After losing several key contributors from last year's national championship team, there have been many questions the last few weeks about who will step in and fill those roles.
After being named MVP of the SEC Championship Game and with Matt Flynn having graduated, Ryan Perrilloux appeared ready to finally take over the reigns at quarterback. However he has been suspended from the team indefinitely for violating team rules, leaving junior Andrew Hatch and redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee to compete for the staring spot in Perrilloux's absence. Hatch and Lee shared reps as #1, rotating after each drill.
At running back the Tigers will have to replace Jacob Hester. Although it's probably safe to assume that multiple running backs will be sharing carries next fall, in today's drills they lined up in the following order: Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, Richard Murphy, Stevan Ridley. Senior Quinn Johnson is currently the only true fullback on scholarship.
A player like Early Doucet is never easy to replace at the WR position, but there were a few players who stepped up in his absence last season that are back this year. The wide receivers go through drills in pairs, so it's kind of hard to get an idea for the exact order. However, Brandon Lafell and Demetrius Byrd were together in the first pair, followed by Chris Mitchell and Jared Mitchell, and Ricky Dixon and RJ Jackson. Terrance Toliver was paired with walkon Quentin LeDay in the 4th pairing. Trindon Holliday was not at practice and is expected to miss most of spring running track.
At tight end, Richard Dickson returns after a very strong sophomore campaign. However LSU will have to replace seniors Keith Zinger and Mit Cole, both of whom filled a primarily blocking role. JD Lott has left the team, and Jordon Corbin has been moved to defensive end. So currently the only other tight ends on the roster are redshirt freshmen Mitch Joseph and Alex Russian. As a result, walkon Caleb Angelle has switched from defensive line to tight end. Angelle was actually running as the #2 tight end in passing drills.
Along the offensive line the only starter LSU must replace is Carnell Stewart at right tackle. You can expect sophomores Joseph Barksdale and Jarvis Jones to battle it out for the starting and backup right tackle spots. Barksdale ran with the first team in today's practice. The rest of the line looks the same as it did last year. Ciron Black at left tackle, Herman Johnson at LG, Brett Helms at C, and Lyle Hitt at RG. Their backups are Ernest McCoy at left tackle, Ryan Miller at LG, T-Bob Hebert at C, and Josh Dworacyzk at RG.
Along the defensive line LSU must replace All-American and future top 10 pick Glen Dorsey. It was kind of difficult to get an idea for what the depth chart may look like right now because they linemen went through drills individually instead of groups. But the good news is everyone was out there. Tyson Jackson, Kirsten Pittman, Tremaine Johnson, Rahim Alem, Will Blackwell, Sidell Corley, and Jordon Corbin as the ends. Al Woods, Drake Nevis, Marlon Favorite, and Kentravis Aubrey as the tackles. Charles Alexander was also at practice today going through drills fully. After missing most of last season with torn ligaments in his right knee, it was nice to see Alexander out there back in action. He was wearing heavy brace on his knee, but did not appear to be limited or limping in any drills. Ricky Jean Francois also missed practice because of track.
At linebacker LSU will still have Darry Beckwith roaming the field in the middle, but will have to find new outside linebackers after losing Ali Highsmith and Luke Sanders. Kelvin Sheppard and Perry Riley appear to be the favorites to land those jobs as they were running on the first team with Beckwith. The second team linebackers consisted of Ace Foyil in the middle with Shomari Clemons and true freshmen Kellen Theriot on the outside. Although Theriot will have a lot of learning to do before he is ready to see the field this year, physically he is just as impressive as any linebacker on the team.
Defensive back may be the chief concern for Tiger fans heading into next season as 2 year starters Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon must be replaced at cornerback and Craig Steltz at strong safety. After an impressive showing in the national championship game, Harry Coleman has the leg up for the starting strong safety spot, but he will be heavily pursued by Chad Jones. Curtis Taylor remains at free safety from last season, and is backed up by Danny McCray. Stefoin Francois will also figure into the safety mix somewhere but he did not lineup at either position today. Jai Eugene will be taking over for Chevis Jackson at right cornerback, and is backed up by Phelon Jones and Tyson Andrus. Chris Hawkins takes over Zenon's left cornerback spot and is backed up by Ron Brooks and John Williams. Danny McCray appears to still have a strong hold on the nickel spot but will also have to hold off Chad Jones.
That's all from today's first practice. The team will be back on the field tomorrow morning, so check back around lunchtime for a practice update.