BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU opened preseason camp on Monday with questions remaining about which players will drive a Tigers offense looking to replace starters at quarterback, running back, two receiver spots and right guard.
Coach Les Miles has less than a month to nail that down before the season opener against Wisconsin in Houston on Aug. 30.
"I want to see the competition," Miles asserted. "There will be an emphasis period at the back end of practice. There will not be contact, but there will be competition. It will be as close as possible to game-like conditions."
The Tigers lost 3,000-yard passer Zach Mettenberger, 1,600-yard rusher Jeremy Hill and 1,000-yard receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry from last season's 10-3 squad. Moreover, guard Trai Turner joined all of the above entrants into the NFL. All but Mettenberger had remaining eligibility.
Sophomore Anthony Jennings, who played five quarters in 2013 after Mettenberger suffered a knee injury, and freshman Brandon Harris are the top candidates to take over behind center. Jennings worked in the morning, while Harris practiced in the afternoon session Monday, and it may be a while before Miles decides who gets the nod.
"Maturity is the whole deal for both Jennings and Harris," Miles said. "They must learn the style of throw, the style of play. They must understand how to attack the defense. I never have and never will put a deadline on naming a starting quarterback for Wisconsin."
Neither Jennings nor Harris was made available to the media Monday. It is Miles' policy not to permit true freshmen like Harris to meet with the media. Jennings, a sophomore, was not allowed to talk Monday despite interview requests.
Senior running backs Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard will be joined by freshman Leonard Fournette, who was considered the top high school running back in the country coming out of St. Augustine high school in New Orleans. Fournette practiced in the afternoon, while the two seniors worked in the morning.
"We have to get some camaraderie on offense," said Magee, who was Hill's primary backup last season. "We have a lot of new guys, so we have to get all of them on the same page. Last year, we had guys who played together. That's the biggest difference. We have to have one voice on offense."
LSU has even less experience at receiver. Travin Dural caught seven passes a season ago to lead all the returnees at that position. True freshmen Malachi Dupree and Trey Quinn, two highly-regarded high school receivers, are expected to push for early playing time.
"The first thing we have to do with so many new receivers is get our timing down," said Dural, who grabbed a game-winning 49-yard touchdown pass from Jennings against Arkansas last year. "Then, we have to gain confidence and trust in each other.
"We are going against a great secondary in practice. If we can get completions against them, we can get completions against anybody."
Two fifth-year seniors — Hoko Fanaika and Evan Washington – are in a tight duel for the starting right guard position.