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Insider

Who emerged as starters in camp?

8/24/2012

BATON ROUGE, La. - Depending how you look at it, LSU's August camp ended on Aug. 16 with the last scrimmage before the start of the fall semester, or on Aug. 21, with the last scrimmage before the Tigers shifted their focus to preparations for the Sept. 1 season opener against North Texas.

Either way, camp is over and the question now is who emerged from camp as the Tigers to look for in 2012.

With the caveat that the media -- and the public in general -- did not see much of the work, here's our best guess at how the Tigers will line up, position by position:

Quarterback: Many thought that since LSU accepted Penn State transfer Rob Bolden, there would be competition for the starting spot. Not true.

Zach Mettenberger established this as his team ever since the BCS championship game. LSU threw it more in the spring than usual -- and with success -- so there is no question who the QB is.

Redshirt freshman Stephen Rivers appears to still be getting more work with the second team than Bolden, who is still learning the offense.

Running back: LSU's four-headed monster of Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard gained a fifth member in freshman Jeremy Hill. Head coach Les Miles has said he only wants a duo for the North Texas game. It's notable that neither Ware or Ford participated in LSU's last scrimmage because of injury. Could we see a Hilliard/Blue tandem to start the season?

At fullback, human battering ram J.C. Copeland is the man. Don't be surprised to see some bigger tailbacks, like Hillard and Hill, get snaps at fullback as well.

Wide receiver: Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU's leading returning receiver, has seemed to be Mettenberger's main guy throughout camp and James Wright and Jarvis Landry have had moments. Russell Shepard has also shown flashes and Kadron Boone is also in the mix. The move of Terrance Magee to part-time receiver from running back gives the Tigers an "X"-factor guy in the slot.

Senior tight end Chase Clement has shown improvement catching passes while sophomore Nic Jacobs is much improved. Senior Tyler Edwards remains an option primarily as a blocker.

Offensive line: With La'el Collins settled in as the starting left guard, the line is complete with left tackle Chris Faulk, center P.J. Lonergan, right guard Josh Williford and right tackle Alex Hurst all returning from their starting spots of a season ago.

Sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk, a former starter at left guard, has settled into the role of utility reserve with the ability to back up all positions. However, sophomore center Elliott Porter and freshman right tackle Vadal Alexander might be the first to see off-the-bench duty in those spots.

Defensive line: The strongest area of LSU's team, the Tigers' starting front four could be composed entirely of future first-round NFL draft picks. Defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo might be the best tandem in the country and tackle Bennie Logan is also a first-round talent, plus has the leadership skills that allow him to wear the coveted No. 18 jersey.

Next to Logan, highly-touted sophomore Anthony Johnson was embroiled in a battle with Josh Downs at the other tackle spot. Not that it matters much. LSU will rotate plenty of second teamers into games.

Linebacker: Much has been made of LSU's six-man freshman linebacker class, but there's been no indication that the veteran trio of returning starting middle linebacker Kevin Minter, strong linebacker Tahj Jones and weak linebacker Lamin Barrow won't be the starters.

More likely, freshmen will come off the bench and LSU will rotate more young linebackers into games. Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones and Lamar Louis are freshmen who have impressed and veteran reserve Luke Muncie had a solid camp.

Secondary: After Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the team, junior free safety Eric Reid became the only returning starter in the secondary. All indications are that he has had a great camp. Next to him strong safety Craig Loston will start at strong safety, but the junior has battled injuries that have plagued his entire career. Ronald Martin has taken many reps in his place.

At corner, LSU is excited about Tharold Simon, the 6-foot-3 corner. Opposite Simon, the Tigers are young with true freshman Jalen Mills battling redshirt freshman Jalen Collins for the starting job. Neither had emerged as the clear-cut victor by the end of camp.

Special Teams: Punter Brad Wing is a returning All-American and Drew Alleman was the SEC's most accurate kicker last season, so the Tigers are solid there. Return specialists include Beckham, Landry and Shepard and true freshman Reid Ferguson is ready to start his career as LSU's long snapper.