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Friday, October 31, 2014
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LSU head coach Les Miles. (Associated Press)<br>

LSU head coach Les Miles. (Associated Press)

Miles counting on minors to play major roles

Last Modified: Monday, March 24, 2014 12:14 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

BATON ROUGE — LSU already has a recruiting commitment from an eighth-grade quarterback and a ninth-grade beast of undetermined position.

That’s the ones we know about — Zadock Dinkleman from Somerset, Texas (who definitely has a five-star quarterback name), and Dylan Moses of Baton Rouge.

But somewhere there’s a kid in diapers, perhaps with purple and gold safety pins, that the LSU staff already knows about while closely following, maybe with a stopwatch, his first, toddling steps into day care.

They — and other schools’ staffs — these days seem to be scouting the playgrounds at McDonald’s and Burger King as much as the high school practice fields.

Is a Happy Meal an illegal recruiting inducement?

Will they promise a locker room filled with Sponge Bob and Legos?

The wheels on the bus geaux round and round, round and round … Geaux Tigers!

OK, the Tigers apparently aren’t counting on these specific tykes for next season. Everybody else evidently is fair game.

The current Tigers are presently in spring practice, working and tinkering with what’s left of the offense after the lure of the NFL draft cherry-picked most of the recognizable moving parts.

The Tigers will put something together, probably sleek and fast and muscular.

If nothing else, it promises to be different.

Head coach Les Miles was typically coy about what a post-Zach Mettenberger offense is going to look like.

“I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you,” he joked, I think, with media after the spring’s biggest scrimmage Saturday.

He claimed, none too convincingly, that any change wouldn’t be noticeable, mostly the same plays but with the opportunity for a quarterback (yet to be named) to perhaps use his legs when things go awry.

“We still want to push the ball down the field,” Miles said. “We had two big passes downfield and we probably threw for just under 300 yards today with some nice deep throws. Both quarterbacks (Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris) were sharp, and the passing game overall was sharp.”

OK. And you certainly can’t abandon the forward pass.

But offensive coordinator Cam Cameron gets paid way too much not to come up with new ball plays that recognize from the snap that LSU now has a quarterback (whichever) with usable legs.

That duel is the hot, sexy news in the spring — maybe the youngest quarterback competition in college history.

In one corner you have Jennings, who as true freshman had one shining moment against Arkansas and one college start, which were unrelated incidents.

In the other corner, you have Harris, who enrolled at LSU in January, but who in a different age (he’s barely 18) would still be picking out a tux for the senior prom at Parkway High School in Bossier City.

By kickoff in September, whoever wins the job might be the grizzled veteran in the backfield.

Up front, most of the offensive linemen have been shaving for several years. Miles is tinkering there, too, but it’s with, he says, as much experience as they’ve ever dealt with on the offensive trenches.

Good thing.

They might not just be blocking for the glamour boys at the skill positions. They may have to babysit them, perhaps burp them, too.

Maybe one of the reasons Miles is so evasive about the offensive picture for next year is that he’s still having to imagine a lot of it in his head.

Cameron is designing new plays, presumably, for a lot of guys who aren’t even on campus yet.

It’s not the first time Miles has gone against the coaching manual, but admitting that a whole bunch of incoming freshmen will have to play key roles, probably start, ranks right up there with munching on the Tiger Stadium turf.

“We have to, absolutely have to,” Miles admitted. “We trying to make a determination as we design the summer plans, that this is where this guy is going to be and this is where this guy will be and how to operate it.”

At wide receiver, fortunately the Tigers landed two of the nation’s top wide receivers in Barbe’s Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre of John Curtis.

There’s plenty of opportunity there after the best receiving tandem in LSU history, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry left for the NFL.

And, of course, running back Leonard Fournette was the nation’s consensus No. 1 overall recruit, already ticketed by some on the fast track to the NFL Hall of Fame.

Miles admitted he’s never been in a spring practice when he was counting so heavily on incoming freshmen, but didn’t downplay any of them.

“Yeah, probably needing to see it more,” he said of the expected quick contributions. “I just think that some of those guys are going to get first (string) snaps.

“The (freshmen) skill players on offense are going to be musts. On defense, the safeties, (have to be) ready to step in there and be able to play. I just think … the recruiting class will hit us just where we need to be hit, running back, wide receiver, defensive back.”

It ought to be interesting.

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

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