1. Was there any general vibe around spring practices this year? Talk of radical changes from Kevin Sumlin to Jimbo Fisher?
All the big talking you’d expect: culture change. Focus on toughness. Focus on controlling the line of scrimmage. On the one hand, the cynic in me is tempted to write it off as just a new coach hitting the marks on the “SEC Coachspeak BINGO card” but on the other hand, our new tight end was not only featured prominently in the Spring Game, but pretty much dominated it. Multiple TEs had touchdowns. So far, it would seem that Fisher is taking steps to walk the walk. Expect many tutorials this fall from Good Bull Hunting about what a tight end is.
2. What do you think will be the biggest transition from the previous staff?
I actually think it will be the defense. The offense has been struggling with an identity for several years, but the defense had improved so much under three seasons with Chavis, it just couldn’t seem to turn that last corner. I think it has an opportunity to really be great under Elko now that there is dependable depth on the front seven and a pretty solid group of linebackers. Keeping defensive line coach coach Terry Price as a holdover was a great move to help bridge the gap. As Billy knows, it pays to keep the chef happy.
3. Is it safe to assume Nick Starkell will retain the starting job after some solid play down the stretch last year?
With absolutely no insider knowledge, I’d say “probably so.” Starkel definitely has all the tools to be a pretty good QB, but he *may* have been hampered by the MAZZONE SYSTEM and starting over in a different system could be a great thing for him. Really depends on who improves the most between he and Kellen Mond, who is also a very talented QB.
4. Any other players that maybe showed some promise in the spring?
The new tight end, Jace Sternberger. I think everyone is excited to see him in live game action. Someone else who should not be overlooked is Donovan Wilson at safety. He was granted a medical redshirt after breaking his ankle at UCLA last year. His experience will be huge as he leads a pretty young secondary. LSU fans may fondly remember comparisons to one of their own star players drawn by the media a few years ago.
5. Everybody knows there will be a lot of $75 million jokes about Fisher, but realistically what are your expectations for this season? Do you expect him to hit the ground running, or do you see a more significant rebuild?
Obviously, to justify all this hoopla, you have to do better than 8-5. Still, it’s a tough schedule (hello, Clemson) and it all depends how and when the L’s pan out. But I think nine wins and a decent bowl berth in year one should be enough to satisfy most of the fanbase. It’s not a total rebuild, just a nice fancy overhaul. Personally, I think “not having a losing record in conference play” is a reasonable benchmark for 2018.