Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country
LSU quarterback Danny Etling

Checking in with LSU football’s 7 question marks heading into spring break

Nick Suss

Welcome to the Bayou Bengal Briefing, SEC Country’s daily morning column covering LSU football, with LSU beat writer Nick Suss. Today, we look at where LSU is heading into spring break, recap a mini scrimmage on Thursday, hit the weight room and much, much more. Enjoy!

Before the break …

Today marks the first day of spring break for the LSU football team, with many players leaving town for the week to head home or to vacation. Players will get the week off from organized team activities, meaning Ed Orgeron’s crew won’t reconvene as a team until April 18, the Tuesday before the spring game.

With spring practice about three-quarters of the way done, now seems like a perfect time to revisit the seven major questions I had about the LSU football team heading into spring. How have the Tigers made headwind on fixing these issues and are they still even issues? Let’s find out.

1. The quarterback battle

It’s pretty much in the same place it was a month ago. Danny Etling is the favorite, but not the official opening game starter. Justin McMillan has stepped up as the second option instead of Lindsey Scott.

Still a question mark? Heck yes.

2. Filling in for Arden Key

With Key out for the spring, Orgeron predicted Ray Thornton and Andre Anthony would step up at Buck linebacker. And that’s exactly what’s happened. In fact, outside linebacker has been the “most impressive” defensive position this spring to Orgeron.

Still a question mark? Not really.

3. Does LSU have a center?

Will Clapp might be hurt, but Lloyd Cushenberry has stepped up as a viable option as his backup. Injuries are never blessings, but LSU’s line depth owes Clapp’s surgeon a slight debt of gratitude.

Still a question mark? Nope.

4. Will Kevin Toliver step up?

Toliver entered spring an injury-ridden enigma. Three-fourths of the way through, you can pencil him in as a starter at cornerback. The injuries are gone and Toliver seems to be back to his old self.

Still a question mark? No.

5. How will special teams work?

New coaches lead the special teams, but the units are still pretty up in the air. Orgeron hasn’t even named a starting kicker, let alone front-runners at the other positions. This one might go on until fall.

Still a question mark? Yep.

6. How will Derrius Guice adjust to stardom?

Pretty well. Aside from his brief interlude on the bench with an ankle injury, Guice has done everything that’s been asked of him this spring. The fact that you haven’t heard much from him is exactly what the LSU football team wants.

Still a question mark? Not really.

7. Are JaCoby Stevens and Grant Delpit the real deal?

It seems like it. Delpit took an estimated 40 snaps in LSU’s scrimmage on Thursday and Stevens has been stringing along with a lot of playing time as well. Neither seems to be starting, but they’re ahead of where freshmen generally are.

Still a question mark? A little bit.

Offensive stats from the scrimmage

Lost in the shuffle after Orgeron’s newsy press conference Thursday were the actual stats and performances from the scrimmage that preceded it. Ain’t that what the Bayou Bengal Briefing is for? Here’s a full list of the stats Orgeron listed off in LSU’s pass-heavy scrimmage:

  • QB Danny Etling: 13 of 17, 216 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
  • QB Justin McMillan: 2 of 5
  • QB Caleb Lewis: 1 of 2
  • RB Derrius Guice: 3 catches, 34 yards
  • RB Darrel Williams: 2 catches, 77 yards, 2 TDs
  • WR D.J. Chark: 2 catches
  • WR Derrick Dillon: 2 catches
  • WR Russell Gage: 2 catches
  • WR Drake Davis: 1 catch

In all, Orgeron said LSU threw for 247 yards, likely meaning that McMillan and Lewis’ three completions added up to about 31 yards.

Presented without comment or speculation

And this is the tweet that distracted us from those stats. Read exactly as much or as little into it as you want to. I’m not here to judge.

In news that surprised no one, Orgeron had no comment about Key’s status.

