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LSU Tigers spring practice reset

4/14/2015

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU returns to the practice field after a 12-day hiatus for spring break.

The Tigers will practice twice this week -- today and Thursday -- before concluding spring practice with Saturday's spring game. As LSU enters this final week of spring practice, here is some of what we've learned so far:

Quarterback competition ongoing: LSU coach Les Miles maintains that Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris are making progress in their competition to become the Tigers' starting quarterback. Miles is not tipping his hand as to who truly leads the race, though -- possibly because there's nothing to tip yet.

The most Miles has offered came after one spring scrimmage, when he said that Jennings had been a bit more consistent to that point. He added that Harris had his days, too, where he was the better performer.

The two players will be easily the most heavily scrutinized performers in the spring game, just as they were a year ago when Harris easily outplayed Jennings. Jennings held the starting job for nearly the entire 2014 season, however, and said two weeks ago that his confidence continues to grow. He knows he must improve upon his 48.9-percent completion rate from last season, admitting, "I have to play better."

Fournette most improved?: LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg two weeks ago that sophomore running back Leonard Fournette was the Tigers' most improved offensive player. He repeated that claimInsider

last week on local radio.

If that's the case, look out. Fournette set LSU's freshman rushing record last season and put together one of the school's most impressive bowl performances in history with 264 total yards against Notre Dame. Fournette says he has learned a lot more about the Tigers' offensive scheme and how he fits into it -- beyond just being a runner.

But most improved? That would be impressive. He was already pretty good to begin with.

Pass rush an emphasis: After LSU's defense recorded just 19 sacks a season ago, new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and line coach Ed Orgeron clearly expect to increase that total this fall.

Previous coordinator John Chavis' scheme didn't necessarily depend on sacks so much as creating consistent pressure and maintaining sound rush lanes. Regardless of whether we see it in the spring game, don't be surprised to see LSU add some creativity -- stunts, twists, blitzes, etc. -- to the pass rush in order to take down opposing quarterbacks more frequently.

It will be interesting to see which Tigers play leading roles in that effort, though. With 2014 starters Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter both gone, the competition at defensive end is wide open. Among the leading contenders to fill those roles are junior Lewis Neal and sophomore Maquedius Bain.

O-line in good hands: Veterans Jerald Hawkins, Vadal Alexander and Ethan Pocic are locked into starting spots on LSU's offensive line. Whoever takes over the other two starting spots will be first-time starters -- and it remains to be seen who offensive line coach Jeff Grimes will insert into the starting roles -- but Alexander said recently that he was pleased with the contenders' performances this spring.

“I think everybody will be pleasantly surprised by all the young interior linemen like Garrett Brumfield, Josh Boutte, William Clapp, Andy Dodd, K.J. Malone,” Alexander said. “Whoever's in the starting five's going to be real crisp.”

Redshirt freshmen Brumfield and Clapp opened the spring as the first-team starters at guard, but Grimes has worked with a number of combinations this spring. It looks like he'll have several strong candidates for the two starting vacancies -- and his options will only grow when an all-star class of offensive line signees arrives in time for preseason practice.

Chark emerging at WR: If you've followed LSU's spring practices at all up to now, you already know that sophomore receiver D.J. Chark has been one of the most buzzworthy Tigers.

He didn't catch a single pass last season, but Miles has credited him with at least one touchdown catch in each of the Tigers' spring scrimmages so far. And multiple teammates named him as a leading breakout candidate for this fall.

The Tigers look to be stocked at receiver, with their top four players at the position (Travin Dural, Malachi Dupre, John Diarse and Trey Quinn) all returning. But if Chark has the potential to add another speedy deep threat to the mix, which might help LSU's passing game become more productive following an underwhelming 2014.