Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly mailbag, a question-and-answer forum between readers and LSU team and recruiting reporter Sam Spiegelman.
In this edition, we touch on former 5-star recruit JaCoby Stevens’ switch from safety to wide receiver, whether LSU’s media blackout is cause for concern and what Maea Teuhema’s suspension means for the offensive line.
What do you think of Coach O moving JaCoby Stevens to receiver? (@BwhinsOld)
I have to admit I am surprised, but not perplexed by the LSU coaching staff’s decision.
For one, LSU’s wide receiver depth pales in comparison to the secondary. Behind senior D.J. Chark, there is ongoing competition for the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 wide receiver spots. That was a major concern heading into fall camp and even after Stevens was shifted over to the offensive side of the ball, there are questions that need to be asked.
Add Stevens, a former 5-star recruit, to an ongoing battle for the No. 2 wide receiver job opposite of Chark. There are sophomores Drake Davis, Dee Anderson and Stephen Sullivan, as well as freshmen Racey McMath and Mannie Netherly. With Stevens in the mix, LSU needs a handful of the young wide receivers to emerge.
While it’s sometimes hard to swallow that a 5-star safety is switching over to play offense, the case is different when it comes to Stevens.
Before Stevens was the No. 1 safety in the Class of 2017, he was the No. 1 athlete.
Stevens was a 5-star athlete who played safety and wide receiver for Oakland (Tenn.) High School. As a senior last year, Stevens recorded 61 tackles and 9 interceptions, but also added 34 receptions for 689 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Yes, he can play both sides of the ball.
That was made clear when officials at the Under Armour All-America Game moved the All-World athlete to offense for the week. In Orlando, Stevens worked out as a wide receiver, hauling in passes from none other than new teammate Myles Brennan.
While most expected Stevens would shift to safety when he arrived in Baton Rouge, he has plenty of experience as a wide receiver. Based on LSU’s depth chart, there is a need for depth on the offensive side of the ball instead of safety, where the Tigers have Grant Delpit, Todd Harris, Eric Monroe and Cameron Lewis to back up projected starters John Battle and Ed Paris.
Notes on JaCoby Stevens:
-Was originally 5-star ATH
-Played offense at Oakland HS
-Played WR with Myles Brennan during UA All-America Game pic.twitter.com/OeUzSdnPOY
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) August 1, 2017
Does Maea Teuhema’s suspension move Will Clapp to RG and Lloyd Cushenberry to C? (@Klutch6ene13)
That’s an interesting theory, but I don’t believe that will ultimately be the plan to fill Maea Teuhema’s right guard spot. Teuhema has been suspended indefinitely.
Sure, Will Clapp has been a constant at guard for LSU up front. But as we’ve seen with Ethan Pocic over the past few years, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes prefers a more stabilizing force in the middle of the offensive line.
Clapp qualifies at that and his preparation to take over the center position should be noted.
Now, consider your theory: Lloyd Cushenberry saw some action at center during LSU’s spring practices when Clapp was sidelined. That is the extent to which Cushenberry has seen the field since joining the Tigers. He has zero starts under his belt and has not appeared in a college football game. While he may develop into a starter along the offensive line, for now, he is a liability up front.
I believe Cushenberry will back up Clapp this season. Garrett Brumfield is the favorite to start at left guard and I expect Donavaughn Campbell to beat out Cushenberry at right guard. That leaves a projected starting five of K.J. Malone (LT), Brumfield (LG), Clapp (C), Campbell (RG) and Toby Weathersby (RT).
Why keep Clapp at center instead of moving him back to guard? His level of experience. He’s a proven competitor and arguably LSU’s best offensive lineman. Wherever he plays, he brings veteran leadership and shores up a void. The weakest link along the line is at center because at both guard spots, the Tigers boast tremendous young talent.
What’s up with Kristian Fulton? A big-time recruit a few years ago and haven’t heard much about him since. (@Phillip_Romig)
It’s funny you ask that, Phillip, because I had a similar question for Coach O when he met with the media Sunday.
