Three Big Questions LSU Football Hopes to Answer Once Fall Camp Starts
On what was supposed to be the start of fall camp on Aug. 7, instead LSU and the other SEC teams will be in a bit of a waiting mode over the next several days.
This week, the SEC announced it would be delaying the start of spring practice to Aug. 17 in order to accommodate for the season starting three weeks later than originally planned.
Until Aug. 17, workouts will be permitted and walkthrough practices can occur but the use of footballs, helmets and pads won’t be allowed. When LSU is able to get the pads on starting 10 days from now, here are three questions the team hopes to answer before the season kicks off Sept. 26.
Will Liam Shanahan establish himself as the starting center?
Offensive line has been one of the great question marks of the offseason as the Tigers must replace four starters from the national championship squad. Based off of everything we've heard from coach Ed Orgeron the last few months, some of the positions seem to be solidified heading into camp.
Orgeron has talked about the leadership role that Dare Rosenthal has taken at left tackle and veteran Ed Ingram has starting experience at left guard. With Austin Deculus set to return at right tackle, the question revolves around the center and right guard spots.
The ideal scenario is for Harvard transfer Liam Shanahan to win the center job. When he was initially recruited to Baton Rouge, it was thought that he'd be a plug and play, swiss army knife kind of lineman. Instead, Shanahan has been taking snaps during the walkthrough practices primarily at center.
If Shanahan can establish himself at center, Orgeron said it would allow the Tigers to move Chasen Hines over to his more natural position of right guard. Kardell Thomas and Anthony Bradford are also competing for snaps at right guard but have little to no game experience, particularly Thomas who missed all of his 2019 true freshman season with a leg injury.
A starting rotation of Rosenthal, Ingram, Shanahan, Thomas and Deculus would be the Tigers most experienced group, which may be the route to go with an all-conference schedule.
"Very impressed with the offensive line, but look, we've got to put on the pads, we've got to find out if Liam can block that nose tackle," Orgeron said on 104.5 ESPN. "I think he can, but we've got to find it out."
How will Scott Linehan's impact be felt on offense?
Joe Brady was brought in last year to teach LSU the spread offense but as Orgeron has relayed multiple times, it was offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger who called most of the plays. Longtime NFL offensive coordinator and head coach Scott Linehan was brought in to replace Brady and will reportedly handle third down and redzone situations for the Tigers this season.
While he won't revolutionize the offense the way Brady did a season ago, Linehan has a track record of getting some of the best years out of Hall of Fame talents. He helped Calvin Johnson break the NFL single-season receiving yards record (1,964) in 2012 and Randy Moss record 37 touchdowns in three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.
LSU returns a bevvy of weapons including Biletnikoff winner Ja'Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall and freshman Arik Gilbert. While it'll be difficult for Chase to match what he did in 2019, there's no reason why that three-headed monster can't dominate in the redzone.
Orgeron has talked about the role Gilbert in particular will have with the program, likening it to the role 'Megatron' had with Linehan.
"Obviously, we can use him at tight end. That's easy, but we can split him out at X, we can put him at the S, we can use him," Orgeron said on 104.5 ESPN's Off The Bench. "Scott Linehan was with Megatron (Calvin Johnson) at Detroit. There's the same plays that we can use with Arik with Megatron. I'm not going to say he's going to be Megatron, but he's a good player and we can get some mismatches with this kid. "
Who will start opposite Derek Stingley Jr. at cornerback?
The competition will be fierce in the secondary, even though two of the spots are already decided. Nobody is pushing Stingley or safety JaCoby Stevens out of playing every single snap this season. But one of the position battles that's speculated on a great deal is who will start at cornerback opposite Stingley?
There are two primary candidates for the spot, sophomore Cordale Flott and freshman Elias Ricks. Like with the offensive line, the ideal scenario would be a way to get both on the field. Orgeron says Flott has the versatility to play both in the nickel and at corner.
Back in February, Orgeron raved about Flott and his potential with the program after showing flashes of being a lock down corner in 2019.
"Cordale Flott, to me, is one of the best corners we're going to have here," Ed Orgeron said. "Obviously Derek Stingley is off the charts. Probably one of the greatest corners to play here at LSU. It's going to end up that way. But Cordale Flott is not that far behind. He is an outstanding player.
“If he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s going to be a big-time player and everyone is going to know how good he really is,” Stingley added in an appearance on Hey Fightin' Podcast. “He’s always been great, and he’s smart and picks up on things faster than anybody that I know.”
After being limited in the few spring practices due to a shoulder injury, Ricks is a full go during the fall. The highly touted freshman enrolled early so he's been with the team and is picking up techniques and schemes very quickly according to Stingley.
"[Elias] is getting really good, learning our techniques because he’s been here longer," Stingley said. "We all came in doing the same things and it’s cool to see the progressions with them.”
Flott and Ricks are long, athletic players and it would be a huge boost to the secondary if both saw the field next to Stingley in 2020.