2010 LSU Preview – Offense
LSU QB Jordan Jefferson
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - LSU Tiger Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Yeeeesh. The offensive line stunk, and everything crashed from there. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's attack sputtered and coughed finishing last in the SEC and 112th in the nation in total yards with little running game, not enough from the passing game, and too many problems up front allowing far too many sacks (37). The line might not be special, but it'll be more about being physical and doing more for the ground game than anything else, and if QB Jordan Jefferson gets time and the running backs get holes, the O will finally start to move. The receiving corps has talent, even without Brandon LaFell, and Michael Ford leads a dangerous group of running backs that should be far more effective than last year's group, but, again, it's all up to the line. The Tiger front five gets back three starters with the two new faces to the equation, Will Blackwell and Alex Hurst, coming off of great offseasons on the right side.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Terrence Toliver
Passing: Jordan Jefferson
182-296, 2,166 yds, 17 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Russell Shepard
45 carries, 277 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Terrence Toliver
53 catches, 735 yds, 3 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore OT Alex Hurst
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Deangelo Peterson
Best pro prospect: Toliver
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Toliver, 2) WR Rueben Randle, 3) WR/KR Russell Shepard
Strength of the offense: Wide Receiver, Quarterback Experience
Weakness of the offense: Line, Consistent Production
Projected Starter: Is there any reason to panic? 6-5, 220-pound junior Jordan Jefferson is supposed to take the next step up in the progression and become the type of player who carries a talented SEC team to big things, but he struggled with his consistency this offseason and was way too erratic in practices. The talent is undeniable and the tools are there, but the spotlight will be on in early fall practices to see if his hard work off the field will pay off on it.
He came up with a nice year after completing 61% of his passes for 2,166 yards and 17 touchdowns with seven interceptions, while showing some mobility with 171 rushing yards and a score. While he might not have an elite arm, it's good enough to push the ball down the field to his dangerous receiving corps, and he has the time logged in to know what he's doing. Talented and with the drive to be better, he'll turn out to be terrific; the mediocre offseason was an aberration if he can be more decisive and improve his decision making ability.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Jarrett Lee was the team's best quarterback this offseason. He's not going to be the starter and he's not going to push Jordan Jefferson out of a job, but he was sharper, better at his decision making, and good enough to make everyone feel more comfortable with the backup situation. An interception nightmare when thrown into the starting role two years ago, the 6-2, 225-pound veteran killed the team with 16 picks, each more soul crushing than the last, and he didn't do anything to inspire confidence last year completing 16-of-40 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Everything seems to have changed this offseason as he appears ready to be better.
Redshirt freshman Chris Garrett is a pure passing quarterback with a huge arm and the size to be a tough bomber in the pocket. At 6-4 and 235 pounds, he has the size and he has the tools, but he'll likely have to wait his turn for at least another year before getting an honest shot. The team's No. 3 quarterback, he might even be No. 4 considering Russell Shepard will see plenty of time and action under center in a Wildcat formation.
Watch Out For … little patience if Jefferson isn't great. The offense has to get moving, and while last year's woes were hardly Jefferson's fault (he didn't have any time), he has to be more consistent than he was this offseason. This is the year when he's supposed to take the next step up in his progression, and he needs to be the reason the team starts winning.
Strength: Experience. Jefferson has been a key factor over the last two years with 19 games logged in, while Lee has seen time in 18 games and with several starts. These two won't be fazed by playing in the SEC.
Weakness: Production. Considering the NFL-caliber receiving corps the quarterbacks have had to work with, there should be more from the passing game. The Tigers only averaged 182 yards per game through the air, and while the passing was efficient, there should be more pop.
Outlook: Is Jefferson ready to go from good to great? Throw any national title (and possibly SEC championship) dreams in the tank if Jefferson isn't special, and while Lee is a fine, veteran option, he's a cog and a caretaker. There are good arms up and down the depth chart, good passing ability, and enough experience to rely on to get more out of the position.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Projected Starters: Is Richard Murphy healthy? The 6-1, 204-pound senior was sidelined with a knee injury after running for just ten yards on two carries. On the plus side, he hurt himself early enough to give him time to heal and be ready for the start of the season, but for a back who's known for his speed, coming back less than a year after a major injury isn't a plus. The one-time mega-recruit has all the tools to be a superstar, but it hasn't happened yet running for just 416 yards in his first two years. Used as a solid receiver, he caught 19 passes for 170 yards, but he didn't crank out any big plays. The home run hitting ability is there, and now he has to come up with some deep shots.
When the Tigers use a fullback and don't go into a three-wide set, 5-11, 255-pound sophomore Dominique Allen should shine. Considered one of the nation's top fullback recruits last year, he got on the field right away and even got a start against Auburn. A bruising blocker, he's a big hitter who has the talent to be a tough runner, but he didn't get any carries and didn't catch any passes. He ran for 52 scores in his final two years of high school.
