Is this year’s LSU offense improved?

I finally got around to watching the replay of the Auburn-LSU game the other night, and I’ve got to say that Bill Connelly is spot on with this assessment:

There was no magic here. Auburn didn’t blitz much, even on passing downs, choosing instead to read and react, tackling well. Aside from those two swing passes, they remained disciplined. Auburn forced Mettenberger and the LSU offense to remain error-free and score on longer drives, and for the most part the Bayou Bengals couldn’t do it.

Make no mistake: this game was a lot closer to becoming an easy LSU win than an Auburn upset. Auburn’s only touchdown drive began at the LSU 26, and only twice did Auburn advance from their own territory into LSU’s. Auburn’s offense moved sideways or backwards almost as much as it moved forward, and LSU lineman Sam Montgomery was a wrecking ball, logging 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. But Auburn proved that LSU’s offense is not necessarily in better shape than it was last year; if you tackle well and force LSU to make one more play to score, the Tigers may eventually stall out, botch a snap, miss a field goal or come up with other ways to avoid scoring. The LSU running game is still mostly devastating, but if you can keep the game close and prevent the Tigers from simply running out the clock, you can give yourself a chance.

What I saw was VanGorder coaching VanGorder defense and LSU never moving him out of his comfort zone.  As Bill puts it,

… For the most part, the Tigers avoided both overthinking and overpursuit, and it paid off. LSU doesn’t exactly hide its intentions — they ran 67 percent of the time on standard downs (80 percent with just one player lined up wide, 69 percent with two). Aside from a couple of successful swing passes to Spencer Ware, Auburn was well-prepared for what LSU was trying to do.

A couple of follow up observations to that – first, if you’re going to run two-thirds of the time on standard (i.e., non-passing) downs, it’s hard to see what you gain from swapping Mettenberger for Jordan Jefferson.  Yes, Mett has a better arm, but he poses no running threat to keep a defense from keying on the back.  Now LSU is loaded enough from a talent perspective that I’m not sure that’s going to matter too often, but you could have said the same thing about last year’s team and the contribution it got from the quarterback position.  And while it may not matter too often, when you occupy the same division as Alabama, it may not have to matter more than once.

Secondly, having watched Mett’s play in that game, it seems that the preseason hype may have been too breathless.  Mettenberger is a huge kid at 6-5, 237.  He appears lanky, almost to the point of gangly.  He’s got long arms.  I don’t know if it’s a result of his physique or something else, but it almost looks like he has to wind up a little when he throws.  He’s never going to have an Aaron Murray-like release (a difference that was readily apparent at the two G-Day games in which they both appeared), but I didn’t see much of an improvement in his mechanics from his days under Bobo’s tutelage.  The height helps, of course, but I wonder if Mett is going to pay a price for his delivery against certain defenses.

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31 Comments

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31 responses to “Is this year’s LSU offense improved?

  1. Scorpio Jones, III

    I truly do wish Zach well, but it may very well be a long day in the Swamp for him, and Columbia and Tuscaloosa…way longer days. How much better is Florida’s defense than Awbun’s?

  2. But…but…Chuck Oliver saw Zac before the SEC championship and declared him to be the obvious starter and star of that team.

    • James Stephenson

      Chuck has to get Richt fired, I think that is the orders from the plains. So anyway he can say something bad about him he will. It is worse for Auburn now than it used to be, before Saban, Auburn could get a lot of good players from GA. But now Richt and Saban own the state, and Auburn has to either A. cheat harder or B. get lucky.

      Plus the fact that, lets face it Richt kind of owns Auburn.

      • Careful Brad

        I think you are giving more credit to Oliver than he deserves. He’s and English teacher and, from what I understand, not a very good coach, he won a contest and has a website. Although I don’t feel he is getting his orders from the Plains, I with you about what his overall mission is, Fire Rict.

  3. Russ

    Mett = Brantley

  4. Macallanlover

    Good subject, I have to admit being puzzled by LSU’s offensive issues. It isn’t that I felt Mett was going to be the 2nd coming of Peyton but with the power running attack LSU possesses, along with their usual fleet WRs, I felt ZM would enjoy more success than LSU at QB last year, including the runnin gyardage from Jefferson. Despite the convincing win over a Washington team that shut Stanford down convincingly, LSU doesn’t look like a Top 10 team at this point and might be the underdog going into Florida. The combination, if it plays out, really changes the weight of the Florida game in JAX.

    • LSU’s defense is way too good for it not to be considered a top ten team.

      • Russ

        And their running game is awesome, even with me playing QB for them. They are definitely top 10, and I’d still say top 5.

        • Macallanlover

          Both of you are right about the power of their running game, as well as their defense, but they seem to lack a spark to me. And it is hard to be a Top 10 team if you are one dimensional. Something seemed to snap with Miles late in the year, might be on the staff, could be a chemistry issue with the team; they just don’t look as invincible to me. (And I would love to hear the inside story about the BCS game. There was something divisive going on for them to lay the egg they did and do nothing to try to get off the deck.)

          Not throwing them out this early, not enough dots connected yet but next week will be very revealing about them because right now you could make a case that they could be 4th or 5th best in the SEC. I know, blasphemy, and LSU is my 2nd favorite SEC team so i have no axe to grind with them.. A little too early but clouds on the horizon in Red Stick, imo.

          • jryuuu

            2nd favorite SEC team? there is no such thing. you meant “other SEC team you hate the least” right?

