Football Looks to 'Evolve' as Spring Practice Opens
LSU Sports Interactive
BATON ROUGE -- LSU opens spring football practice on Saturday as the Tigers start the process of having to replace a total of 11 starters from last year's squad that posted an 11-2 overall mark, capped with a 40-3 win over Miami in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Saturday's workout will be the first of 15 for LSU during the spring. LSU caps spring practice on Saturday, April 1 with a workout in Tiger Stadium. The format of the final spring practice has yet to be determined.
"We have to evolve in a number of ways, including with our personnel," LSU coach Les Miles said. "Spring will be a chance for this team to identify who we are going to be and how we are going to go into the off season."
Miles said the Tigers will go through most of the spring without the services of several key players, including quarterback JaMarcus Russell (shoulder), running back Alley Broussard (knee), running back Justin Vincent (knee), strong safety Jessie Daniels (shoulder) and free safety LaRon Landry (ankle).
Miles also noted a few position changes for the squad as Quinn Johnson will move from linebacker to fullback; Carnell Stewart from defensive line to offensive tackle; and Alonzo Manuel from linebacker to tight end.
"I think it will be fun for those two young quarterbacks to compete, get some playing time, and show how good they are," Miles said. "We are going to let them both compete on an equal basis. They will split snaps with the first and second team and let's just see how good we can be at that position."
Miles said the Tigers will also use the spring to identify players to fill holes on the offensive line, which was created by the graduation of All-America tackle Andrew Whitworth, Academic All-America center Rudy Niswanger, a three-year starter Nate Livings.
"We need to develop a really capable offensive line," Miles said. "We graduated a number of guys there, and I am very concerned to see how that center spot is going to be manned. We will look at a number of guys there that might have the potential to play center.
"The formulation of the offensive line and their gaining ability and cohesiveness is a real question for the offense this spring."
The Tigers return offensive guards Will Arnold and Brett Helms and offensive tackle Brian Johnson as starters on the offensive line. Arnold played in only eight games in 2005 due to injuries, while Helms was limited to only five contests with two starts.
Other players expected to get a shot on the offensive line include senior tackle Peter Dyakowski, sophomore guard Herman Johnson, and sophomore center Ryan Miller. Miles said that Helms will also see action at center during the spring.
Defensively, the Tigers go into the spring having lost a total of six starters, including three on the defensive line and two linebackers, from last year's unit that ranked among the top five in the nation in three categories.
"I would like the defense to maintain the personality that they had last year," Miles said. "We need to discuss creating more turnovers. I think that will be a point of emphasis this spring."
Expected to contend for playing time on the defensive line for the Tigers are junior tackle Glen Dorsey, sophomore tackle Charles Alexander, senior end Ryan Willis, freshman tackle/end Ricky Jean-Francois, sophomore end Tyson Jackson, and sophomore tackle Marlon Favorite.
Players expected to be in the mix for starting positions at linebacker for the Tigers during the spring include junior Luke Sanders, sophomore Darry Beckwith, senior Jason Spadoni and true freshman Jacob Cutrera.
With punter/placekicker Chris Jackson out with Tommy John surgery, Miles said junior Patrick Fisher and sophomore Brady Dalfrey will compete for playing time at punter, while sophomore Colt David and senior Ryan Gaudet will get extra work at placekicker.
"Every team I've ever been on or been around, you go into the spring with question marks in spots," Miles said. "Certainly the spring is the first indication of how those things may wind up."