question camp should answer.
Who’s at right guard? Expect Malone and Boutte, two Miles mentioned, to battle it out.
Come Aug. 4, the first day of practices in LSU’s fall camp, the competition will begin. Don’t be surprised if players move around and trade positions simutaneously.
Here’s an simplified, depth chart version of what Miles said at SEC Media Days:
All of which is subject to change during practices during LSU’s fall camp beginning on Thursday, Aug. 4.
***Watch highlights below of Rashard Lawrence from Neville's win over Maumelle (Ark.)***