Projected Top Reserves: Any and all concern for a repeat of last year's nightmare of an LSU running game has dissipated with the emergence of Michael Ford , a 5-10, 207-pound redshirt freshman who looks like the real deal. LSU always seems to have running backs who look right out of central casting with all the tools, but are bad at playing football. Ford appears to be ready to break the mold after ripping it up this offseason by pounding away inside and showing the flash to get outside and make big things happen. He'll be the No. 2 man going into the season, but that could quickly change.
6-0, 226-pound junior Stevan Ridley is the pure power back in the equation. There's nothing flashy about his game, and now he'll take on a bigger role after becoming one of the team's main options late in the season running 14 times against Arkansas and 12 against Penn State. However, he was held to 13 yards against the Nittany Lions and finished the year with 180 yards and three scores on 45 carries. More like a fullback at times, he's a good blocker, can catch, making six grabs for 33 yards, and should be great around the goal line.
Watch Out For … Ford. The hype hasn't exactly gotten out of hand, but there's so much excitement about Ford that anything less than a huge season will be a disappointment. He has NFL skills and talent, and he tore it up just enough this offseason to think that he might be the SEC's newest star.
Strength: Options. If Ford is the real deal, LSU has a No. 1 back to work the ground game around, but Murphy has the talent to be the team's top runner if he's fully healthy and Ridley is a big, physical pounder who can add a different look. There's a good rotation that should be far more effective than last year's group of backs were.
Weakness: Proven production. It's not like Charles Scott and Keiland Williams were awful, but they didn't have much room to work and the ground game was never consistent. Ford has yet to get it done when the lights are on, Murphy is hurting, and Ridley, while promising, isn't really a No. 1 back.
Outlook: It's all about Ford. Murphy might be good when healthy, but the backfield is merely above-average, at best, unless Ford is everything he's expected to be and a wee bit more. The line is expected to be more physical, and the coaching staff will make a bigger commitment to the ground game, and now it's up for the backs to take advantage.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Projected Starters: With Brandon LaFell gone, senior Terrence Toliver gets his turn to be LSU's next great big wide receiver. At 6-5 and 206 pounds with deep speed and NFL skills, he'll be on the short list on every scout's list of must-haves. He grew into a more reliable target last season catching 53 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns, but he only scored once after starting out the year with two touchdowns against Washington. Considered by many to be the nation's top receiver recruit three years ago, he hasn't come close to living up to his potential; a broken hand suffered in a fight this offseason might not do much to help that. Expected to be ready in time for the start of the season, he has to be special at the outside X position.
Sophomore Russell Shepard isn't a quarterback, even though he was one of the nation's top QB prospects last year and came to LSU hoping to be one. Boo hoo … he'll have to settle for making a ton of money at the next level as a do-it-all receiver. The 6-1, 188-pound flash of lightning will be used under center as a change of pace to throw a rushing element to the mix, but he'll mostly see time at the Z position where he should grow into a whale of a slot receiver if he can show off more consistent hands. He only caught five passes for 34 yards as a true freshman and ran for 277 yards and two touchdowns, but he should be in for a breakout season.
Junior DeAngelo Peterson went from being a decent wideout prospect to a potentially explosive tight end. At 6-4 and 240 pounds, he's tall, lean, and moves extremely well. A star this offseason and a primetime target for Jordan Jefferson, he should be a huge part of the passing attack after catching five passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role last year. He could become a dream of an NFL H-Back if he keeps progressing.
Projected Top Reserves: Of all the big-time talents LSU has at receiver, sophomore Rueben Randle might have originally thought to have the biggest upside. At 6-3 and 201 pounds he has an NFL body, and on tools alone would've been drafted right out of high school if it was possible. Instead, he got his feet wet last year catching 11 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns, with both scores coming against Ole Miss, as he showed a glimmer of his immense promise. Part high school quarterback and part receiver, he knows how to run routes, has the size, the toughness, and the athleticism, and he'll have the spotlight on as the No. 3 receiver in the mix and a backup at the X behind Terrence Toliver.
Used like a No. 2 tight end and as purely a blocker is sophomore Mitch Joseph, a bruising 6-5, 275-pound banger who'll play at LSU's Y position. He has surprising speed for his size and good enough hands to catch two passes for 18 yards last year, and now he'll be a matchup problem on short to midrange routes while serving as a thumper for the ground game.
Sophomore Chris Tolliver is almost like a lesser version of Russell Shepard. The 6-1, 178-pounder got on the field as a true freshman, but he didn't do anything catching any passes. Considered by some to be the top receiver prospect in the country in 2008, he has the speed, the quickness, the hands, and the talent to grow into a No. 1 target with a little bit of time, and he could become a deadly deep threat on the outside while also being able to work at the Z in a rotation with Shepard. He's way too good to not be a big part of the mix.
Watch Out For … Peterson. He's way too talented and has way too much of an upside to not become a major factor at tight end. He's going to be a matchup nightmare for any linebacker who tries to stay with him, and while he might not hit anyone with much pop, it won't matter if he's a deadly target.
