2012 LSU Preview - Offense
LSU OT Alex Hurst
LSU OT Alex Hurst
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 12, 2012


CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - LSU Tiger Offense


LSU Tigers

Preview 2012 - Offense

- 2012 LSU Preview | 2012 LSU Offense
- 2012 LSU Defense | 2012 LSU Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: All that was missing last year was the threat of a passing game. The Tigers were able to charge through the season with a very simple formula: start running, come up with the efficient throw now and then, and then keep running with big back after big back behind a powerful line that wore down every defense but Alabama’s. Now the job is to stick with what worked while throwing in a little bit more of a deep passing game with pro-style passer Zach Mettenberger taking over at quarterback for Jordan Jefferson. The stable of running backs is very deep and very talented; the offensive line full of size and experience; and the receiving corps, even with the loss of Rueben Randle and TE Deangelo Peterson, should flourish with more downfield throws.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Zach Mettenberger
8-11, 92 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Spencer Ware
177 carries, 727 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Odell Beckham Jr.
41 catches, 475 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Zach Mettenberger
Player who has to step up and be a star: Mettenberger
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG La’el Collins
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Chris Faulk
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Faulk, 2) OT Alex Hurst, 3) Collins
Strength of the offense: Running Backs, Offensive Line
Weakness of the offense: Top-Level Passing Game, Explosive Plays

Quarterbacks

It was a little bit of a shocker that the coaching staff didn’t turn to Zach Mettenberger for more than just garbage duty last year. The 6-5, 222-pound junior started off his career as a Georgia Bulldog before getting kicked off the team – he plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery – and then rocked in the JUCO ranked taking Butler CC to the NJCAA championship game. Now it’ll be his job to win a national title.

A night-and-day different passer than what the Tigers had last year in Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, he’s a pro-style bomber who can push the ball all over the field. He’s not going to run, but he’ll stretch the field more and should add far more pop to the nation’s 106th-ranked passing game. His job will be to make bigger plays while also keeping the mistakes to a minimum, but after the ugliness of the offense in the BCS championship game, he’ll be given a lot of latitude.

It’s Mettenberger’s job, but the Tigers have another interesting bomber waiting in the wings. 6-7, 212-pound redshirt freshman Stephen Rivers is a pro-style passer who knows how to move an air attack. The brother of San Diego Charger star, Phil Rivers, has a little bit of mobility and a live arm, but he needs seasoning, as does 6-1, 180-pound redshirt freshman Jerrard Randall. The runner in the bunch, he was a top recruit last year out of Florida with excellent speed and a good enough arm to get by. There’s a chance he could be in the mix as a change-of-pace option, and while he’s not purely a runner, he’s not going to air it out like Mettenberger and Rivers.

Watch Out For … Mettenberger to throw for 3,000 yards. LSU isn’t exactly going to open it up and start winging it all around the yard, but the offense isn’t going to be Rick Santorum conservative, either. Lee and Jefferson combined for just over 2,000 yards last year, and Mettenberger will blow that away.
Strength: Arms. JaMarcus Russell set the bar for big arms, and while Mettenberger and Rivers aren’t in his category – no one is – they have the guns to bomb away. They can take a few chances, too, with a good enough defense to make up for mistakes.
Weakness: Experience. Mettenberger saw a little bit of time, but not enough be a veteran. Rivers and Randall are green, and while they’re talented, they need a ton of seasoning – especially after Rivers struggled in the spring game – before they’re ready for the biggest of the big games.
Outlook: There might not be a more important player in the SEC than Mettenberger. All that was missing from winning a national championship was better quarterback play – Alabama didn’t fear Jordan Jefferson in any way. Mettenberger will make mistakes, and he’s not going to run, but all of a sudden, LSU will have a forward pass again.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Junior Spencer Ware was the main man for the Tiger offense over the first half of the season, coming out with a strong 99-yard, one-score day against Oregon to kick things off and dumping 109 yards and two touchdowns against Florida. But he went from being a workhorse to just a guy in the rotation after being suspended midseason during allegations of a failed drug test. A big slimmed down. He’s at 223 pounds on his 5-11 frame and now should be in for a huge season after averaging four yards a pop and running for 707 yards and eight scores. Slippery through the line and with a nice burst, he’ll be a 1,000-yard rusher if he gets enough carries.

While Ware was a star early and then evened out over the second half of the season, junior Michael Ford was even throughout. There weren’t any 100-yard games, but he led the team with 756 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging six yards per carry. At 5-10 and 225 pounds he has excellent size and is a smart, tough runner, but six of the seven scores came in the first four games and now he’ll have a tough time fighting through the traffic in the rotation. Out for most of spring ball with a knee problem, other backs stepped up and now he’ll have to fight to get carries.

