Position fights in spring training to watch
Will this be the year for LSU Football?
In the freshman year under former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, the Tigers posted a 10-4 record and faced the Purdue Boilermakers in the Citrus Bowl.
As the Southeastern Conference changes around them, the Tigers will try to maintain the same mentality that gave them their first winning season since 2019.
LSU head Football coach Brian Kelly had a simple message following the release of a proposed nine-game conference schedule in early March.
“I’ve been at this for three decades, and no disrespect to the other schools we play at outside of the SEC, but they just don’t excite me,” Kelly said. “I want to be the best — I came here to the SEC because I wanted to play Alabama.
“I want to play A&M; I want to play Auburn, the great teams, and in our new schedule we can play Alabama every year, Ole Miss every year and A&M, and that’s really why I came here. I want to play those games and I think playing nine SEC games is great for your schedule and it prepares you for the opportunity to play for a championship but also for the national championship.
What will be LSU football’s toughest positional battles as spring training resumes? And who will be some of the defining players in a potential quest for another national title?
Inner offensive line
Junior Guards Garrett Dellinger and Miles Frazier attempt to take the starting spots for the Tigers at both guard posts. Once listed by 247Sports as an offensive tackle, Garrett Dellinger chose the Tigers in 2021 over offers from Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State.
Frazier, a transfer from Florida International, was named a 2021 freshman All-America. He appeared in 12 games and made 11 starts with the FIU.
Kardell Thomas, a senior who was a key support for LSU during his first four years in the football program, has a chance to be right behind Frazier as a right guard. The 350-pound lineman appeared in 11 games and made two starts for LSU. Both starts were at the right guard point.
Senior Charles Turner III, the likely starter in the middle, said it was no more difficult protecting a more agile quarterback in a September interview. Will he be able to substantiate his statement in 2023?
The versatile offensive lineman is entering his fourth year with the Tigers and earning his first season starting in every game in 2022. Center Marlon Martinez, who played snaps at center against Purdue in the Citrus Bowl, played in 12 games and started one for LSU last season.
line of defense
Mekhi Wingo and Maason Smith can fill starting roles for LSU football as defensive tackles. Wingo, a sophomore tackle from St. Louis, Missouri, posted stats in 2021 and 2022. Kelly entered positive update on Smith after missing the season with an ACL injury.
“He’s fine. He’s obviously focused on his academic training and rehabilitation. He had no setbacks,” Kelly said. “We expect him to be ready for our off-season program and moving on to Spring Ball. We look forward to him coming back.”
Senior Jordan Jefferson and junior Jacobian Guillory will likely take the spots behind them in spring training. Jefferson, a West Virginia transfer, appeared in 42 games and started 17 as a nose tackle for the Mountaineers. He started in all 12 games in 2022
Ovie Oghoufo and Bradyn Swinson can play crucial roles on the line as “jack” linebackers, or linebackers who can charge the passer and duck for cover if necessary. Both moved to the 2023 class, with Oghoufo playing for Texas and Swinson for the Oregon Ducks.
Nickel cornerback Duce Chestnut will miss LSU’s spring football practice. Will Sage Ryan be able to take his place? The 5-foot-11-inch safety guard from Lafayette, Louisiana, earned 23 tackles in 2022 and deflected a pass for the Tigers after appearing in four games as a freshman in 2021.
Denver Harris and Zy Alexander are looking to take the starting roles of left and right cornerback, respectively. Harris, a Texas A&M transfer, was a five-star former recruit at Northshore High School in Houston, Texas. He appeared in five games as a freshman for the Aggies in 2022, scoring 14 total tackles and deflecting three passes. Southeast Louisiana transfer Zy Alexander has intercepted three interceptions in 2022 after intercepting six passes during the 2021 season for the Lions.