What to watch Saturday in LSU’s and Ole Miss’ spring games

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Two teams are holding their annual spring games tomorrow: LSU and Ole Miss. Spring games are a time for fans to hit the campus and spend a little cash, and can be an inexpensive way to bring their families to watch an exibition.

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Known vs. Unknown

Ole Miss’ roster and depth chart is pretty much set; LSU’s isn’t. The Rebels return one of college football’s best rosters, and both the defense and the offense return multiple starters. The skill positions are largely set, and the offensive line may be the biggest key to the offensive unit. The defense should be loaded with impact players at nearly every position, including one of the top defensive lines in the country that features Robert Nkemdiche.

Conversely, the NFL Draft has wiped out LSU’s roster. LSU had 11 players declare early for the 2013 draft, and seven this year. Add to that some attrition with players transferring, and it creates an interesting roster scenario. LSU always recruits well, and impact players won’t be a problem. For the first time in LSU history, the 2013 offense featured a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers. And they’re all gone, along with two defensive tackles, the defense’s leading tackler and star safety. It’s a new-look team.

What to watch for in the LSU spring game

QB battle: Les Miles hasn’t tipped his hat at either quarterback, Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings, this spring. Either Jennings hasn’t done enough to stand out, or Harris has placed doubt in the staff’s mind. We know more about Jennings, and Saturday will be a good education for the first look at the electric early enrollee Harris. Saturday likely won’t decide the quarterback battle, but it will give fans and media a look at the two players.

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Right guard: The right guard battle will be fun to watch. Roommates Hoko Fanaika and Evan Washington are the duo to watch. Washington leads for the position at this point, but Fanaika could overtake him heading into the season. Fanaika is a force, and the Tigers return four starters along the offensive line, only needing to replace the guard vacancy.

Kendell Beckwith: You’ll want to watch this future stud. Beckwith was moved from defensive end to middle linebacker this spring, and he’s battled with DJ Welter over the last month. LSU is a linebacker factory, and Beckwith could be the tackler they were missing, a la Kevin Minter. Beckwith is an athlete who’s looking to take someone’s job.

Safeties: This is one of the bigger question marks on defense. Corner is taken care of with Rashard Robinson and Tre’Davious White, and it looks like Jalen Mills and Ronald Martin are the first-team safeties. Martin has put on some weight and moved to strong safety, the position vacated by Craig Loston. Corey Thompson is still recovering from offseason surgery, and the do-it-all Mills has slid into the rotation. Rickey Jefferson and Dwayne Thomas are also playing safety this spring.

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What to watch for in the Ole Miss spring game

Bo’s backup: This is a vast array of possibilities. The primary backups DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan are hoping to solidify the No. 2 quarterback slot on the depth chart. Kincade is a dual-threat, quick-as-a-cat type player who also has shown he’ll make tough passes. Buchanan is more of a traditional pocket passer who has tremendous upside. Hugh Freeze has a good problem on his hands. Fans will get a chance to see their future Saturday.

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But where does Jeremy Liggins stand? Nobody knows right now, maybe not even Hugh Freeze. Liggins is the a near 300 pounds and could be the short-yardage pounder Ole Miss needs – think short-yardage situations and goal-line situations. Everyone wants to see what the Big Easy brings to Ole Miss’ offense.

Secondary newcomers: Many say the talented early enrollee CJ Hampton is ready to contribute immediately; Anthony Alford is also a very attractive secondary candidate, too. But Ole Miss has a stacked secondary. What gives? All-American safety Cody Prewitt headlines a deep and talented position group, but everyone wants to catch glimpses of Hampton and Alford.

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Breakout candidates: Two players I’ll be watching will be receiver Quincy Adeboyejo and running back Mark Dodson. Adeboyejo has turned heads this spring and is blossoming into a playmaker. Dodson is a candidate to get many carries this fall, along with I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton.

Photo Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

COMMENTS

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  • I’m curious about what the fans will say after attending these games. Questions I have are what will Wallace look like compared to last year. and Will the Mississippi defense be able to match last year’s effort as a unit? On LSU my questions are not like the media at all. I didn’t think Mettenberger was quite as good as the media wanted to promote last year, so I think his replacement could easily look a lot better, but will these replacements look better? LSU clearly does not have a national champion defense anymore. In fact, I don’t think such a thing exists anymore. Offense rules NCAA football as of 2013 till the year ???? So, yes LSU has to have a better than average defense and they will, but back to the attack, will they have the qb, the receivers, and the running backs? and How many starting O-liners did they lose?

    • Wolfman: I think that is a good question about Ole Miss’ defensive effort. But from what I am reading and hearing from spring practices is that the defense is really doing great. Bo Wallace is finally healthy and this spring and offseason is important for him to build his arm strength. Last year he didn’t go threw spring and didn’t start throwing till fall camp. There really isn’t any question marks for this Ole Miss team. It’s still a young team, but they are experienced. Everyone thinks that the offense is going to be what wins most games for Ole Miss, but it’s going to be the defense. I know I haven’t seen an Ole Miss’ defense like this one with so much talent and skill. I don’t know how many games Ole Miss will win, but this year they have the potential to win just about all of them if they play up to their talent level.

      • That’s essential to know about Wallace. and I can easily see how the MS defense could mature into the type of unit you are describing.

        • Thanks Wolf, the offense should be really balanced this year. I just really like our defense. We finally have plenty of depth, which is something that Ole Miss has been lacking.