LSU returns 11 starters, creating several significant position battles that will be decided during preseason camp.
When you’re trying to figure out who your quarterback is, who he is going to hand the ball to most frequently and who figures to be his second and third most common targets for passes, naturally most of the attention is going to go to the offense.
But even though the defense enters camp with more certainty, there’s still stuff to be sorted out on that side of the ball.
Keeping that in mind, here are LSU’s five biggest position battles in fall camp:
ILB: Jacob Phillips vs. Micah Baskerville
Skinny: One inside linebacker spot is arguably the least competitive spot on the team because Devin White has the starting spot locked up. But the other inside linebacker spot is very different.
No one really owned the position last season, though Phillips emerged as the starter late. Baskerville enters as a freshman with an opportunity to take the job from Phillips.
Tyler Taylor, a starter early last season, is back and could re-enter the mix, and Patrick Queen, who backs up White, could find himself paired with White instead.
Who wins? Phillips
CB: Kary Vincent Jr. vs. Terrence Alexander
Skinny: We all know that Greedy Williams is a starting corner who’s projected to be a high first-round draft choice into the NFL next year, but someone has to replace Donte Jackson. Vincent might be the successor to Jackson as the fastest player on the team, which helps him in his bid to succeed him as a starting cornerback/nickelback.
But there’s a lot of competition. Alexander came over from Stanford as a graduate transfer with a chance to start because of his experience, and Jontre Kirklin could force his way into the conversation.
There’s a wild card with Kristian Fulton, whose appeal of an NCAA 2-year suspension is being reconsidered. A hearing with the NCAA has been requested for Aug. 9. His availability would intensify the competition at both corner and nickel.
Who wins? Vincent
WR: Stephen Sullivan vs. Terrace Marshall Jr.
Skinny: This is a little more complicated than just Marshall vs. Sullivan to see who’s the No. 2 receiver behind clear-cut No. 1 Jonathan Giles. Marshall was one of the Tigers’ most highly-touted recruits and Sullivan showed flashes last season in the shadow of DJ Chark and Russell Gage.
Another freshman – Ja’Marr Chase – is also in the mix to be among the top 3, but if Marshall beats out Sullivan, the coaches would prefer that two of their top three receivers not be true freshmen.
In other words, a handful of experienced players with modest statistics – led by Sullivan and including Derrick Dillon, Drake Davis, Dee Anderson and Justin Jefferson – are also competing to start at a position at which LSU often uses three players at a time.
Who wins? Marshall
RB: Nick Brossette vs. Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Skinny: This is the battle of the veterans to see who has the best chance of getting the most carries against Miami. But in reality, a couple of freshmen – Chris Curry and Tae Provens – are in the mix as well and could become bigger factors as time goes along.
Brossette has been around longer than Edwards-Helaire, but Edwards-Helaire is more versatile with his pass-catching ability out of the backfield.
Curry is the strongest back and has a good chance to bypass the backup veteran. Provens might be odd man out in the early going, but that could change quickly.
Who wins? Edwards-Helaire
QB: Myles Brennan vs. Joe Burrow
Skinny: Brennan was the 2018 presumed starter from the time he signed with the Tigers a year and a half ago until Burrow transferred in from Ohio State a few weeks ago. That doesn’t mean Brennan has failed, but it does mean that the coaches weren’t as comfortable with him as the projected starter coming out of spring as they had hoped to be.
Burrow immediately impressed coaches with his smarts and how astutely he answered questions about decision-making while watching film. That means his late arrival might not put him at as big a disadvantage as it might seem.
Lowell Narcisse would have been competing with Brennan to start if Burrow hadn’t shown up, but it’s not practical to have a three-man competition at this late stage. Justin McMillan had the best spring of the three who were on campus before Burrow’s arrival, but he’ll have the opportunity, if he so chooses, to transfer and be eligible right away after he graduates later this week.
Who wins? Burrow