Top 5 Storylines for LSU Tigers in 2013 Spring Game
LSU Reloads on Defense, Boasts new Offensive Approach in 2013
At first glance the 2012 season for the LSU Tigers may be viewed as a disappointment after going 10-2 in the regular season that culminated with a last-second loss in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Delving into the box score you can see the Les Miles' club was only 13 points away from an undefeated season, but seasons at LSU are defined by SEC and BCS Championships and neither happened in 2012.
The 2013 season is a time of change for the program with plenty of familiar faces exhausting their eligibility or declaring for the NFL draft, and a new face will be running the offense with Cam Cameron hired as the offensive coordinator this winter. Cameron is in charge of injecting life into the Tiger offense which has had lackluster play from the quarterback position in recent years.
The Tigers defense has been the calling card for the program with John Chavis continually rolling out one of the nation’s best, but with only three returning starters he faces a daunting task of a complete rebuilding effort. Perhaps it’s less on a rebuilding effort and more of a reloading effort, because LSU has been among the best at recruiting talent to Death Valley and this season will be an opportunity for a number of unproven, yet talented players to be part of the next wave of Tiger greats.
Saturday won’t answer all the questions facing the Tigers before their season kicks off Aug. 31, but this is what I think are the five biggest questions and storylines that merit close attention.
5. Zach Mettenberger's Development
The first year as the starting quarterback for Zach Mettenberger was one that was erratic to say the least. He has good moments like the near win against Alabama when he threw for 298 yards and a touchdown as well as the 273 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-point win vs. Mississippi State. However, there were far too many duds for the 6-5, 225-pound quarterback who only threw five touchdowns in conference play. Mettenberger needs to throw for at least 20 touchdowns this season and take a big leap forward for the Tigers this season.
4. Cam Cameron's Influence
The biggest beneficiary to new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will be Mettenberger. His impact on Mettenberger can spark this offense in 2013 if he can take his game to the next level like he did with Joe Flacco. The two spring scrimmages have been a stark contrast to the offense the Tigers have been accustomed to during Miles’ tenure. Normally LSU is a power running team that doesn’t put too much pressure on the quarterback, but I think we will see the right arm of Mettenberger relied on quite a bit during Saturday’s spring game and a lot during the regular season. The big part will be if the offensive line is up to the task.
3. Retooled Offensive Line
The Tigers offensive line is in a state of transition after losing three starters from last season’s unit and is moving last year’s starting left guard La’el Collins to left tackle. Technically that means four positions will have a new starter this year and finding the perfect mix is vital this time of year. Collins was an All-SEC honorable mention selection last season but came to Baton Rouge as one of the top offensive tackle prospects. He should be fine protecting Mettenberger’s blindside.
However, questions remain about the rest of the line which likely will consist of sophomores Elliott Porter, Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander and 6-7, 325-pound senior guard Josh Williford who is fully recovered from the concussion issues that forced him to miss most of last season. Ethan Pocic could be a revelation after enrolling early and has lined up all across the line in spring practice and could see action at all five spots, but he’s awfully young.
2. Will the Youth be Served?
Speaking of youth it isn’t just Pocic who will have an opportunity to make a case for early playing time as a freshman because the Tigers have eight players participating in spring practice after enrolling early. Tight end Logan Stokes can be an x-factor on offense with his blend of size and speed. Teams with the expectations of LSU normally aren’t put in a position where they need to rely on so many underclassmen, but that is what happens when you lose eight defensive starters to the NFL. One player in particular that will be counted on to develop at a heightened pace is defensive tackle Christian LaCouture after the Tigers lost an astonishing six key members from last year’s dominating defensive line.
1. Reloading the Defensive Line
No team has been met with so many departures than LSU who saw nearly every meaningful player leave for the draft or exhaust their eligibility. Gone are ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery and tackles Bennie Logan and Josh Downs who are awaiting to hear their names called in next week’s NFL draft. Having dominating defensive lines is essential in SEC play, so the depth of this line will be tested early and often so finding the best four players this spring will be tantamount to John Chavis’ defense.
Surely, this is the toughest test for defensive line coach Brick Haley but he will need to turn Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson into the next great tackle tandem at LSU. Johnson has star potential and could be the next future first round pick from the Tigers defenses. The situation at end is a little murkier and this Saturday I am expecting to see a number of players rotating in and out to give Haley and Chavis--two of the best coaches at what they do--a better idea who is ready to step up.