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Five LSU position battles to watch in spring practice

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU is only days away from its first spring practice on March 7.

As the Tigers prepare to take the field, here are five notable position battles that will take place this spring:

Linebacker: Kendell Beckwith's decision to return for his senior season takes some pressure off this position, but it remains one of the Tigers' bigger question marks entering the spring. Butkus Award finalist Deion Jones and Lamar Louis were both seniors last season, and now new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will likely incorporate more 3-4 looks into the Tigers' defensive scheme. Who claims the starting spot alongside Beckwith in the middle? Which of the returning Tigers will play defensive end and who (Lewis Neal? Arden Key?) will shift to the new outside linebacker positions? The Tigers return senior Duke Riley and juniors Donnie Alexander and Devin Voorhies from last season's linebackers alongside Beckwith. They also have early enrollee Michael Divinity on board at outside linebacker, and he could be an early contributor at the position. Aranda has plenty of time to experiment, and that officially starts on Monday.

Offensive tackle: With last year's starters, Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins, both out of the picture, position coach Jeff Grimes will audition their replacements this spring. Sophomores Maea Teuhema and Toby Weathersby are among the possibilities, as are K.J. Malone and redshirt freshmen Chidi Okeke and George Brown Jr. And what about Jevonte Domond, who appeared in the final three games of last season following a 2015 arrest and suspension? Is he still a viable option? Once preseason practice arrives, Grimes could also consider center Ethan Pocic -- still recovering from offseason hip surgery -- and 2016 signee Willie Allen at the tackle spots.

Wide receiver: Much like the situation on the offensive line, where an obvious starter's injury absence -- we're talking about Pocic here -- will give reserves a chance to get more spring reps, the receivers will be in the same boat. Travin Dural is still on the comeback from a hamstring tear in the November loss at Ole Miss, so new position coach Dameyune Craig has time to take a long look at players who can complement Dural and Malachi Dupre this fall. Sophomore Tyron Johnson and junior D.J. Chark figure to play more in 2016, particularly after John Diarse and Trey Quinn opted to transfer after the 2015 season. Jazz Ferguson is another possibility, as are early enrollees Stephen Sullivan and Dee Anderson. Signee Drake Davis will give Craig yet another option once he arrives on campus this summer.

Defensive back: DBU could be back near the top of the SEC pecking order after a disappointing 2015 season. Everyone of note returns except safety/nickelback Jalen Mills, a four-year starter. However, senior Tre'Davious White remains one of the conference's top cover corners and sophomore starter Kevin Toliver is developing nicely himself after a solid freshman season. The Tigers also boast one of the SEC's top safeties in Jamal Adams and a host of experienced upperclassmen: Corey Thompson (who could also figure into Aranda's plans at linebacker), Rickey Jefferson, Dwayne Thomas and John Battle (out for spring following hip surgery), plus Ed Paris, Donte Jackson and redshirt freshman Xavier Lewis. The Tigers have to fill Mills' spot as a starting safety and nickelback, but position coach Corey Raymond has plenty of solid options. Early enrollee Saivion Smith will jump into the mix immediately and fellow 2016 signees Kristian Fulton, Andraez Williams, Eric Monroe and Cameron Lewis will give Raymond even more to think about once August practices arrive.

Quarterback: Last but not least in the minds of LSU fans everywhere is the quarterback position. Can anyone truly threaten Brandon Harris' status as the starting quarterback? That is one of the biggest questions of the spring. Harris enjoyed a solid first half last season, his first as the LSU starter, before fading down the stretch. Talent-wise, the junior is more than capable of developing into a solid SEC quarterback, but he needs to become a more consistent performer -- assuming he holds onto the job at all. Purdue transfer Danny Etling is now eligible after sitting out last season, while senior Anthony Jennings (LSU's 2014 starter) and redshirt freshman Justin McMillan are also available to compete this spring. Additionally, signee Lindsey Scott will enter the picture this summer. This is probably still Harris' job to lose, but LSU will be better off if the other quarterbacks push him to raise his game over the next several months.