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Five Spring Position Battles To Watch: No. 3, Defensive Ends

Jermauria Rasco, right, must be replaced and so does Danielle Hunter. (Bill Feig)

Jermauria Rasco, right, must be replaced and so does Danielle Hunter. (Bill Feig)

We are counting down the five spring position battles to watch starting Monday and ending on Friday, a day before LSU starts spring drills.

The Departures

  • Danielle Hunter: The athletic and rangy Hunter started all 13 games last season, surging into a starting spot toward the beginning of the 2013 season. Hunter, a junior who left early for the NFL Draft, had a team-best 13 tackles for loss last season and finished third in overall tackles.
  • Jermauria Rasco: Rasco seemed to have the best motor of any player on last season’s defense. He was a two-year starter who finished last year first on the team with four sacks and fifth on the team with 71 tackles. He exhausted his eligibility.

The Contenders

  • Tashawn Bower, junior: Bower, a former four-star recruit from New Jersey, played in every game last season and recorded 16 tackles. He was the immediate backup to Rasco, but he was challenged for playing time last year by a pair of freshmen.
  • Sione Teuhema, sophomore: A three-star 2014 signee, Teuhema played in nine games last year, entering as a defensive tackle in the Tigers’ Mustang package. He’s tall and lean, but seems to thrive as a pass rusher.
  • Deondre Clark, sophomore: One of the biggest gets in LSU’s No. 2-ranked 2014 signing class, the four-star prospect played in 12 games last season and was listed as the immediate backup to Hunter. At 6 foot 4, 245 pounds, Clark is the biggest defensive end participating in spring drills.

The Scoop

  • One of the top contenders to replace both Hunter and Rasco might not arrive until fall camp. LSU’s top-10 signing class of 2015 included four star signee Arden Key. For now, though, Bower and Clark seem to be the favorites to secure the starting roles, but LSU has a new defensive line coach in Ed Orgeron. He may have other plans.

Five Spring Position Battles To Watch

Twitter Mailbag: You asked about Travonte Valentine, LSU’s quarterbacks and infielder Greg Deichmann

Twitter Mailbag is a blog series running each Tuesday answering readers’ questions about the LSU football team. Readers submit their questions through Twitter each Tuesday, and the best are posted here with answers. Follow us on Twitter at @DellengerAdv to submit a question.

It’s tough to predict, especially since LSU has a new defensive line coach in Ed Orgeron. Valentine was a guy many around the program felt could help immediately if he were cleared last season, but his absence last year opened the door for freshman Davon Godchaux, who seems to have supplanted himself at defensive tackle.

Christian LaCouture is another returning starter and then Quentin Thomas returns, too. Those are three experienced players who may be ahead of Valentine.

Still, the former four star prospect from Miami is one of the largest players on the team at 6-3, 330 pounds. He may develop into a run stuffer inside. By the time fall camp arrives, he’ll have been in the system for a year so that should help get him on the field.

I think he plays this season in a spot role, rotating into the game in certain packages.

Nate Fury. The pitcher had four at-bats during the 2013 season. Fury had two hits, too. That included a double. He had a slugging percentage of .750. Ha.

For those who don’t know what Kelli’s referring to, Bouman had an infield single in his first at-bat of his collegiate career last weekend. Here’s the vine:

Doubtful. Deichmann’s foot injury didn’t remove him from the competition at third base during preseason practice. His play there did, coach Paul Mainieri said at the time.

Now, does Deichmann get a shot to play second base? Maybe. He was moved from third to second right around the time his injury happened. Second baseman Kramer Robertson has the worst hitting percentage (.219) of any everyday starter, and Mainieri would really like to keep Hale at third base (he rotates Hale between second and third).

Deichmann is expected to get the boot on his left foot removed Thursday. We’ll ask Mainieri at some point next week what his future will be this season.

Les Miles and Cam Cameron have been adamant that the quarterback play this season will be better than last year (after all, it can’t be too much worse).

