Each Friday during LSU’s preseason practice, we will review five things we learned that week.
Here are five things we learned about the Tigers since LSU opened preseason camp on Monday.
1. Jalen Mills will play: When he’ll play remains a mystery -- it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him receive a similar punishment to that of Jeremy Hill, who sat out last season’s opener against TCU -- but LSU coach Les Miles reinstated safety Jalen Mills this week, so we at least know he will return to the field at some point.
Mills had been indefinitely suspended since June, when he was arrested for allegedly punching a woman and knocking her unconscious. Mills’ attorney maintains that his client is innocent of the accusation -- which potentially could have led to a felony charge -- and the East Baton Rouge district attorney instead charged the junior safety with a misdemeanor this week, leading Miles to reinstate him to the team.
2. Leonard Fournette looks the part: Veteran teammates aren’t always quick to heap praise on new freshmen immediately, but running back Leonard Fournette earned compliments before the Tigers even put on the pads.
All-SEC left tackle La'el Collins' tweet after Wednesday’s practice, when Fournette worked with the starters for the first time:
I loved the way leonard ran the ball today in practice! #Beast ‼️— SeVeN ZeRo (@70LaelCollins) August 6, 2014
The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in 2014, Fournette practiced alongside senior Terrence Magee both Wednesday and Thursday, first working with the starters on Wednesday afternoon and then with mostly reserves and freshmen on Thursday afternoon. As Magee said of the freshman class this week, practicing in pads will start to "tell the tale," but it’s clear optimism about Fournette’s capabilities is as high within the locker room as it is in the LSU fan base.
3. Suitable depth at defensive tackle: Perhaps the key to this season for LSU’s defense will be the performance of its line. The Tigers need to generate a better pass rush off the edge -- the burden likely falls on Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco to get that done -- and at least a few young tackles must perform consistently.
Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore are also in the picture, but LaCouture is the only member of the group who have appeared in an actual game. With the Tigers practicing today for the first time in full pads, it’s time for the youngsters to pressure the veterans and prove to line coach Brick Haley that, if nothing else, he has strong options to utilize in a rotation if he wants to spell or replace LaCouture.
4. Freshman wideouts are legit: Multiple older receivers said this week that the Tigers’ four freshman wideouts -- led by Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn -- showed up brimming with confidence and ready to compete.
"If you didn’t know those guys and you walked out there to practice, you wouldn’t know if they were a freshman or a senior," senior Quantavius Leslie said Wednesday.
They look impressive to reporters, too. Dupre, ESPN’s No. 1 receiver signee for 2014, practiced with the starting offense all week and didn’t seem out of place.
5. Expect QB option: Sure, we expected it prior to this week, but it’s clear from its work in position drills that LSU will incorporate quarterback options and runs into the offensive scheme.
Only small portions of the practices were open to the media, but essentially every media period thus far has featured position drills where quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris worked on zone-read handoffs with the running backs and other option plays that utilized their mobility.
Several Tigers said this week that the basics of the offense will remain the same, but that they will add wrinkles to take advantage of the quarterbacks’ running ability. That assessment looks to be on the money.