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Spring means planting seeds for new season

Last Modified: Friday, March 07, 2014 10:37 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

It’s spring, of course, and a young man’s fancy turns to …

OK, maybe it’s not quite spring yet.

It doesn’t feel like it anyway.

But it’s after Mardi Gras, which means a young man scrapes the ice off his windshield and turns his fancy to football.

Sort of like winter, summer or fall in these parts, when football never really strays too far from the fancy of anybody.

So anyway, LSU today, though drills might not start until Saturday, opens it allotted days of spring football — or polar vortex football, whatever — with many question marks looming large and begging for answers.

Fortunately, I’m here for you.

QUESTION: What’s the biggest LSU question mark entering the spring?

ANSWER: Quarterback, of course. Is there any other position?

Q: LSU lost another 18-wheeler full of early NFL draft defectors. Is there more to replace than just Zach Mettenberger?

A: No question. Certainly. But quarterback is the only one who really matters, silly. Don’t you read the blogs and message boards?

Q: But didn’t Anthony Jennings have to start in the Outback Bowl after Mettenberger got hurt?

A: And basically he stayed out of the way long enough for a clearly more talented LSU team to beat Iowa and get out of Tampa without incident.

Q: That was probably the game plan with a first-time starter there and all, right?

A: More than likely, yes. But it didn’t stop the predictable panic from setting in — oh, gosh, LSU has no quarterback for next year!

Q: After one game?

A: These are strange fans you’re dealing with.

Q: But he won the Arkansas game, under dire circumstances, after Mettenberger got hurt, right?

A: People have short memories. And it’s now been written off to blind luck or instinct or both.

Q: Any other options?

A: Sure. Brandon Harris is the flavor of the month. He just got out of Parkway High School in December — four-star recruit but has enrolled early at LSU, so he’ll be in the mix in the spring. Sane, reasonable people are expecting him to win the job and start the opener.

Q: You’re skeptical?

A: The opener is against Wisconsin, not Captain Shreve. That’s a pretty good leap of faith there.

Q: So just let it play out?

A: I wouldn’t give up on Jennings just yet. Keep in mind he was replacing a straight drop-back quarterback, and in the bowl game it didn’t look like LSU changed its offense much to fit his polar-opposite style. He looked like a dual-threat guy trying to run an offense built for Mettenberger.

Q: What’s Harris’ style?

A: Same skill set as Jennings — the third-rated dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school, if you believe in those kind of ratings. So, regardless of who the quarterback is, the offense is going to look different.

Forget about the who for a minute. The interesting thing about the spring — and they’ll likely keep as much of it hidden as possible until next September — is how much the offense changes to fit mobile quarterbacks.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has done wonderful things with dual-threat guys before — most notably Antwaan Randle El when he was at Indiana — and it should be fun to watch the difference.

Q: But who will ever replace receivers like Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry — and the running back, Jeremy Hill?

A: Big drop-off, no question. Those three are about as good as any at their positions at LSU in the last 20 years. But the Tigers never seem to run out of running backs or receivers. Something will turn up, although maybe not until August when freshmen like Leonard Fournette, the running back, and receivers Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre show up. Those are positions, fortunately, with short learning curves.

A: No big deal?

Q: Well, the Tigers have four out of five offensive linemen returning. At LSU, if you had to choose between keeping the skill players or having a pretty good offensive line coming back, you’d take the latter every time and count on raw talent to take care of the glamour spots.

The offensive line could still be interesting, though, what with new coach Jeff Grimes taking over. He may have a totally different style. I always thought Greg Studrawa did a pretty good job there, but a good guess is that he’s gone because his style didn’t mesh with what Cameron wants to do up front.

So just because four starters are back is no guarantee there will be only one newcomer in the lineup. Some interesting specimens were backups or red-shirted there last year.

Q: Defense?

A: Both tackles are gone, of course, although Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson left early for the NFL without really ever dominating in college.

Maybe some new blood will be a good thing. It should be a wide-open competition among about six guys, most notably Quentin Thomas and Christian LaCouture.

Q: When do all those talented linebackers start living up to their potential?

A: Good question. That should have been a strength last year, and it really wasn’t.

There’s about a dozen of them fighting for playing time, all with a lot of upside, but at some point there needs to be some consistency.

The secondary should be fine.

Q: So who wins that quarterback job?

A: You’ve got a one-track mind.

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

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