The LSU football team concluded its spring practices Saturday with the 2021 edition of the annual L Club Spring Football Game, which was won by the White team 23-14.
With LSU short on healthy scholarship running backs the quarterbacks were the stars of the spring game and Myles Brennan and Max Johnson both made compelling cases to be the starter come September 4 against UCLA.
Brennan, Johnson, TJ Finley and Garrett Nussmeier all rotated among the two teams. Brennan, the starter for the White team, completed 12 of 20 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, Johnson, the Purple team’s starting quarterback, was 11-17 for 180 yards and two scores. Finley was 10 of 18 for 84 yards but also threw a pair of interceptions. Nussmeier was 15 of 25 for 132 yards and threw a touchdown, but also showed his youth with three interceptions. All told the quarterbacks combined for 512 passing yards and four touchdowns.
“I think what you saw out there today is what you will see in spring ball,” Ed Orgeron said after the game. “We come off the field and one day Garrett could be the best quarterback, then the next day it was TJ and, then the next day it was Myles, then the next day it was Max. I think that when we come back to camp, we are going to have to designate a certain amount of reps for certain guys. We will give the first and second guy more reps. I think that is going to be a process during camp.”
Much of the hullaballoo surrounding the spring game was new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz’s attempt to reinstall concepts Joe Brady had in 2019. Of course we were only going to see but the most vanilla of concepts but the offense showed some glimpses of what could be in store come fall.
“It’s good to show people we can be that same kind of offense again,” Ed Ingram said. “We could possibly be better, but we have some stuff to work on. We did not do everything we wanted to do today, we made a few mistakes, but this offense is looking great. We had some signs of life and a few big plays and the stuff we did today was amazing.”
The play calling Saturday veered more toward the passing game as LSU only had two healthy scholarship runnnig backs. Neither junior John Emery nor sophomores Tre Bradford and Josh Williams played so Tyrion Davis-Price got the bulk of the carries with 15 for 81 yards. Walk on Nick Demas got seven carries for 18 yards for the Purple team.
As for the defense, the Tiger secondary looked more like the DBU we’ve come to expect. Derek Stingley intercepted a pass, Jay Ward thrived in his transition to safety, and Dwight McGlothern showed he can be counted upon with Elias Ricks nursing an injury.
“I think if you look at our secondary, probably the most improved area on our football team,” Orgeron said. “Daronte Jones and Corey Raymond have done a tremendous job.”
Along the trenches the defensive line won the day over their offensive counterparts. Some of the numbers are a bit inflated since LSU only had two running backs and simply touching a quarterback is counted as a sack. Still it was nice to see sophomores BJ Ojulari and Jaquelin Roy show growth as both players recorded three sacks. Five-star freshman sensation Maason Smith was limited due to an injury.
The spring game is also that time of year where reserve players get to show their skillset and make a case for playing time when the season starts. Jontre Kirklin played for both teams and caught 16 passes for 209 and a pair of scores. LSU’s wide receiver room is deep and will only get more crowded when incoming freshmen Brian Thomas Jr., Chris Hilton and Malik Nabers enroll in June, but Kirklin, now in his fifth year, made a case to see the field alongside Kayshon Boutte.
Fellow fifth-year senior Jared Small had himself a heck of a spring game with 14 tackles, 1.5 for loss and an interception. It should be noted that JUCO Navonteque Strong didn’t play Saturday due to an injury and Clemson transfer Mike Jones has yet to arrive on campus so it’s unlikely Small, a walk on, sees much if any playing time come fall, but he has been playing alongside Damone Clark with the first-team all spring because new linebackers coach Blake Baker trusts him to be in the right place.
“Oh man, I’m proud of Smalls, man. That’s a guy that comes to the building every day, and he is just ready to work,” Damone Clark said. “You know, he always waited till his time, and I said today was his day to show everybody what he can do. I couldn’t be more proud of Jared, and how hard he’s been working. And just like, by being patient, that’s probably one of the hardest things. He just went out there and provided the energy, and we played off each other, and when I say it feels good.”