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Friday, April 8, 2011
Exiting the spring: LSU

By Chris Low

Spring game: 4 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN and ESPN3.com

Questions answered: Senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson showed that he was made of the right stuff. With all eyes on heralded junior college newcomer Zach Mettenberger, Jefferson stepped up his game considerably under the tutelage of first-year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe and heads into the spring game as the clear-cut No. 1 quarterback. The Tigers also found out that they’re pretty good at running back even with Stevan Ridley leaving early for the NFL. Spencer Ware and Alfred Blue both had big springs, and don’t count out Michael Ford and Jakhari Gore, either. There’s depth and big-play potential to go around in the LSU backfield.

Questions unanswered: Defensive coordinator John Chavis knew that Kelvin Sheppard would be a big loss, but this spring only reaffirmed how much the Tigers will miss Sheppard at middle linebacker. They still have to solve that problem. Karnell Hatcher moved over from safety and got some snaps in the middle. Kevin Minter also got some first-team snaps after serving as Sheppard’s backup last season. Solidifying that middle linebacker spot remains one of the biggest concerns going into the summer. The unknowns on special teams are equally unnerving. The Tigers will have a brand new place-kicker and a brand new punter. Until the lights come on and they start keeping score, you never know about those guys. Not only that, but Patrick Peterson won’t be around to return kicks and strike the Heisman pose in the end zone anymore.

Spring stars: Coming up on his junior season, Russell Shepard took some of his biggest steps yet toward becoming a true receiver. He's somebody who is going to run crisp routes and make something happen once he gets the football. Shepard doesn't look as much like a quarterback trying to play receiver anymore. On defense, Craig Loston emerged as the starter at free safety. He was showered with a lot of hype coming out of high school, but it was his performance that made everybody sit up and take notice this spring. Cornerback Morris Claiborne said Loston is a much more instinctive player and a lot more vocal than he was a year ago.

Of note: The Tigers moved Chris Davenport from the defensive line to left tackle on offense. … Safety Brandon Taylor, defensive end Sam Montgomery and offensive guard Josh Dworaczyk were among the players being held out of contact this spring to fully recover from injuries. … Shepard wasn’t the only LSU receiver making waves this spring. Fellow junior Rueben Randle has that look of an All-SEC receiver next season. … Brad Wing, a 21-year-old native of Australia, is in line to be the Tigers’ punter. Wing played 15 years of Australian Rules Football before coming over to the United States. … It looks like Ron Brooks and Randle are the top two candidates to return kickoffs, while Tyrann Mathieu is at the head of the list to return punts.