With Spring Practice concluding around the country, the countdown is on to the Season Opener vs LSU. That game, which is 130 days from today, will be a big test for the Canes and Tigers alike.
We have a good idea about where the Canes stand heading into summer, but what about the Tigers? To get some answers and a better idea from the LSU side of things, we turned to Billy Gomila, Managing Editor of our SBNation sister-site And The Valley Shook, for some insight into LSU.
Our conversation is below:
Cam Underwood (SOTU): The biggest question facing LSU right now is the QB spot. After the spring (and spring scrimmage) who do you think has the lead to start under center week 1?
Billy Gomila (ATVS): Right now, I would bet on sophomore Myles Brennan winning the job. He has the arm and the talent to do well, but he’s still growing into the job as a 19-year-old. I do think LSU will rotate two quarterbacks early with redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse. He’s a big-time athlete, with a big arm, a tank-like build and some wheels in the open field. But he’s coming off two knee injuries his junior and senior years of high school, and LSU’s coaches aren’t sure of what they can trust him to do yet. And they know they won’t really find out until they see him in game action.
SOTU: LSU has lost some really great RBs in the last couple of years. Is there another superstar in the fold or will the group take a bit of a step back in 2018?
ATVS: There isn’t a superstar, but there are some vets and young talent coming in that should be relatively fine, so long as LSU’s offensive line can do its job. Sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire is more of a scatback than what we’re used to from LSU tailbacks, but runs hard for a 5-8, 210-pound guy. I also expect freshman Chris Curry to contribute early on as well. There’s no Derrius Guice or Leonard Fournette on this roster, but then those guys don’t exactly come down the pipe very often, do they?
SOTU: Another year, another new OC for the Tigers. What’s the feeling around Steve Ensminger’s offense after the spring?
ATVS: I think most people liked what they saw in the spring game, and that’s all we really know to date. Ensminger did a fantastic job in an interim role in 2016, taking Cam Cameron’s playbook, opening it up and focusing it on the right areas for that team. I trust him as a play-caller. But playcalling is to being an offensive coordinator like being able to cook a nice meal is to running a restaurant kitchen. There’s a lot more involved. Big question is how he can develop these young quarterbacks and build a gameplan to highlight their strengths and cover their weaknesses.
SOTU: LSU’s defense is always loaded. Who are the players to watch?
ATVS: The big names returning include inside linebacker Devin White, who led the SEC in tackles last season, and can actually still improve a good deal. He could easily become a 150-tackle player in 2018. Cornerback Andraez “Greedy” Williams will likewise be one of the best cornerbacks in the country as well. Also watch out for Bench linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, who looks the part of Arden Key’s replacement as a big-time pass-rusher. He’ll have a lot of help from the defensive line this year as well with juniors Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko.
SOTU: Starting S Grant Delpit got hurt in the spring game and will have surgery on his shoulder. What would it mean to miss him long-term from the defense?
ATVS: Luckily it appears to be just a broken collarbone, so it should be a 6-8 week recovery and he should be a full go for training camp and week one. LSU is pretty deep at safety right now, but Delpit really stepped in and played well as a true freshman, particularly in the box in run support. He’s a physical presence that can close really quickly on a ball carrier.
SOTU: What wrinkles, if any, will Dave Aranda have up his sleeve for LSU’s attacking defense this season?
ATVS: Last year, LSU was a little thin on the defensive line, and had to use a lot of bodies at cornerback and nickel to make up for some injuries and suspensions. As a result, they played a lot more base defense, with Donte Jackson sliding to safety to role up on slot receivers. This year, Aranda hopes to have a little more flexibility for his nickel package -- typically with two defensive linemen, four linebackers and five DBs. Lawrence and Fehoko have the flexibility to both set the edge as 4i/5-tech ends, and also slide inside as 3-tech tackles in the nickel, with Chaisson and Ray Thornton on the edge as end/outside linebackers. From there, he can align and attack from some different angles. It gave offensive lines hell in 2016 with Davon Godchaux inside, Arden Key on the edge and players like Duke Riley and Dwayne Thomas that could blitz from different angles. The best example would be the 2017 Citrus Bowl, when Aranda’s defense held Lamar Jackson without a touchdown.
SOTU: From the outside, LSU seems to be a bit of an underachieving outfit over the last few years. Will that continue or does Coach O have the formula to get the Tigers back into the uber-elite of CFB?
ATVS: I’m probably in the minority of LSU fans, but I think last year’s team more or less met expectations. The Troy loss was ugly, but LSU rebounded to pull a big upset over a top-10 Auburn team and put up its best record in SEC play in five years. I think we’ve seen that there was more of a rebuild here than many believed given Les Miles’ recruiting success. Particularly the offensive and defensive lines -- which had started to languish in recent years. Orgeron has taken some steps in the right direction on that front, but that has to continue.
But if we’re honest, is there really an uber-elite in college football outside of Alabama right now? If LSU can just learn to focus on itself and getting better, and not worry about what other teams are doing, it can get back to where fans want it to be. But progress can be a slow process when the Tide are on your schedule each and every season.
That’s our post-spring look at the LSU Tigers. Thanks to Billy Gomila for joining us and sharing his insights with us today. Be sure you check out his work, and much more, over at And The Valley Shook.
But don’t worry, we’re not turning into an LSU blog.
We’ll have plenty more on YOUR MIAMI HURRICANES in the coming days and weeks.