Strength: Next level talent. Yeah, LSU receivers might all look like Tarzan and play like Jane (for the most part) once they get to the NFL, but there's no denying the awesome array of wideout talents the program is able to bring in on a regular basis. Toliver, Randle, Shepard, and Peterson all look like they're out of central casting with speed, size, and upside.
Weakness: Production. The overall offensive machine broke down last year, and the receivers other than Brandon LaFell, weren't nearly as good as they needed to be. A receiving corps this good has to lead the way to more than 198 catches and an 11.9 yard-per-grab average.
Outlook: The receiving corps is way, way, way too talented to not be more dangerous. The results were decent last year, but not phenomenal considering all the star power and top prep prospects. If Peterson becomes more of a deadly safety valve and if Toliver, Randle, and Shepard are half as good as their hype, the passing game will be far better. There's a track team in the receiving corps, and now it's time for the speed and athleticism to shine through.
Unit Rating: 8
Projected Starters: Gone is Ciron Black, a longtime starter on the left side who earned All-SEC honors but didn't turn out to be the NFL prospect everyone expected after a rough senior year. It'll be up to Joseph Barksdale to take over the spot after moving over after starting every game over the last two years on the right side. The 6-5, 315-pound senior has the size and has the toughness, but he's not necessarily athletic enough to be a star of a pass protector. The former defensive tackle can blast away for the ground game and he should be more productive with the new more physical attitude of the line.
With Barksdale moving sides, 6-6, 324-pound sophomore Alex Hurst will fill in on the right side, and he looks like a good one. With great size and good drive-blocking ability, he should be a monster for the running game. He has a non-stop motor and does an excellent job of finishing blocks, but he has to prove he can be a steady producer at tackle after spending most of last year at guard.
Junior Josh Dworaczyk started every game at left guard and will take his spot back again. The hope is for him to become a steady producer after a decent, but not stellar first season as the starter. The one-time top recruit is smart, athletic, and just quick enough to play tackle if needed after seeing work earlier in his career as a third tight end. He should be good on the move and he should be more consistent now that he knows what he's doing.
Junior Will Blackwell goes from being a key backup guard to the starter at right guard after coming up with a fantastic spring. The 6-4, 300-pounder is built more like a tackle, but the former defensive lineman has seen just enough time to be ready to shine. He's not going to be an anchor and he's not going to be a star, but he should be a steady regular who holds his own at the spot for the next two years.
For the moment, sophomore Patrick Lonergan is the starting center after being the main backup and a starter against Louisiana Tech. The 6-4, 300-pounder is a tenacious run blocker and is extremely strong for his age, and he has the smarts to be the quarterback for the front five to start the year. He has been solid whenever he got his chance, and there's the possibility that he could become a steady starter.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior T-Bob Hebert came to the LSU as one of the nation's top center prospects, but he has had a problem staying healthy after suffering a knee injury and missing time last year with an ankle problem. Along with the injuries, he also had problems off the field getting hit with a DUI, but when he's healthy he should be a regular again at center after starting 12 times last year and doing a decent job. He's smart, tough, and even at 6-3 and 285 pounds, he's athletic.
Sophomore Matt Branch got in a little bit of work as a backup seeing time in seven games at tackle. Now the 6-6, 272-pounder will mostly work at guard, but he has the versatility to move around where needed including at tight end in short yardage packages. He came to LSU as a star tight end prospect with great size and surprising hands, and he's bringing that athleticism to the line.
Junior Greg Shaw was considered a major get for LSU snatching him out of Florida, but he has yet to play up to his prep potential being used so far as a backup. The 6-5, 301-pounder can play either tackle spot and has the frame to be a decent all-around blocker but he has to see the field and he has to push Alex Hurst for time on the right side.
Watch Out For … the right side. The line is going with two new starters on the right side, and the potential is there for things to be better than last year with Hurst and Blackwell coming off of very promising offseasons. They might not be all-stars, but they're steady and physical.
Strength: Physical ability. You'd never know it by seeing last year's running game, but the Tigers really do have some very tough, very strong linemen who should be able to pound away. The call has gone out after a rough 2009 for the line to start to hit some people and become more dominant, and this offseason the front five started doing some shoving.
Weakness: Proven production. The line wasn't just a major disappointment; it was miserable. The line allowed 37 sacks and did nothing for the ground attack, and now there's no star power. The hope will be for everyone to be consistent, but this doesn't have the look of a nasty line that can destroy SEC defensive fronts.
Outlook: If there's one reason LSU hasn't quite been up to LSU snuff, it's been because of the line. Underwhelming two years ago and miserable last year, the Tiger front five didn't do nearly enough. Now the goal is to change things up a bit and go to the basics. Pound away for the ground game, establish the physical play early on, and hope to be better in pass protection. The depth might not be experienced, but there's good talent to look at to go along with a decent starting five that should be more consistent.
Unit Rating: 7
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