Another spring practice is in the books in Baton Rouge. We came in with the expectation that this would be one of the more interesting springs. A new offensive coordinator for a fairly experienced group. A defense that will be rebuilding without the starpower of years past. Plus, a record number of early enrolling freshmen and other newcomers, including the best freshman quarterback group since Matt Flynn and Jamarcus Russell arrived in Baton Rouge back in 2003.
I'm loathed to come up with any hard conclusions, but here are a few I'm fairly comfortable with now that spring has wrapped up:
- The quarterback situation is at the best place it's been in a long time. Not only is Zach Mettenberger making some natural progressions in his second year at the starting position. He looks comfortable and fairly in command of what Cam Cameron installed in the last few weeks. Plus, there's some real depth behind him. Freshman Anthony Jennings came in and really took to things quickly as well, and has pushed third-year backup Stephen Rivers for the backup spot. Meanwhile, Rivers turned around and put up a pretty good spring game, completing 7-10 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Hayden Rettig may be bringing up the rear, but he's still got the whole summer to progress.
- Cam Cameron is bringing some new approaches to the Tiger offense. The passing game appears to be a bit streamlined, and he's bringing some fresh ideas to practice. More up-tempo work, a focus on catching the ball for every skill position including backs and tight ends and some new positions and sets, including some pistol offense sets. There wasn't much of it on display in last weekend's spring game, but there's been too much smoke out of practice reports and videos not to buy in to some degree. We've talked a lot about efficiency as a goal for the offense: LSU's first team offense averaged 10.9 yards per play, converted 42 percent of third-down opportunities and scored touchdowns twice as often as it punted (6 to 3) in the spring game.
- The receivers look good, but I'm still waiting to see if Quantavious Leslie can arrive in the summer to give LSU the type of tall, deep threat that we've seen in the past.
- Defensively, John Chavis' unit will likely be built from the linebackers-out. Defensive line's a bit thin. The defensive backs are athletic but unproven. But the linebackers are as fast, athletic and deep as they've ever been. The starting lineup will probably continue to shuffle around Lamin Barrow, but something tells me Kwon Alexander will find a way to get on the field.
- LSU's punting game should be strong once again even without Brad Wing, but there's still a scrum in the competition for kicker. It's still unclear just how things will shake out on this front between James Hairston, Colby Delahoussaye and Trent Domingue.
- The newbies look ready to step in. Ethan Pocic will, at the very least, supply quality depth as a true freshman and will almost certainly push for one of the starting spots. JUCO transfer Logan Stokes looks as good as advertised to be LSU's starting tight end, and it may not be long before wideouts John Diarse and Avery Johnson are pushing upperclassmen James Wright and Kadron Boone for playing time.
- Finally, there was good luck in the injury department, but depth is a concern. LSU just doesn't have that many bodies on the defensive line that appear capable, and the incoming freshmen will certainly have to be ready to crack the two-deep. Jalen Mills and Jermauria Rasco reportedly each needed surgery on their shoulders, but neither procedure sounded serious and both are expected to be ready in plenty of time. On offense, the coaching staff did a smart thing in training Pocic at multiple spots, as there's just one experienced center on hand in Elliot Porter.