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Spring Game Thoughts

I have to admit I didn't get quite the view of this spring game as I would have liked. And unfortunately, I forgot to DVR the broadcast for a review. As a side effect of the telecast, they funnel all of the Tiger Stadium crowds to either sideline, which, aside from putting my group and I directly in the sun's gaze, also meant for something of a limited vantage point. Still, I have a few observations.

  • Fairly decent-sized crowd for an LSU spring game. It might have been the crowd gluts created by the seating structure, but it definitely looked more than the listed 25,000 people. I would have guessed north of 30,000.

  • The star of this game was unquestionably Spencer Ware, who looks primed for an all-conference season. I said last summer that Ware's running style reminded me a lot of Mark Ingram, with that squatty, bowling-ball-like build. And much like Ingram, you can tell by watching Ware move that he's just a great athlete. He's well-built and has excellent balance. He's not going to go down on an arm tackle.

  • Speaking of the running backs, you can see Jakhari Gore's quickness, but you can also see the lack of speed that's been talked about. He reminds me a lot of Shyrone Carey of a few years ago, though not nearly as short and stocky as Carey. He doesn't offer much in pass-protection, and got completely blown up by Kevin Minter on a blitz, and he needs to work on carrying the ball a little closer to his chest, but the kid is definitely a natural runner. Hopefully he won't work in between the tackles nearly as much as he did on Saturday.

  • Seeing Russell Shepard get a handful of carries was nice as well. I still believe the key to keeping him involved in the offense regularly will be with the running game more than the passing game. Especially with the way the quarterback situation appears now -- but more on that later.

  • But if Shepard's going to be successful on those speed sweep plays, DeAngelo Peterson is just going to have to put on his big-boy pants as a blocker. He's going to be lined up in the slot or out wide a lot, and he should be a positive blocking matchup in those positions. But on one play he squared up and collided with Derrick Bryant and absolutely was driven backwards. Peterson outweighs Bryant by more than 40 pounds. That's inexcusable.

  • As for the quarterbacks...oy. I've seen a few positive opinions expressed towards Jordan Jefferson's footwork and mechanics looking better. I wasn't in much of a position to get a good look at that, but I definitely felt like I was watching the same mistakes in terms of playing style. Slow progression and a failure to anticipate route breaks. Jarrett Lee looked like his usual skittish self as well, throwing off his back foot when there was no need and struggling to come off a read when the play broke down.

  • Zach Mettenberger looked better simply because he has the physical talent to overcome his deficiencies. His footwork isn't sound, but the ball explodes out of his hand (he's huge in person). He telegraphed a few throws, but the ball arrived before the defense could really take advantage. He also dropped back about 10 yards on a 5-step drop, blowing the protection and later completely whiffed the handoff on what appeared to be a sprint-draw play (a play I am ecstatic to see back in the playbook), so clearly there's some work to do. What any of this means for the fall is anybody's guess. Because no matter what anybody says, this is still just a spring game.

  • I will say this, in a small defense of Jefferson. He did make a few correct reads that were broken up by exceptional defensive back play. He had Rueben Randle in near-perfect stride on a go-route, only to have Tharold Simon make a near-All-American play to break it up. He also completely nailed Jarrrett Fobbs on a corner route. Of course, even if those passes would have been magically completed, we're talking about a difference between 4-14 and 7-14. It wouldn't have turned it into a good game.

  • On that defensive backfield...

    ...Easily the most impressive unit on the field. Almost every player made at least one play that made me stand up and take notice. Simon looks ready to be a full-time starter. His height isn't just an asset on jump-balls -- it allows him to make up ground simply with length. His long-arms allow him to keep a receiver at more of a length because he still has the reach to get to the ball. Reid and Loston each made a few nice plays in run-support, and Ron Brooks could probably start for half of the teams in the SEC.

  • Fun moment - James Wright running downfield with Tyrann Mathieu in his hip-pocket. As the pass is up, Wright kept reaching back to attempt to push off, only to have Mathieu slap his hand away each time and eventually break up the deep pass. Don't just assume Mathieu can't cover bigger receivers just because he's 5-9, folks.

  • Sadly, I didn't get to see a lot in the way of line play. A few defensive linemen jumped out at me, though. Ego Ferguson, Bennie Logan and Freak Johnson area all going to play the part of that three-tech penetrator. The guy who gets in the backfield and racks up the tackles-for-loss/sacks. Michael Brockers is a pure nose-tackle type. Just a big, strong plug that the offensive line struggled to move off of the line of scrimmage. Barkevious Mingo also looks to have really improved as a run defender, crashing inside several times after looping around the tackle. I'm still not sure he has the size to hold up as an every down end, but he appears to be learning to do something else besides being fast like a freak.