The unofficial start to the 2016 college football season has arrived as LSU’s spring football practices get underway.
Like many teams in the SEC, LSU carries both conference and national championship aspirations.
However, the Tigers must reload at certain positions in order to challenge for those titles.
Here’s an overview of the LSU depth chart heading into the start of spring practices.
Starter: Brandon Harris (Jr.)
Reserves: Anthony Jennings (Sr.), Danny Etling (Jr.), Justin McMillan (R-Fr.)
Consider this: Quarterback is a position of strength for LSU entering the 2016 football season. Harris is expected to be fully healthy at the start of spring practice after undergoing hernia surgery two months ago. The rising junior will pioneer the Tigers’ efforts to install more spread principles into an offense that is often criticized for being too conservative
Etling, who transferred to LSU from Purdue before last season, is a name to keep an eye on as he competes with Jennings for the No. 2 job.
Starter: Leonard Fournette (Jr.)
Reserves: Derrius Guice (So.), Nick Brossette (So.), Darrel Williams (Jr.), Devin White (Fr.)
LSU’s backfield bears a tremendous resemblance to the 2015 version that led the SEC in rushing. Headlining the group again is Fournette, a perennial Heisman Trophy candidate. First-year LSU running backs coach Jabbar Juluke has made it clear that he wants the Tigers’ running game to be a backfield-by-committee, which means rising sophomores Guice and Brossette should see action, as well as the true freshman White out of Northern Louisiana.
Starters: Malachi Dupre (Jr.), Travin Dural (Sr.)
Reserves: Tyron Johnson (So.), Dee Anderson (Fr.), D.J. Chark (Jr.), Jazz Ferguson (So.), Stephen Sullivan (Fr.)
Wide receiver was one of the position groups to suffer the greatest degree of turnover this offseason, as veterans Trey Quinn and John Diarse were among three Tigers to decide to transfer. Dupre and Dural return, as well as a promising collection of young talent that should inevitably find its way into prominent roles. Johnson, a five-star recruit in 2015, could be in line for more action, as well as early enrollees Anderson and Sullivan.
Starter: Colin Jeter (Sr.)
Reserves: Foster Moreau (So.)
At first glance, LSU’s tight end depth immediately ranks as a question mark. Back is Jeter, who broke out last season filling in for an injured Dillon Gordon and finished fifth on the team in receiving with 12 receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown. Gordon’s status remains up in the air as the New Orleans native and three-year starter petitioned for another year of eligibility after a ruptured Achilles tendon ended his season early in 2015.
Starters: Toby Weathersby (So.), K.J. Malone (Jr.)
Reserves: Jevonte Domond (Sr.), George Brown Jr. (R-Fr.), Maea Teuhema (So.)
One of the more perplexing positions to figure out this spring is offensive tackle, where LSU is forced to replace both starters from a season ago. Weathersby and Malone are the first two obvious contenders to replace Jerald Hawkins and Vadal Alexander. Weathersby saw action in 11 games last season and started at right tackle against Ole Miss. Malone has lined up at all positions along the offensive line and served as Hawkins’ backup last year.
One potential curveball is Teuhema shifting from guard to tackle. It’ll be a major storyline to follow throughout the spring as LSU mixes and matches to find the best front five.
Starters: Maea Teuhema (So.), William Clapp (So.)
Reserves: Josh Boutte (Sr.), Garrett Brumfield (So.), Adrian Magee (R-Fr.)
There is a high likelihood of the offensive tackle and guard spots being up for grabs. Teuhema started the final 10 games of the season at left guard. Clapp started 11 games as the two freshmen sensations earned national recognition. Together, the young core comprises a very strong interior presence on LSU’s makeshift offensive line.
Starter: Ethan Pocic (Sr.)
Reserves: Andy Dodd (Jr.)
One of the prominent returning lineman back for 2016, Pocic will sit out the spring as he continues to recover from hip surgery. However, Pocic represents the third link in a promising interior offensive line along with Clapp and Teuhema, which should anchor the Tigers’ dominant rushing attack.
Starters: Christian LaCouture (Sr.), Davon Godchaux (Jr.)
Reserves: Frank Herron (Jr.), Greg Gilmore (Jr.)
LSU’s front four will be the heart and soul of the team in 2016. LaCouture and Godchaux are as good of a one-two punch in the middle as any in the country and enter the season as proven commodities along the defensive line. Together, the dynamic tandem will set the tone for a defensive tackle rotation that should also includes highly-touted newcomers in five-star prospect Rashard Lawrence, Ed Alexander and Glen Logan.
