The LSU Spring Practice Insider: Offense

It's time to put the Internet innuendo, misinformation and rumors to rest. <br><br> Here's my down and dirty, inside look at what has taken place at LSU Spring Practice heading into the first scrimmage on Saturday.<br><br>

Probably the question I'm asked the most about spring practice has to do with the depth chart. Even though the season opener is months away, people want to know whose running with the first team and who's lagging behind. I think they realize the lack of importance of the depth chart at this time of year, but it is important to them to know who is improving and who's not.


With that in mind, let's take a position-by-position look at the Tigers to see how they're looking through five sessions of spring practice.


QUARTERBACK: If you're within the Baton Rouge area, don't put too much weight on televised reports of spring practice. They would have you believe there is a legitimate quarterback controversy. I don't think it's anything they're doing intentionally; they don't have time enough during a sportscast to tell you the entire story.


Simply put, Matt Mauck holds a decisive edge on being the starter in 2002. His experience in the SEC Championship makes all the difference in the world, plus he is a very gifted athlete. The rest of the team is starting to view him as a leader – an essential element in any successful team.


But with that said, it must be noted that Marcus Randall is not a distant second. He's been very businesslike during workouts and seems to have a firmer grasp on the Jimbo Fisher system. The same goes for Rick Clausen, who is throwing well for a redshirt freshman.


In fact, all three players have thrown well in spring practice but I expect the scrimmage to reveal a weakness. The big issue here is timing and that will only come with many more repetitions with the wide receivers.


RUNNING BACK: This spring will determine who will be the No. 3 running back since Domanick Davis really doesn't have to prove he's No. 2. Of course, the third spot becomes very important if LaBrandon Toefield isn't ready to go in August.


Speaking of Toefield, he told me emphatically he will be back for next season. He wants desperately to practice now and is sort of miserable just watching and rehabbing, but don't look for him or coaches to jeopardize his health.


As for who looks better among the backups, it's a little early to tell at this point. You might want to give the edge to Joseph Addai based upon his limited playing time last season, but Ryan Gilbert has a lot of quickness that can't be ignored.


The scrimmages could see one back separate from the other, but the Tigers still need to have three backs ready even if Toefield can go. It's hard to imagine Toefield maintaining his workload from the 2001 season, so reserves will be crucial.


OFFENSIVE LINE: What stands out to me most about the LSU lineman is their conditioning. They came ready to work in April.


In my first few years of covering spring workouts for Tiger Rag, it seemed like there were always a percentage of linemen who were not in shape for the spring. It helped that LSU played a game on Jan. 1 and didn't have all that much time off before starting their off-season strength and conditioning program.


Still, coach Tommy Moffit and his staff should be commended for stressing the importance of weight workouts and training runs in February and March. The benefits will become evident, as the temperatures grow warmer in April and a foundation is laid for the fall.


As for the individual position battles, Nick Saban explained it well on Wednesday when he said he's essentially working with four returning starters and trying to find one at right tackle.


Rob Sale has starting guard experience and got plenty work in the place of Dwayne Pierce and Stephen Peterman last season.


Ben Wilkerson is solid at center and John Young is the firm No. 2 man there. It's been a while since LSU has had that much stability there.


Rodney Reed and Peterman are strong at their respective positions, while Andrew Whitworth and Rudy Niswanger are better than most redshirt freshmen reserves at this stage in their development.


At right tackle, Brad Smalling is once again having a good spring practice. We've seen this before from Brad only to be disappointed in scrimmages. Kade Comeaux, who had a tremendous off-season, is breathing hard down his neck ready to take over should Smalling falter.


In a nutshell, you can look forward to one of the better offensive lines LSU has had in quite some time – one with the potential to be as good or even better than last year's.   


WIDE RECEIVER: There's been some confusion coming out of LSU's spring camp regarding the wide receiver situation. Various sources have labeled the spot everything from a problem area to a team strength.


Where does the truth lie? Probably somewhere in between but nowhere near as dire as some have made it out to be.


The talent is ample at wide receiver but experience is somewhat lacking. Throw in the injury factor and this is where the picture grows a little cloudy.


Michael Clayton and Jerel Myers are proven talents at receiver, but Clayton has a back injury that could limit him in scrimmages this spring. Reggie Robinson is an established receiver but is showing signs from missing all of last season with a neck injury. He, too, might not be available for contact work.


Two receivers, Corey Webster and Jack Hunt, have been moved to the secondary, but Shyrone Carey and Devery Henderson have been moved from running back to take their place.


So while numbers aren't really a problem, the availability of veteran receivers in practice could potentially be. And I think that could be problematic when it comes to helping the quarterbacks improve their timing.


Carey has good hands and is working diligently to learn the mechanics of wide receiver. The same goes for Devery Henderson, who looks to have beefed up some from last season. I would not be surprised to see Henderson back at running back based upon his strong performance late last season.


TIGHT END/FULLBACK: Yes, it is Eric Edwards year to shine at tight end but finding a second tight end is a must for LSU. It's not because there's any doubt in Edwards' ability; the Tigers simply need two tight ends for a good portion of their offensive game plan.


But LSU's second tight end has to be more than just a warm body on short yardage situations. He has to be a player who is versatile enough to run pass routes and line up at fullback.


The coaching staff seems to want another option besides Solomon Lee at fullback, so tight end David Jones has lining up in the backfield. His biggest battle will be learning the additional responsibilities and mechanics of the hybrid position.


A dark horse to watch at fullback is walk-on Kevin Steilz of Metairie. The former Rummel standout paved the way for Derron Parquet, the back who signed with LSU and fizzled out before transferring to Memphis.


At Wednesday's practice, Steilz (5-9, 220) went head to head with middle linebacker Bradie James in a goal line situational scrimmage and gave as good as he got.



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