Rabalais: Intriguing spring at LSU ahead

Spring football practice will never be as thrilling or compelling as the regular season, but this spring’s workouts at LSU will be filled with plenty of drama and intrigue.

Here’s a look at some key areas for the Tigers as spring practice begins its five-week engagement on the LSU campus:

The 2014 QB derby starts now. Zach Mettenberger is cemented in the Tigers’ starting quarterback slot like that tiger statue outside Death Valley.

But Mettenberger will be gone after this his senior season. That means a key battle during the spring and offseason will be to see who will be his backup. It stands to reason the man who gets that job will have the best chance of at least getting mop up duty late in a few games — and a leg up to being the starter in 2014.

With Rob Bolden recovering from knee surgery, it’s a three-cornered contest between sophomore Stephen Rivers and freshmen Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings. Both are early enrollees who will participate in spring practice.

I’m eager to see what Rettig has got. LSU coach Les Miles twice mentioned Jennings as a dual-threat possibility this fall, an element that was missing from LSU’s offense last season.

Speaking of offense ... Thursday is truly the start of the Cam Cameron era as LSU’s offensive coordinator.

There is much conjecture as to how much of an imprint Cameron will be allowed to put on the Tigers’ offense. Everything from John Chavis-like authority over play-calling and offensive philosophy to being Miles’ mouthpiece in the coaches’ booth.

As usual, the truth will lie somewhere in the middle. Miles will continue to weigh in on what LSU does offensively, but we won’t have a better idea of how much until spring practice ends.

This much is true: coming off a 10-3 season with three losses to top-11 teams by a combined 13 points, Miles was under no pressure to make a change. But change he did, presumably improving LSU at the play-calling position and allowing Greg Studrawa to return to working with the offensive line on the sideline where he’s needed most.

Late game production a priority. Miles flatly said a big focus this spring will be on how productive his offense is at the end of games. Clearly, LSU could have beaten Alabama and Clemson if it could have made even one more first down.

“We’re gong to give more time to the four-minute scenario,” he said, “Where you get the lead with four minutes left in the game and you get the opportunity to keep it by getting first downs.”

New names to watch. Of the eight early enrollees, Miles gave the most mention to Jennings, Fehoko Fanaika, John Diarse and Christian LaCouture. He also singled out Danielle Hunter, who apparently goes into spring in one of those “his to lose” situations at defensive end.

One more name: Mickey Johnson. The big defensive tackle hasn’t lettered yet, but he’s down to 306 pounds from about 330 and Miles said he’s looking stronger.