Some quick observations from this morning's first LSU team practice on "The Ponderosa." I spent my time shooting video and watching the offense.
Media interest in this program has never been higher. I counted 35-40 media members herded like cattle outside the gates before the start of practice. I've been told ESPN is shooting a segment called "Inside The Program" Sunday, which will air on the network Monday. Despite the Jan. 9 debacle, LSU is respected across the country and envied by basically everyone.
LSU still has a bursting stable of running backs. So many talented guys working with position coach Frank Wilson on this steamy morning. Who deserves to start? Spencer Ware, who was the team's hammer most of the season, yet tallied off down the stretch? Monster sophomore Kenny Hilliard, who rocked Georgia in the SEC Championship game? What about the team's leading rusher from a season ago Michael Ford? Alfred Blue was a Mariano Rivera closer last season with several nail-in-the-coffin runs during the second half of victories. What about "Warrick Dunn Player of the Year" Terrence Magee? Endless options there, including Jeremy Hill of Redemptorist who will practice with the freshmen in the afternoon.
There is a new vibe with quarterback Zach Mettenberger. You can feel the big play ability and new confidence in the passing game as the Tigers run passing drills. Mettenberger has that cocky confidence you look for in a leader and is also pretty humorous when chirping to teammates. While running passing drills in which lower end assistant coaches/grad assistants were throwing balls, Mettenberger chimed in, the guy on the end wasn't too impressive and needed to be replaced. I believe the word "stunk" was used. For those looking for a quarterback to take charge, #8 appears to be your guy.
Can James Wright make an impact in this receiving corps? He looks good in a uniform and certainly could bring a more physical presence, listed at 6'2 and 201 pounds. Yet to this point, he hasn't made an impact entering his junior season.
Russell Shepard needs to hang on to passes. The suddenly turned senior still tends to drop balls fired straight into his hands. Shepard has shown flashes of brilliance during his first three seasons, yet has never found consistent productivity for whatever reason. This is his last shot to live up to enormous and perhaps unfair expectations heaped on him as an incoming freshman. To his credit, he's great for team chemistry and is a fantastic ambassador for the football program and university alike.
We will certainly spend time observing the offensive line in practices ahead. This could be Miles' best group at that position and obviously, it always starts in the trenches.
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