Derrius Guice post-Citrus Bowl (Photo by James Bryant)

LSU Football Spring Primer: Offense charts new course under Matt Canada

LSU's offense is charting a new course this spring under Matt Canada. What are some of the key position battles and where do the Tigers need playmakers to step up? All that is inside Tiger Blitz' Spring Primer.

New offensive coordinator Matt Canada brings his multiple offense to Baton Rouge and will get his first look at what he's working with on Saturday. Canada has run everything from the true zone-read at Northern Illinois, a run-first, downhill attack at Wisconsin, a spread attack at NC State and a pro-style attack at Pittsburgh. At each stop, he's added wrinkles, but kept it multiple. Ed Orgeron has said different things about what he sees as the future of his offense, but spread with a dual-threat quarterback was the latest thing Orgeron said at his introductory press conference.

That being said, Canada will tailor his offense to what he's got. Derrius Guice is still lining up in the backfield for the Tigers so don't expect LSU to go completely away from an under-center, downhill running attack. There are questions along the offensive line and after losing two starting receivers and two tight ends to graduation and the NFL Draft, there's playing time up for grabs. 

Let's dive into LSU's offense heading into spring practice.

***Depth charts are projected.***

Quarterbacks

What to Know: Orgeron called it an open competition on Tuesday, but admitted that Danny Etling is the leader heading into spring ball, as he should be. The senior and former Purdue signal caller took over the starting quarterback job for LSU last season and improved throughout the season for the most part. There wasn't much of a doubt that the job was Etling's leaving this season and heading into the 2017 season, that remains true. Still, with Canada now at the helm, it makes sense for the Tigers to open things up at quarterback and at least see what he's working with in Baton Rouge. This spring will be used to find out if in fact there's anyone that can challenge Etling. Coming out of spring practice, LSU should name a starter heading into the summer unless one of the other quarterbacks really impresses. That gives the team direction heading into summer workouts and another player that can take a true leadership role. Etling has done that as the starter and was praised by Orgeron for his leadership and work ethic during spring workouts. A vote of confidence from the staff would do wonders for this offense as it heads into a new era.

Names to Know: Of course, Etling is the incumbent and most LSU fans are familiar with the Indiana native, who will likely handle things for the Tigers as the starter in Houston against BYU. Etling isn't your dual-threat quarterback and is a true dropback passer, but did a good job spreading the ball around at the helm of LSU's offense last season. Justin McMillan and Lindsey Scott are two dual-threat quarterbacks that differ a in how they can hurt defenses with their legs. McMillan can tuck it and run with his athleticism and run your zone-read, which he did at Cedar Hill in Texas, but Scott is much more of a true gamebreaker a la Greg Ward, Jr. at Houston. How each develops as a passer will be critical to their progression, but McMillan was brought up as a pass-first quarterback, which helps in his long-term development. Freshman Lowell Narcisse and redshirt sophomore Caleb Lewis will also push for some reps, but Narcisse is continuing to rehab his knee from a torn ACL and will be limited.

Breakout Candidate: Justin McMillan. The former Cedar Hill (Tex.) quarterback has quietly been pushed by former Zachary (La.) and state champion Lindsey Scott, who got a lot of praise for his job on scout team this past fall, but don't let McMillan fool you. The 6-2, 196-pound soon-to-be redshirt sophomore has a lot of the tools to get the job done. One thing that Canada has been able to do with most of the quarterbacks he has worked with is develop their efficiency and decision making. That will benefit McMillan, who can stake a claim to the backup spot coming out of spring.

2-Deep Depth Chart (Okay, 3-deep for QBs)
QB1: Danny Etling
QB2: Justin McMillan
QB3: Lindsey Scott

Danny Etling and Justin McMillan (Photo by Billy Embody)

Running Backs

What to Know: Moving from a position that is "wide open" to one that is not. Derrius Guice begins his Heisman Trophy campaign this spring as the unquestioned starter. Leonard Fournette departed LSU for the NFL Draft as expected and was nicked up for pretty much all of the 2016 season. Guice got his shot to perform and earned First-Team All-SEC honors with the chance. When Orgeron and Steve Ensminger took over, Guice was featured, but backup Darrel Williams also got some time in the backfield for the Tigers and showed flashes of being a capable, change of pace running back. New running backs coach Tommie Robinson will also hit the field as a Tiger for the first time after coming over from USC. While we won't get a view for how much LSU will rotate its backs this fall, Williams and others will get plenty of opportunities as the staff will likely be careful with its star running back.

Names to Know: Guice has had a big offseason, maxing out at 583 pounds on Friday in a tweet he posted, and looks bigger and ready to carry the load. Behind Guice, Williams, Nicholas Brossette and Lanard Fournette will get time to show what they've got. Each of them bring different things to the running back position with Williams being a bruiser while Brossette and Fournette are more change of pace backs.

Breakout Candidate: Brossette. With Brossette getting just 12 carries his freshman season and not getting many opportunities his sophomore year, Brossette is poised to break out in Canada's offense because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Brossette will get a chance to shine this spring to earn some carries when spelling Guice.

2-Deep Depth Chart
RB1: Derrius Guice
RB2: Darrel Williams/Nick Brossette

Billy Embody - SCOUT

Fullbacks

What to Know: Starting fullback John David Moore is likely out for the spring with a wrist injury, but could return to see action. Bry'Kiethon Mouton and David Ducre will get first crack at the fullback spot for LSU in Canada's offense because of that. If Moore can make it back, he'll earn valuable on-field reps in Canada's offense.

