8/28/15 5:45 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
With the LSU football season only eight days away, and with all of the Tigers’ preseason scrimmages behind us, let’s take a moment to review what we’ve learned about this Tiger team. Today we’ll start with the offense, and later we’ll do defense and special teams. Here we go…
What We’ve Learned About This LSU Team: Offense
1) The top six offensive linemen appear to be Vadal Alexander, Jerald Hawkins, Ethan Pocic, Josh Boutte, William Clapp and Maea Teuhema.
Alexander and Hawkins are certain to bookend the line at the tackle positions. The center and guard positions are not as clear-cut. If Pocic plays center, as I think he will, look for Boutte and either Teuhema or Clapp to be the guards. If Clapp is at center, look for the guards to be Pocic and either Boutte or Teuhema. One thing is certain, this offensive line will be very big. The average size of these six linemen is 6-foot-5-and-a-half, 314 pounds. The word coming out of fall camp is that the offensive line has made big gains in pass protection, and if so that could go a long way in boosting LSU’s fledgling passing game.
2) Leonard Fournette is primed to have a huge season, but other backs will get their share of carries.
Last year Fournette showed what all the hype was about when he broke LSU’s all time freshman rushing record with 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he got better as the season went on. This year Fournette is stronger, faster and more experienced, and he’s the kind of back who could withstand 20+ carries every game. However, we all know that Les Miles loves the “running back by committee” approach which allows him to keep fresh legs in the game by rotating backs, and that philosophy has proved to be very effective. This year, LSU has a very deep, though relatively inexperienced, stable of backs behind Fournette including sophomore Darrel Williams and freshmen Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette. One indication that Miles is planning on giving these backs a good many carries is the praise he’s heaped on them recently (especially Guice), and another is that Miles still plans on using Fournette on kick returns.
3) The wide receivers should be much improved.
The Tigers returned all of their receivers from last year’s team, and brought in a few highly regarded freshman including “five-star” Tyron Johnson who has been receiving a lot of praise. The Tigers also brought in new wide receiver coach Tony Ball who is said to be working wonders with the group. Malachi Dupre has gained some needed weight, and Trey Quinn has sharpened his focus thanks to contact lenses which are helping him to see the ball much better. It appears that this group is clearly better than it was this time last year.
4) LSU says the tight ends will be used more in the passing game.
We’ve heard it before, but this year the talk is more convincing. Based on reports like this one, it appears that last season DeSean Smith didn’t understand blocking enough to see significant action, and Collin Jeter didn’t run crisp enough routes to be trustworthy in the passing game. Now each has improved, and redshirt freshman Jacory Washington has also been drawing praise. As offensive coordinator Coach Cameron said at Media Day, besides the running backs, tight ends can be the quarterbacks’ best friends. I hope those words translate into action this season, and it sounds like they will.
5) The starting quarterback job belongs to Brandon Harris, at least for now.
After the Tigers’ final scrimmage of the preseason on Tuesday, Coach Miles stated that Harris had the clear lead in the quarterback competition with Anthony Jennings, then during Wednesday’s Les Miles show he said he “wouldn’t be surprised to see Harris take the first snap.” It’s been said repeatedly, but I’ll say it again - if LSU can get just average play from its quarterback and present the threat of a passing attack to opponents, this offense has all the pieces in place to be very special. There’s no doubt that Harris, a strong-armed former high school All American, has the talent to be a better than average QB, and the fact that he’s gained weight, maturity and understanding of the playbook has me very excited about what lies ahead.
An unlikely candidate who also seems to be excited about what lies ahead for LSU is ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. As those of you who follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter already know, yesterday Herbstreit picked LSU to win the SEC and make the playoffs. Of course, predictions don’t mean much, but still it’s great to see someone in Herbstreit’s position acknowledge what exceptional potential this LSU team has.
Speaking of predictions, I need your input regarding our upcoming LA High School Football Pickem contest. In the past two years, we’ve included all 140+ games each week, and for many of you I think it was a bit overwhelming to have to pick that many games. Of course, it was never mandatory that you pick all the games, but since the winner is picked based on the total number of correct picks, it makes sense to pick each contest. This year, in an effort to encourage participation, we are considering randomly choosing 40 or so games per week (a few from each classification) for the contest, but I’d like your opinion on that. If you have participated in the contest or are considering doing so, please let me know if you would prefer to keep it like it was or if you would be more apt to participate if the number of games was reduced. (Please note that we will still be entering the scores of every game each week so that you can refer to our statewide scoreboard.) Our plan is to reach a decision about the pickem this weekend and open up Week 1 voting on Monday. Also, unlike in previous years, we are considering offering small prizes for the weekly winners and the overall winner. Stay tuned for details.
Now, with only 8 days remaining until LSU takes the field against McNeese State, let's continue our countdown by looking at a recent Tiger who wore No. 8 - quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger came to LSU with huge expectations after throwing for 2,678 yards, 32 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 12 games for Butler Community College. The Watkinsville, Georgia native played sparingly in 2011 as a third stringer, completing 8-of-11 passes for 92 yards, which included a touchdown pass against Northwestern State. As a junior in 2012, Mettenberger took over the starting role for the Tigers but struggled in many games. In fact, he only passed for over 200 yards in two of his first eight contests, and both were non-conference games. He did, however, save his best game of the season for week nine against Alabama, passing for 298 yards and a TD. Mettenberger carried that momentum into the final three regular season games and passed for over 200 yards in each contest. On the season, he finished with 2,609 passing yards, 12 TDs and seven interceptions. The passing yards were good for sixth all-time for a single season. Mettenberger had an even better senior year, becoming just the third quarterback to pass for over 3,000 yards (3,082 - 3rd all-time) with 22 passing TDs and eight interceptions. Unfortunately, his college career ended early with a season-ending knee injury in the season finale vs Arkansas. Mettenberger finished his LSU career with 5,783 passing yards (6th all-time) and 35 passing TDs (5th all-time) and posted a 19-6 mark as a starter. Check out this great highlight video that shows many of the outstanding plays Mettenberger made during his career as a Tiger.
Despite his knee injury, Mettenberger was drafted in the 6th round by the Tennessee Titans and ended up seeing much more playing time than expected as a rookie, starting six games and passing for 1,412 yards, eight TDs and seven interceptions before missing the final three games with a shoulder injury. With first round pick and rookie Marcus Mariota expected to start this season for the Titans, there are rumors that Mettenberger could be traded before the start of the season. So far, Mettenberger has completed 15-20 passes for 220 yards, two TDs and one interception in two preseason games. This interesting article talks in more detail about the possibility of Mettenberger being traded.
In basketball news, Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook announced its five-player preseason All-America first team yesterday and LSU’s Ben Simmons made the cut. Simmons averaged 20 points, nine rebounds, 5.4 assists, 3.6 steals and 2.2 blocks per game during the Tigers' five-game exhibition tour of his native Australia.
In closing, I want to point out that I will be updating our ticket exchange and view-in parties pages later today.