Spring practice reports for every team on LSU’s 2023 schedule
Most programs have now wrapped up spring practice.
As we turn our attention to the summer and impatiently wait for fall camp, it’s time to start looking around the country and see how LSU’s opponents are shaping up this fall.
LSU, as usual, has a tough schedule.
This one is even tougher than most. It opens with a likely top 10 opponent in Florida State. If that wasn’t hard enough, that game will be in Orlando.
LSU doesn’t get Alabama at home this year, either, with the Tigers having to travel to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Just two of LSU’s first six games are at home. However, that sets up a back half where LSU gets home field against Auburn, Texas A&M and Florida.
Thrown in the middle of it, LSU will have to prepare for triple-option Army.
The offseason report on Florida State has been glowing all year. The Seminoles return star QB Jordan Travis and killed it in the transfer portal.
This was a team that improved with each passing week in 2022 and will be even better than the group that already beat LSU last year.
After the spring game, head coach Mike Norvell highlighted a few guys who have improved including wide receiver Kentron Pointer and running back Rodney Hill.
Florida State also nabbed one of the portal’s top defenders in CB Fentrell Cypress.
Norvell’s offense was the most explosive in the country last year and returns all of the elements which created that. LSU opens with a tough one.
Shreveport Times/The Times
For the second year in a row, LSU will be hosting a Louisiana HBCU. Last year, Southern came across town to play in Tiger Stadium.
Grambling went 3-8 last year, including an 0-5 record on the road. They’re led by former NFL head coach Hue Jackson who will be entering his second year with the program.
Grambling Coach Hue Jackson’s final words after spring camp: Do what’s right and represent The G!pic.twitter.com/tkJJqt957R
— HBCU Premier Sports & More (@HBCUSports1) April 27, 2023
Grambling is returning a couple of QBs who started games last year and added a transfer from Alabama State.
On the defensive side, Jackson highlighted Sundiata Anderson and Lewis Matthews as two guys that will lead them.
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
LSU begins SEC play in Week 3 with a trip to Mississippi State.
The big story in Starkville this spring is the coaching transition. Zach Arnett takes over after the passing of Mike Leach. The Bulldogs are moving away from the air raid and Arnett brought in his own offensive staff.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay is making the jump to the SEC after coordinating for Appalachian State in 2022. Prior to that, he worked under Jim McElwain at Central Michigan.
Mississippi State might still be pass-oriented, but Barbay’s offenses tend to stretch the field more than air raid ones.
We might also see a heightened emphasis on the run game. Arnett is a defensive guy and while making assumptions is always tricky, defensive head coaches tend to operate a little differently than offensive ones.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
This is earlier than these two are used to meeting.
KJ Jefferson is back for the Hogs but there’s a change at offensive coordinator. Dan Enos is back in Fayetteville to call the plays. He’s got a wealth of experience, including three years at Arkansas from 2015-17.
Who Jefferson will throw to has been a big story throughout the spring. One guy who stood out was Isiah Sategna.
This combo looks mighty fine pic.twitter.com/fRIQ71fDLZ
— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) April 15, 2023
There’s not a bona fide star in that receiver room yet, but Sam Pittman was pleased with the work a few guys did. If the pass catchers step up for an experienced Jefferson, the Razorback offense could make some strides.
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Ever since Lane Kiffin took over, the Rebels have been tricky. That offense is tough to stop and showcases something new every year.
The big story in Oxford is the return of star running back Quinshon Judkins. The question: Who hands the ball off to him?
Jaxson Dart returns, but Kiffin added two transfers: Spencer Sanders from Oklahoma State and, yes, Walker Howard from LSU.
It’s one of the more interesting QB battles in the country. Dart was serviceable and even better at times last year. Sanders has a ton of experience at Oklahoma State but was inconsistent. Then there’s Howard, the five-star who was stuck in a loaded room at LSU.
It’s a situation that won’t be resolved until fall.
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LSU will travel to Missouri in Week 6. Due to the COVID schedule in 2020, it’s only been three years since LSU last played there.
