2013 LSU Preview – Offense
LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - LSU Tiger Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense simply couldn’t score touchdowns in the red zone. While the Tigers finished 36th in the nation in red zone scoring, that figure plummeted to 104th when it came to scoring six. It was even worse on the road, where it dropped to 114th and didn’t come through in key moments. LSU may have struggled in 2012 with a patchwork offensive line, an inexperienced quarterback and a receiving corps that took the first half of the season off, but the talent, experience and upside is there to be far better. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger appears ready to take his game to another level behind a good line and with the usual array of fantastic skill players around him.
Star of the offense: Senior QB Zach Mettenberger
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
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior OT La’el Collins
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Jarvis Landry
Best pro prospect: Collins
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Collins, 2) RB Jeremy Hill, 3) Mettenberger
Strength of the offense: Running Backs, Offensive Line
Weakness of the offense: Top-Level Passing Game, Red Zone TDs
Senior Zach Mettenberger appeared to get better as the year progressed, and if he can play in 2013 like he did in the Alabama game, LSU is in great shape for another shot at a national title. The 6-5, 225-pound former Georgia Bulldog had a great spring, both on and off the field. He completed 12-of-19 passes in the first half of the spring game for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns, and he’s showing more poise and command of the attack.
However, he still needs to broaden his TD-to-INT ratio - 12:7 in 2012 - and he and quarterback coach Steve Kragthrope can work more on his pocket awareness; both are interconnected. However, the most important key to Mettenberger’s improvement in 2013 might be outside of his control: improvement by his receiving corps.
Backing up Mettenberger is another towering heavyweight of a quarterback: 6-7, 220-pound redshirt sophomore
Stephen Rivers is a pro-style passer who knows how to move an air attack. The brother of San Diego Charger star, Philip Rivers, is remarkably mobile for a big man, has a cannon of an arm, and just finished up a great offseason. He continues to make good improvement and is ready to lead this team if something happens to Mettenberger.
True freshman Anthony Jennings enrolled early and led the second team during the spring game, sharing the Newcomer Most Improved Award. The 6-2, 205-pound Marietta, Georgia native is a dual-threat quarterback with good size, mobility and poise with a world of upside.
Watch Out For … Mettenberger to throw for 3,000 yards. Just 390 yards shy last season, now he should be a lock. In a season where there are more question marks than usual around the running backs, with a new coordinator who likes to throw the ball, plus a year under his belt, Mettenberger should be in for a big year.
Strength: Arms. If the second half of 2012 and the spring game are any indication, there should be more deep throws out of this offense since 2007. This should take a little pressure off the offensive line.
Weakness: Consistency. This is a bit of a red herring. If the coaching staff is not willing to trust Mettenberger to throw in the red zone, if it’s not going to stretch out the defense with deep throws, and if the receivers are going to struggle like they did in the first half of 2012, then it’s tough to pin this all on the quarterbacks. Mettenberger didn’t break the 30 attempt mark until the Alabama game in November.
Outlook: LSU had average quarterback play for five straight years now, but it’s been in the national title hunt four of those five years. However, this year with some turnover on defense and a few more question marks than usual around the running backs and offensive line, the Tigers will need more out of this unit than in previous years.
Unit Rating: 8
Spencer Ware? Gone to the Seattle Seahawks. Michael Ford? Gone to the Atlanta Falcons. With the playing future of their starter in limbo - sophomore
Jeremy Hill - and another returning from injury - senior
Alfred Blue - another hoping to bounce back from a sophomore slump - junior
Kenny Hilliard - and another rotating back from receiver - junior
Terrence McGee - what was once a significant strength for Les Miles is now hardly a sure thing.
Add to this the fact that Miles rolled the dice this February by electing not to sign a running back in the 2013 recruiting class in order to entice all-everything tailback, and New Orleans native, Leonard Fournette. As a result, there are more crossed fingers on the Bayou than there are paroled Governors.
The biggest concern is Hill. Perhaps the best overall athlete on the LSU roster, he’s awaiting an August 16 hearing to learn if his probation from a previous legal issue will be revoked following an off-season fight to which the sophomore pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of simple battery. Even if the court preserves the 6-2, 235-pounder’s probation, Miles could choose to continue his own suspension of Hill into the regular season. Hill is currently not practicing with the team, after rushing for 755 yards on just 142 carries as a freshman – 5.3 yards
per carry, nearly all of it in the tougher second half of the season.
