Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly mailbag, a question-and-answer forum between the readers and LSU team and recruiting reporter Sam Spiegelman.
In this edition, we touch on the absence of LSU’s top defender, the next to commit and breakout sophomores.
To submit a question for Spiegelman, send a message to @SamSpiegs on Twitter or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think of Michael Barrett, the dual-threat QB/RB from Georgia? (@JrBrunious)
First of all, I’m glad that you referred to him as quarterback/running back because LSU is recruiting him for what he’ capable of doing with his legs.
Barrett, who measures up at 5-foot-11 and 208 pounds, has good size for a tailback, particularly the style of back that offensive coordinator Matt Canada and Tommie Robinson have offered since they assumed their roles with LSU. The common denominator among the majority of their running back targets is that they are all 200 or more pounds, giving them the ideal blend of size and elusiveness.
The majority of Barrett’s highlight-reel plays come when he lines up in the shotgun as Lowndes (Ga.) High School’s quarterback. That’s another encouraging sign because most of the backs who have garnered LSU offers play in a shotgun-style offense much like Canada’s. These backs need to be capable of immediate bursts out of their two-point stances and be in a rhythm quickly after the snap.
Barrett’s film highlights his lateral agility — the way he moves side to side in the pocket, then can make a quick cut upfield. Once he picks up some steam, he becomes a force for opposing defenders to bring down. That’s the sort of downhill running style that the new LSU coaching staff covets in their tailbacks. Barrett also displays a pretty special sort of ability to change directions, as well as lower-body strength that allows to easily run through defenders and break through arm tackles.
It’s no mystery why he’s such a special talent.
Was David Ducre with the running backs or with the TE/H-backs? (@t_ryandewey)
Ducre remains with the fullbacks, who are working with the tight ends this spring. In Canada’s offense, there is no more of the traditional fullback that lines up between the quarterback and tailback in the I-formation.
Instead, fullbacks will maintain their same responsibilities, but line up in different spots across multiple formations — much more similar to that of a second or third tight end.
Ducre played tailback when he was at Lakeshore (La.) High School and he was a bruiser. The big-bodied recruit would bulldoze his way through opposing defenses and had some quickness and speed to his game. However, he has not run like that in some time. Instead, he is competing to be the No. 2 fullback — or nowadays, H-back — behind senior J.D. Moore.
While Ducre won’t be practicing with the running backs any longer, he still might have a chance to make some plays on offense. Expect to see the H-backs run a couple of safety valve routes in Canada’s system. Whether he lines up in the backfield or as an extra tight end on the line, Ducre and the other H-backs will be responsible for running routes. Often, they wind up receiving added targets since defenses don’t typically expect to see fullbacks, tight ends or H-backs get too many looks or run too many routes.
Are there any under-the-radar offensive players that you think have the capacity to break out next season with Canada’s offense? (@iamnotjerome)
There are going to be a lot of candidates that fit this bill, especially with a new offense being implemented and a lot of turnover on that side of the ball from 2016 to 2017.
Remember, projected starters returning to the Tigers’ offense this season include Danny Etling, Derrius Guice, Will Clapp, K.J. Malone, Toby Weathersby, D.J. Chark and Moore. And that’s it.
At quarterback, don’t expect a breakout player, barring Etling going down with an injury or Canada introducing a special package of plays for one of the three dual threats behind him. If I were a betting man, I’d put money on Lindsey Scott Jr. getting that, but there has been no evidence of that to this point.
In the backfield, I believe Nick Brossette will get ample opportunity to prove himself. After all, LSU is searching to replenish the backfield depth in the 2018 recruiting class because the team remains unsure what it has in their junior tailback. Depth is suspect in Baton Rouge this spring. Darrel Williams is a capable short-yardage option, but LSU needs a change-of-pace back to spell Guice. Brossette should get the first crack at that.
There are even more opportunities for the young receivers, especially in Canada’s offense. Expect there to be three or four wide receivers on the field on any given play, so Dee Anderson and Drake Davis are likely candidates to emerge as the No. 2 option opposite of Chark. There is no questioning Davis’ athleticism; now, it’s a matter of him grasping the playbook. Anderson is tall with top-end speed, so it’s easy to imagine him emerging as the team’s best downfield threat.
With Colin Jeter out, expect Foster Moreau to break loose as the Tigers’ No. 1 tight end. He has flashed signs in the past and there will be plenty of more opportunities in the new offense, especially if tight ends are more engrained in the passing attack under Canada.
Lastly, there’s another unique role player who could emerge. That, of course, is the player charged with running the jet sweep. The primary candidate to run that is obviously Chark, but could the LSU coaches plug in another speedy player there down the line?
So, who are my top picks to break out on the offensive side of the ball this fall?
