Spring Football: Nice to meet you, LSU

Les Miles

Spring Practice Opens: March 14
Spring Game: April 20

The Bayou Bengals open spring practice with plenty of new faces moving up to the first team. Even diehard Louisiana State fans might not recognize these guys. Hell, who’s to say Les Miles even knows their names?

LSU lost 11 players from the 2012 team to early entry for the NFL draft (10 if you’re not counting Honey Badger). The defections hit the D especially hard, with six starters opting to head to the big leagues a year ahead of schedule. The Tigers also lost two talented members from their conveyor belt of running backs, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware.

Of course, if you’ve been following LSU the last few seasons, you know that the Mad Hatter isn’t hurting for talented prospects to fill in the gaps. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out which ones over the course of the next 15 practices.

Stability Factor (1 = Chaos, 5 = Rock Solid): 2
LSU’s coaching staff returns essentially intact. That includes Miles, who made one of the most blatant money grabs of the offseason in feigning interest in the opening at SEC West rival Arkansas.

However, there is all that aforementioned roster turnover. Plus, when Miles is involved, can you really ever call anything “stable?”

Under the Microscope: Cam Cameron

When last we saw Cameron, his midseason ouster as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens was helping spark Charm City’s Super Bowl run. Getting axed is nothing new for Cameron, but nor is landing – inexplicably – on his feet.

Miles shelled out in the offseason to bring his good friend to LSU. Presumably, he’ll charge Cameron with maintaining the Tigers’ longstanding tradition of bludgeoning opponents to death with toss plays.

Locked and Loaded: Running Back

The vast majority of programs that saw two tailbacks leave early for the NFL would find their backfield crippled. In Baton Rouge, ain’t no thing.

Sophomore Jeremy Hill and junior Kenny Hilliard both averaged around 5.5 yards per carry last season and combined for 18 touchdowns. Senior Alfred Blue, who started the season as the first-team tailback, also returns after missing most of the year with a knee injury.

If anything, LSU’s staff will be looking for those fourth and fifth backs to work into the mix.

Jockeying for Position: Defensive Line
LSU tends to stockpile defensive linemen the same way that the Tigers hoard running backs. They will put that depth to the test this spring with all four starters gone from 2012.

Junior defensive tackle Anthony Johnson will anchor the front four. Junior defensive end Jermauria Rasco probably has one of the other outside positions locked up, too. A host of up-and-comers including All-Name Team stalwart Ego Ferguson will fight for a leg up for the other two positions this spring.

Name to Know: Ethan Pocic

Miles went up to Illinois to land Pocic, a four-star offensive line recruit. He even convinced Pocic to come down Baton Rouge to enrollee early and go through spring camp. Pocic’s early start will give him a shot to earn immediate playing time on an offensive line that had its ups and downs a year ago.

Spring will be a success if…: The front seven develop some chemistry.

Attrition racked the Tigers on the defensive side of the ball, with three potential first-round draft picks leaving the front seven. They will spend the spring searching for the replacements for DEs Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery and inside linebacker Kevin Minter. Sorting that out now would enable coordinator John Chavis to use two-a-days to really shape LSU’s D.