LSU camp: Early lessons

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU is done with a mere three days of August camp and already we've learned some things about this team.

1. The offensive line might shuffle: Right tackle Vadal Alexander was hobbled in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and rumors were, he was being seriously challenged for his starting spot by redshirt freshman Jerald Hawkins.

Little has happened at camp that would suggest otherwise after Alexander missed Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices and Hawkins was running with the starters at right tackle. The Hawkins-as-a-starter scenario is looking more and more plausible.

2. Barrow leading, just not at MLB: A huge assumption many have made has been that LSU would move 100-tackle outside linebacker Lamin Barrow to the middle to better take advantage of his leadership qualities.

That has not happened.

Barrow has remained at his weakside spot and D.J. Welter has continued to run at first team middle linebacker with Lamar Louis right behind him in what will develop into a heated competition.

3. Young defense passing eye test: Despite losing its entire defensive line and NFL talents at middle linebacker, free safety and cornerback, there has been an insistence from LSU circles that this defense might be the most talented bunch LSU has had in the John Chavis era, top to bottom.

That seems to be playing out.

There are simply more guys who look the part than we've seen in years at LSU. They are not as proven as a year ago when Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Kevin Minter, Bennie Logan, Eric Reid and Tharold Simon were returning from an SEC championship team.

But a number of guys are capable of stepping into those big shoes.

The defensive line looks 10 deep with guys who could someday draw NFL paychecks and the linebackers and the secondary is packed with players who have next-level potential.

The key for Chavis is to turn that young talent into production. He’ll have to find young defensive linemen that can make plays like Sam Montgomery, but with his track record, it’s hard to imagine that Chavis won’t do it.

4. A Hill to climb: With Alfred Blue back and confident coming off his knee injury and with Kenny Hilliard looking like he's in the best shape of his LSU career, it hardly seems like Jeremy Hill will automatically reclaim his starting running back spot after getting his indefinite suspension lifted on the first day of practice.

Blue has looked very good so far if Hill's not careful, he could be a guy who falls off the map.

5. Don't cry a Rivers: Many have been ready to write off Stephen Rivers as Zach Mettenberger's backup at quarterback.

Don't dismiss him yet.

Rivers has practiced with the veterans in each of the first three days while freshman Anthony Jennings has worked with the younger players in the afternoon.

That doesn’t say much, but if Jennings was going to be the No. 2, LSU might get him as much work as possible with the main group of receivers, all of whom practice with the upperclassman players in the morning sessions.