Questions Surrounding Fall Camp--Part I

The start of fall camp is only 20 days away for the LSU football team. Every year, college coaches must replace the players they lost to the NFL and to graduation with new and sometimes inexperienced players. All programs have question marks heading into the new season and even the defending BCS champs have a few as they prepare for fall camp.

Editor’s Note: This is the Part I of our feature on 10 questions surrounding the LSU Tigers as they head into fall camp.


1. How will the quarterback position shake out with the departure of Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux?


Tiger fans were chomping at the bit for Les Miles to reinstate Ryan Perrilloux during the spring but now they should be counting their blessings because had the embattled signal caller returned then that would have meant fewer repetitions for Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee.


The LSU staff got a good look at Hatch and Lee during the spring along with members of the media and a select few fans.


Although Hatch played very sparingly last season, attempting two passes and rushing four times, he seemed to have a little better grasp of the offense and was quicker with his decision-making in the spring game. He also threw some very nice passes and showed good mobility despite not having to worry about being tackled.


Lee has the stronger arm and is a more polished passer but playing under the lights in Tiger Stadium and having to deal with a pass rush made him look like the inexperienced redshirt freshman he is.


Jordan Jefferson is the wildcard and even though he has the strongest arm of the bunch and is probably the faster of the three signal callers it would be too much for him to step in and lead this team from the outset as a true freshman.


Gary Crowton is not going to put his quarterback in a situation where he has to win the game so whoever is under center will need to take a page from Matt Flynn’s book and just manage the game. The Tigers have a plethora of talent on the offensive side of the ball that will be led by a strong running game.


A controlled passing game with an occasional deep ball is what I expect to see in the early going and I look for the quarterback race to go unsettled the first two weeks of the season. When North Texas comes to town that will be the final tune-up before heading over to Auburn to play in a hostile Jordan-Hare Stadium and by then one of these guys will need to be the man.


If Lee can grow and learn from the mistakes he will make early on look for him to grab the reigns and pull away when North Texas comes to town.



2. Is Demetrius Byrd ready to be the go-to guy and continue the tradition of receivers going high in the NFL draft?


Demetrius Byrd came into his own around the middle of the season last year and showed why he was a 5-star receiver when he came out of Pearl River Community College. He led the Tigers in touchdowns (7) and was third on the squad in receptions (35). The 6-2, 195-pounder followed that up with a big spring and the last time Tiger fans saw him was when he hauled in four passes for 132 yards and a touchdown in the spring game.


Byrd will have the luxury of having Brandon LaFell and Terrance Toliver in the lineup which should keep him from being double-teamed on a consistent basis but one has to wonder how the loss of Ryan Perrilloux will affect the vertical passing game which is Byrd’s strength?


LSU has had five receivers drafted in the first two rounds this decade and from talking to a couple of NFL scouts the general consensus is that Byrd could be the sixth. His combination of size and speed is very intriguing to the NFL personnel and if he can be more consistent as a senior and test well at the combine then there is a good chance he could continue that tradition of LSU wide outs going high in the draft.



3. Will it be running back by committee in 2008 or will someone step up and lead the pack? 


Les Miles had a reputation for using the old proverbial “running back by committee” in his first two years at LSU but last season Jacob Hester was the feature back and had three times as many carries (225) as the next person on the list in Keiland Williams (70), not counting Matt Flynn.


Miles and running backs coach Larry Porter have three backs that are capable of being that workhorse in Williams, Charles Scott, and Richard Murphy but as they enter fall camp odds are that the Tigers will have a three-headed stable rather than one thoroughbred.


Murphy made a lot of noise in the spring game with his 145 yards and two scores on the ground that included a 70-yard scamper to the end zone. He also added 52 yards and a score on two receptions showing that he can hurt a defense in more ways than one.


Williams has more of an upside of the three with his size and speed but he has struggled at times with putting the ball on the ground and missing assignments. If he can master the little things and finally put everything together then his number of touches a game should triple from what he got last season (5.6).


It would be easy for Scott to get lost in the shuffle in most offenses but the fact that Miles and Porter spread the ball around so much is actually a blessing in disguise when you have a stable of horses as deep as LSU has.


Trindon Holliday will get his few touches a game like he did last year but when all is said and done and you look back at the stat sheet next January it could look very similar to the way it did in Miles’ first two seasons.



4. Can Les Miles get the same type of senior leadership he got from his 2007 squad?


Senior leadership played a vital role in LSU winning the national championship last season and anytime you have a veteran signal caller like Matt Flynn leading the troops then it is always a bonus.


The signal caller will be young this year but Brett Helms is poised to provide the leadership to keep things in check when those nervous and tense moments arise. When Miles decided to bring Helms to SEC Media Days in Birmingham that told you right there that he will be looked upon as one of the leaders on the offensive side of the ball.


Demetrius Byrd is another guy who stood out during the spring even when he wasn’t catching passes because he was constantly talking to the other receivers about their technique and he had that look where he seemed so much more confident in understanding the offense.


Tyson Jackson will also accompany Miles to Birmingham and he knows that he needs to be a leader on the defensive side of the ball. The standout defensive end knows that he did not have the kind of year that he was looking to have as a junior and look for him to play with more fire which the other guys should feed off of.


It seems as if Darry Beckwith has been at LSU for much longer than he has and he is another one who will be called upon along with Curtis Taylor.


Team leaders step forward when the coaches aren’t around, such as the summer, and based on the reports we’ve gotten on the guys mentioned above the leadership will be there.


Will it be as strong as it was in 2007? That is something this team will find out early on when it travels to Auburn on Sept. 20.



5. What improvement can we expect to see in special teams for 2008?


Les Miles brought in Joe Robinson to take some of the load off of co-defensive coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto and it is too early to tell how that move has paid off.


LSU has plenty of athletes that can return kicks led by Trindon Holliday, Keiland Williams, Patrick Johnson, John Williams, and the list goes on and on.


The biggest question mark is in the punt return department. Chad Jones assumed that role last season because he showed that he was the most reliable at fielding the punt but he even dropped a few.


Some coaches do not like putting defensive players back deep but when you have a player the magnitude of Johnson it makes that decision a little easier.


Jared Mitchell is also going to get a strong look but his biggest problem has been catching the punt.


Williams and Ron Brooks are two more players who will get a look during fall camp but the guy to watch closely is Johnson. He showed in high school that he has more than his fair share of ability at returning kicks and he has also shown a little of that during the summer.


LSU was plagued by short kickoffs last season as only 2 of its 100 kicks went for a touchback and opponents on average started off at the 31 yard line. The depth of the kicks landed at the 10 yard line on average and that is something that Robinson will be looking to improve on.


Drew Alleman, a true freshman walk-on, kicked four times in the spring game and nailed it inside the five yard line on three occasions and Josh Jasper also got more depth and loft on the ball than he showed as a true freshman.


We know that Colt David will be rock solid with field goals and extra points, and the pick here is that Alleman will nail down the kickoff job.


The Tigers struggled with their punting during the spring as Jasper, Andrew Crutchfield, and Brady Dalfrey all were inconsistent to say the least.


Someone will have to come forward and assume the role during the fall and our pick is Jasper or Dalfrey, but this may be a situation where its “punt by committee”.



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