BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU is days away from opening spring football practice on March 7.
Here are five Tigers (plus a couple more) who will be worth watching leading up to the April 16 spring game:
1. Donnie Alexander: He waited behind Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones in his first two seasons on campus. Now Donnie Alexander has a chance to play a much larger role – and maybe start – as a junior. New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will shift the linebacker roles, so it remains to be seen what Alexander’s assignment will be. Linebacker is right up there next to quarterback as one of the most intriguing positions for LSU entering the 2016 season.
2. Tyron Johnson: The Tigers had a solid 1-2 punch at wide receiver last season in Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural. However, there was not much consistent production behind them. Now with the injured Dural presumably out for the spring and John Diarse and Trey Quinn transferring, it will be interesting to see who complements Dupre at wideout. Johnson (nine catches, 150 yards, two touchdowns in 2015 as a freshman) seems like a safe bet, as does D.J. Chark, who made a lot of noise last spring and in preseason practice.
3. Corey Thompson: There was substantial buzz last spring about Thompson possibly shifting to linebacker, though that never came to fruition. After missing more than a year while recovering from a 2014 knee injury, he returned to the field last season, appearing in nine games and starting three. The Thompson-to-linebacker buzz is back this year. We’ll have to see what Aranda decides to do with the senior safety.
4. Toby Weathersby: He played in every game last season as a freshman and started at right tackle against Ole Miss. Might he make that position his home as a sophomore? LSU must replace both of its starting tackles, Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins, so it’s a distinct possibility. Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes is sure to tryseveral combinations this spring and in the preseason, much as he did last season. Weathersby seems to be a safe bet to grab one of the starting vacancies.
5. The early enrollees: Maybe this is cheating, but let’s just lump this entire group together. Michael Divinity is probably the first name worth mentioning because the outside linebacker plays at a position of need. Cornerback Saivion Smith also has designs on playing early, and that seems like a real possibility in the Tigers’ sub packages. Rangy receivers Stephen Sullivan (6-foot-6) and Dee Anderson (6-5), like Johnson and Chark, will likely get more of an opportunity this spring with Dural out. And finally in Devin White, the Tigers have a surprisingly nimble bruiser at running back – although recruiting analysts have predicted that he might someday shift from his preferred position to linebacker.