A 6-2, 220-pound senior, Blue started well before a knee injury in week three ended his season. Blue has rushed for 900 yards and ten touchdowns during his LSU career, and might be the Tigers’ most versatile back. He’s an accomplished receiver out of the backfield, which is a strategy that new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is known to employ.
Hilliard struggled to match his freshman success, getting buried on the depth chart. The nephew of former Tiger and New Orleans Saints running back Dalton Hilliard clocks in at 5-11, 235 pounds, and when he’s firing on all cylinders might be the hardest man on the field to stop. He looks to get far more reps in 2013, which might be what the junior needs to break out of his slump.
Perhaps the most intriguing tailback is McGee. The 5-9, 215-pound back was a prep quarterback and is a Miles favorite. He returns to the unit after shoring up the receivers in 2012. Another back with great hands, don’t be at all surprised to see the junior catch passes out of the backfield.
At 6-1, 275-pounds, J.C. Copeland is back for another year as LSU’s starting fullback. An integral part of the LSU offense, the senior also had 21 carries for 67 yards and four touchdowns.
Watch Out For … Hill. If he’s playing by the Auburn game, LSU is going to get to another level. He's the potential star in a solid group of backs.
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 sure thing. As noted in the first paragraph above, there’s a lot of uncertainty at what has traditionally been a failsafe under Miles.
Outlook: It's all on Hill. Expect him to be back at some point adding to another great option to the rotation. The rushing production won’t be a problem, but it could take a village to get it.
Unit Rating: 8.5
LSU’s passing offense once again finished near the bottom in the nation and it wasn’t consistent. Still, there was improvement, as the Tigers jumped from a woeful 153 passing yards per game in 2011 to 201 in 2012.
One of the greatest weaknesses last year was Odell Beckham Jr.’s sophomore slump. The 6-0, 190 pound junior had far too many drops and lapses in concentration for a No. 1 target, attributed to his move from the Slot receiver to X, which isn’t his most natural position. With a number of possibilities emerging from the underclassmen, Beckham should be able to capitalize on a good spring and a move back to the Slot.
Junior Jarvis Landry moves into the other starting role, and now it’s time to shine. Landry might have participated in 27 games during his LSU career and put up some healthy numbers opposite Beckham in 2012, but the 6-1, 192 pound New Orleans native has only started twice. An exceptionally physical receiver in the mold of ex-Florida State star Anquan Boldin, Landry is blessed with perhaps the squad’s best hands - this could be his breakout season.
6-2, 201-pound senior James Wright and 6-0, 210-pound junior Kadron Boone will be a far bigger part of the mix and should be spot starters, at least. Boone was a top prep player entering LSU, and he finally emerged as the team’s No. 3 receiver in 2012 playing in all 13 games with 26 receptions for 348 yards and four touchdowns – twice as many as Beckham Jr. Boone, a matchup nightmare in the open field, had a great spring and put on 15 pounds of muscle heading into this season.
Wright played in 12 games and started four, catching 18 passes for 282 yards. He’s experienced, big and a good route runner. He’s also a solid downfield run blocker – a skill set that this unit needs to improve on in 2013.
Three freshman stand to make an impact, with all three having participated in spring drills. 6-2, 180-pound
Travin Dural is back for his freshman campaign after missing all of 2012 with a knee injury. 6-1, 180-pound
Avery Peterson is an LSU legacy – the younger brother of LSU great Patrick Peterson – and has basically sat out a year after not qualifying to enroll. After enrolling early, 6-1, 205-pound
John Diarse had an excellent spring, and will push for playing time after sharing the most improved spring newcomer award.
Perhaps the most intriguing newcomer, however, gained his academic eligibility and enrolled this summer. JUCO transfer
Quantavius Leslie arrives in Baton Rouge with great expectations to become the next great Tiger target. The 6-4, 195-pound junior was a National Junior College first team All-American; if he can pick up the scheme quickly enough, he could be the outside deep threat the Tigers desperately missed last season.
