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Hobbs Column: Spring is when real work is done

Last Modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 9:44 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

It’s a big week in the Southeastern Conference this week, with the league’s officially licensed basketball tournament tipping off today — Nashville, I believe it is — and conference play starting up in baseball for the weekend.

And that’s nice. And probably important.

But the really big news this week, of course, is that six SEC teams are starting spring football practice, joining five others who got the early jump last week.

Kentucky, Mississippi State and Auburn have promised to get with the program in the next week or two.

This is the SEC’s version of March Madness — spring football as a daily, must-discuss staple of life.

After all, you can only debate and rehash recruiting rankings for so long (generally, the end of February is the accepted cutoff date).

Around here, you know it’s time for LSU to start spring practice when Les Miles has finally run out of ways to apologize for another 10-win season.

LSU’s first workout will be Thursday, with Miles scheduled to further confuse the media with a briefing all about it today.

Or maybe he can clear some things up. You never know.

It is, of course, an all-important spring for LSU.

The NFL has swooped in and lured away eight of last year’s stout defensive starters with the lure of good-paying jobs. It’s the price you pay for stellar recruiting, and surely LSU might rethink that philosophy for future incoming classes.

For now, it leaves predictably gaping holes on that side of the ball, although we’re told that is what the ritual tinkering of spring football is all about.

It is when teams of LSU’s talent and depth go about the happy chore of reloading. Yes, this is when that kind of thing happens.

Still, there are question marks aplenty about a defense that will open tryouts Thursday with few household names, especially in those trenches where the Tigers normally flourish.

Maybe the answers will as simple as hollering, “Next!”

But, at the least, there will be spirited battles for starting jobs, even with the understanding that backups aren’t forgotten on defense.

Still, in this case, eight is a lot of starters to replace.

So of course all fans’ eyes will be squarely on the offense. It is the LSU way.

And, for once, there’s no quarterback battle to speak of, with Zach Mettenberger firmly entrenched even though he overthrew a wide-open receiver that would have surely won the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Defense might win championships, but when LSU does happen to lose, message board surveys reveal it is always the offense’s fault, generally the playcalling, usually further pinpointed to a lack of creativity therein.

So forget the reconstruction of the defense. Defensive coordinator John Chavis will handle it. He’ll think of something.

The big news this spring figures to be Cam Cameron, Miles’ fourth offensive coordinator in the last four springs.

This was welcomed news for an offense that in recent seasons has struggled famously, at least when faced with a fair fight.

It’s an offense that returns fairly intact, but might have to carry more weight if you assume a much more inexperienced defense.

That deserves some spring scrutiny.

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to tell much about a new assistant coach in spring work, even something as important as a new coordinator.

But Miles is fortunate to have a wide array of experts in LSU’s vocal fan base, and they seem to be in agreement, sight unseen, that Cameron can be the answer for what ails the offense — as long as Miles keeps his nose away from it and lets Cameron do his magic in peace.

I doubt there are spring drills designed specifically to wean the head from meddling with his own offense, but maybe that, too, is what the rebirth of spring is all about.

I also suspect the perception that Miles’ conservatism has been sabotaging previous offensive potential is highly overrated.

He really does want to be more balanced, would love to throw it more and probably will.

But I’m not sure how you’ll know.

These spring workouts are so important that they are staged in utmost secrecy, viewed only on a need-to-know basis, of which neither you nor the media qualifies.

So your grandmother won’t be there to let you know if the offense is still so predictable that she see can tell what play is coming next.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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