Your weekly non-revenue LSU sports preview

This weekend is a busy travel weekend for LSU athletics, with only a handful of programs sticking around Baton Rouge. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t sports worth following. Here’s a weekend schedule:

  • Trying to pull off a series win for the first time in three weeks, the LSU baseball team faces off against SEC West-leading Arkansas for a three-game set, beginning Friday night in Fayetteville, Ark. The opener starts at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be streamed via WatchESPN.
  • LSU softball visits Tuscaloosa, Ala., this weekend for a three-game series versus Alabama. Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the SEC Network at 8 p.m. CT and Sunday’s game will be played on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. CT.
  • The beach volleyball team puts its school-record winning streak on the line with a series of matchups this weekend in Houston. On Saturday the squad faces Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Houston Baptist and Sunday the team plays Tulane and Central Arkansas.
  • Staying home this weekend, LSU women’s tennis hosts Kentucky on Friday night and Vanderbilt on Sunday morning.
  • The men’s tennis team makes a trip through SEC territory, spending Friday night in Auburn, Ala., versus the Tigers and then takes on the Bulldogs in Starkville, Miss., on Sunday.
  • LSU women’s tennis is competing in the PING/ASU Invitational this weekend, held in Tempe, Ariz.
  • Finally, the outdoor track and field teams host the Battle on the Bayou on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.

What if I don’t feel like watching sports?

I get it. March Madness is over. Spring football is taking a break. Baseball season is just getting underway and you don’t want to max out too early. Maybe you feel like taking a break from sports.

If that’s the case, here are a couple of things going on in the Baton Rouge area this weekend that might interest you:

  • Monster Jam is coming to the Raising Canes River Center this weekend, with shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you like monster trucks, you probably already know this. But if you didn’t and this sounds fun to you, check it out.
  • The annual Baton Rouge Blues Festival will take place all day Saturday and Sunday, a weekend full of more blues, food and drinks than you can handle.
  • New Orleans based band “Generationals” are playing Spanish Moon on Saturday night. This band has a pretty cool sound that I have a hard time describing, but if you’re free Saturday night and looking for an easygoing time, this might be a good call.
  • If you’re willing to venture out to Sorrento, there’s going to be a crawfish boil and craft and car show out there all day Saturday, with the profits benefitting “Dreams Come True.”
  • For a complete list of events going on within 50 miles of Baton Rouge, check out this calendar.

Caption contest champions

In Bayou Bengal Briefing on Thursday, I posted this photo of Orgeron, Mike Tomlin and J.D. Moore and asked for you to put as many great captions on it as you could. Here are my favorite responses:

lsu footballA couple of you took the flattery approach. Fay Santiny submitted the comment: “You can draft any one of my players and not go wrong,” and Brennan Scott Morgan added, “This is where we hide the bodies after decimating an offense.”

David PlusOne pointed out how bizarre it is that J.D. Moore is up in the sky, commenting as Orgeron, “Don’t make eye contact with J.D. up there. He’ll talk your ear off.”

Frank LeBlanc had a Moore joke of his own, saying, “Coach Breaux’s girls setting a high standard for you guys to match …”

But my favorite comment came from Joe-Adrian Ferrer, who made a perfect Pittsburgh Steelers joke.

“Coach O to coach Tomlin: ‘J.D. was wondering if he should Facebook Live this meeting and was scared to ask you.'”

Great joke, Joe-Adrian. Couldn’t have thought of a better one myself. Nice going. And thanks to all of you who sent in submissions.

This dude strong

Speaking of weight rooms, check out what LSU freshman signee Neil Farrell did in one Thursday.

Three hundred eighty-five pounds is some serious grown man strength. And Farrell repped it pretty easily. There’s a real good chance that Farrell might be able to touch 400 more than once, though at that point, all you’re really doing is showing off. Farrell’s not going to face an opponent heavier than 385 pounds. He’s strong enough.

Just imagine what he’ll look like when he gets into Tommy Moffitt’s strength and conditioning program. Opponents beware.

Today in made-up holidays

On this date in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, re-legalizing the sale of beers and wines with alcohol content below 3.2 percent. This was the first step to repealing prohibition in the United States, a move that became official a couple months later.

As such, Friday we celebrate April 7 as “National Beer Day.” No, this isn’t an excuse to start drinking at 9 a.m. But if you feel so inclined today, crack a beer. And thank depression-era congressmen Pat Harrison and Thomas Cullen for your right to do so.

To quote F.D.R. upon signing the bill, and probably Joe Alleva when pitching his new beer garden concept at Tiger Stadium, I think this would be a good time for a beer.

Miss a previous edition of the Bayou Bengal Briefing? Find every one of SEC Country’s daily LSU football columns right here.

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