LSU will return majority of their offensive line and all of their running backs, so I expect the production of 2011 to continue to 2012. The Tigers are losing seven key contributors from defense ( Mo Claiborne, Michael Brockers, Brandon Taylor, Ken Adams, Karnell Hatcher, Stephon Francois and Ryan Baker), but the Tigers were so deep on defense I don’t see filling any of these spots to be a big problem. In Fact, I expect the linebacking to improve even in the loss of three starters. LSU is also returning all of its key special team’s personnel. Where I have a question is with the passing offense.
For starters, Passing game coordinator and wide receiver coach Billy Gonzales has left the program to become the offensive coordinator at Illinois. Somehow I forgot all about this guy. What exactly did the do in the two years he was here? Before Gonzales arrived, LSU finished the 2009 season ranked 97th in the nation in passing offense. The team went backwards with his arrival in 2010 (107) and moved up one spot in 2011 (106). The top five schools in the nation in passing offense in 2011, Houston, Oklahoma State, Arizona, West Virginia and Texas Tech did not have a specialty coordinator in the passing game. In fact, these schools wide receivers coach also doubled as their special teams coach.
The question isn’t what contribution did Gonzales make while at LSU, instead the question is why did Les Miles have a passing game coordinator? And what improvement in both quarterback and wide receiver development can we expect heading into 2012? LSU has struggled in developing talented wide-outs since its last national championship game. Ruben Randle seemed to have all the talent in the world, but his numbers on the field were way to inconsistent for a top-SEC receiver. Before Randle, Terrance Tolliver was a wasted talent. Russell Shepard is one of the most athletic players in the country, but LSU could barely get him the ball during the season. Shepard has not improved at all at the receiver position since coming to LSU. Also, Deangelo Peterson could have been a mismatch against any SEC defense, but LSU never developed a consistent game plan to get him the ball. Peterson and Randle should have been able to dominate on third down conversions and red-zone offense, but they didn’t. The only receiver to show improvement over the season was true freshman Odell Beckham and all he could have done was improve.
How will Miles and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa use stand-out receivers Jarvis Landry, Kadron Boone, Armand Williams, James Wright or Jarrett Fobbs. Combined these guys only tallied 16 catches last year between them and LSU is losing two of its top three receivers (Randle and Peterson). If this year is any indicator we know that OBJ will be a wide-out and Shepard will touch the ball near the line of scrimmage and thrive on yards after the catch. When Les Miles said “we are going to pass the ball more next year” at last weeks press conference, how will he do it.
Everyone, including myself, is expecting Zac Mettenburger to be named the starting quarterback in 2012. Am I the only one not ready to name him the Mett-siah? What exactly do we know about this guy? He only saw limited playing time against Northwestern State and Ole Miss. Granted he looked good, but remember Jefferson, Lee and Mett were all in their first season with the new offensive staff, and he was never considered as a serious option. That isn’t my only reason of concern. The biggest is just the lack of knowledge. As bad as the last couple of years of LSU quarterbacking have been, at least we knew what we had. Will Mett have a better work ethic than Jamarcus Russell, or like Russell will he rest on the fact he has a strong arm. Is Mett the next Ryan Mallet? A guy with all the talent, but struggles against quality defenses. If Mett does struggle, what will LSU do to make sure he doesn’t lose his confidence like Jefferson and Lee did during their career.
We will get some of our answers on March 31 with the spring football game.