6-2, 215-pound junior Alfred Blue came up with a nice offseason showing off good speed and enough power to potentially take on more of a lead role. He had a strong 2011 in a complementary role running for 539 yards and seven scores while averaging 6.9 yards per carry highlighted by a 119-yard game against Western Kentucky and 94 yards in the SEC title game.

Sophomore Kenny Hilliard was a good recruit last year who made a little bit on an impact right away finishing fourth on the team with 336 rushing yards with eight scores. The nephew of former Tiger and New Orleans Saints running back Dalton Hilliard bring 225-pound thump on his 5-11 frame, and he can move a bit, too.

Hilliard will work in a rotation with 6-2, 225-pound freshman Jeremy Hill, who got to school early and showed off a little of his impressive skills. He might get lost a bit in the shuffle this year, but he has big-time potential, as does Terrence McGee, another big, strong back at 5-9 and 212 pounds. He saw a little time last year and showed off a little bit of his impressive quickness running for 133 yards and a score, but he only played in five games. Quick, he can get through the line in a hurry.

Massive 6-1, 280-pound fullback J.C. Copeland only got two carries for no yards but was a banger of a blocker. He started in four games and saw time throughout the season bringing a defensive lineman’s mentality to the spot. Now that he knows what he’s doing, he should be tremendous.

Watch Out For … Hill. Considering the Tigers have so many good backs it might be wise to redshirt the true freshman, but he has too much talent to keep on the sidelines. There could be a few big-time moments where he looks like the team’s top back – if he ends up playing this year.
Strength: Size and depth. The formula worked last year. Keep pounding away on teams with big back after big back. Just when it seemed like a defense could figure out one thumper, in came another with fresh legs. Anyone under 215 pounds need not apply.
Weakness: A true star. Ware might come close now that he’s a bit slimmer, and Ford certainly has talent and Blue and Hill have a world of upside, but it might be nice if there was one star who could step up and be the main man. More receiving skills from this bunch would be nice, too.
Outlook: For what LSU does this could be the deepest and most talented backfield in the country. There might not be any one true killer, but there are six backs who can all hit and can all be productive when given the chance. Considering there won’t be the rushing production at quarterback like there was with Jordan Jefferson under center, this group will get even more work.
Unit Rating: 9.5

Receivers

Rueben Randle is gone, and now it’s Odell Beckham Jr.’s time to be the new star. An All-Freshman performer last year, he was second on the team with 41 catches for 475 yards and two scores as a true freshman and appears ready to blossom with a better passing quarterback throwing his way. He has great hands, is excellent in the open field, and has the potential to be a home run hitter from anywhere on the field. There an NFL paycheck in his future.

It’s time for Russell Shepard to show he was worth all the hype. A top recruit in 2009 as a quarterback, he was brought in to be a gamebreaking wide receiver, but he hasn’t come up with nearly enough big plays catching just 14 passes for 190 yards and four scores last year while running for 52 yards. At 6-1 and 185 pounds he has good size and elite athleticism and speed, but he has yet to find a niche. The coaches haven’t been able to unleash his talents, but now it’s the senior’s last chance to impress.

6-0, 190-pound sophomore Jarvis Landry didn’t make the impact that Beckham did as a true freshman thanks to a broken foot suffered just before the season, but he still showed a little bit of potential with four grabs for 43 yards while turning in a big season on special teams. Now he could grow into the No. 2 playmaker for the passing game with tremendous talent and athleticism.

Gone is Deangelo Peterson, a talented tight end who was underutilized in the LSU attack. 6-5, 251-pound senior Chase Clement is more than ready to take over and shine after starting eight times in 2010 and working as a second tight end in every game with seven catches for 96 yards and a score. The former defensive end is physical, but he can catch, while 6-4, 235-pound senior Tyler Edwards is a blocker who’ll finally start to get a few passes his way. He was a top recruit who hasn’t panned out, but he can hit.

6-2, 201-pound junior James Wright got a few starts and saw time in every game catching five passes for 41 yards. Big and smooth, he can work in a variety of ways and he’s a great blocker who’s able to pound away for the ground game. Also in the mix will be 6-0, 195-pound junior Kadron Boone, a top recruit in 2010 who caught seven passes for 82 yards and two scores with most of his production coming in garbage time. The skills are all there to be a playmaker in the open field.

