Schedule: The Tigers open spring practice on Friday afternoon and will play their spring game on April 9. ESPN will televise LSU's spring game live at 4 p.m. ET.
What’s new: Steve Kragthorpe, the former head coach at Louisville and Tulsa, takes over for Gary Crowton as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. Thomas McGaughey is the new special-teams coordinator.
On the mend: Senior safety Brandon Taylor, who underwent foot surgery after being injured in the Alabama game last season, will be limited this spring. The same goes for junior cornerback Morris Claiborne, who’s coming off an ankle injury in the Cotton Bowl. Sophomore defensive end Sam Montgomery is ahead of schedule after tearing ligaments in his right knee and missing the second half of the season a year ago. Montgomery will participate in some spring drills, but will likely be held out of contact.
On the move: Senior Karnell Hatcher will move from safety to outside linebacker, the kind of move LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis has made frequently during his career. Senior tight end Deangelo Peterson will get more work in four wide receiver sets this spring.
Key battle: It’s not going to be easy replacing Kelvin Sheppard at middle linebacker when you consider all he did for that defense last season. The battle this spring will be wide open. Sophomores Kevin Minter, Luke Muncie and Lamin Barrow are all possibilities, and Chavis is also eager to see how much progress redshirt freshman D.J. Welter has made.
New faces: The most obvious is Zach Mettenberger, the No. 1 junior college quarterback in the country. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Mettenberger is on campus and will battle seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee for the starting quarterback job. True freshman Anthony Jones was ranked as the No. 1 defensive tackle prospect in the country last year by ESPN. He enrolled in school early and will also go through spring practice. The other early high school enrollee is running back Kenny Hilliard, the nephew of former LSU great Dalton Hilliard.
Breaking out: The last time we saw Spencer Ware, he was rushing for more than 100 yards in the Cotton Bowl. Now that the starting running back job open, the 5-11, 225-pound sophomore has everything it takes to be the Tigers’ next 1,000-yard rusher. He’s versatile, has great moves and runs with both power and speed.
Don’t forget about: LSU’s offensive line should be one of the strengths of the team next season. Six of the Tigers’ top seven offensive linemen are back, and that includes guard Will Blackwell, who missed most of last season after breaking his leg against North Carolina in the opener. Sophomore Chris Faulk is the front-runner to replace Joe Barksdale at left tackle.
All eyes on: With all of LSU’s practices being closed this spring, the quarterback battle among Jefferson, Lee and Mettenberger figures to be even more compelling. Only the coaches and players will know for sure who’s outplaying whom. Jefferson needs to have a good spring. Mettenberger is the real deal, and you can bet the Tigers didn’t sign him out of junior college to sit him on the bench.