Spring marks rebirth of LSU offense
Well, imagine that.
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has proclaimed the Tigers’ spring practice a roaring success.
The White team won 23-14, I guess it was, in an exhibition that at least tried to even things up.
The score is not important now, of course.
Nor was the game, for that matter, following long-standing tradition of offering only occasional public sneak-peeks of the real stuff the Tigers learned in 14 days of previous workouts.
“Great job of bringing back Joe Brady’s offense,” Orgeron said of the overall spring, since Brady disciple Jake Peetz has taken over as offensive coordinator.
That’s a start to erasing last season’s 5-5 disappointment, as you’ll recall Brady, now offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, was the architect of record for the record-setting 2019 national championship offense that may still be scoring points.
Given a choice you’d probably prefer bringing back Joe Burrow, but that’s not happening.
So LSU’s working model is to overwhelm the quarterback position with numbers. Some are calling the “quarterback room”as good or better than any in the country.
Here’s all you have to know about LSU, which traditionally churns out running backs by the bushel:
The biggest problem for the Tigers, who had to borrow a few bodies from the “linebacker room” to get enough running backs to fill two teams, was getting enough work for four legitimate quarterbacks while playing one at a time.
The four of them — Myles Brennan, Max Johnson, T.J. Finley and incoming freshman Garrett Nussmeier — switched teams all day, which as this thing shakes out could prepare one or more of them for real life in the NCAA transfer portal.
Each had their moments, as Orgeron has said has been the case all spring. But even he admitted that the race has got to be whittled to two early in fall camp to get them ready to play at UCLA in the opener.
“We gave all the quarterbacks a very fair shot today,” Orgeron said. “Each one had a shot with the No. 1 offense.”
To the naked eye, I’d say Brennan is the leader in the clubhouse, if for no other reason that of the four he most “looked the part.” And don’t ask me to define that eyeball test.
But Brennan, who missed the last seven games of last season with a freak abdominal injury, seemed to treat it more like a real game, playing it square, which is to say he was willing to throw the ball away instead of prayers into a crowd when routes failed to develop.
Finley had two interceptions and Nussmeier had three.
Brennan had the play of the day when he faked a spike late in the first half and threw a perfect touchdown strike to Kayshon Boutte from 39 yards out.
Nussmeier had two touchdown passes and Johnson had one with another erased by a penalty.
Johnson, who was 2-0 as the starter to finish last season, had the two longest connections of the day, 47 and 45 yards.
“They’ve shown better production than we showed today,” Orgeron said of the offense as a whole, reminding one and all that his vow to be vanilla kept it from really revving up and cutting loose.
“That was just a taste of this offense,” offensive guard Ed Ingram said. “Let’s just say y’all have a show waiting for you when the season comes.”
Make of it what you will.
It will work itself out, presumably, as it’s probably true that LSU has never had that much talent in bulk at the position.
Once LSU narrows down the quarterback derby, the Tigers might need to find some more pass catchers, especially to run the four- and five-receiver sets that might remind you of 2019.
If not, Boutte might draw quadruple coverage.
He picked up where he left off in the season finale against Ole Miss with 162 yards of 11 receptions and a 39-yard touchdown.
At the risk of putting too much stock in a spring game, Jontre Kirklin stepped up. You can’t call it a break-out game unless you do it in the regular season, but while playing for both teams he combined for 208 yards on 16 catches with two touchdowns.
Any stats can be misleading in a spring game.
For all those fireworks, for instance, LSU’s secondary never looked as lost it did much of last season and did come up with five interceptions to go with a lot contested balls.
Orgeron called it the most improved area of the team for the spring.
It’s hard to really show off a more aggressive, attacking-style defense, which Orgeron wants, when you can’t blitz (and can’t hit the quarterback if you did), but the Tigers did have eight of those “air sacks,” a spring game specialty.
Otherwise it was like most spring games. The best thing about it was that the Tigers didn’t add any injuries to the handful who sat it out as a precaution.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU
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