DEFENSIVE LINE: Earlier this week, head coach Nick Saban expressed his concern about the inexperience along the line. He actually has some pretty good veterans on his starting unit, but the reserves aren't as tested as those used last year.
Chad Lavalais and Byron Dawson are anchoring the tackle spots, while Kenderick Allen, Marquise Hill and Marcus Spears are the frontrunners at defensive end. Some emphasis has been placed on working each of the ends on both sides of the line during spring practice.
Note that I list three players at end. The depth chart means less along the line than perhaps at any other position at LSU because the staff likes to be at least three deep there. The past two seasons have seen at least two players used at each spot per game.
Other contenders at end include Bryce Wyatt, Jarvus Ryes and Donovan Grayson – a redshirt freshman who has bulked up significantly since coming to LSU.
Behind Lavalais and Dawson are a slew of tackles who've yet to see their first Southeastern Conference action. Torran Williams was used sparingly enough in 2001 to receive a redshirt, and Brandon Hurley, Melvin Oliver and Brandon Washington are all redshirt freshmen.
LINEBACKER: Bradie James is getting some time at MIKE linebacker – a position that isn't much different from what he is asked to do at WILL linebacker. He's up to about 245 pounds and still very quick and athletic at that size.
With James moving further inside, Lionel Turner is getting trained at WILL and shows the potential to be every bit as affective as James. Jason LeDoux is another option at MIKE but you've got to think it would benefit him to be able to play both spots.
With additional depth coming in at strong safety, Eric Alexander and Adrian Mayes have been working at WILL linebacker. I don't know that the moves are going to be permanent, but it makes sense for some of the safeties to get work with the linebackers since Saban uses so many versions of a dime package. The LSU defense will reduce its liabilities with more multi-faceted athletes on the field.
At SAM linebacker, Jeremy Lawrence is entrenched and getting good support from Dave Peterson. Grayson has bulked up enough to where he could be considered a full-time lineman.
DEFENSIVE BACK: It seems like we've been concerned over the abilities of the LSU secondary for the last few years, but I can legitimately say there is appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. The Tigers definitely have the necessary numbers at each of the defensive back positions and an SEC-caliber unit should emerge for 2002.
Demetrius Hookfin is showing signs of having worked directly with Saban for an extended time period. Randall Gay and Travis Daniels will also be battling at corner, and it's likely that all three will be on the field in certain nickel packages.
Ronnie Prude could crack the top three while Corey Webster, potentially the best of the bunch, is making progress after his transition from wide receiver.
Damien James quarterbacks the unit at free safety and benefits from having played virtually every position in the backfield. Mid-term transfer Chris Vincent certainly has athletic ability and just needs a long-term orientation to be ready to play in the SEC.
At strong safety, Norman LeJeune enjoys the advantage of having played a little corner. Travis Moses is a solid backup here and will likely be used in nickel, dime or dollar packages. Jack Hunt is doing well after moving from wide receiver.
Check back tomorrow for a recap of the Tigers' first scrimmage of spring practice.
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