LSU stepped back onto the practice field for the first time after a roller coaster season in 2017 that culminated with a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl.
The Tigers have to replace the vast majority of their starting skill players on offense, and the team’s top sack producers and two starting cornerbacks on defense.
Myles Brennan takes first-team reps in contested QB race
Sophomore Myles Brennan is widely thought to be the front-runner for LSU’s starting quarterback job, and that was evident when Ed Orgeron said Brennan had taken the first-team reps in the opening spring practice.
However, that doesn’t mean he’s the starter, a decision that Orgeron said won’t likely come until the fall. For now, it’s a three-man race between Brennan, redshirt junior Justin McMillan and redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse.
Brennan has the most playing experience of the bunch with 182 passing yards and one touchdown and was shown the field quite a bit as a freshman in 2017.
“You think it would, but today all three of those guys did some really good things,” said Orgeron when asked if Brennan’s experience gave him an advantage. “Justin stepped in, I thought Justin had a tremendous day and so did Lowell. It looks like it doesn’t bother them whether they’re with the first or second or third team. They’re all getting equal reps, they’re all competing and there’s no first-team quarterback right now. They all have hope. I liked what I saw today out of Justin McMillan. He had a good day.”
Fresh faces at the skill positions on offense
Whoever steps in at quarterback will bear the brunt of the offense as LSU is going to have to throw the ball with limited options at tailback and a very crowded and talented group of receivers.
At running back, the Tigers will be without their top four rushers from 2017 and do seem to have an equal replacement as they have had in the past. Each of LSU’s primary running backs from 2010 to 2016 (Stevan Ridley, Spencer Ware, Jeremy Hill and Leonard Fournette) have eclipsed 1,000 yards from scrimmage in an NFL season, and Derrius Guice is considered a first or early-second round pick in the 2018 NFL draft while Darrel Williams is a projected mid-round pick.
Senior Nick Brossette is currently LSU’s top back with sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire, redshirt junior Lanard Fournette and freshman Tae Provens behind him. The four have a combined 357 yards on 61 carries with no touchdowns.
Two other players that are in the mix are junior David Ducre, who moved from former offensive coordinator Matt Canda’s H-back position to running back this spring, and freshman Chris Curry, who is joining the team in the summer.
Orgeron said the question mark in the backfield is going to force LSU to be more creative and possibly throw the running backs the back out of the backfield.
“Until we find a featured back, the offense will not be featured by our running back. We’re going to throw the football, and I think we’re going to do that a lot better.”
On the outside, juniors Jonathan Giles and Stephen Sullivan ran with the ones, and Orgeron said freshman Terrace Marshall is running 7-on-7’s but isn’t likely to be a full-go until near end of spring practice.
Added bodies on offensive line
One of Orgeron and his staff’s biggest priorities this offseason was adding depth along the offensive line. The Tigers were down to single-digit scholarship linemen at some parts of last season and could field enough players on the line for a scrimmage.
An added piece that Orgeron specifically mentioned was junior guard Damien Lewis. The 6-foot-3, 326 pound junior college transfer was called “one of the best players on the field today” by Orgeron, who added that both Lewis and fellow junior college transfer Badara Traore have a chance to start.
“Garrett [Brumfield] is our starter right now [at left guard],” Orgeron said, “But we’re going to have to find a place for [Lewis] to play somewhere. Maybe center, right guard. I know [offensive line coach] James [Cregg] is going to find the right mix.”
Orgeron added that sophomore Saahdiq Charles is the starting left tackle but will miss some of the spring due to shoulder surgery, and sophomore Austin Deculus is also out due to a wrist injury but will have the chance to start at right tackle when he returns.
Sophomore Lloyd Cushenberry took first-team reps at center with freshman Cole Smith taking second-team reps. Next to Cushenberry were sophomore Ed Ingram at guard and redshirt junior Adrian Magee at right tackle.
Orgeron mentioned Donovaughn Campbell in the mix of offensive lineman as well after he missed last season due to injury.