LSU football and head coach Les Miles hit the practice fields Monday afternoon as players and coaches welcomed spring practiced. The practice was the Tigers first go on the field since their 41-14 victory over Notre Dame in the All-State Sugar Bowl, and both coaches and players were happy to be back.
"It was a really nice first go," Miles said. "The team is in really good shape. There was a lot of enthusiasm and some new faces looking for playing time. There's a lot of competition. It was not perfect, but it is not supposed to be because it's the first day. There was some talent out there, but we are working our way through the learning phase. It was a good practice."
Monday's practice was one of 15 practices that will stretch across March, with the teams Spring Game scheduled for March 24 in Tiger Stadium. It was also the first practice for three new members of the coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, and wide receivers coach D.J. McCarthy.
"It felt like the new guys were acting like old hands," Miles said. "They were very comfortable and seemed to handle the players well. They know what to expect from them so it went well."
LSU lost 22 seniors and nine starters from last year's team that posted an 11-2 overall mark and finished the year ranked No. 3 in the nation. Miles said prior to Spring Practice they would be without a couple players this spring.
All-America defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey will sit out the 15 practices to rest his lower leg, while senior offensive guard Will Arnold continues to recover from surgery to both his knee and ankle. Miles said both players will be ready for the fall.
One player that failed to show was senior tailback Alley Broussard. The Acadiana High graduate will miss the entire first week of practice due to the violation of a team rule according to Miles, but he did guarantee that Broussard was still on the team.
Nevertheless, Miles did say Broussard's absence will likely cost him at the very competitive tailback position.
Defensive end Kirston Pittman, who hasn't seen any game action since the 2004 season, returned to practice for the first time in over a year after battling various injuries as did senior tight end Keith Zinger, who missed the last nine games of the 2006 season with a stomach ailment.
The Tigers will return six starters to last season's high-powered offense. JaMarcus Russell and the passing game excelled throughout the season, but with the departure of receivers Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, along with their quarterback Russell, the Tiger offense could look very different.
Miles said that senior Matt Flynn along with sophomore Ryan Perrilloux will compete for the quarterback position, however Miles already introduced Flynn to the LSU Board of Supervisors a month ago as the starting quarterback.
"I thought both Matt and Ryan did a nice job," Miles said. "Both players worked had and had good practices. The issue is to be the best quarterback and to give this team an opportunity for victory. Whether that is Ryan Perrilloux or Matt Flynn only time will tell. It is good competition."
At receiver, Chris Mitchell, Jared Mitchell and Ricky Dixon will be among those players competing for LSU's third and fourth receiver position. The trio will join Early Doucet and Brandon LaFell, who are entering their senior seasons. Terrance Tolliver, a Scouts.com five-star receiver, could make a splash when he joins the team in Fall Camp.
Defensively, the Tigers return all but three starters. The unit ranked among the nation's best in several categories last season, including total defense and scoring defense. The most pressing needs for the Tigers this spring is to find the replacement for All-America safety LaRon Landry and defensive Chase Pittman.
Tim Washington has left the team to transfer, leaving the position open for Kirston Pittman and a slew of athletes at the position.
On special teams, the Tigers must fill the void left by the graduation of punter Chris Jackson. Senior Patrick Fisher is the leading candidate to step in at punter, while junior Colt David will continue to handle the placekicking duties for the Tigers.
Two freshmen kickers will debut on the team in fall camp, including Josh Jasper and Andrew Crutchfield.