It’s a big year for Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz. In three years, Drinkwitz is yet to finish above .500 and fans are growing frustrated.
Missouri’s offense struggled last year and lost star receiver Dominic Lovett to the transfer portal but five-star receiver Luther Burden returns for year two.
There could be some continuity at QB with the return of Brady Cook, but Drinkwitz said he’s open to challengers.
A little update on #Mizzou QB competition. Eli Drinkwitz categorizes it as Brady Cook and challengers more than wide open competition. Could change, of course. Cook is full go after shoulder surgery.
— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) April 25, 2023
The defense is strong and led by former LSU linebackers coach Blake Baker. That should be the strength of their team again.
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Seeing that Auburn game on the schedule brings out mixed feelings every year. We know it’s going to be entertaining because anything can happen. Depending on which side you’re on, that’s not always fun.
Auburn is now led by Hugh Freeze, the coach constantly embroiled in controversy as he returns to the SEC. One guy that’s emerged this spring — running back Damari Alston.
With uncertainty at QB, Auburn will be a run-heavy team. The backs are led by Jarquez Hunter, but there will be plenty of carries to go around. Expect Alston to get plenty of work. Auburn will need multiple guys in the backfield to make an impact.
In a normal year, there wouldn’t be much new to report here. But there are some new things going on with Army.
For starters, it’s replacing several key players. On top of that, head coach Jeff Monken is opening the offense up a bit. Army will still be option based, but it might not look like the hard-core triple-option you’re used to seeing.
LSU hasn’t faced a triple option team since Georgia Southern in 2019, but Kelly is no stranger to the offense. His Notre Dame teams met Navy on several occasions.
Army went 6-6 last year against a tough-ish schedule.
Whether or not the Black Knights improve will have a lot to do with how many young guys step up. After the spring game, Monken said he was pleased with the progress.
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
This is the most anticipated game on LSU’s schedule thanks to the electric matchup in Baton Rouge last year. This year, the Tide will host.
Nick Saban has a big hole to fill at quarterback. It’s not easy to replace the NFL’s top overall pick.
Alabama has a few blue chips on its roster and recently nabbed Tyler Buchner from the transfer portal. Buchner reunites with his Notre Dame OC Tommy Rees.
Between Reese and Buchner, there’s a lot of familiarity here for Kelly. It’s a long way away, but we’ll see whether that makes an impact when these two meet in November.
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Billy Napier is back for his second year with the Gators. Last year, LSU got the best of Florida in the Swamp behind a prolific game from Jayden Daniels.
Like Alabama, Florida is also tasked with replacing a top-five pick at QB in Anthony Richardson, and also like Alabama, the Gators have brought in a transfer from the Midwest. Graham Mertz heads to Florida after an up and down career at Wisconsin.
Napier was also tasked with replacing some assistants this offseason. Florida returns receiver Ricky Pearsall, who proved to be one of the SEC’s better deep threats last year.
Right now, this is a talented but unpredictable group. This could be a top 24 matchup or better, or Florida could be fighting for bowl eligibility.
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Georgia State went 4-8 last year. That fell short of expectations for a team that had some talent entering 2022.
After the spring game, head coach Shawn Elliot was pleased with the work of running back KZ Adams.
GSU is looking to improve this fall in a Sun Belt conference that gets tougher and tougher with each passing season.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Texas A&M is still waiting for Jimbo Fisher’s massive contract to pay dividends. Last year was a disappointing one for A&M, but the Aggies showed some promise with a close loss to Alabama and a big win over No. 5 LSU.
Texas A&M needs some of those big-time recruits to become big-time players. QB Connor Weigman and receiver Evan Stewart might be just that. If those two develop a strong connection, this offense can get rolling.
Fisher added Bobby Petrino to the staff. Petrino is one of the game’s top offensive minds but brings along his own history of problems. He and Jimbo are both big personalities with their own unique offensive identity.
How they’re able to successfully merge concepts will determine how this season plays out for A&M.
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