We asked about the cornerback rotation and where guys such as Fulton fit into the plans. Orgeron responded Fulton would be a nickel, but also has the ability to move out to corner.
The former 5-star corner has yet to climb the depth chart. He may be coming along a little slower than expected, but he’s honing his craft and preparing to break out as he gains more experience.
Here is how I view the current LSU depth chart in the secondary:
|Donte Jackson||Xavier Lewis||Ed Paris||John Battle||Kevin Toliver|
|Andraez Williams||Kristian Fulton||Grant Delpit||Eric Monroe||Kristian Fulton|
|Kary Vincent||Todd Harris||Cameron Lewis||Jontre Kirklin|
With Saivion Smith off the team and incoming freshmen such as Vincent focusing solely on the nickel during camp, I believe Fulton is in the mix as the No. 3 or 4 outside corner off the bench in the Tigers’ rotation. Last year was a transition for the New Orleans native as he got adjusted to the speed of the college game, but he did warrant time on the field on a handful of occasions. A strong fall camp should eventually help him make his way up the depth chart and cement a spot in the rotation. He has the tools to be a prominent force in the LSU secondary.
How highly does Coach O think of Todd Harris? Does he have a chance at starting midseason? (@Zulu_Crow)
Freshman safety Todd Harris has been a popular name during the first few days of camp and several of Orgeron’s media appearances this summer.
The former All-American has warranted praise from Orgeron, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and others around campus for his work ethic and how impressive he has been during summer workouts and conditioning drills. I think it’s fair to say the LSU coaches have a high opinion of Harris; otherwise, I don’t believe they would have the confidence to shift JaCoby Stevens from safety to wide receiver.
Early reviews of both Harris and Grant Delpit, as well as redshirt freshmen Eric Monroe and Cam Lewis, allowed the LSU staff to make such an interesting move.
The second part of your question was whether Harris will be starting at midseason. If you take a quick look at the depth chart I formulated above, I don’t have Harris on the two-deep yet. Without seeing anything that is going on in fall camp thus far, I would not rule out a redshirt year for the former blue-chip safety.
The only reason why is because of the depth LSU boasts at safety. Behind projected starters Ed Paris and John Battle are more former 4- and 5-star safeties. Both Delpit and Monroe were top-10 safeties in their respective recruiting cycles. The same goes for Harris and Lewis. I believe the biggest competition is among those four to crack the two-deep.
Ultimately, I believe Monroe and Delpit are going to back up Battle and Paris. Battle, who was recently re-classified as a redshirt junior, is severely underrated as a leader for this secondary group. Corey Raymond leans on his veterans, especially when he is breaking in a new group that just said goodbye to longtime contributors such as Tre’Davious White and Jamal Adams.
Consider Battle and Paris as good bets to start the season opener at safety against BYU in 31 days. However, it would not surprise me if either Delpit or Monroe were to see serious playing time at safety right away. I believe that one of those two safeties will be the starter next to Battle by the time the SEC schedule arrives.
I know everyone is going to ask about JaCoby Stevens, but what does it mean for Donte Jackson possibly getting snaps on offense? (@GeuaxTigerTO)
You were right about the JaCoby Stevens questions, but that should be expected after such a major move.
I’m not so sure it means much for Donte Jackson, though.
After Matt Canada was hired last winter and as we tried to dissect his offense throughout the spring during these mailbag installments, we toyed with the notion of allowing Jackson — arguably the fastest man in college football — to run the jet sweep.
During spring practices, we saw a number of different players running the sweep, including Russell Gage, Derrick Dillon, Dee Anderson, Tiger Scheyd and Michael Kershaw. In all seriousness, I consider the projected slot receivers such as Gage and Dillon as the top bets to take on the role in the fall.
Of course, Jackson would make sense running the jet sweep. I believe if he were a freshman or a sophomore, there is a higher chance it would come to fruition.