How will it improve? That’s a tough question to answer, but Cameron said in this piece that the QBs are “growing” and that LSU’s fans will see the growth. This will be Brandon Harris’ second spring practice, and it will be Anthony Jennings’ third.

Is someone coming in? Don’t count on it, but who really knows? It’s always a possibility. A local TV station reported a few weeks ago that Braxton Miller, the Ohio State quarterback, had interest in LSU and that LSU had interest in him. But Miller has decided to stay at Ohio State for, at least, this semester and participate in a three-man QB battle during spring practice.

I think LSU wanted a new quarterback to enroll early in January. Now that that’s not possible, it appears the Tigers will go on with what they have.

To your second question, our Scott Rabalais wrote about this topic in Wednesday’s Advocate. We’re unaware if LSU has officially turned A&M into the SEC or NCAA for recruiting violations, but don’t be surprised if that happens at some point.

Five Spring Position Battles To Watch: No. 4, Center

We are counting down the five spring position battles to watch starting Monday and ending on Friday, a day before LSU starts spring drills.

The Departures

  • Elliott Porter: Porter exhausted his eligibility after last season. He served as LSU’s starter at center for the last two years. A Kentucky transfer, the Louisiana native wasn’t a dominant blocker, but he was a vocal leader and the captain of the line.

The Contenders

Is Andy Dodd LSU's next starting center? (Bill Feig)

Is Andy Dodd LSU’s next starting center? (Bill Feig)

  • Andy Dodd, sophomore: Dodd played in four games last season, his redshirt freshman campaign. He’s a former four-star prospect out of Georgia who has experience at each O-line position and was listed as the backup center for much of 2014.
  • Ethan Pocic, junior: Pocic started a handful games at center last season, but primarily played at right guard. Pocic’s future may be at tackle (right tackle in the immediate future or left guard). He’s the ace in the hole at center if all else fails.
  • Will Clapp, redshirt freshman: Clapp redshirted during his true freshman season last year, in which he was moved from guard to center. He’s another former four-star recruit.

The Scoop

  • Not even line coach Jeff Grimes could honestly tell you who will be LSU’s starting center next season. This will be one of the most hotly competitive spots of the spring. Dodd seems to have the edge, especially if coaches want Pocic to play what many believe is his more natural position – tackle. But coaches clearly weren’t sold on Dodd last season. They used Pocic instead and brought in Evan Washington to fill Pocic’s void at guard.

Five Spring Position Battles To Watch

  • No. 5: Cornerback
  • No. 4: Center
  • No. 3: ? (Wednesday)
  • No. 2: ? (Thursday)
  • No. 1: ? (Friday)

Five Spring Position Battles To Watch: No. 5, Cornerback

Tre White, center, is expected to have one corner position locked down, but Ed Paris, right, could challenge for the open spot opposite him. (Bill Feig)

Tre White, center, is expected to have one corner position locked down, but Ed Paris, right, could challenge for the open spot opposite him. (Bill Feig)

We are counting down the five spring position battles to watch starting Monday and ending on Friday, a day before LSU starts spring drills.

The Departures

  • Jalen Collins, junior: Collins, one of the Tigers’ three early departures for the NFL Draft this year, started 10 games at cornerback over the last three seasons. He followed a struggling sophomore season with a solid junior campaign.
  • Rashard Robinson, sophomore: Robinson, who dropped out of school, started eight games over the last two seasons and was seen as LSU’s most athletic and rangy defensive back. He and Collins alternated starts in 2014 opposite Tre’Davious White.

