BATON ROUGE -- Three months removed from a dominating Chick-fil-A Bowl victory and an offseason that included arguably the nation’s No. 1 signing class, the LSU football team will go back to work Thursday in the first of 15 spring practices that culminates with the annual spring game on April 18.
The Tigers will practice 15 times over the next five weeks, including workouts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The spring game is set for Saturday, April 18 at 5 p.m. in Tiger Stadium.
LSU head coach Les Miles welcomes four new staff members who will go through their first practices. Defensive coordinator John Chavis, defensive backs coach Ron Cooper, defensive line coach Brick Haley and tight ends coach Don Yanowsky have all joined the staff this offseason.
“I think not only the new look that the coaches will give them, but more and more opportunities the coaches have to look at some of the young guys will determine who gets the most playing time this spring,” Miles said. “This spring, what we’re looking to accomplish is certainly the strategy of offense, defense, special teams, but also the personnel to fill those positions.”
LSU lost five starters on the defensive side of the ball, but the Tigers return senior defensive end Rahim Alem, who earned second team All-Southeastern Conference honors following a team-high eight sacks in 2008. Senior safety Harry Coleman anchors the secondary and junior Chad Jones is expected to play more of a role at safety in 2009.
“There’s going to be some competition on the defensive side,” Miles said. “At defensive end, we’re going to see who some of the young guys are like Chase Clement and LaVar Edwards. I think we’ll get good leadership there.”
Offensively, two of the nation’s elite players return for their senior seasons at their respective positions. Charles Scott will be making a push to shatter several LSU career rushing records (full team statistics). Offensive tackle Ciron Black turned down the NFL Draft to anchor the Tigers’ offensive line.
Miles said he will let spring competition play itself out before naming a starting quarterback. Jordan Jefferson emerged late in 2008 at the position and he earned the Chick-fil-A Bowl’s Offensive Most Valuable Player in leading the Tigers past Georgia Tech. Jarrett Lee took a bulk on the snaps at quarterback in 2008 and returns as a sophomore.
“I think competition propels that position greater than the announcement of a starter,” Miles said. “I’ve never felt like you have to make premature announcements. I think we’ll let competition play out and I want to see all the skills. If it’s very obvious who the starting quarterback is going to be, then we’ll make the obvious announcement.”
Thursday’s workout will be the first for several incoming true freshmen, including 2008 Parade All-American quarterback Russell Shepard. Shepard accumulated over 8,000 career yards of offense as a dual-threat athlete at Cypress Ridge High School in Houston, Texas.
“He’s a good learner and he works hard and has a great enthusiasm for learning,” Miles said of Shepard. “He’ll be at quarterback most of the spring, but there’s going to be some opportunities for him to move around a little bit and look at some other spots. He has to develop and to develop at quarterback will take some time.”
2009 LSU Football Spring Practice Dates
March 12, 13, 14
March 17, 19, 21
March 24, 26, 28
March 31; April 1, 2
April 14, 16, 18
Other Key Dates
March 26-28 LSU Football Coaches Clinic
April 17 LSU Football Alumni Golf Tournament at University Club
April 18 LSU Football Spring Game (5 p.m. Tiger Stadium)