Names to Know: For spring purposes, it's Mouton and Ducre, who will get plenty of reps and work during install of Canada's offense. Those two will battle for time until Moore returns.

Breakout Candidate: Mouton. This would be Moore, but with him being sidelined, LSU will turn to Mouton for a key role for LSU's offense going forward. While Cam Cameron employed the fullback during the Les Miles era, carries were few and far between. Canada used the fullback to keep defenses on edge at Pittsburgh and that will likely give Mouton a carry or two this spring to do exactly that.

2-Deep Depth Chart
FB1: J.D. Moore (likely out for spring)
FB2: Bry'Kiethon Mouton/David Ducre

Billy Embody - SCOUT

Tight Ends

What to Know: LSU loses its top two tight end targets in Colin Jeter and DeSean Smith off last year's team and now looks to its third tight end from a year ago to step up. Foster Moreau leads the tight end group into spring practice that has something to prove, but at least the group has Ensminger back from his stint as interim offensive coordinator for LSU. Ensminger has done a solid job of developing tight ends and he'll have his work cut out for him this spring and fall. It remains to be seen just how much Canada will use tight ends in his LSU version of his offense, but he's utilized them enough in the past for one to figure that will remain.

Names to Know: Moreau steps in as the incumbent starter after catching six balls for 79 yards and a touchdown last season. Behind Moreau, LSU has some size in Jacory Washington, Jamal Pettigrew and Caleb Roddy battling for time at tight end. That trio has shown flashes of what's to come and Roddy continues to develop after moving from defensive end early on in camp. 

Breakout Candidate: Jamal Pettigrew. Pettigrew redshirted last season and after coming in as a four-star tight end from St. Augustine in New Orleans, has the chance to jump up the depth chart. The 6-7, 250-pound tight end is a big body and a tough matchup with his size. Getting him some work early in spring will help his confidence.

2-Deep Depth Chart
TE1: Foster Moreau
TE2: Jacory Washington/Caleb Roddy/Jamal Pettigrew

Billy Embody - SCOUT

Wide Receivers 

What to Know: After Malachi Dupre departed early for the NFL Draft and Travin Dural graduated, D.J. Chark became the lone known producer at the wide receiver position. Couple that with Dameyune Craig being fired and Mickey Joseph being brought in, the LSU receivers are in for a world of change, but with change comes opportunity. In Canada's offense, much has been made about jet sweeps with wide receivers. Who runs those until LSU recruits to that type of player? Chark had success with that last season in opportunities so who else will step up? There's a lot of questions at receiver.

Names to Know: Outside of Chark, there's talent, but it's unknown and unproven. Russell Gage made a nice push last season with the coaching change because of his ability to block and athleticism. Dee Anderson made a push for playing time and is uber talented to go with his massive frame. Stephen Sullivan and Drake Davis are huge targets for quarterbacks. Can they get over the hump this season? Can Derrick Dillon take advantage of his speed on those jet sweeps? All of this is left up to be answered.

Breakout Candidate: Russell Gage. Gage has some freakish athleticism according to teammates and also has the blocking skills that you'd want in a receiver. With that in mind and now having a new coaching staff to make an impression on, Gage has the chance to step up and seize a starting job. 

2-Deep Depth Chart
X-WR1: Dee Anderson
X-WR2: Stephen Sullivan

Z-WR1: D.J. Chark
Z-WR2: Drake Davis

H-WR1: Russell Gage
H-WR2: Derrick Dillon

Terrill Weil

Offensive Line

What to Know: An offensive line that loses its best player and a road grader is never easy to overcome, but LSU has some pieces here to build on heading into the fall. One major piece is Will Clapp, who makes the full-time move to center according to the roster released on Saturday. With Clapp in the middle, LSU's young, but talented guards in Donavaughn Campbell and Garrett Brumfield have a big piece out of the equation to playing time, but Maea Teuhema also returns to the mix. That trio will likely battle it out for the starting guard spots. 

Names to Know: The big incoming name is former four-star offensive tackle Austin Deculus, who is just massive and with that frame, can push the two tackles in K.J. Malone and Toby Weathersby this spring. Will Jeff Grimes tinker with the offensive tackles or leave them the same? Some feel Weathersby might be better suited at the left tackle spot now that he has a full year of starting under his belt. That will be something to monitor. Lloyd Cushenberry will get the lion's share of the reps at center with Clapp out for the spring. It's a big opportunity for him to secure that backup spot for when Clapp heads out. There's a lot of talent that can push at just about every spot so Grimes will likely put together one of the more competitive springs he's had since being in Baton Rouge.

Breakout Candidate: Donavaughn Campbell. Campbell saw time last year as a freshman and impressed. At nearly 350 pounds, Campbell fits the mold of the departed Josh Boutte, but can he put it all together to beat Teuhema or Brumfield? There's tons of talent and Campbell is getting out of the doghouse after a bye week arrest by impressing during spring workouts so far. With his freshman year close to being behind him, spring is a chance for Campbell to turn the page to his sophomore year in a big way. 

2-Deep Depth Chart
LT1: K.J. Malone
LT2: Austin Deculus

LG1: Maea Teuhema
LG2: Donavaughn Campbell

C1: Will Clapp (out for spring)
C2: Lloyd Cushenberry III/K.J. Malone

RG1: Garrett Brumfield
RG2: Adrian Magee/Jakori Savage

RT1: Toby Weathersby
RT2: Willie Allen

Billy Embody - SCOUT

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