Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring Football Recap

I can't provide a first hand report of the spring game because I decided not to go due to the huge wave of thunderstorms that were bearing down on Baton Rouge Saturday afternoon. Of course, it didn't rain a drop during the game. To those who did go, you can thank me. I'm convinced the moment I decided not to go, it clinched the fact that it wouldn't rain. Had I decided to attend, all of you would have gotten wet.

Regardless, I've watched all the highlight videos, read all the articles, and gotten some reports from those who were in attendance. So while I can't give a first hand account, I have a few comments on the game as well as a recap of spring football in general.

First, the game. Everything went about as well as you could expect. Most importantly, LSU suffered no injuries. The players who you were hoping would perform well did perform well. Jordan Jefferson was 8 for 10 passing and looked sharp running the offense. Charles Scott led the game in rushing with 70 yards and scored 2 TDs on the day. Brandon Lafell had 5 receptions. For the starters on defense, they notched a shutout against LSU's 2nd team offense. Patrick Peterson and Perry Riley both nabbed interceptions with Peterson taking his all the way back for a touchdown. In other words, the stars shined.

A lot of people were looking to see what Russell Shepard could do as the 2nd team QB. Most came away pretty impressed. Shepard was 7 for 12 passing on the day, but he also dazzled onlookers with some impressive runs. But, he also proved he's a true freshman by throwing an interception and losing a fumble. Also showing his stuff is the "other" true freshman QB, Chris Garrett. Garrett showed off his big arm and looked sharp on the day, completing 8 of 14 passes. However, he also threw an interception. I thought it significant that Jarrett Lee only had 6 passing attempts.

Some other things to note:

- Wide Receiver Chris Tolliver had a nice day, leading all LSU receivers with 6 catches on the day. That's a nice bullet on his resume in his efforts to get into the mix for playing time this fall. For some reason, Tolliver is one of my favorite players and I think he'll do big things for LSU one day. He has big-time speed and I think he'll really shine once he gets his chance.

- Karnell Hatcher worked with the first team defense at strong safety. Most figured Ron Brooks would be that guy, but Hatcher is making his bid to take over Harry Coleman's departed spot.

- It's also interesting that Jai Eugene started at cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. For most of spring, Chris Hawkins held down the starting position. But Hawkins played with the 2nd team on Saturday and Eugene got his chance. I'm in the minority here, but I thought Eugene outplayed Hawkins last year and I thought it should have been Hawkins to get replaced by Peterson midway through last season. I like Eugene and Peterson as the starters at cornerback.

- Danny McCray and Chris Hawkins were the only scholarship seniors to play with the 2nd team (purple) on Saturday.

- Speaking of Harry Coleman, he apparently looked pretty natural playing linebacker, especially for only having practiced there one week. He gives LSU a speedy option at LB against a spread offense where Kelvin Shephard can play middle linebacker and Coleman plays on the outside.

- T-Bob Hebert played with the first team offensive line at center, and he played without a green no-contact jersey on. He reportedly did very well and is looking like LSU's guy at center next year. Due to his knee injury, he's been out of the weight room for a while. He needs to re-gain that lower body strength to avoid getting pushed around in the fall.

- Deangelo Peterson looks like a keeper and a matchup nightmare as a receiving tight-end.

That's about it for the game, but here are some spring game photos, courtesy of Tiger Sports Digest:

As for spring practice as a whole, here are 10 overall observations:

1) Les Miles may say that we have an open competition at QB, but he's lying. Jordan Jefferson is LSU's starting QB. Period. End of story.

2) LSU's defense will have a much different attitude in 2009 than they had in 2008. You'll see the best 11 players on the field, unlike last year.

3) Pep Levingston really stepped up and has left no doubt as to who should be the starting left defensive end. He looks ready to have a very nice year. He had two sacks in the spring game.

4) Russell Shepard is an electric football player and a difference maker. LSU's coaches can get very creative in how they use him. Jarrett Lee may be the true #2 QB, but Russell Shepard will log more snaps at QB than Lee. If Jefferson were to get injured, Lee may be the guy they turn to, at least early in the season. But otherwise expect Shepard to get more snaps as both a change of pace guy and in mop up duty.

5) LSU's offensive line probably won't be as good as last year and as a result, expect to see more rollouts from the QBs.

6) The biggest improvement on the team may come from the linebackers, who are getting some serious coaching from John Chavis.

7) Ron Brooks played his way from a guy barely in the 2-deep to a guy who will likely start at safety. Only a sophomore, Brooks has a very bright future in LSU's secondary. He'll also return kickoffs this year. LSU's safeties will be playing deep a lot more this year; therefore, they'll be running towards the line of scrimmage to make big tackles or to intercept passes. Brooks is a playmaker, and he'll do well in this scheme.

8) Expect the D-line to play much, much better than the last 2 years. Brick Haley is a monumental improvement over Earl Lane as the defensive line coach. Al Woods and Drake Nevis have both been frequently named as guys that were difficult to block this spring. They are your starting defensive tackles.

9) Patrick Peterson will be the best cornerback that LSU has had since Corey Webster, maybe even before.

10) With LSU's O-line and fullback not as good as a year ago, short yardage situations may be more complicated in 2009. Expect to see LSU running the ball from the shotgun, 1-back set a lot more.

That's about it for football for a while. Unfortunately the end of spring football marks the beginning of "Jackass Season", where the only good football news is bad football news. Past jackass seasons have brought us Ryan Perriloux counterfeit rumors, yelling at Kona Grill wait staff, and ultimately getting dismissed from the team for apparently failing a drug test. We've also seen things such as Rohan Davey blow out his knee playing pick-up basketball, Shomari Clemons shoving a cop, Kyle Anderson punching some frat boy at Freds and getting kicked off the team, Chase Pittman knocking someone out at Bogies, Derrick Odom stomping the hood of some poor girl's car because she had the nerve to ask Odom to get out of the middle of the road, etc. Jackass season also brings us the news that certain recruits haven't academically qualified and thus won't be joining the team in the fall. Hopefully, we'll avoid all of those things this summer.

As the season approaches, I plan on doing a lot of preview stuff. Since I did real in-depth position previews leading up to spring, I'm not going to re-do them before the fall. For the most part, not much has changed. Instead, I'll focus my efforts on previewing the rest of the SEC. Each year, I say that I'm going to do both and I never get around to finishing before the season starts. So this year, I'll only focus on the other teams since we already did LSU before spring.

Tomorrow or Thursday, expect another update on LSU Baseball's recent woes (though they eeked out a win tonight), and also an NFL Draft preview. I'm a huge NFL Draft guy, and will give my thoughts on all the LSU players expecting to get drafted this weekend.


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