Allan Iverson made the phrase “we talkin’ bout practice” famous in all the wrong ways. Well, SEC fans talk about practice as if it is a serious indicator as to how well a team will perform in the fall. Saturday LSU completed its month of spring practice with its annual spring football game. All of the 30,000-plus fans in attendance left the game with an opinion that matches one of the two characters above. Either you don’t really care about what you watched, you were just glad to be back watching football in Tiger Stadium. The other guy is ready to place his over/under odds in Vegas on the outcome for the 2012 season.
Let’s try not to mock either one of these fans. They are the backbone of the program like it or not. What I want to do is give the fans that could not make it to the game on insight on what happened without over or under selling it. Also, since my name isn’t Phil Steele, I’ll keep it too only a few major topics.
Does LSU finally have a quarterback that can in games?
I think that most of us were already sold on Zach Mettenberger before the spring game, but his performance only drove his stock price way up. For starters he looked comfortable in the pocket. Each snap looking at multiple receivers before throwing the ball, both of those traits was sight for sore eyes. Mett finished the game passing 14-25 for 270 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Normally, LSU doesn’t keep stats during the spring game, but for some reason they did this year…hmm.
Before the praise of Mettenberger gets to Tebow standards, let’s get a few things straight. First he was throwing against the second string defense, yes they are very talented, but most had not been on the field with one another. Most of Mettenberger’s deep completions were from busted coverage by the secondary. That being said, Mett made some great throws to Russell Sheppard, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham and just the shear threat of LSU consistently throwing the ball is only going to make this offense better. One of his interceptions was a terrible under-throw in the end-zone, but the second hit a tight-end right in the hands. He was unable to catch the ball, and batted it into the air for an easy interception.
Also worth noting was the performance of Stephen Rivers. Rivers had to face possible the best defense in the history of spring ball, and held his own. Like Mettenberger, Rivers was comfortable in the pocket and scanned the field on most plays. The drop off in overall talent is clear, but the solid play by Rivers is a credit to offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe.
Saying all of that, it is officially okay to have a similar honey badger-crush on Mettenberger.
No breaking news here. Both the white and purple team’s offensive lines made holes all day for the backs. The purple team (2nd string) did struggle with pass protection, but most first teams will struggle trying to slow down Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery.
The white team predominantly used PJ Lonergan (center), La’El Collins (guard), Josh Williford (guard), Alex Hurst (Tackle) and Chris Faulk (tackle). Elliot Porter appears to be the backup center getting most of the work for purple. The one player that stood out for me was true freshman Vadal Alexander. The freshman just entered college in January and was thrown to the wolves having to block Josh Down and Mingo, but he held his own. At times he even did more than that by collapsing the entire right side of the line to spring nice runs by the LSU running backs. I know Coach Miles usually red shirts freshman lineman, but this guy will be a stud next year, if they doesn’t beat out some upper classmen this year.
Maybe one of the biggest question marks heading into the off season was how/if LSU could improve its linebacker play. Kevin Minter, Luke Muncie and Lamin Barrow started for the white team and look like they played the part. The purple team did have some nice runs against them and Mettenberger didn’t really attack them in the passing game. So the jury is still out. On a positive note, Ronnie Feist is going to be the next great linebacker at LSU, hear me now, believe me later. Feist at times was the fastest guy on the field and showed power in stopping the run game. No stats for tackles were taken, but at one point in the second quarter Feist recorded three tackles in three plays.
This position is right under linebacker for the “I am not quite sure how the best guy is”. After Saturday it the clear the coaches love Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Russell Shepard. Those were the three receivers out there the most. Landry led the team with 120 receiving yards, while Beckham had 115 and a score. Shepard was used in the slot and wide out position and score touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Mettenberger. James Wright had a nice game (no stats available), and at one point all four receivers were on the field for the white team. When I saw this formation, I felt a quiet golf clap was appropriate for approval.
One thing to take away from the game is the depth of the wide out group. Paul Turner and Armand Williams looked polished enough to battle for playing time.
No need to drag this one out. Michael Ford and Terrance Magee both did not participate, but it didn’t matter. The white team used Spencer Ware and Alfred Blue, and the Purple team rotated Kenny Hilliard and Jeremy Hill. Ware was his typical three yards or less per rush with one big run. And by big run I mean 10 yards or more. Blue was the most explosive back, no surprise, but looked like the best overall back Saturday. He finished the game with 73-yards on nine carries and performed well in pass protection.
The only observation I could make on the purple team is that it amazes me that Hill missed a year of football and looked just as good as one of the most productive backs last year. Not a knock on Hilliard, but it defiantly looks like Hill will get some playing time in the fall. That means fewer carries for everybody.
Overall the white team winning 24-17 means absolutely nothing. It does bring an end to the quick escape to football we had over the past month. If nothing else it gave us the first opportunity to put to bed the Alabama game and begin to look forward to 2012 with a clear mind. Say it with me “only five months”.