Just like their expanding stadium, the LSU football team is undergoing a makeover. An early glimpse of what could be in store comes Saturday in the team’s spring game.
The sight of construction cranes towering over the south end zone expansion project in Tiger Stadium is a fitting backdrop for LSU’s annual spring game Saturday.
Zach Mettenberger is long gone, leaving the Tigers with their least experience at the quarterback spot since 2008. Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are gone, too, taking with them the bulk of LSU’s rushing and receiving yards from 2013.
Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson are missing from the middle of the defensive line. So is Lamin Barrow, LSU’s top tackler from 2013, and hard-hitting safety Craig Loston.
There is a definite star power vacuum that must be filled for the 2014 Tigers. Watching those stars come out will be the main attraction of the spring game, which kicks off at 1 p.m.
In one sense the game is pure exhibition.
LSU coach Les Miles, presiding over his 10th spring game in Tiger Stadium, said it’s unlikely any position battles will be decided or significantly affected by Saturday’s competition.
“Not really, to be honest with you,” he said. “We’re going to watch the competition. It’s a key scrimmage. But there’s also a lot of time left before we get to playing time.”
In another sense, Miles and his staff will be adding Saturday’s performances to a building body of work that will ultimately determine who takes the first snaps for the Tigers on Aug. 30 when they face Wisconsin in Houston.
“It’s one piece, but obviously it’s important,” Miles said. “And any time we walk into that stadium, we expect our guys to play at a certain level.”
Some of the players walking into Tiger Stadium also will be spectators.
Among those listed as out for the game will be defensive end Jermauria Rasco, safety Corey Thompson, linebacker Duke Riley and wide receiver Kevin Spears.
A healthy battle for the starting quarterback spot will carry over to the spring game.
Sophomore Anthony Jennings, who replaced the injured Mettenberger last year in the Arkansas game and the Outback Bowl, will quarterback the White Team with redshirt freshman Hayden Rettig.
Brandon Harris, the true freshman from Bossier City who enrolled in January for the expressed purpose of taking part in spring drills, will quarterback the Purple Team with Brad Kragthorpe. The walk-on is the son of former LSU offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe.
The deck is clearly stacked in the White Team’s favor. The roster includes running backs Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, wide receiver Travin Dural, defensive tackle Quentin Thomas and middle linebacker D.J. Welter, LSU’s top returning tackler.
Kendell Beckwith, Welter’s prime backup who recently switched from defensive end, will play for the Purple Team.
As is typical of LSU’s spring game, Miles said it will be regularly timed in the first half and feature a running clock in the second. There will be no live tackling of the quarterbacks, who Miles said would wear green (no contact) jerseys.
There is no admission charge for Saturday’s game. It will not be televised but can be heard on WBRP-FM, 107.3 in Baton Rouge; WWL-AM, 870 in New Orleans; KLWB-FM, 103.7 in Lafayette; and on satellite at Sirius channel 93 and XM channel 199.
In addition to four other sporting events on the LSU campus — the LSU-Mississippi State baseball game, NCAA gymnastics regional, LSU-Tennessee softball game and the Battle on the Bayou track meet — the school will be hosting a pregame party on North Stadium Drive starting at 11 a.m. The event continues after the spring game from 2:45-3:45 p.m., wrapping up just before the start of the NCAA gymnastics regional at 4.
The spring game also will be the best chance for many LSU fans to get an up-close look at Tiger Stadium’s south end zone expansion. Featuring club seats, suites and an upper deck, the addition will raise Tiger Stadium’s capacity from 92,542 to nearly 100,000 in time for LSU’s Sept. 6 home opener against Sam Houston State.