I've been reading all of the updates from the various media outlets that have been attending the first week of LSU's practice, and I've been able to sift through them and put together a few thoughts.
- Jarvis Landry is ready to break out in 2012. Every day, every site is in agreement that he is one of the most impressive players on the field. He's catching everything, and we already know how physical he is. On a field full of stars and future NFLers, he is one of the top performers every single day.
- Anthony Johnson has dropped about 20 pounds since last year and says he let the hype around his recruitment get to him a bit. At the same time, Sam Montgomery has gained almost 30 pounds from last year, bulking up to around 260 pounds in efforts to become a more complete defensive end. The guy looks like the Incredible Hulk.
- Freshman defensive end Danielle Hunter has been the most impressive newcomer, at least physically. At a chiseled 6'5" 235 pounds, he already looks SEC ready. And he's only 17 years old. Will he be able to log much playing time with so much depth ahead of him? The staff may want him to see the field and gain some experience with an eye towards 2013, when Hunter will certainly contend for a starting job.
- Speaking of Johnson, Les Miles singled him out, along with Ego Ferguson, as guys that had great summers and are now ready for big seasons.
- LSU has no clear starter at running back. One day, Spencer Ware is the first to go through drills. The next day, it's Alfred Blue. Then, it's Kenny Hilliard. I believe that Ware and Blue's versatility as blockers and receivers will give them an edge, especially if LSU is doing a bit more 1-back sets this year. But look for Les Miles and Frank Wilson to once again go with the "hot hand" approach on Saturdays.
- I've seen several comment on a three receiver, two running back formation this fall out of the shotgun. We also saw this in the spring game. I like this...a lot. With some versatile backs such as Blue and Ware, LSU can do plenty of different things with this. I'm excited to see it this fall.
- James Wright has been running as the starter on the outside opposite Odell Beckham (Landry is in the slot). This is a bit of a surprise as most expected Russell Shepard to be the next guy in line. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out once the games start. If Wright can hold his own in the passing game, he can be a real asset by being on the field full time since he is such a terrific blocker. Wright and Landry will both add to LSU's potent running game with their physicality as blockers.
- The freshmen linebackers have all looked terrific. Deion Jones and Lamar Louis have especially stood out.
- Freshman Ronnie Feist has been getting some looks as a middle linebacker. He certainly has the size to plug the middle and could potentially develop into Kevin Minter's replacement.
- Les Miles said that Kevin Minter and Tahj Jones are "mainstays" in the linebacking corps. Competition for the third spot continues between Lamin Barrow and Luke Muncie. However, the freshmen, especially Louis and Jones, may have something to say about it as the season progresses.
- The freshmen defensive backs have also been receiving positive reviews. This is great news because I was a little concerned about the corners in this group. Both safeties (Corey Thompson and Jerqwinick Sandolph) have reportedly looked good as have corners Dwayne Thomas and Jalen Mills. Cornerback Derrick Raymond has obvious physical talent but is very thin and a redshirt year seems likely for him. Mills is currently running as LSU's fourth cornerback.
- New quarterback Rob Bolden has some obvious talent. He throws a nice ball and seems to be picking things up rather quickly after just one week on LSU's campus.
- Many observers have noted the marked improvement in Stephen Rivers. He's no longer rail thin and at this point, is clearly the #2 quarterback. Will he be able to hold off Rob Bolden? It will be interesting to see which quarterback comes off the bench first against North Texas.
- Freshman receiver Travin Dural has stood out, and he got "promoted" to work with the veterans on the last day of split squad practices. With five guys (Beckham, Landry, Wright, Shep, Boone) clearly ahead of him at this point, will he see the field this fall?
- La'El Collins has been working as the starter at left guard as most expected. Josh Dworacyzk has been running second team and is expected to be the utility guy on the line this season, able to sub at just about any position. In fact, Dworacyzk said he would even take some practice reps at center.
- J.C. Copeland is an animal. He's probably going to injure a few people this fall. Sucks for them.
- Only injury so far is receiver Paul Turner but it is not believed to be serious. Just "nicked", according to Miles.
- Class of 2012 signees Avery Johnson and Fehoka Fanaika have not qualified academically and will not be at LSU this fall. Both will take the fall semester to work on their test scores and/or academics, and the plan is for both to enroll at LSU in January. Without these two on the roster, I've got LSU at 83 scholarship players for the fall. That means that Johnson and Fanaika could still conceivably "back count" to the Class of 2012, and they won't take up precious spots in the Class of 2013, which is nearly full. Since Fanaika's eligibility clock is ticking, he'll lose a year. He has not redshirted, so this fall will essentially act as his redshirt season. He'll still have two years remaining to play for LSU. Johnson's standard five years to play four will not begin until the 2013 season.
With the exception of a linebacker spot and possibly a defensive tackle spot, LSU simply does not have any starting positions up for grabs. Most of the battles are for depth spots such as the second tight-end, the backup quarterback, the second kickoff returner, etc. More than any other I can remember, this team is very settled and has very few question marks heading into the season. The number one goal of this fall camp is to keep everyone healthy. I suspect the practice reports will all be pretty similar from this point forward, but we still have three weeks until the first game week.
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