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DandyDon.com Interviews Mike Detillier About LSU’s 2014 Offense
Scott: Ok, so there are a lot of question marks on this year's LSU football team. There's inexperience at key positions like quarterback, wide receiver and defensive tackle, but there's also an unprecedented amount of talent and the strongest freshman class in recent memory. This makes it hard to get a feel for what to expect from this team. We'll get to all that in a bit, but first tell me what you think is the single biggest key to success for the Tigers this year?
Mike: Developing the freshmen players and also getting production from the redshirt freshmen and sophomores. It is about "recruit and quickly develop." This may be the toughest coaching job Les Miles has had at LSU. You are correct there are a host of young guys with lots of talent, but that doesn't mean instant success. Developing talent at quarterback and defensive tackle in particular are the biggest keys, but you can add to that how quickly the guys like Quinn, Dupre, Fournette, Upchurch & Williams can contribute along with young players like Avery Peterson, John Diarse, and DeSean Smith.
Scott: What would you say is your biggest concern?
Mike: Mental mistakes at key offensive positions. You have talent, no doubt, but just look at last year. There was a lot of really good young talent in the secondary and yet we saw a host of mental mistakes and the communication problem existed too. This game is about knowing what you are doing each play and communicating with others well. That's my concern for LSU in 2014. Mental errors and breakdowns in communication, just like we saw a year ago in the secondary. You could well see that in the pitch and catch game.
Scott: It looks like the offensive line will be one the team's biggest strengths this year. With that being the case, and with a stable of four "quality" running backs, do you anticipate LSU leaning on the run game a lot more than they typically would?
Mike: No doubt. The best collection of offensive linemen I have ever seen at LSU at one time. From Collins, Hawkins, Porter, Pocic, V. Alexander, Fanaika, Washington, Boutte & Dodd, that is an impressive unit. Yes, they will pound the rock and a lot. You have to protect your young quarterback and the best way to do that is to run the football. It is going to be the most physical season-opener in quite some time going up against Wisconsin, because that is what they do the best too. The Tigers will lean on this offensive line, and I would too. It is the strength of the football team. I think the breakout star upfront is Jerald Hawkins.
Scott: Speaking of pounding the rock, expectations for Leonard Fournette are as high as I've ever seen for a player who has yet to play a single snap at this level. What are your expectations for Fournette?
Mike: He is the best running back I have ever seen come from the Louisiana high school ranks. He is one of the three greatest players I have covered in this state from a prep standpoint, along with Peyton Manning and Ed Reed. Marshall Faulk was a terrific prep player, but he was more noted for his defensive skills. Virtually every college team recruited him as a cornerback. Leonard is well grounded and has handled success and fame very well. I think he will be a 1,000-yard runner in 2014, and I believe it is smart to get him the ball 18 to 22 times as a receiver during the year, and he can also return punts. He's a special player, but Miles likes the idea of running back by committee. Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard and Darrel Williams – who reminds me a lot of Stevan Ridley – will get their share. I think Leonard Fournette has a chance to be the most impactful halfback in the nation in 2014.
Scott: I've always been a big fan of Terrence Magee, and it sounds like Kenny Hilliard has had a great offseason. And freshman Darrell Williams is no slouch either. How do you foresee the distribution of carries between the four backs working out? Does any back get 25+ carries in a game, and if so, who and when?
Mike: That will change from game to game. If he gets hot, like we all saw with Jeremy Hill, I could see Fournette carry the ball 25 times in a game. But I think they will break it off more like Fournette 17 carries, 9 to 10 for Magee, and Hilliard and Williams share 6 to 8 carries. I think LSU will average around 33 to 35 carries, rushing wise, per game this season.
Scott: sI'm sure LSU's mobile quarterback will be a factor in the ground game as well, which leads me to what everybody wants to know – who will start at quarterback? Based on Les Miles' recent statements, it sounds like both will play in Game 1 and that it might not matter much who starts. How long before one pulls away from the other and becomes the clear leader? Or do we see a 2-QB system for much of the season?
Mike: I think early on we will see platoon play at quarterback until Brandon Harris can claim the job, and even then Anthony Jennings will get significant snaps. I think we may see this 2-QB. system for a while this year at LSU. Les likes that. What everyone wants to see from the QB spot is for them to use the short pass in a better fashion. Mettenberger was a really good middle/long range thrower and Cam Cameron fit that into his offense. This year they need to use the short to medium range routes more and that means getting the ball out quickly to the halfbacks and tight ends more.
Scott: Another big question on offense is which receiver(s) will step up big. I'm hearing great things about veterans Travin Dural, Avery Peterson and John Diarse, but there are a lot of others in the mix including veterans Quantavious Leslie and Kevin Spears, and freshmen Trey Quinn, DJ Chark and Malachi Dupre. How do you foresee this wealth of talent being utilized, and who do you predict becomes the go-to receiver or receivers?
Mike: Travin Dural is a lot like Odell Beckham and he has a shot to be an All-SEC receiver. Anxious to see Avery Peterson and the rapport between him and the QBs. I am a huge Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn backer and they make an impact on this team quickly. I believe that Travin becomes the "go-to" guy as a receiver, but what I would like to see is the TE spot with Dillon Gordon and DeSean Smith make a bigger impact via the air with the young QBs, and to see LSU use Terrence Magee and Leonard Fournette more as receivers coming out of the backfield. 1st and 2nd options may be determined by who is the starter for the long haul – and I believe it will be Harris – and I really like Travin Dural.
Scott: Earlier you mentioned getting the ball to the tight ends in the passing game. There have been a lot of assumptions, ever since Cam Cameron was hired as offensive coordinator, that we would see this a lot more. Is this the year?
Mike: I hope so. It is part of the football world today to create that mismatch downfield with a big target and almost use him like a power forward in basketball to post up downfield. Cam did a lot of that in the pros. With a young QB you gotta get the ball to the running backs. Terrence Magee and Leonard Fournette are excellent receivers and Kenny Hilliard is pretty good, too. Dillon Gordon is a huge target downfield. He is known for his blocking, but he has excellent hands. Travis Dickson is a good receiver also, but the star receiver is DeSean Smith. Best pass catching TE I have seen in the Louisiana high school ranks. He has excellent hands and eye-hand coordination and is built like a bulked up receiver. He has the ability to really stretch the deep part of the field.
Stay tuned, Tiger Fans... In tomorow’s segement I'll get Mike’s thoughts on the defense and special teams, as well as his prediction for the season-opener.
Mike Detillier, based in southern Louisiana, is editor and publisher of Mike Detillier's NFL Draft Report. He's also the college and pro football analyst for WWL 870 AM Radio in New Orleans, a sports columnist for several newspapers and Web sites, and a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country. Visit Mike’s website at mikedetillier.com and follow @MikeDetillier on Twitter.
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