LSU football: 10 things I want to see this spring
LSU started spring football practice on Thursday and had its second practice Saturday.
It’s a long way to the fall, but what the Tigers demonstrate in the spring will give a sense of what they’re likely to look like in preseason camp and ultimately the fall.
There are new faces already on board and many more will arrive in the summer so they’ll be work in progress well beyond the spring.
But this is the unofficial start of the 2019 season and what LSU show now will be the first indication of whether the Tigers are likely to live up to what will surely be lofty expectations next season.
So here are 10 things I want to see from LSU this spring:
1. Joe Burrow looking like the leader of a championship contender
He did fine last season after transferring late from Ohio State and evolved as a runner and more consistent passer late in the season.
But the comfort level should be much higher than it was when he arrived and he should use his first, last and only spring practice as the LSU to quarterback to set the tone for a championship mentality and confidence going forward.
2. Joe Brady expanding the passing game
Ed Orgeron went to one of the elite passing teams in the NFL to grab Brady from the New Orleans Saints coaching staff. He brought Brady in to make the passing offense and therefore the offense as a whole more versatile and explosive than it has been in Orgeron’s first two full seasons.
3. Some wide receivers give Justin Jefferson some help
If not for Jefferson’s emergence as a consistent playmaker, last season would have been a disaster for the wide receivers. What was supposed to be one of the deepest positions on the team became the most disappointing.
Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall were true freshmen and might have just needed time to emerge. Jonathan Giles, Stephen Sullivan and Derrick Dillon have more experience and they’re running out of time to have the type of impact that their talent suggests they should have.
4. Veteran runnings show the freshmen that they will have a fight on their hands
The Tigers are excited about the impending arrival of Tyrion Davis-Price and especially John Emery II at the running back position.
They’re expected to upgrade the running game, though Nick Brossette emerged as a 1,000-yard rusher as a senior last season.
But the Tigers have several experienced running backs on hand and Brossette’s emergence from the shadows should have taught them that it’s never too late to have an impact.
So let’s see what Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Lanard Fournette, Chris Curry and Tae Provens can show in the spring to demonstrate they can be factors along with the newcomers.
5. Someone step forward as a leader among the tight ends
The graduation of Foster Moreau was a significant loss on the field and off, given that he was given the honor of wearing the coveted No. 18 as a unique leader during his senior season.
True freshman TK McLendon already is on campus, but veterans Jamal Pettigrew, Thaddeus Moss and Zach Sheffer also are in the mix to fill Moreau’s large shoes.
6. A drama-free period for the offensive line
This unit has had to overcome a series of losses due to injury and disciplinary action each of the past two years.
There’s enough transition going on already without more unexpected losses gumming up the works.
There’s also enough talent and depth for this to be a team strength if all goes according to plan.
7. Defensive linemen take advantage of opportunities
Rashard Lawrence, Breiden Fehoko and Neil Farrell are rehabilitating injuries so there are expanded opportunities for defensive linemen to show they deserve playing time in the fall.
Players such as Tyler Shelvin, Glen Logan, Travez Moore, Justin Thomas, Dominic Livingston and Siaki Ika have a chance to get a foothold on a spot in the two-deep for the fall.
8. Linebackers show they’re not intimidated by trying to replace Devin White
No one is going to be Devin White, but there’s enough talent on hand for younger players to demonstrate that they can be significant contributors on a top-flight defense.
Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen have already shown play-making ability. Now is the time for them to demonstrate that they’re ready to become primary contributors.
9. Derek Stingley show what all the fuss is about
He’s the primary catch in the nation’s No. 5 recruiting class. He’s supposed to be the next guy to reinforce why LSU calls itself DBU.
If LSU is going to have an elite defense and contend for an SEC West title and perhaps more, it’s probably going to require Stingley having a significant impact right away.
He already opened eyes during Fiesta Bowl practices. Now he can establish himself as a key player for the 2019 season.
10. Someone to show they can handle punt returns
This could involve Stingley also.
The Tigers performed poorly on punt returns last season and someone needs to prove he can be a dependable playmaker there.
Orgeron probably would prefer that Stingley not have to be the primary punt returner, but whether it’s him, someone else or a tandem, LSU needs to be better at returning punts.