5 takeaways from LSU spring game, starting with the QB battle
The LSU spring game naturally created a lot of curiosity.
Which quarterback looks like the front-runner?
What does first-year coordinator Jake Peetz’s offense look like?
What does first-year coordinator Daronte Jones’ defense look like?
Overall do the Tigers look deeper and more balanced than they did during their 5-5 season last fall?
Football scrimmages in the spring rarely provide definitive answers about what will happen during games in the fall. But LSU’s spring game Saturday afternoon did offer some hints about the 2021 Tigers’ prospects 20 weeks before they open the season against UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
Generally speaking, it looks like the quarterback competition is far from over but perhaps gaining some clarity, the offense and defense both have plenty enough playmakers though head coach Ed Orgeron wasn’t about to show off much of the new schemes, and there’s no reason to think this team isn’t capable of being significantly better than the last one.
Technically, the White team – composed of the No. 1 offense and the No. 2 defense – outscored the Purple team – the No. 1 defense and the No. 2 offense – 23-14.
But first-team quarterbacks Max Johnson and Myles Brennan and second-team quarterbacks TJ Finley and Garrett Nussmeier traded places in the second half so all 4 could get equal opportunities with the first-team offense amid other swaps.
Specifically, here are 5 takeaways from the LSU spring game:
1. Quarterbacks show some separation
Orgeron said he gave all 4 quarterbacks “a very fair shot.”
Each showed off their talent, but the biggest difference came in terms of ball security. Neither Johnson nor Brennan threw an interception. Finley, whose ball security was the worst among the 3 veterans last season, threw 2 interceptions and Nussmeier showed the inexperience of a true freshman in throwing 3.
At some point early in fall camp, LSU will have to separate its quarterbacks into the top 2 and the next 2 in order to get the top ones more first-team snaps to accelerate the battle to be the starter.
Saturday’s performances strengthened to notion that Johnson and Brennan are most likely to be those top 2.
2. Wide receivers step up
Kayshon Boutte served notice during his freshman season last fall that he’s ready to be a top-flight No. 1 receiver.
Boutte dominated, as expected.
Is Kayshon Boutte the next elite LSU WR 👀
7 Receptions, 131 yards and a TD in the FIRST HALF of LSU’s spring game 🔥
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 17, 2021
But the Tigers plan to use 4-wideout and 5-wideout formations that will require several playmakers to emerge. Jontre Kirklin took advantage of playing for both teams Saturday to finish with 16 catches, 209 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. Koy Moorse also caught a touchdown pass.
3. The defensive play was encouraging
Granted, mental breakdowns such as the ones that plagued former coordinator Bo Pelini’s unit last season aren’t likely to surface with this group this soon. Orgeron and Jones used only a fraction of their schemes and they faced an opponent they’ve seen in practice throughout the spring.
But the unit seemed to play with confidence and enthusiasm, both of which were in short supply last season.
After Saturday’s game, Orgeron called Jones a “talented, talented football coach” whom the players “respect and want to play hard for.”
4. Good and bad line play
Generally speaking, the defensive line played well and the offensive line played not so well.
QBs were off-limits, but Jaquelin Roy had 3 sacks, BJ Ojulari had 2 and Neil Farrell, Eric Taylor and Jacobian Guillory each had 1 for a group playing without Andre Anthony and Ali Gaye.
Orgeron said the 2 lines have taken turns getting the better of each throughout the spring, though the defensive line has done so more of late.
The offensive line has experience with all 5 starters returning, so it should be fine. But the depth remains a concern.
5. DBU might be back in session
LSU is often called “DBU” for its ability to consistently produce NFL defensive backs. Last year’s group didn’t play up to that nickname, but after the spring game Orgeron called the secondary the most improved unit on the team this spring.
He said Derek Stingley Jr., who had 1 of the 5 interceptions Saturday, has had a “tremendous spring” and called him “the best cornerback in the country.”
The other starting cornerback, Eli Ricks, didn’t play Saturday because of injury, but Dwight McGlothern filled in and had 1 of the interceptions as did Raydarious Jones. Jay Ward also had an interception and Orgeron cited his move to free safety as being beneficial.