You thought that here on April 3, 2009, that Spring was just getting started? On the football calendar, we are on the downside of Spring, and it will end soon. LSU had a scrimmage yesterday, and now they take off for Spring Break. After the team returns from Spring Break, there will be a few more practices and then the Spring Game on April 18. That will be the end of the Spring and the start of Summer. Summer lasts until around August 1.
So, the approaching break makes us consider the question, "Where are we?"
To this point, I think everyone seems to be in agreement that the defense looks outstanding. The new hirings on the defensive side of the ball seem to be paying off. Everyone says that the defensive line and the defensive backs are playing outstanding football for this time of the season. The defense seems eager to prove itself after a disappointing 2008 campaign.
In particular, word leaking out of the practices is that Patrick Peterson, Chad Jones, and Drake Nevis are looking like they're ready to emerge as serious playmakers. Al Woods looks like a different player with coaching from Brick Haley and is ready to be a solid contributor. Pep Levingston is looking beastly at left defensive end.
Reading between the lines a little bit, there are still a few spots that are not won. In particular, I think the linebacker situation is unsettled. I believe that 2 out of 3 of Perry Riley, Kelvin Sheppard, and Jacob Cutrera will be starting, but it's hard to say which two. All three may be starters, but I believe that the coaches are giving Ryan Baker a long look at outside linebacker, and are also seriously considering moving either Danny McCray or Harry Coleman to linebacker to get a little more speed on the field.
I've gone on record as saying that I think Ryan Baker looks like a playmaker, and that we should get our playmakers on the field as much as possible. I'm not the coach and I don't see these guys all the time like they do, but I'm rooting for Ryan.
Of course, if Harry Coleman moves into the linebacker spot, it opens up the safety position for Ron Brooks to slide right in.
The offense has been a different story. It has been a hard slog for the offensive side of the ball, though apparently things went better at yesterday's scrimmage. I think if there has been an area that has struggled the most, it has probably been the offensive line. We have to replace two starters there, and it is apparent that the unit has a little ways to go if they're going to be a good unit. O-line is probably the most chemistry-dependent position on the field, and there's a lot of time for the unit to get to where it needs to get, but it's a little problematic that they aren't further along. It seems that the line is missing former center Brett Helms a lot.
The quarterbacks are another problem area, but it's to be expected. We still have very young quarterbacks. The most veteran QB on the roster is a redshirt sophomore. The starter is going through his first Spring Practice. Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee, and Russell Shepard are all going to make progress between now and the first game of the season. I think with Jefferson at the helm, we are going to see some big plays, but we are also going to see some mistakes. He's still just so raw, and has only scratched the surface of what he can do. Shepard will probably play QB in a limited role, and will also be used at other positions to put the ball in his hands in a lot of different ways.
I am reasonably confident that our running back situation will be good, barring further injury. I did not like what Les Miles said of Keiland Williams today:
Keiland Williams has spent a lot of time around here and we need him to really compete and be the guy. I think he had a run today that I though [sic] looked different than I’d seen him run. It looked like he may well have stepped it up a bit.
Reading between the lines, it seems Miles is not pleased with how Keiland has played this Spring. This is after Keiland was not productive in the first half of last year because he ran tentatively. If his one run yesterday looked "different" than Miles had seen him run, and that this is a good thing, it suggests to me that he has been running tentatively again. Hopefully, I am either reading way too much into this, or Keiland really has stepped it up.
I still think the wide receivers are going to be a fantastic unit, but they will need the QBs and the offensive line to play well or they will not be able to be used to their maximum ability.
So the grades right now are very good for the defense, but the offense needs work in general and especially on the offensive line. That's the message I'm getting. Are you seeing anything different?