Can the LSU Tigers get back to Atlanta? Find out in our 2013 LSU Football Preview.
One of the most consistent teams in college football, LSU’s 10-3 record from last season seemed to be just average. 10 wins for any program is a great benchmark number, but the Bengal Tigers seemed to not play with the same intensity as other teams in the SEC. This was evident in their .500 record against top 25 competition, which seems pretty lackluster last season, and many blame the loss of the Honeybadger for LSU’s apparent lack of identity a year ago. However, head coach Les Miles and his players realize they will have to play with a competitive spirit if they want to achieve more than an average season for this storied program.
2013 LSU Football Preview
With so many question marks on the offensive side of the ball, coach Miles will first have to learn how to maximize the efficiency of the roster he has…something easier said than done.
No one is a testament to this more than Zach Mettenberger. LSU’s signal caller had a rollercoaster season last year, sometimes looking the part as an efficient game manager. Other times, however, he looked like a freshmen who’d never seen the field. With a much less capable defense this year, Mettenberger will have to improve on his football I.Q. and decision making if he wants to stand a chance against a true SEC powerhouse like Alabama. But with so many weapons for Mettenberger to choose from, if he can win games early and gain confidence, LSU may be open to tweaking their offense to a pass-first mentality. Until then, LSU has to implement a simple playbook that relies on a good running game to maximize their chances.
As the Tigers look to establish the run early and often this season, running backs Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue will feel more pressure than any other players on the field due to the style of offense that Coach Miles looks to implement. Expect Alfred Blue to be slowly integrated into the offense until the Tiger’s coaching staff feels confident about his knee’s health, one year removed from a season-ending injury. Coach Miles has another question mark in Blue, and although he averaged 6.7 yards per carry just two seasons ago, it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to pivot and twist through the trenches 10-15 times a game.
Until Blue can prove his durability for the Tigers, it is likely that the new-and-improved Kenny Hilliard will be the go-to guy for the LSU offense. Roughly 15 pounds lighter than last season, Hillliard has drastically increased his level of conditioning so he is ready to carry the ball 25 times a contest in the event that Alfred Blue might not be able to play the first couple games. Most of Hilliard’s work will be done between the tackles, and his success would allow LSU to diversify their attack and take a huge amount of pressure off of Zach Mettenberger. This simply allows the Tiger QB to throw more without being the key focus of the opposing defense.
Since Mettenberger has so many weapons downfield, defenses should try to limit the success of Hlliard and Blue and make Mettenberger make plays down the field. Even then, great cornerbacks will be a necessity to void one of the top five receiving offenses in the SEC.
The leader of this top-notch core, Jarvis Landry, knows how important he will be in games against great rival teams like Alabama. Landry does have some size he can use to his advantage, but his game is based on technically sound route running, blinding speed, and great catching ability. Landry won’t only be the team’s most potent offensive weapon, but also the face of the team after the falling out with the tough-minded Honeybadger; a player that brought a tough mentality to the team. For an example, take a look at last year’s game against Alabama. Landry didn’t try to beat the Alabama cornerbacks, he ran at the defensive backs. He wanted to beat them up. He felt confident he could impose his game on Alabama, and despite losing, this confidence rubbed off on his teammates. More than any position or player, a leader is what the Tigers need.
Lining up across from Landry will be Odell Beckham, LSU’s wildcard player. Beckham really isn’t a whole lot different from Landry, but as one of the quickest players on the team, Beckham will have a lot of room to work with as defenses will be so focused on shutting down Landry. And if it’s true that Landry is boosting the self-esteem of his teammates, Beckham will only get better and may develop in to the best second-string receiver in the SEC.
Like almost half the SEC, the Tigers’ defense was almost completely vacated at the end of the season. Everyone knows about Barkevious Mingo and Bennie Logan being lost to the draft, but in total LSU lost seven starters from the smash mouth defense they had assembled a year ago. Although coach Miles says that he likes the progress he is seeing, every coach will say that in spring. The fact of the matter is, this defense has one senior (FS Craig Loston), and only time will tell how they perform. The one saving grace for LSU is coach Miles and his masterful game-planning skills, something he will have to be exceptionally good at this season with such an unpredictable team.
Thanks for checking out our 2013 LSU Football Preview. Tomorrow we examine Arkansas.
—Special to the Capstone Report By Alex DeRemer