The Contenders

  • Ed Paris, sophomore: Paris, an early enrollee last year going through his second spring, played in all 13 games last season, but he rarely saw significant playing time at cornerback.
  • Kevin Toliver II, freshman: The No. 2-ranked cornerback in the 2015 class, Toliver enrolled early and looks to challenge for a starting role by the time fall camp is done.
  • Dwayne Thomas, junior: Thomas is expected to return from ACL surgery by the start of spring drills. He started last season as LSU’s nickelback before tearing the ACL in Game 5.
  • Jalen Mills, senior: Mills started all 13 games last season at safety, but he could be moved if coaches aren’t sold on the above candidates. He played cornerback as a freshman and sophomore.
  • Others: Russell Gage, Xavier Lewis

The Scoop

  • Toliver might be the favorite to claim the starting job, but don’t expect a starter to be announced by the end of spring practice. Paris didn’t play last season as much as some would have thought. White held down one of the starting roles, and Collins and Robinson had the other locked down. There’s a good chance that the corner spot opposite White may be an alternating position through the first half of the season.

Five Spring Position Battles To Watch

  • No. 5: Cornerback
  • No. 4: ? (Tuesday)
  • No. 3: ? (Wednesday)
  • No. 2: ? (Thursday)
  • No. 1: ? (Friday)

LSU to have two spring practice scrimmages, take nine days off for spring break

Brandon Harris received an award after last year's spring game. (Travis Spradling)

Brandon Harris received an award after last year’s spring game. (Travis Spradling)

LSU begins spring practice on Saturday, and the Tigers will have their first scrimmage two weeks later before taking off nine days for spring  break.

The school released the spring practice schedule on Monday. LSU will have scrimmages on March 21 and March 28 in Tiger Stadium. All scrimmages are closed to the public and media. Media members are allowed to watch individual drills of each practice, but the team portion of spring practices are closed.

The Tigers have practice March 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21*, 24, 26, 28*, 31 and April 2, 14, 16. The team will take of April 4-12 for spring break.

The spring game is scheduled for April 18 in Tiger Stadium. Les Miles will speak to reporters are Saturday’s first practice.

The Southeastern Conference released a league-wide spring practice schedule. Here it is.

Report: Chevis Jackson to return; LSU confirms Ryan Pugh hire

Former LSU cornerback Chevis Jackson is returning to the program as an “analyst” on the football staff, according to 247Sports, and the school has confirmed the hiring of former Auburn center Ryan Pugh as part of the program’s support staff.

Chevis Jackson returns a pick for a touchdown in the title game in 2007. (Bill Feig)

Chevis Jackson returns a pick for a touchdown in the title game in 2007. (Bill Feig)

Chevis, who returned an interception for a touchdown in LSU’s 2007 national title game, has been a graduate assistant at South Alabama, working with defensive backs. The South Alabama 247Sports site reported that Chevis is leaving Mobile for Baton Rouge.

Pugh, a four-year starting center for Auburn in 2007-10, has joined the staff as an offensive quality control assistant, a school spokesman confirmed. Pugh played under current LSU offensive line coach Jeff Grimes at Auburn and coached with him as a grad assistant at Virginia Tech. He spent last year as a grad assistant at Cincinnati.

Report: Ryan Pugh joins LSU’s staff as grad assistant

Former Auburn center Ryan Pugh has joined the staff at LSU as a an offensive graduate assistant, FootballScoop tweeted Tuesday and a source confirmed Wednesday.

(University of Cincinnati)

(University of Cincinnati)

Pugh was a four-year starting center at Auburn (2007-2010) and earned first team All-SEC honors and was a Rimington Trophy finalist. He played under current LSU offensive line coach and then-Auburn OL coach Jeff Grimes for the final two seasons on the Plains.

The Birmingham native served as an offensive grad assistant at Cincinnati under head coach Tommy Tuberville, the ex-Auburn coach. He spent 2013 doing the same at Virginia Tech while Grimes was on the staff with the Hokies. His college career began as a grad assistant at Auburn in 2012.

Pugh replaces Sean Patterson, the brother of highly touted 2016 quarterback Shea Patterson. He left the staff two weeks ago and is expected to be hired by Ole Miss, where Shea committed last week.

LSU Twitter Mailbag: You asked about Jared Foster, Kade Scivicque and a breakout football player

Jared Foster is off to a hot start this season. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Jared Foster is off to a hot start this season. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

Twitter Mailbag is a blog series running each Tuesday answering readers’ questions. Readers submit their questions through Twitter each Tuesday, and the best are posted here with answers. Follow us on Twitter at @DellengerAdv to submit a question.