With Jackson cemented as LSU’s new No. 1 corner, he is too valuable to be taking snaps on offense, defense and special teams. That not only runs the risk of injury, but too much fatigue, which could hurt his abilities at his primary position.
While Jackson is the fastest man on LSU’s football team, there are other players who are good fits to run the jet sweep. Stevens is an interesting to name to throw into the mix along with freshman running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and freshman wide receiver Mannie Netherly, both of whom have burners as well.
Been hearing plenty of talk about Kary Vincent at nickel. Do you think they’ll burn his redshirt this season? (@RyanMicklin61)
The talk about Kary Vincent Jr. as the nickel comes from yours truly. There’s a reason why.
Vincent, an All-American cornerback, is capable of playing both outside corner and inside at the nickel. Based on where LSU’s depth is in the secondary, the fastest way to get Vincent onto the field is by inserting him at the nickel.
Consider this: Jackson and Kevin Toliver will man the two corner spots, and Jackson should also spend some time inside much like Tre’Davious White did a season ago. When Jackson shifts to the nickel, I expect Andraez Williams to be the first man up in the cornerback rotation.
Keep in mind that both White and Dwayne Thomas played in the nickel a year ago. In fact, having five defensive backs on the field at once was seemingly a base set.
Here’s what Orgeron had to say about the position when we asked about it earlier this week:
“One of the first things we talked about in the staff meeting is coaching the nickel position. Xavier Lewis can play it. Kristian Fulton can play it. Donte Jackson can play it if we want to move him from corner. He’d probably be the best one there. I think Kary Vincent Jr. will be fantastic there. I think those are some guys right now at nickel that we’re looking at very hard.”
With that said, I consider Vincent among the favorites to split time in the nickel along with Jackson. There may be two upperclassmen separating Vincent from earning the job, but I anticipate he sees a lot of playing time as a true freshman and is unlikely to redshirt this fall.
What is your take on the closed media sessions until Aug 21? (@Klutch6ene13)
To be honest, I’m not a fan.
There are so many theories as to why LSU coach Ed Orgeron would decide against allowing the media to observe the first 15 to 30 minutes of fall camp. Some are understandable. Others — not so much.
One thing that needs to be said is the Tigers are undergoing a major facelift at the moment. Matt Canada is trying to do what no other coach has been able to do in more than a decade — rejuvenate the LSU offense. In doing that, he’s moving players, working out multiple quarterbacks and installing a system unlike the one in place for the past 10-plus years.
When LSU unveils its offense at NRG Stadium in a little less than a month, it is going to hold ramifications for the success of the Tigers in 2017 and, potentially, live up to the hype it has generated from a recruiting standpoint.
So I understand LSU’s attempt to keep this new-look offense as secretive as possible. However, in my experience covering the football team, I have never seen an offense installation. Ever. Not even for a minute.
The media has been shown the first 20-25 minutes of fall camp practice, which at one point included “Big Cat” drills, but mainly catered to stretching, position drills and maybe provided us with a clue about the depth chart. Of course, it did provide insight as to who was and wasn’t practicing on certain days, which is important this summer because of Arden Key.
Between Canada’s offensive install and the much-anticipated return of Key, I can understand why LSU is keeping the media out until Aug. 21. As a member of the media, I do not appreciate it because I’ve never seen anything significant from my 25 minutes of observing agility workouts to think this year it would be different.
It’s hard to put your faith in a college athletic department to divulge the details from each practice. Sorry, but it’s true. That’s why the media profession exists — to uncover details and then relay them to the public.
That’s why there’s a storied relationship between the media and the fans, and what LSU is doing between July 31 and Aug. 21 is taking the middle men out. So no, I am not a fan, because I have a hunger to uncover these details and report on what I can find. I want to see who is stretching and in what order are defensive backs taking reps.
For now, that’s all on hold — until Aug. 21.
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