Starters: Arden Key (So.), Lewis Neal (Sr.)
Reserves: Sione Teuhema (Jr.), Isaiah Washington (So.), M.J. Patterson (Jr.), Deondre Clark (Jr.), Tashawn Bower (Sr.), Eman Haynes (Jr.), Jordan Harper (Sr.)
With Key and Neal back in the fold, LSU will boast one of the premier pass rushes in the SEC. Neal, who opted to return to Baton Rouge, La., for his senior season, registered seven sacks through the first six games. His freshman counterpart, Key, racked up 3.5 sacks over the final five games and garnered national attention in the process. Key and Neal represent a deep and talented rotation of pass-rushers that first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has to work with as he looks to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Starter: Kendell Beckwith (Sr.)
Reserves: Duke Riley (Sr.)
Clearly, Beckwith is the headliner of the linebacking unit and the only true battle-tested starter. Beckwith is the lone leftover from last year’s group, which included Deion Jones and Lamar Louis. The dominant middle linebacker opted to return for his senior season and will be charged with being the defacto leader of the unit.
Starters: Michael Divinity (Fr.), Donnie Alexander (Jr.)
Reserves: Devin Voorhies (Jr.), Duke Riley (Sr.)
Aside from Beckwith, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding LSU’s linebacking corps. Veteran returners Alexander and Riley should both be in the mix for starting jobs at outside linebacker, but will have to stave off Divinity, the highly-touted prospect out of Marrero, La., who is an early enrollee prepared to compete this spring. Divinity was an All-State performer and it would not come as a surprise to see the true freshman atop LSU’s depth chart by spring’s end.
Starters: Tre’Davious White (Sr.), Kevin Toliver II (So.), Donte Jackson (So.)
Reserves: Saivion Smith (Fr.), Dwayne Thomas (Sr.), Ed Paris (Jr.), Russell Gage (Jr.)
It should come as no surprise that LSU is stacked with talent at the cornerback position. White headlines the unit with 34 career starts and was named a Thorpe Award semifinalist last season. His secondary mate, Toliver, will be out for the spring as he rehabs a shoulder injury, which opens the door for Jackson and Smith to take on valuable reps.
Starters: Jamal Adams (Jr.), Rickey Jefferson (Sr.)
Reserves: Lionel Williams (Jr.), Corey Thompson (Sr.), John Battle (Jr.)
One of the more interesting position battles to watch will be between Jefferson and Thompson. Jefferson, the young brother of former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, started nine games and produced 36 tackles, a sack and an interception. On the other hand, Thompson drew starts against Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas A&M down the stretch of the 2015 season. Either way, it appears as if a senior will be getting the nod early on, at least until the incoming freshmen arrive in the summer.
Starter: Trent Domingue (Sr.)
Reserves: Jack Gonsoulin (R-Fr.), Cameron Gamble (Jr.), Colby Delahoussaye (Sr.)
What should be a strong kicking game for LSU will be headlined by incumbent Domingue. In 2015, Domingue connected on 81 percent (13-of-16) of his field-goal attempts from up to 49 yards. He was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist and is on track for a promising 2016.
Starter: Trent Domingue (Sr.)
Reserves: Josh Growden (R-Fr.)
With Jamie Keehn out of the picture, established placekicker Domingue is in line to inherit punting duties as well. In high school, Domingue handled both kicking and punting duties for St. Paul’s High School (Covington, La.), and nabbed a handful of school records in the process. Expect Australia native Growden to push Domingue for the job, though, as we’ll see whether the LSU coaches want Domingue to focus on just one job.
Starter: Derrius Guice (So.)
Reserves: Darrel Williams (Jr.), Donte Jackson (So.)
Guice was an immediate-impact returner last season, averaging 23.6 yards per return, good for No. 5 in the SEC. The rising sophomore should maintain a stranglehold on the job heading into the 2016 season, though the LSU coaches may want fellow sophomore Jackson to get more involved. After all, Jackson has proven to be one of the fastest college football players in the nation during track season.
Starter: Donte Jackson (So.)
Reserves: Tre’Davious White (Sr.)
White was LSU’s primary punt returner last season, but the senior may be in line to pass the torch to Jackson in 2016. As mentioned earlier, Jackson is LSU’s most explosive athlete and should be a difference-maker on special teams.