Great question, Hunter.

  1. Malachi Dupre, CF
  2. Travin Dural, RF
  3. Leonard Fournette, 1B
  4. Sione Teuhema, DH
  5. John Diarse, C
  6. Deion Jones, 3B
  7. Jamal Adams, SS
  8. Lamar Louis, 2B
  9. D.J. Chark, LF

Yes, for now. The guy is, after all, batting .545. I imagine that he’ll play the majority of time in left field for the next few weeks and for the entire season if he keeps up the hot hitting. But don’t be surprised to see Jake Fraley start a game here and there.

Not many LSU baseball players have what Foster has: speed, size, strength, athleticism (play-making) and power. He struggled so much at the plate last season (seven hits) because he felt the pressure of the draft, coach Paul Mainieri said.

Mainieri knows Foster’s hot start at the plate won’t continue through the entire season. Left field is still a revolving door, but it’s Foster – not Fraley – who will start at the position for the most part, at least for now.

“Obviously, Jared Foster has really emerged as a force,” Mainieri said earlier this week. “He’s a grown man. He’s a physical guy. He’s an elite athlete. I’ve seen him just crush balls. Don’t think he’s going to hit like this the whole year. He’s going to have his lulls and when he has his lulls somebody else can step up.”

Jared Foster is quite the hot topic, ay?

I’m sure I answered much of your question above, but Mainieri says he “hasn’t given up” on Jake Fraley. He’ll see time.

Kade Scivicque is batting .500 and has a team-leading three homers. He’s also picked off three of five batters and seems to be a solid blocker behind the plate.

If you remember, Scivicque got off to a hot start through the first month of last season and then his production waned. Like much of the team, he endured a nasty hitting skid in the middle of the year as SEC play really got going.

Who knows what will happen this year, but he has a year’s more experience and seems to have a boat load of confidence right now.

Here’s an easy one: Brandon Harris.

As a freshman last season, the quarterback had a rough outing in his first start at Auburn, but he had played impressively before that game. Coaches never gave him another shot after the debacle on the Plains.

Harris will compete with Anthony Jennings for the starting job again this spring practice and in fall camp. Don’t expect a starter to be named after spring, but don’t be surprised if Harris has a much larger role this season than he did last year.

I think so. My money’s on Stevenson winning that race. Fournette has about 40 pounds on them. Stevenson, Laird, Foster are all pretty quick guys.

LSU football roster changes: Host of freshmen redshirt; Lamar Louis, Clifton Garrett change jerseys; Walk-ons added

LSU released its 2015 football roster ahead of spring practice, which begins March 7.

Here are some noted changes to it.

Notable players who redshirted in 2014:

  • S Corey Thompson
  • DT Trey Lealaimatafao
  • OL William Clapp
  • OL Garrett Brumfield
  • DT Travonte Valentine
  • WR Tony Upchurch
  • TE Jacory Washington

Notable players missing from the roster:

  • DL Mickey Johnson – expected to transfer
  • PK Chris Sciambra – he’ll focus on baseball this spring

Notable freshmen who did NOT letter (but played) in 2014:

  • S John Battle
  • LB Clifton Garrett
  • DB Russell Gage
  • WR D.J. Chark
  • WR Kevin Spears

Notable freshmen who did letter in 2014 (does not include the obvious ones):

  • DB Ed Paris
  • S Devin Voorhies
  • LB Donnie Alexander
  • DE Sione Teuhema

New players who were not part of last year’s season-ending roster (presumed walk-ons):