Watch Out For … Wright. The Tigers are loaded with four and five-star prep talents, and Wright is one of them with the potential and size to be a matchup nightmare. He’ll be one of the biggest targets in the rotation, and he’ll be the most physical.
Strength: Raw talent. Almost every one of the main targets in the equation was a superstar recruit and would’ve been hailed as difference-making No. 1 receivers on almost any other team. There’s ability, and now it has to be matched by …
Weakness: Production. Even with better quarterback play the LSU offense isn’t going to start winging it around the yard with a high-octane passing attack. The second leading returning receiver is Shepard, who caught just 14 passes.
Outlook: Can the receivers blossom now that Zach Mettenberger is in at quarterback? The passing game will be better, and the talent is in place to shine with more downfield passes and more big plays. Expect more deep plays and more involvement from all the targets with the plays being spread around. However, Beckham appears ready to be the star of the show.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

The offensive line was phenomenal last year for the ground game and was excellent in pass protection. There’s a little bit of turnover, but one of the mainstays will be Alex Hurst, a 6-6, 325-pound blaster of a run blocker with a tremendous frame and NFL athleticism. While he’ll be a right tackle or a guard at the next level, he has the ability and the skills to shine on the left side for the Tigers. One of the team’s strongest players, he’ll be an anchor the line will work around.

6-6, 325-pound junior Chris Faulk earned second-team All-SEC honors after starting 12 times at left tackle and turning into a dominator. A brutish run blocker, he’ll put his man into the second row and seems to get stronger and more effective as the game went on. The former right tackle could move sides if needed, but he’s growing into too good and too important at left tackle to move around. The former Parade All-American is blossoming into a superstar.

Is senior P.J. Lonergan ready to get more recognition as the leader of the great line? He started every 24 games over the last two years and turned into the team’s most dominant and consistent interior run blocker. Experienced, the 6-4, 305-pound veteran has All-American potential with the strength to flatten and destroy the man in front of him. Staying healthy, though, will be a key after missing a little time with a leg injury.

It’ll be an ongoing battle at left guard, but it looks like 6-5, 320-pound sophomore La’el Collins is ready to take the job over and make it his. One of the top recruits in the country last year, he was considered one of the best offensive line recruits in the state of Louisiana history. Considered a possible tackle when he came in, he started seven times as a true freshman when Josh Dworaczyk got hurt. The 6-6, 301-pound senior was knocked out with a knee injury and was allowed to fight for his left guard job when he came back this offseason. However, Collins was too good to give up the job. Even so, Dworaczyk has the experience, smarts, and the talent to start at either guard spot.

6-7, 324-pound junior Josh Williford turned into a spot-starter last year getting the call eight times at right guard. Built like a big tackle, he’s a tough, promising interior blocker who’ll now have the job to himself. He has a big frame that’s tough to get around and can be moved over to right tackle if absolutely needed.

Senior Matt Branch saw a little time in the rotation last year and has been solid over the last few years when he’s had his chance inside. The 6-6, 287-pound right guard is a bit tall for the position and looks like a tackle, but he’s physical, while 6-4, 320-pound junior Chris Davenport should be the team’s best tackle reserve with a little bit of time last year. The former defensive tackle is massive, but he’s just quick enough to be fine on the right side behind Hurst.

It’s just a question of time before 6-6, 315-pound true freshman Vadal Alexander becomes a mainstay up front. He has the versatility to play anywhere up front except center, and while his future will probably be at guard, he’s being tried out early on at left tackle behind Faulk.

Watch Out For … Lonergan. There’s Rimington Award potential for the rising senior who could be the star of the line. Very experienced and very strong, he’s the glue up front for an NFL-caliber front five.
Strength: Run blocking. This group wears down defensive lines as games go on. No, it wasn’t able to plow away on Alabama, but time and again the line took over games and put them away. Outside of Wisconsin’s front five, there isn’t a more physical group in the country.
Weakness: Pass protection? Jordan Jefferson was mobile, but still, giving up 18 sacks in 279 pass attempts as a team is a wee bit too many. It’s nitpicking, but the line now has to show it can keep Zach Mettenberger upright on a regular basis with at least 150 more pass attempts likely to come this year.
Outlook: After a few years of disappointment and inconsistency it all came together last year. Now, all five starters are healthy this could be the best line in America. Almost no one will be stronger at pounding away for the running game and few have as much skill as this group with top-shelf blocking talent at all five spots. Throw in the good depth across the board and the Tigers are loaded.
Unit Rating: 10

- 2012 LSU Preview | 2012 LSU Offense
- 2012 LSU Defense | 2012 LSU Depth Chart