With LSU approaching UCLA, what positions do the starters have and where the competition remains? | LSU
When LSU began preseason training earlier this month, the competition filled positions on the pitch. The Tigers needed to find starters in wide receiver, linebacker and safety, to name a few.
Two weeks later, some roles have been settled while others are undetermined. As LSU now focuses on planning the game for UCLA on September 4, ending the “camp” portion of the preseason, let’s take a look at each post to see who has emerged and what battles remain with two weeks before the. first game.
Sophomore Max Johnson became the starter after fifth-year senior Myles Brennan broke his left arm before training began. Thanks to two scrums, Johnson completed 58% of his passes (22 of 38) for 252 yards and two touchdowns.
Johnson is still the starter, but confidence in rookie Garrett Nussmeier has grown. After battling interceptions this spring, Nussmeier had 29 of 49 for 533 yards, six touchdowns and one interception in scrum.
“Right now I feel good that Max is our starting quarterback and Garrett is behind him,” said coach Ed Orgeron on Saturday. “But I think Garrett is going to be a great quarterback. It’s dynamite.
Over the past three years, Greg McMahon has transformed LSU’s special teams units and has become a mainstay of the coaching staff.
The outlook for this position has gotten darker in preseason training. Juniors Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery Jr. entered the camp as starters, but neither of them trained much, especially Davis-Price, who is injured. Orgeron said LSU will need to monitor throughout the season.
“They are great backs,” said Orgeron. “But we need some consistency from the two and we haven’t really gotten that at camp.”
Without the juniors regularly on the pitch – Orgeron said neither of them made it to the final scrimmage – sophomore Josh Williams and freshmen Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin received more snaps.
The second year, Kayshon Boutte is option # 1. Behind him, no one has cemented himself as a starter. But that reflects LSU’s depth in this position, not a lack of talent. The Tigers rightfully have nine wide receivers in the mix. Many of them will play until someone emerges during matches.
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Sophomore Kole Taylor will start, but rookie Jack Bech will be used as a receiver and other sophomore Jack Masburn will also contribute. Taylor, a former three-star rookie, has a wide catch radius at 6ft 7in. He needs to improve as a blocker.
Bech came in as a wide receiver and switched positions to give depth. He doesn’t have the physique of a typical tight end, but he could provide an intriguing game.
“They’re big bodies, and they’re big threats in the red zone,” Johnson said. “I think they both bring this to the table.”
When he is fully healthy, LSU will use an offensive line from left tackle Cam Wire, left guard Ed Ingram, center Liam Shanahan, right guard Chasen Hines and right tackle Austin Deculus. However, health has been an issue during the camp, forcing LSU to adjust its practices this week. Orgeron did not say anyone would miss the season opener, adding that most of the injuries were “cuts and bruises.”
But if the starters run out of time, who will play? Depth was a concern entering the camp, and it’s still unclear who emerged as a viable save. Earlier this week, Orgeron said that freshmen in red shirts Xavier Hill, sophomores Marlon Martinez, sophomores in red shirts Kardell Thomas, freshmen in red shirts Marcus Dumervil and sophomores in red shirts Charles Turner have improved, but they’re not ready to play in the Southeastern Conference.
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Even without senior Glen Logan, who has broken his foot and will return mid-season, LSU is rolling three or four depths along the defensive line. Seniors Andre Anthony and Ali Gaye, graduate student Neil Farrell Jr. and third-year student Joseph Evans anchor the front, but the capable subclasses behind them make the group unique. If LSU wants to rotate, he can send in, among others, second-year winger BJ Ojulari and five-star freshman tackle Maason Smith.
LSU considers Jared Small senior, Damone Clark senior, Micah Baskerville senior and Navonteque Strong transfer to junior college. All four players will turn as LSU tries to defend the spread offenses. Mike Jones Jr. may get into the mix as well, but he’s still transitioning from a role of hybrid nickel to Clemson as he adapts to lineman’s block-taking.
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Another of LSU’s predetermined positions, junior Derek Stingley Jr. and sophomore Eli Ricks will start at the cornerback with junior Cordale Flott at nickel. Although LSU deploys a 4-3 base defense, it will often use five defensive backs due to spread offenses, bringing Flott into the field to cover the slot.
Stingley hasn’t practiced much this preseason with an undisclosed injury. He might not come back until Game 1 week as LSU doesn’t want him to make the problem worse again, preferring to take a cautious approach with one of their better players.
Junior Jay Ward continued to hold a safe spot after emerging to position during spring practice. The other will be determined over the next two weeks, likely between graduate student Todd Harris Jr. and Georgia Major Burns transfer.
The Tigers have signed two of the nation’s top 4 goalies to Derrick Davis Jr. and Sage Ryan, but Ryan has a lingering injury and Davis is “not yet ready to play,” Orgeron said.
Most of the LSU Specialists have been installed with sophomore redshirt Quentin Skinner as the long snapper, Junior Cade York as the kicker and senior Avery Atkins as the kickoff specialist.
The only position with a competition was that of punter, as Atkins nudged first year Peyton Todd, the nation’s third punter out of high school.