For the first time since 1998, LSU will hold its spring game at night when the SEC hopefuls take to Tiger Stadium this Saturday.
It's only right the Tigers mix it up coming off a nine-win season featuring plenty of twists and turns. Gone is the Les Miles era, in is head coach Ed Orgeron, a quarterback battle, a need to replace NFL draft first-round picks and reload the defense while attempting to lock down recruiting once again in the state of Louisiana.
Though it can be difficult just to figure out where to start, if Orgeron can pull off the giant task in front of him, the rest of the SEC might have a serious problem on its hands.
LSU's quest to build on something special that began last year starts Saturday night.
2017 LSU Spring Game
When: Saturday, April 22, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Tiger Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Live Stream: WatchESPN
As it stands going into Saturday, Danny Etling continues to lead the quarterback battle.
Fans might thirst for more, and rightfully so, seeing as Etling completed just 59.5 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions last year. With Brandon Harris gone, the only other likely way Orgeron could turn is with Justin McMillan.
Which isn't to suggest Orgeron will do any such thing.
"We're going to sit down at the end of spring and talk about it as a staff. We're not going to get in a hurry,' Orgeron said, according to ESPN.com's David Ching. "Obviously Danny has practiced first team most of the time. Nobody has beaten him out yet."
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Try as he might to get the most out of a struggling passing game, new offensive coordinator Matt Canada will likely fall back into LSU's ways of old and lean on the ground game for the majority of the offense's production.
Derrius Guice won't complain.
With Leonard Fournette officially out of the way, Guice looks like a Heisman Trophy contender after rushing for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns last year on a 7.6 per-carry average, numbers dampened by Fournette taking 129 carries.
But don't let Guice's surefire monster year overshadow a new cast of wideouts eager to make a name for themselves under a new coordinator and with the depth chart cleared after the departures of Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural.
Senior receiver Russell Gage leads the charge and talks up his fellow wideouts often, including this nugget captured by Ching:
We’ve got guys like Drake [Davis], Dee Anderson, D.J. [Chark] -- everyone’s seen D.J. -- myself. We are a very talented group with speed, strength, power. We have all the accolades and so what he’s trying to get everyone to understand, if we’re able to put all that together, there’s no limit to what we can do for this season.
The only big problem for an offense hoping to get its wings going through the air Saturday is the offensive line, where starters such as center Will Clapp and tackle Toby Weathersby won't suit up.
Though disappointing for the offense, a reloading defense should have an easier time putting on a show.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda looks to sophomore linebacker Devin White and senior Donnie Alexander as leaders this year while waiting for new arrivals to join the roster. The former, a former running back, is a good example of what the LSU defense faces this year—a continued evolution while trying to meet lofty expectations.
Aranda continues to push for an install of a more traditional 3-4 base front and pegged White as the man to lead the way, as he told Scout.com's Billy Embody:
I'm a big fan of Devin. I think he's matured greatly. I think he's working himself into being a team leader. I know he has the respect of our room and he's got the respect of our team. He's someone I think that's setting himself up for great things. There's still a lot of work to be done, but he has the mindset that I believe to do it.
On paper, White should have a better defense behind him in the secondary this year in large part thanks to a healthy Kevin Toliver. A corner with a surefire pro career in front of him, Toliver struggled with injuries one year ago but has turned in a healthy spring.
Orgeron targeted him as a talking point recently, per Embody:
The Tigers have a good thing going as spring bleeds into summer. An ambitious new offense will force the defense out of a lull and encourage new looks. A defense returning key stars and budding new faces will pressure the offense in a symbiotic way as both get ready for another brutal year in the SEC.
LSU won't be at full strength Saturday night, but the new approach as the program heads into a full year of the new norm should have fans flocking to Tiger Stadium or television sets.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.