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Spring game: Players to watch

3/29/2012
Freshman running back Ronnie Feist will be one to watch during Saturday's spring game. Davide De Pas for ESPN.com

BATON ROUGE -- After a month of speculation about what to expect from spring practice, there's finally going to be some payoff.

Sure, there's plenty to be said for Saturday's spring game being a non-factor. The Tigers are going to keep it vanilla, and touching the quarterbacks will be a no-no. The exhibition's second half usually uses a running clock, so the team won't even get the grinding experience of a full game.

Despite that, we should be able to glean something from the festivities. The key players for 2012 should be on display, with the exception of a few injuries and perhaps an incoming freshman or two.

With the roster split up and playing against itself, there should also be plenty of chances for new faces to show what they can do.

Here are some names to watch at the spring game, whether they're hoping to make a splash, improve on a strong 2011 or finally get on track heading into 2012. For the sake of not insulting anyone's intelligence, Zach Mettenberger won't be on the list. It's safe to say every pair of eyes in Tiger Nation will be focused on his performance.

La'El Collins: All the pre-spring talk was about Josh Dworaczyk earning a sixth season of eligibility and returning to the offensive line. But it probably shouldn't be a surprise that Collins, who is 100 percent healthy coming off his freshman season, has been able to snag the left guard spot vacated by Will Blackwell.

Collins has been working with the first team for the majority of the spring, and the results look pretty impressive. Collins is listed at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, and his neighbor on the left side, tackle Chris Faulk, checks in at 6 foot 6, 325 pounds.

With monsters like that working together, the Tigers should be able to bully almost everyone they play in the ground game. But how well can they fare against LSU's equally scary D-line?

Ego Ferguson: Speaking of that D-line, now we get to see who can most adequately plug the gap left by Michael Brockers.

Ferguson's name has been thrown around as a replacement for Brockers all spring, but it always seems to come behind fellow sophomore Anthony Johnson. The Tigers are set at defensive end, with NFL-ready Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo holding the edge.

But it seems like Ferguson, thanks to some injuries to initial starter Josh Downs, has become the focus at defensive tackle. LSU coach Les Miles has singled out Ferguson's performances on more than one occasion.

Odds are, with the roster split in half, Johnson and Ferguson won't wind up on the same team. So it will be fun to see who can have the bigger impact while chasing after the starting spot for the fall.

Ronnie Feist -- Enough have been said about Feist this spring that people are probably starting to get sick of it. But the freshman has turned heads several times this spring, most notably when he absolutely demolished running back Kenny Hilliard in the Tigers' Big Cat Drill.

Lamin Barrow and Tahj Jones have had the starting outside linebacker situation under control since the first day of spring. But Jones has been another absentee for the last few practices of spring. Miles has insisted that none of his players are in any danger of missing the season. But if Jones sits out the spring game as a precaution, it could be Feist's time to shine.

Even if not, depth is never a bad thing. And a strong spring game could cement Feist as a strong Plan B if anything happens to Barrow or Jones.

Alfred Blue -- At this point, we know what we're getting from Spencer Ware, and Michael Ford won't be participating Saturday after spending his spring in a no-contact jersey because of surgery. Terrence Magee is another likely absentee in the running backs corps.

There's something to be said for the excitement surrounding freshman Jeremy Hill. But I'm putting Blue here out of consideration for a guy who seems to get consistently overlooked.

The junior looks like he's added some muscle since last season, and in the limited looks we've had, he's showcased a physicality that most people feel has been missing from his game to be a reliable threat.

Blue showed his ability to break away in 2011, averaging seven yards per carry. If he can pound between the tackles like his counterparts, he's got a chance to earn himself more carries.

Of course, outstanding performances in the spring game have often amounted to nothing once the games count -- Richard Murphy comes to mind. But it's fun to speculate, and more importantly, it's fun to have some kind of live football to watch.