Points to ponder midway through August

We're halfway home. Last Friday marked the end of Fall Camp as coach Les Miles and the LSU Tigers went through the last two-a-day workout. An exclamation point was placed on camp with the final full scrimmage held in Tiger Stadium.

If you've logged onto TigerRag.com lately, you've undoubtedly noticed that our staff has covered the Tigers in camp from virtually every angle. Every practice, every press conference, we've been there to bring you the best coverage of LSU football anywhere.

 

Heading into Fall Camp, we produced a list of questions to which Miles and his staff would be looking for answers in the first two weeks of practice. Now two weeks in, we offer up our observations from camp so far and provide you with a new list of questions about this team as they begin making preparations for the season opener with Mississippi State.

 

 

Matt Flynn and the quarterbacks

 

From the onset of practice, there was never a question as to who is LSU's No. 1 quarterback. Matt Flynn nailed down the job in 2005 when he led LSU to its 40-3 win over Miami in the Peach Bowl. It was a matter as to when he would get the opportunity to play as he sat behind JaMarcus Russell. With Russell gone, the job was clearly Flynn's with no one else even being close. While Flynn called it merely precautionary measures, it raised some eyebrows last week when the senior signal caller was held out of passing drills. In Fall Camp 2006, Flynn experienced "camp arm," which is basically a sore shoulder stemming from too many reps throughout camp. With six quarterbacks on the roster, Flynn took some time off from throwing passes to ensure he wouldn't encounter the same problems. Miles did say after one practice last week that Flynn worked on his mechanics to make sure his throwing style wasn't putting too much pressure on his arm.

 

 

The third and fourth wide receivers

 

There has been lots of focus on the wide receivers, especially since LSU lost its top two wideouts from a year ago in the first round of the NFL Draft. Early Doucet is clearly the best wide receiver on the team, maybe in the country, and he is followed by No. 2 wideout Brandon LaFell. But the question has surrounded the third and fourth spots. After the Tigers' first scrimmage two Saturdays ago in Tiger Stadium, Miles said true freshman Terrance Toliver and junior transfer Demetrius Byrd were three and four. But after a slow first week in which Jared Mitchell sat out with a bum shoulder, Chris Mitchell battled inconsistency and Ricky Dixon failed to make an impact, the playing field is leveling up a bit. Jared Mitchell is likely the receiver who is apply the most pressure on the two newcomers for the third or fourth spot. Chris Mitchell had a better week of practice and Dixon is improving as well. Look for all of these guys to play though.

 

 

Offensive line depth

 

This is where it is getting sticky. Coming into the 2007 season, everyone would have agreed the offensive line was the biggest question mark surrounding this team. LSU had to replace two starters from a year ago and attrition and injuries haven't helped to boost confidence. The Tigers took a hit before the season even started when Steve Singleton left the team. He was slated as the backup left tackle. Then redshirt freshman Mark Snyder went down with a knee injury and is likely lost for the season. Will Arnold, who has been named a preseason all-American, is questionable as he struggles with a nagging right ankle. The coaching staff had moved Arnold to right guard, an adjustment that wasn't well received by the senior. By the second scrimmage, though, Arnold was back at home at left guard. Lyle Hitt has played well at right guard in place of Arnold and Carnell Stewart has been steady at right tackle. Herman Johnson and Ciron Black are by far the best two linemen up front. The problems arise when you get into the two-deep depth chart. An injury to either tackle and you could possibly see a true freshman getting into the serious mix. This is not a good things when you're in the running as a national championship contender.

 

 

Defensive Line

 

As harrowing as the situation is on the offensive front, it is completely different across the defensive line. The Tigers' front four is as deep and talented as any D-Line in the country. Opponents are going to have a hard time running against this dominating unit. The question is, could the offense raid the defensive line for another body. The O-Line has already staked claim to true freshman Joe Barksdale. Could the offense snag another body to provide depth?

 

 

Injury at linebacker

 

The Tigers lost two linebacker sin the first scrimmage two Saturdays ago when Perry Riley and Jacob Cutrera both went down with shoulder injuries. Riley has already returned to action, but Cutrera remains out of commission. Miles said he could be back for the season opener. Time will tell though.

 

 

The Chad Jones factor

 

LSU survived the money of Major League Baseball when true freshman safety Chad Jones spurned a 13th round selection to arrive at LSU and play football. Last Wednesday was the deadline to sign with the ‘Stros and Jones passed on their offer. Now that Jones is officially here to stay, at what position will this phenom play? An impressive athlete standing 6-3, 222 pounds, Jones was rated by Scout.com as the nation's best safety in 2006. But last Friday, Jones went through individual drills with the running backs. Coach Larry Porter was seen with Jones working on ball handling and security drills. The general consensus was Jones is being talked up as punt returner and the ball handling drills will be necessary. There are also rumors that he could line up as a slot receiver at times. At any rate, Jones has already shown he will definitely contribute as a rookie.

 

 

For our continuing practice coverage, check out TigerRag.com daily for ongoing information.

 

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.


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