If this were professional wrestling college football's music just hit to a rousing ovation. "FINALLY... COLLEGE FOOTBALL. HAS. COME. BACK. TO. YOU." The long summer wait is over. We now officially have football. Well, not games, but practice, at least. That's typically enough to get us through that final month until the season starts. This is the day that the Lord has made, so rejoice and be glad in it, dammit.
Fall practice is great fun, but there are many questions to be answered. There are starting positions to be decided and key back-up roles as well. LSU is replacing approximately 2000% of their offensive production from 2013, so watching the new-look offense will certainly be a major discussion piece. So let's take a look at some things to watch for during this camp.
1) Quarterback Improvement
Most everyone will go to great lengths to discuss the competition, but I'm less interested in the actual competition aspect. I'm convinced both guys will play a role this season, so whoever "wins" the competition is mostly irrelevant to me. That is, unless, it somehow becomes a no brainer. What I'm more interested in is how many strides these two have made since Spring.
Anthony Jennings didn't have the best Spring Game, leading many to immediately anoint Brandon Harris as the heir-apparent to the position. Jennings' confidence seems to be higher than ever. He's still quite capable of being the starting QB for this team and a damn good one. But he needs to find that consistency in his game. I'd love to see more drive and power on this throws and just a general ownership of the offense.
Harris, on the other hand, dazzled during the Spring game. He wowed with his arm strength and running ability. Harris brings with him a certain swagger that's undeniable. He's confident. He's spent his summer working hard, adding additional weight and training out on San Diego with George Whitfield and Malachi Dupre. He's put in the type of effort you'd expect someone trying to win a starting job. Like Jennings, this is about finding consistency. Unlike Jennings, Harris needs to find consistent accuracy.
It's hard to garner a ton from the 30 seconds of fall practice tapes we get to see. The big thing here is that both these guys need to push each other. We don't want a situation where one is simply backing into the starting role because both are playing so poorly and well, someone has to do it. I don't think that will be an issue, though.
It should be interesting to see what Cameron devises for these two QBs. Both are still very green. There's a veteran OL in place, so we can expect some heavy ground and pound, but I doubt Cameron goes into his shell. He wants to pass the rock. It's his job to figure out how to put these two in the best position to do so. This will be a major test for Cameron. Can he develop the young talent? It's one thing to walk into a situation with a pair of NFL WRs, an NFL RB and a solid QB and turn out a solid offense. Replacing your QB, WRs and starting RB is a much taller task.
2) Who Emerges at Receiver?
Travin Dural seems in pole position to be a top starter. Guys like Quantavius Leslie and John Diarse spent the Spring across from him, but let's best honest, they didn't have to compete with the likes of Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn. Don't be surprised if those are two of the true freshman that get invited to the veteran practices very early on.
I imagine this is a group you may see a ton of movement from. The coaches will want to see what they have in not only the true freshmen, but also these veterans that have hardly played. They are looking for guys to step up and make plays. LSU ran a fair number of four-wide sets last Fall. Coming out of spring it's not even entirely clear we have a fourth receiver they trust, much less who numbers two or three would be. The QB competition will likely steal the headlines, but since I consider that a nearly moot point, I'm much more interested in what happens with this grouping.
3) Safety Dance
News broke late last evening that Jalen Mills will be charged with simple battery, a misdemeanor. Historically, this has prompted Miles to re-instate the player (Jordan Jefferson, Jeremy Hill). It's unclear yet what decision Miles will make stemming from the DA's charges, and perhaps the violence being against a woman will push him in another direction. That said, Mills' absences throws the safety position into the unknown.
Solid, if unspectacular players such as Corey Thompson and Ronald Martin return. They will be the veterans of the group. Rickey Jefferson is the lone other returner, but played well at spots, particularly against Iowa, last season.
This will be all eyes on youth. Perhaps Thompson and Martin's veteran leadership and knowledge will propel them to the finest seasons of their career, but neither are nearly as purely talented as true freshman Jamal Adams. Devin Voorhies and John Battle will be looking to make names for themselves as well, but I suspect Adams is a guy that could push for serious playing time right away.
The safety configuration will be an interesting one to watch. If Mills does return, I suspect he'll serve a game or two suspension. Who holds the spots until then?
4) Guard right, Right Guard
The OL is in solid position, returning four of five starters, but the RG spot will be in competition throughout camp. The main contenders are SR. Hoko Fanaika and SR. Evan Washington. Both stand up near 6'5" and top the scales at 330+ pounds. These are big, nasty mashers up front. Washington holds the edge in experience, playing spot duty last year to fill during injuries. But from all accounts, this is a neck and neck battle.
Another name to not count out is Ethan Pocic. He pushed Elliott Porter for the starting OC last Fall and may be one of the 5 most talented OL on the team. The coaches may decide it's best to get him playing experience rather than having him sitting on the bench this season.
5) New Look DTs
There's two new starting defensive tackles in town, not to mention a host of young bodies there gunning for their spots. Miles says Greg Gilmore is 20-pounds lighter now than he was last year. He mentioned Frank Herron and Maquedius Bain by name too. That's five bodies to keep an eye on. Could any of Gilmore, Herron, or Bain step up to take a starting spot from LaCouture or Quentin Thomas?
Even if they don't, we should see a much heavier rotation than we ever saw last season. The idea of having five capable bodies at DT is an exciting prospect. The ability to throw our defensive line at people in waves could immediately turn a question middle into a strength.
6) Fournette Hype
Today, it hops into overdrive. For the first time we'll get to see him in an LSU helmet. For the first time we'll get to see him running drills against LSU players. For the first time, he'll step onto that practice field as an official member of the team. I suspect the hype will come hot and fast. People are dying to see this guy already. He may even steal the headlines from the QB competition.