With LSU opening preseason practice Monday, the Tigers will have no shortage of position battles to keep us entertained as we pine for the season opener Aug. 30 against Wisconsin.
Here are five positions that should show to bring out some monstrous competition over the next month.
Wide receivers: This is sure to be a fun position to watch over the next few seasons LSU signed arguably the top class if receivers in the country back in February. It started with the No. 1 and 3 prospects at the position, Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn, and continued with two more ESPN 300 honorees in D.J. Chark and Tony Upchurch.
Due to the loss of two extremely productive wideouts from last season, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, the receiver spots are wide open.
Entering camp, senior Quantavius Leslie and sophomore Travin Dural, occupy the two starting spots on the preseason depth chart, due to their game experience. But the Tigers probably need several of the true and redshirt freshmen— John Diarse appears to be the most likely contributor out of that groups — to prove themselves in August and beyond for this to be a productive season for the receiving corps.
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Defensive tackle: This, similar to running back, is a spot where a group of players have the opportunity to contribute to the team.
The closet thing the Tigers have this season to seasoned veterans are Quentin Thomas and Christian LaCourture, having played behind Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson last season. They’ll be joined this season by redshirt freshmen Greg Gilmore, Maquedius Bain and Frank Herron — all of whom earned a mention from position coach Brick Haley last week on a local radio show for having strong summers in LSU’s conditioning program.
Of course we all know that signee Travonte Valentine was once thought to have a chance at this position as well, but unfortunately the NCAA has yet to clear him to enroll at LSU, meaning he has missed out on valuable summer workouts. If he makes it to Baton Rouge sometime this month, (and thats a big if) he might still make an on field appearance in ’14, but it appears he’s stuck for now.
Right guard: The offensive line should be an area of strength in the ’14 season since we’re only replacing one starter, right guard Trai Turner. Unlike the other open positions this one won’t go to a freshman since both players up for the position are seniors: Fehoko Fanaika and Evan Washington.
This is a battle that started in the spring, but if new O line coach Jeff Grimes has made a decision, it hasn’t been a public one. Washington and Fanaika are listed as co-No. 1s on the Tigers’ preseason depth chart.
Apr 5, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Anthony Jennings (10) during the 2014 spring game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Safety: This was the Tigers’ big question mark back in the spring and its still uncertain today due to Jalen Mills’ offseason arrest.
Last season LSU was hit hard with injuries in the safety position, forcing starters Ronald Martin and Corey Thompson out of the lineup and eventually clearing the was for Mills to shift from cornerback to safety for the Iowa game. The good news about that is is helped plenty of LSU safeties get on field tryouts, and now Mills, Martin, Thompson, Rickey Jefferson and Dwayne Thomas are all back in the mix.
Freshman Devin Voorhies (diggin’ that last name by the way) and Jamal Adams have a shot as well as it wouldn’t be far fetched to say a freshman, particularly Adams, participating in some capacity early in the season.
Last but not least, Quarterback: This battle will most definitely attract the most attention, just like it did back in the spring. Freshman Brandon Harris or sophomore Anthony Jennings will be the starter. That was all but certain during the spring and is guaranteed now that backups Hayden Rettig, Rob Bolden and Stephen Rivers have all but quit the program at the end of last season. So which young buck will it be?
The team got an outstanding season out of Zach Mettenberger in 2013, but he played almost every important down before suffering a knee injury ending his season in the regular season game against Arkansas. The opportunity to lead the offense to a win against the Razorbacks no doubt benefitted Jennings but he didn’t show as much composure in the Outback Bowl against the Iowa. Soon after his performance in the Tigers’ spring game was a complete flop.
Meanwhile, that same day, Harris overcame a sloppy start to show off a strong arm and an impressive set of wheels. The day belonged to him, but the competition isn’t over. Jennings still has a chance before the season starts to convince offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to let him start in the season opener against Wisconsin, but Harris is going to be a tough one to hold off.
Now with all that said….Who else is ready for some SEC football?!?