BATON ROUGE, La. — For the first time since its ill-fated spring game, the LSU football team will take the field Monday, opening up fall practice.
The Tigers’ practice begins at 4 p.m. CT Monday, marking the start of four weeks of fall camp. After those short four weeks, it’ll be game week and the Tigers will be preparing for their season opener versus BYU on Sept. 2.
All of LSU’s fall practices this season will be closed to the media, so it’ll be harder to know exactly what’s going on than it has been in the past. But even with that development, there are plenty of storylines that will transcend closed practices.
Here are five things you need to know heading into LSU football’s fall camp:
1. Arden Key is still a mystery
As of last week, LSU football coach Ed Orgeron said that star defensive end Arden Key will miss “at least half” of fall camp while continuing to rehab from his offseason shoulder surgery. Whether that rehab will bleed over into the second half of camp — or even the regular season — has yet to be decided.
For now, it seems that LSU will have to prepare for both outcomes. If Key is healthy, the Tigers will return the SEC’s most potent pass rusher, a man who set the single-season LSU sack record a year ago with 12. If Key can’t go, LSU will have to call upon redshirt freshmen Ray Thornton and Andre Anthony, inexperienced players who stepped up for Key in the spring, or true freshman K’Lavon Chaisson.
2. The QB battle might be a formality
Like Key, incumbent LSU quarterback Danny Etling had reparative surgery in the offseason. But unlike Key, Etling won’t miss any camp time recovering. And it’s a good thing for him, because he’s got a job to keep.
Earlier in the week, Orgeron said he expects Etling to ultimately win LSU’s open quarterback competition. A lot can change in a month, but unless freshman Myles Brennan represents a challenge to Etling that spring competitors Justin McMillan, Lindsey Scott and Lowell Narcisse couldn’t, Etling can and should wrap this battle up early.
3. Matt Canada’s offense should shake things up
Early indications from spring practice were that new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense was built on the principles learned under past coordinators, but taken in a completely different direction. Expect more of that in the fall.
Now that he has a full roster at his disposal after the arrival of the freshman class and more practice time on his hands, expect Canada to install even more of his offense. Given the shift-based, modified spread Canada ran at Pittsburgh, LSU’s offense will look foreign to Tigers fans used to the I-formation days of the past.
4. Not-so-new faces take over the defense
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has a ton of players to replace in 2017. Jamal Adams, Tre’Davious White, Dwayne Thomas and Rickey Jefferson are gone in the secondary, Duke Riley, Kendell Beckwith and Tashawn Bower have left at linebacker, and Davon Godchaux and Lewis Neal have moved on from the front line. It’s a lot, especially if you throw in Key’s current absence.
Despite this massive turnover rate, LSU won’t need to start too many new faces. Aranda has the talent to reload without having to use a single true freshman, with the likes of CB Kevin Toliver, LB Devin White and DE Rashard Lawrence poised to have solid seasons as new fixtures in the starting lineup.
Throw in the return of defensive end Christian LaCouture from injury for some extra leadership, and the Tigers don’t really have much to fret about defensively.
5. Oh yeah, and there are the freshmen
Myles Brennan, the 4-star quarterback from Bay St. Louis, Miss., will be the most notable attraction among the first-time freshmen this fall. But LSU’s No. 7 recruiting class is more than a single quarterback.
Players like K’Lavon Chaisson, inside linebacker Jacob Phillips and cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. have the talent and opportunity to contend for starting positions from Day 1. And that’s not to mention early enrollees such as safeties JaCoby Stevens and Grant Delpit and offensive lineman Austin Deculus, who already showed their competitive streaks in the spring.
The LSU football team’s fall camp begins Monday at 4 p.m. CT and continues through Aug. 27. Be sure to stay posted to SEC Country throughout the month for live updates from Baton Rouge based beat writers Alex Hickey and Nick Suss, as well as recruiting guru Sam Spiegelman.