  • PK Alex Kjellsten (No. 29) – sophomore transfer from McNeese State
  • PK Ronald Brown (No. 35) – sophomore
  • QB Tiger Scheyd (No. 17) – redshirt freshman
  • QB Caleb Lewis (No. 14) – freshman
  • WR Brandon Gonsolin (No. 23) – redshirt freshman
  • WR Dylan Kelly (No. 40) – redshirt freshman
  • SNP/TE Conner LeBlanc (No. 60) – redshirt sophomore
  • DL Marcus Roberts (No. 60) – redshirt junior from Baton Rouge
  • SNP John  Ballis (No. 61) – redshirt junior who transferred from Kentucky
  • OL Jibrail Abdul-Aziz (No. 62) – sophomore from Baton Rouge
  • DL Hunter Burns (No. 62) – sophomore from Baton Rouge CC
  • OL Turner Simmers (No. 69) – redshirt freshman

Jersey numbers changes:

  • LB Lamar Louis from 23 to 11
  • LB Clifton Garrett from 3 to 30.
  • S Tommy LeBeau from 1 to 41.
  • S John Battle from 30 to 26
  • WR Avery Peterson from 2 to 21.
  • CB Micah Dickens from 11 to 12
  • S Corey Thompson from 12 to 23
  • WR Miquel James from 86 to 22

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele in first phase of ‘easy’ transition at LSU: watching film

Kevin Steele was introduced at a press conference about one month ago. (Bill Feig)

Kevin Steele was introduced at a press conference about one month ago. (Bill Feig)

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is spending most of his days leading up to spring practice watching film of LSU’s defensive players from the last two seasons.

“In fact I’m taking a break from doing that at this very minute,” Steele said.

The Tigers new coordinator spoke to ESPN 104.5’s Culotta & The Prince on Thursday morning about the first step – outside of recruiting – to his new gig.

“We’re in the process of putting the package together and the first phase of that was to simply go back and watch everything that had been done over the last two years defensively here and watch the players and their strengths and weaknesses,” Steele said. “Then kind of put things together.”

During a 20-minute interview Wednesday morning, Steele spoke about how “easy” the transition has been at LSU, how he was hired in the first place and how the team’s lack of linebacker signees will affect the program down the road.

The highlights:

  • LSU signed zero linebackers in the 2015 class. That’s something Steele, also the linebackers coach, is fully aware of.

Most cases when you get voids in classes it doesn’t show up right away and so you have time to recoup it, but you gotta make sure you do so. Next year is critical in that area otherwise three years from now you’ll look up and you’ll remember today what you said. It’s like, ‘I told them three years ago they didn’t sign any linebackers and look at it now.’

So that’s the thing we gotta keep from happening. It’s not so much what happened this year, making sure we take care of it so that three years from now it doesn’t raise its ugly head again.

  • The issue with signing no linebackers in 2015 can be a benefit, Steele said, in at least one way.

    Kevin Steele says his transition has been easy. (Bill Feig)

    Kevin Steele says his transition has been easy. (Bill Feig)

It does make it a more marketable position obviously for next year because when you say to a young man, ‘Hey, we did not sign any linebackers in last year’s class,’ the answer I’m getting now is, ‘Yeah coach I know,” and so we can use it to a benefit.

  • Steele was hired toward the end of a two-week search for a replacement for his good friend, John Chavis. LSU contacted Steele indirectly, he said, early during the search, but there was no direct communications until later, he said, because this was a “very cautious process” since Alabama and LSU are SEC West Division foes and rivals.

You gotta be sure before you go down that road that things could possibly work out. So there was a very cautious process not in terms of hiding anything, just making sure that if you jump in that water, you better be ready to swim.

  • Steele calls his transition to LSU “easy” because he knew the staff and some of the players well. Steele was around the program in 2012 after he was fired from Clemson. His son served as a GA at LSU for a few years.

I literally knew from the equipment room, video, the ladies that work in the office, all the staff … I knew every one of them by name. We really kind of recruit the same players in this league that we play in. So most of these players I’d seen play on film, had talked to them on the phone. I had seen them at some kind of visitation so I knew them. Then on top of that the familiarity with the scheme and what had been done here schematically in the past too. It’s been remarkably easy in terms of the transition.