National L Club Spring Game 2012: What to Watch For

No matter what anybody says, spring games are nothing more than glorified practices. And when I say glorified, I mean you'd be better off watching a real practice through some sort of hidden camera. Even the most open and accommodating head coaches only show so much, and even then they generally worry more about avoiding injuries than anything else. And then there's Les Miles, who likes to keep his cards so close to the chest that I sometimes wonder if he has tiny Tyrannosaurus arms.

That isn't to say you can't observe things in them. They give you a piece of the puzzle, albeit usually a small one that you might not be able to quite find a fit for without some hindsight from the fall. That is to say, you might not realize what you're really seeing until the real games start. But given how last season went, how it ended, what LSU has returning and the fact that we as fans might finally be crawling our way out of the quarterbacking desert, I certainly can't resist watching.

On that note, here are a few things I'll be looking for.

  • Real offense? Miles is notoriously tight with what he shows in these instances, however, with the game not being on TV, plus the season opening with a cupcake like North Texas, maybe he'll be a little more willing to let the offense being at least a little open up a little. At least with the basics. Maybe. Possibly. Okay probably not...
  • The bare essentials. Realistically, I don't expect this to be some tremendous showcase for Zach Mettenberger. Oh sure, he'll get to throw the ball a little, but with 100 plays to work with the coaches also have to get in work on running game, special teams plus get some passing reps for for Stephen Rivers and Jerrard Randall as well. Look for the passing game to show some of its basic concepts and personnel groupings.

  • Any changeups? Will there be any unexpected lineup shifts or formations? Who is returning kicks? Who runs with the first team at linebacker, safety and who's first off the bench when the defense goes to nickel? The cornerback position in particular is one I want to watch, because finding a third guy that can sub in is crucial if we want to keep seeing Tyrann Mathieu causing havoc on third downs.
  • Backfield in motion. How does the running back situation sort out? My guess is Spencer Ware is still No. 1 -- as relative a term as that is -- but who is next in? Is Jeremy Hill going to be a major contributor? My guess is that he certainly will be for now, especially with Michael Ford out with an injury. If there is one wrinkle we might see, it could come in the two-back sets. Spencer Ware and Kenny Hilliard on the field at the same time? With a more versatile passing game, it can make a lot more sense. Could the running backs have a larger role in the passing game? Is Russell Shepard active in the running game again?
  • Wide receivers. I've been operating under the assumption that Odell Beckham will be the presumptive go-to-guy in this offense, but there's a lot of talk about Jarvis Landry and James Wright exerting themselves. What does that mean, and how are the roles defined? Besides that, how does the next group shake out? Kadron Boone is out with a broken collar bone, so that leaves Shepard, Armand Williams and Jarrett Fobbs. Who is next in? Or will LSU be depending on the freshmen to take meaningful reps this fall? And of course, is Shepard taking advantage of his fresh start with Adam Henry?
  • Tight Ends. I don't expect to see too much action out of them, but I would just like to see how often they even get used. There's no obvious pass-catcher like Deangelo Peterson around anymore, so how often are they staying in to block? I'm slightly bullish on Chase Clement potentially serving as a solid dump-off target.
  • Linebackers. By all accounts Kevin Minter and Tahj Jones have two of the starting gigs lined up, but that third spot is up for grabs, and by all accounts the battle between Lamin Barrow, Luke Muncie and freshmen Lamar Louis and Ronnie Feist has been a good one. Plus, Jones is expected to be hold out with a minor injury. So the chances for the freshmen to get out there are good.

We're not going to answer all of these questions on Saturday, but I'll settle for a glimpse

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