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LSU Spring Football: the offensive depth chart is almost set, save for one big spot

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One small step for a quarterback, and one giant leap for an offense?

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Ah, spring practices for LSU football, that time where we lament the direction of the offense and wonder when, oh when will the Tigers at least be decent on that side of the ball.

Wait, LSU averaged a respectable 32 points a game last year.

And ranked 17th in the entire country in yards per play. Twelfth in offensive S&P+.

And the Tigers return nine out of 11 starters, 10 total players with starting experience, 3,089 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns plus 226 out of 261 total receiving targets and all receiving touchdowns.

Oh, and there's that Leonard Fournette guy, coming off the greatest single season in school history.

Looking at the best guess for a depth chart the only hole in experience, offensive tackle, will feature a deep competition from a number of four- and five-star recruits.

QB

6   Brandon Harris (Jr.)

10 Anthony Jennings (Sr.)

16 Danny Etling (Jr.)

12 Justin McMillan (RS-Fr.)

6-3, 206

6-2, 216

6-3, 226

6-2, 193

RB

7   Leonard Fournette (Jr.)

5   Derrius Guice (So.)

28 Darrel Williams (Jr.)

4   Nick Brossette (So.)

27 Lanard Fournette (RS-Fr.)

24 Devin White (Fr.)

6-1, 230

5-11, 222

6-0, 232

6-0, 218

5-10, 187

6-1, 255

FB

44 John David Moore (Jr.)

47 Bry'Keithon Mouton (So.)

41 David Ducre (So.)

6-4, 235

6-1, 255

6-0, 238

X

15 Malachi Dupre (So.)

86 Jazz Ferguson (So.)

87 Stephen Sullivan (Fr.)

6-3, 190

6-5, 215

6-6, 228

Z

83 Travin Dural (Sr.)

82 D.J. Chark (Jr.)

11 Dee Anderson (Fr.)

6-2, 203

6-3, 186

6-5, 204

SL

3   Tyron Johnson (So.)

19 Derrick Dillon (RS-Fr.)

6-1, 189

5-11, 178

TE

81 Colin Jeter (Sr.)

84 Foster Moreau (So.)

89 DeSean Smith (Sr.)

88 Jacory Washington (So.)

6-7, 244

6-5, 261

6-5, 243

6-6, 228

T

63 K.J. Malone (Jr.)

66 Toby Weathersby (So.)

67 Jevonte Domond (Sr.)

68 Chidi Okeke (Fr.)

70 George Brown Jr. (RS-Fr.)

6-4, 298

6-5, 292

6-5, 298

6-6, 311

6-7, 283

G

64 Will Clapp (So.)

75 Maea Teuhema (So.)

76 Josh Boutte (Sr.)

78 Garrett Brumfield (So.)

73 Adrian Magee (RS-Fr.)

6-5, 303

6-5, 327

6-5, 342

6-3, 294

6-4, 324

C

77 Ethan Pocic (Sr.)

72 Andy Dodd (Jr.)

6-6, 309

6-4, 319

*Bold denotes returning starter.

Of course, there is that whole quarterback thing.

Let's not beat around the bush. It's the key to this season's prospects. And the deterioration of Brandon Harris last November was the main reason for the unprecedented three-game losing streak that brought Les Miles' job status into question.

That said, as Dan has brought up, there's reasons for optimism regarding LSU's incumbent. We know that he has the arm to fit the explosive passing game LSU wants, but he struggled with consistency and decision-making. But his progress, sharp decline included, wasn't totally out of line with other quarterbacks in the SEC. He provided a nice final impression with a strong bowl game performance, and there's also the sports hernia he was playing through, which likely played some role in his accuracy issues.

For Harris, the question of this spring is whether he can make the jump, not just from being a "fine" quarterback to a good one, but a well-liked player to a well-respected leader for this team. Everybody knows that this is Leonard Fournette's offense. He makes it go. But Harris needs to be the guy that shifts it into the next gear. He needs to be able to orchestrate it.

And I do expect that he will have a real competition for the job in Purdue transfer Danny Etling, who spent his sit-out year running scout team and becoming a respected member of that quarterback room. If Les Miles and Cam Cameron think Etling can make the throws and run this offense better, he could get the nod. Likewise, there will be opportunities for Anthony Jennings and Justin McMillan to show what they can do as well.

As for Cameron, as of post time he still does not have a new contract, but I do expect that to change in the coming weeks and for Cameron to remain on this staff. There's also some talk of a change up to some of the roles on the staff with new wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig and running backs coach Jabbar Juluke. Until we know more, that's mostly speculative.

Speaking of Juluke, it's easy to say that he has the easiest job of any new coach because he inherits the best player in the country at his position, but there's a lot more to it than that. He inherits the responsibility of keeping Fournette on track to repeat that kind of performance, while also preparing a talented group of backups and continue their development. Think about the standard of success he has to meet, and to do it while trying to differentiate himself from his predecessor. Juluke and Wilson are old friends (and Juluke has had a long relationship with the Fournette family as well), but they are very different people. Juluke is much more of an in-your-face disciplinarian. There's going to be some adjustment there.

Likewise, LSU will return both of last year's starting fullbacks, including J.D. Moore, who was outstanding in the role before a knee injury. To the point that his loss was incredibly visible. Bry'Keithon Mouton had his moments in the lineup, but struggled with his assignments. Consistency will be key there. Likewise, there's still David Ducre and Tony Upchurch, who have the talent to provide more of a two-way look at fullback, but are still finding their way as blockers.

At the wide receiver post, Craig offers another intriguing wildcard. Some have questioned his rep as a developer, but he's unquestionably a smart offensive mind that was trusted by Jimbo Fisher to help teach his complex offense. And even at Auburn, it's easy to argue that players like Sammie Coates and Ricardo Louis developed into solid options on teams that were severely limited in terms of passing. And Craig has a challenge here to develop some better consistency from the top two guys, and continue to develop a group of big, athletic backups. There are FOUR backup wide receivers on this roster that are at least 6-3, plus a 6-1 slot receiver who showed some ability to post up on defensive backs himself in Tyron Johnson. The two ends of the equation are set up to pitch and catch, LSU just has to find the variables.

Up front, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has a unique combination of returning experience and exciting competition from a very deep, very talented pack of linemen. LSU may have the best interior offensive line returning with sophomore guards Will Clapp and Maea Teuhema, plus center Ethan Pocic, with two open tackle spots up for grabs from as many as seven potential players. K.J. Malone was the top backup for most of 2015 before Toby Weathersby began to emerge late, and they may be the presumptive favorites as of now, but super-talented frosh Chidi Okeke will have a chance to get involved, and there's a senior around in Jevonte Domond. And given Grimes' mantra of "best five" starting, it's not out of the question that Teuhema, who played tackle in high school, could slide out there if somebody like Joshua Boutte or Garrett Brumfield step forward inside.

2015 LSU Offense Highlight from LSU Football on Vimeo.