Gone at tight end is Chase Clement now trying to earn a spot with the New York Giants, leaving the fight for the starting role up to redshirt junior
Travis Dickson and sophomore
Dillon Gordon. The 6-3, 230 pound Dickson is also a Tiger legacy – the younger brother of Richard Dickson - and is more of a receiver than blocker. Dickson played in 12 games last year, catching five receptions for 69 yards vs. Ole Miss. The 6-5, 285 pound Gordon played in all 13 games as a freshman, but didn’t have a reception.
Watch Out For … Leslie. If the explosive JUCO transfer can pick up the offense quickly, this unit goes from good to special, with a bevy of upperclassmen experience to match their redshirt senior quarterback.
Strength: Depth. Once again, nearly every main target was a superstar prep recruit. On most teams in America, they’d all be No. 1 receivers. And yet…
Weakness: Production & discipline. LSU is a run first offense, but there’s way, way, WAY too much talent to not be better. LSU has the proverbial looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane corps.
Outlook: Lately the Tigers have become a place good receivers go to disappear, and last year’s unit did nothing to help its cause. From sloppy blocking down field, to poor concentration, to dropped passes, to poor route running, this has been a disappointment. After the road loss to Florida, strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt took it personally, and placed the receivers under a new regimen. Now it’s time for everyone to prove they can play up to their prep hype.
Unit Rating: 7.5
After a 2011 that saw an offensive line phenomenal in both pass protection and the ground game, and with more than 100 career starts and wide bodies along the starting line, there were great expectations for this unit heading into the 2012 season. Then the wheels fell off the cart.
All-SEC left tackle Chris Faulk missed all but one game of the season after suffering a right knee injury in practice. That started the dominoes falling. All-SEC tackle Alex Hurst was forced to play out of position on the left side; the three year starter shockingly quit the team after the Florida loss and remains out of football. More injuries followed.
Unlike Missouri, which also saw a bevy of offensive line injuries, the Tigers had top SEC talent in the second string, if with little experience.
Trai Turner started the last seven games at right guard as a redshirt freshman, and
Vadal Alexander started the last nine games at right tackle, earning All-SEC Freshman honors. The 6-3, 309-pound Turner and the 6-6, 350-pound Alexander dominated excellent South Carolina and Alabama defensive lines, and return to anchor the right for their sophomore seasons.
Starting under center for his first season is redshirt junior Elliott Porter. At 6-4, 300 pounds, Porter has experience across the line, but center is his natural position. A SuperPrep All-American, Porter has the maturity to lead this line and be a terrific, tough quarterback on line calls and for the ground game.
Perhaps the best NFL prospect on this Tigers roster, 6-5, 320-pound La’el Collins
will take over at left tackle. This is the natural position for the junior, who according to those in Baton Rouge slipped right back into the role after a year spent at left guard. Already with 20 starts to his credit, the powerful run blocker had the best game of his career last season against Alabama. Collins arrived in Baton Rouge with high expectations, with several recruiting agencies calling him the best offensive lineman ever from the state of Louisiana. Now back at left tackle, all eyes will be on the junior Collins.
6-7, 332-pound redshirt senior Josh Williford is ten pounds heavier than 2012 and will take over the left guard spot. Built like a tackle, he’s excellent interior blocker with a mean streak. Williford started the first six games last year before being sidelined with concussion symptoms after a blind-sided block following an interception in Florida. Williford appears to be concussion free, and if that remains he’ll be the starting beside Collins.
JUCO transfer Fehoko Fanaika arrived from the College of San Mateo in time to participate in spring practice. The 6-6, 340-pound Fanaika received offers from Florida, Georgia and Arkansas, among others, but settled on the Tigers. A powerful run blocker with excellent balance for his size, Fanaika looks to backup the line from day one.
Watch Out For … Williford. The senior needs to stay healthy and be on the field for LSU, otherwise the musical chairs could start again. There’s more than enough talent at the two-deep, but SEC experience quickly becomes a concern.
Strength: Run blocking. What a shocker. At a rough average of 6-4, 325-pounds, the Tigers’ starting offensive line is about everything you could hope for in a unit – but especially so in run blocking.
Weakness: Pass protection? Jordan Jefferson gave up 18 sacks in 279 pass attempts. Mettenberger continued this march to mediocrity with 32 in 352 attempts.
Outlook: Even with the injuries, LSU’s offensive line played well enough in 2012 for the Tigers to win a championship. The unsung strength of the attack, and the team, if everyone stays healthy for a long stretch, watch out.
Unit Rating: 8
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