- Drake Davis
- Dee Anderson
- Foster Moreau
- Nick Brossette
These aren’t particularly sexy choices, but one receiver will have to emerge opposite of Chark. Davis is the most athletically gifted and nobody can keep pace with Anderson. If a tight end will be incorporated into the passing game, look no further than Moreau. With not much depth in the backfield, Brossette needs to prove himself as a capable change-of-pace back behind Guice.
Which player will have the biggest impact this season: Saivion Smith, Kristian Fulton or Eric Monroe? (@RyanMicklin61)
Excellent question, Ryan, and not an easy one to call at this point in the spring.
Spring practice began on Saturday and my eyes were glued to the new-look LSU secondary. In fact, the three second-year defensive backs you just mentioned were all players I was keeping tabs on.
With both Jamal Adams and Tre’Davious White off to the NFL draft, there are two starting positions available to the trio of Smith, Fulton and Monroe. Adams, of course, has been a stalwart at safety in Corey Raymond‘s secondary, and Monroe is my best guess to succeed him there.
Monroe will have to hold off fellow redshirt freshman Cam Lewis and veterans such as Xavier Lewis and Ed Paris, not to mention freshmen early enrollees JaCoby Stevens and Grant Delpit. However, I contend that Monroe, a former 5-star safety who is fully healthy entering this spring, should be considered the odds-on favorite to start beside John Battle in the season opener against BYU.
As far the cornerback competition between Fulton and Smith goes, it’s a bit more tricky.
Smith will be battling Kevin Toliver II to start opposite Donte Jackson on the outside. Toliver endured his fair share of ups and downs during his sophomore campaign, but he enters this spring completely healthy and focused on righting the ship. That’s bad news for Smith, who is attempting to steal his job and, if not, at least work his way into the rotation as the third outside corner.
Fulton, on the other hand, is my pick to replace White as LSU’s nickel. Like White, Fulton is long, rangy and an incredibly gifted cover corner. The question is whether the former Archbishop Rummel (La.) standout can be as physical as White was last season playing against slot receivers. My guess is that he can, given that Raymond has been pushing the former 5-star corner since he enrolled last spring.
So, even if Smith beats out Toliver for one of the starting outside corner jobs, I’d still side with either Monroe or Fulton having the bigger impact. Monroe will be tasked with replacing Adams, the Tigers’ big-play specialist in the secondary. Fulton will be charged with important coverage responsibilities and have be to an extra defender in the box at times.
It’s a complete toss-up — for now — but for argument’s sake, I’ll say Monroe.
What’s your impression of Lowell Narcisse so far? Does he have a shot to win the job? (@hibbardj)
Narcisse’s first practice was on Saturday and he’s two sessions in. The portion of spring practices that’s open to the media ranges from 25 to 30 minutes, so we’re not allowed to see the full two or so hours that the entire team is out there putting in work.
However, from what I saw out of LSU’s freshman quarterback through two practices so far are all positive. Narcisse looked 100-percent healthy on Saturday, which is the most important thing to take away at this juncture in the offseason. He was working on his dropbacks in Canada’ shotgun offense, then making his reads and working with the receivers on the newly implemented route tree.
After getting a chance to speak to Narcisse and members of his family who were taking in his first practice, he was as harsh of a critic as anyone. He — and presumably, Canada — noticed some mistakes in his outing but that served as motivation for Narcisse moving forward.
And to his credit, while Narcisse found some holes in his own game, Ed Orgeron was only complimentary of the freshman getting his feet under him.
Orgeron: Lowell Narcisse got reps, which is good. Justin Thomas looked excellent. JaCoby and Grant look great at S. Mannie Netherly ran well
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) March 11, 2017
Orgeron on Lowell Narcisse: He can't go in full contact, but can run plays #LSU
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) March 11, 2017
As far as Narcisse’s chances of winning the starting job — anything can happen.
I’ve had the pleasure of watching Narcisse since he was a freshman at St. James (La.) High School and set the River Parishes on fire with his production. I’ve always had the unfortunate position of watching him go down, twice, with ACL tears, but also bounce back stronger each time.
Now, Narcisse is bouncing back, again, but with a gold jersey on during LSU’s spring practice. Orgeron is adamant that there is an open competition for the starting quarterback job, one that will not be settled by the time the spring game takes place on April 22.
Honestly, barring an unforeseen setback to Etling, I don’t anticipate Narcisse starting. If anything, maybe Scott or McMillan can surprise and beat out the veteran, but the most likely scenario is both Narcisse and Myles Brennan taking a redshirt this season.
After a full year of regaining strength in his knee and getting a good grasp of the playbook, I expect Narcisse to then not only compete but be one of the favorites to take the starting job. LSU will hold an open competition this spring and next spring as well. Next spring is when I think you can count on Narcisse beginning his push to be the Tigers’ guy behind center.
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