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LSU spring game: Five things to watch

4/17/2015

LSU will play its National L-Club spring game on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET -- a game that will air live on SEC Network + and on the SEC Network itself on April 20 at 11 p.m. Here are five things to watch as the Tigers wrap up the spring at Tiger Stadium:

Quarterback competition: Might as well get this one out of the way first since it is the storyline that likely will dwarf all others. There’s no polite way to say it: Either Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris will develop into an effective SEC quarterback or LSU won’t be a legitimate contender in the SEC championship chase. The Tigers should be effective across the board, but they will be so much more dangerous if one of the quarterbacks proves he can be a dangerous performer against top competition. That wasn’t the case last season.

Check out the new starters: How will Jerald Hawkins fare as all-SEC left tackle La’el Collins’ replacement? What about Deion Jones taking over for leading tackler Kwon Alexander at weakside linebacker? Or Jamal Adams for all-SEC safety Ronald Martin, or John David Moore for Connor Neighbors at fullback? Every year college teams go through this kind of turnover as players exhaust their eligibility or jump to the NFL. LSU didn’t absorb as big a draft hit this year as it has in recent seasons, but there still are some holes to fill. Their performances on Saturday will be our first indication as to how the replacements are faring in their new roles.

First glimpse of freshmen: And by freshmen, we aren’t just referring to early enrollees Kevin Toliver, David Ducre, Hanner Shipley and Justin McMillan. That group obviously is of interest -- particularly blue-chip cornerback signee Toliver, the highest-rated prospect in LSU’s newest recruiting class -- but Saturday also will provide our first opportunity to see numerous 2014 redshirts for the first time in a game-like setting. Included in that group are possible starting offensive linemen Garrett Brumfield and Will Clapp, tight end Jacory Washington and defensive lineman Trey Lealaimatafao.

Improved pass rush?: It’s clear that LSU’s new defensive coaches Kevin Steele and Ed Orgeron plan to develop a better pass rush, but who is going to make a difference? One candidate, Lewis Neal, sat out Tuesday’s practice with an ankle injury and it’s not like anyone else has flashed amazing potential so far in a game. Steele’s defense probably will keep things pretty vanilla on Saturday, but he’d probably like to see his pass rushers at least apply consistent pressure on Saturday, simply to show that the Tigers are moving in the right direction.

Progress in the passing game: This goes along with the quarterback questions, of course, but it would be good to see more pass-catchers emerge on Saturday. Will sophomore D.J. Chark make something happen before an audience after apparently starring in the Tigers’ scrimmages? Will the quarterbacks hit tight ends Washington, DeSean Smith, Colin Jeter or Dillon Gordon with some passes -- and will that matter once the season arrives? Will Malachi Dupre or Trey Quinn show that he is making a big jump from last season’s middling results as freshmen? It’s not like Saturday will provide any definitive answers, but it would be nice to see some progress.