BATON ROUGE, La. -- We're closing in on the start of spring practice at LSU so let's take a look at five position battles worth watching.
We covered the wide receivers and defensive tackles in the first two installments. Now let's look at quarterback, where the Tigers must replace Zach Mettenberger, who as a senior enjoyed one of the best single seasons for a passer in school history.
Returning starters: None
Departures: Mettenberger (192-for-296, 3,082 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2013) seems like a surefire bet to be an early to middle-round NFL draft pick in May thanks to his combination of size (6-foot-5) and a tremendously strong throwing arm. Reserve Stephen Rivers left the program, announcing last week that he plans to transfer once he graduates and will immediately be eligible to play somewhere else next fall.
Returning reserves: If anything positive came out of Mettenberger's season-ending knee injury suffered in the regular-season finale against Arkansas, it's that his absence allowed freshman Anthony Jennings to gain some valuable experience. Jennings entered the Nov. 29 game against the rival Razorbacks and led the Tigers on a game-winning, 99-yard touchdown drive in the closing minutes -- a possession that he capped with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural. Jennings (13-29, 181 yards, one TD, one INT in 2013) earned his first start in the bowl win against Iowa, although that was hardly an impressive performance. Rising senior Rob Bolden also returns -- although he has not appeared in a game. Bolden, however, did appear in 20 games at Penn State before transferring south, passing for 2,045 yards, seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions with the Nittany Lions.
Newcomers: Hayden Rettig – ESPN's No. 17 pocket passer and No. 217 overall prospect in 2013 -- enrolled early last year before redshirting in the fall. He and the others will be joined by exciting freshman Brandon Harris – ESPN's No. 2 dual-threat quarterback and No. 37 overall prospect -- who enrolled last month in order to compete in spring practice.
What to watch: This will perhaps become the most-watched LSU spring position battle. Quarterback generally attracts the most attention since it's the most important position on the field. LSU's coaches have made it clear that Jennings is the man to beat here, even if his lone start against Iowa (7-19, 82 yards, one interception) left a lot to be desired. He and Harris both have the run-pass skills that the coaching staff likes so the competition between them could continue through this season and into the next few fall seasons. If Harris struggles this spring and fails to mount much of a challenge in August, he could be staring at a redshirt season while Rettig or Bolden tries to wrestle the starting job away from Jennings. It definitely looks like his job to lose at this point.