          • That hurts, Mac.

            I don’t even know you anymore…

            • Macallanlover

              It was Bama at one time, but things conspired to move me to the Tigahs. But I have to admit, the matchup I most want in Atlanta in UGA and Alabama. Looking forward to seeing that interesting Old Miss offense Saturday night against your D. I have no doubt it will get beat up, but I am looking for cracks. You could save me the trouble and tell us what might work. :)

              • In my opinion, Western Kentucky has had the best game plan so far against our D. They used misdirection runs and a short passing game that hit some soft spots underneath. They moved the ball and converted some on 3rd down, but turnovers killed them.

                Taking a few shots down field doesn’t hurt either.

                I’m not really sure how good our defense actually is. I *think* it’s really good, but we’ve played four teams that are very suspect (pretty much like the rest of the league so far).

                I’m interested to see how UT does against Grantham’s 3-4. That can be a good preview of how the Vols will attack ours.

                Have a good day, BD

                • Macallanlover

                  Thanks, I agree. Really good defenses that react quickly on their keys can give up some yardage to misdirection, or offenses (like Ga Southern and GT) that require you to change the defensive reads with a unique offense. While we don’t know how Alabama will do when it faces a strong, diversified offense, it is likely they will will do very well in limiting that oiffense from what it wants to do. Fortunately for the Tide, they don’t have to face one during the regular season since they were able to dodge UGA……again. :) Good luck to you in the injury area, I think that is the major concern for any of us that have things going well.

      • I think their OL issues are going to be an achilles heel. They don’t run as well with guys out, and that was their bread and butter. You can’t play action if you can’t run, and you can’t work long developing passes without the ability to protect. Mett can’t work the short and accurate game, so unless the OL learns to protect 7 step drops, their fans better learn to love taking the under.

  5. mg4life0331

    ” it’s hard to see what you gain from swapping Mettenberger for Jordan Jefferson”

    You gain the respect of opponents who understand how important spring game champions can be.

  6. Bobby

    My comments are addressed to an overall tone on the internet that I’ve detected about Mett. They are not necessarily directed toward any posters on this site.

    It was one game. Why are people acting like Mett is going to be a huge letdown in LSU? Sure, he’s a (R)Jr, but it’s his first year starting at a major college football program. They won the game. That’s all that matters. Any number of QBs have had equally unimpressive games but have gone on to having great seasons. Does anybody think DJ Shockley sucked in his senior year at UGA based on his performance against So. Car. in 2005?

    And also, I think Mett has undergone enough public humiliation that his debt to society has been repaid. He got drunk and way too handsy w/ a girl in South Georgia. I’m not trying to understate how bad that was, but c’mon. It was extremely immature behavior made under immature circumstances at an immature age. It wasn’t predatory. It wasn’t deviant. It was just stupid, incredibly offensive, and disrespectful. I am sure it is behavior he will never again repeat.

    There’s no reason for people to root for him to fail, unless of course he’s playing against UGA in the SECCG. Admittedly, though, that Sex-Offender-Registry Mustache is not helping w/ his public perception.

    • By Georgia We Did It

      Bobby, what if it was your daughter/sister he got “handsy” with?

    • I understand what you’re saying here, but I think the “letdown”, as you put it, is due more to the preseason hype being thrown Mett’s way. Put it this way: do you think he’s the next Cam Newton?

      • Anybody who saw the guy who couldn’t beat out Jefferson or Lee last year, when one was gone for several games to start and the other stunk, and thought, maybe he can be the same as a once a generation physical freak of a player, was delusional, or his mama/grandma. Since we’re going with lazy JUCO comps, he’s much more Daniel Cobb than he’ll ever be Cam Newton.

    • Russ

      +1 on the pornstache. What was he thinking?

    • Dawg in Beaumont

      I’m not looking for him to endure any more public humiliation (unless it’s the Dawgs D doing the humiliating, but that’s obviously unrelated to Mett), but, all else being equal, I’ll root for the QB that HASN’T “gotten too handsy w/ a girl in South Georgia”

    • don’t forget……….he reportedly lied to Coach Richt about the whole incident. It’s never the crime, it’s the cover up.
      Let’s just admit he’s not the second coming and is not better than Murray. That certainly seemed to be the consensus before the season started.

      • James Stephenson

        You know, I think fans, much like scouts see metrics too much. I mean we look with our Eyeballs and Mett looks like an NFL QB. Hell if you did not know Mett or Brees and someone pointed at the pair and said hey look an NFL QB, the first thought would be Mett.

        No offense to AM, but that is something he will have to play his ass off to overcome with NFL peeps.

        • I agree, If Zach gets his shinola together he certainly has the tools to be a better QB at the next level. But I only care about what AM is doing right now. I never, ever heard a Gator fan say, “Man Tebow is going to be an awesome pro QB.” They didn’t care and rightly so. This notion that Mett would be starting over AM hands down is what riled me up. Seems like everyone bought into it.

      • Macallanlover

        And that would have been the only reason for the immediate dismissal. His actions were stupid and immature but I feel Richt would have let him work to regain the trust necessary to compete. Freshmen, especially under the influence of alcohol, can make dumb mistakes but he would have gotten a 2nd chance, imo, had he been straight and sincere with Mark Richt. Hope things go well for him from on, unless he crosses Jarvis and Aaron’s paths.

  7. Snake Plisskin

    The thing with Mett is that he hasn’t played in the same system for two years ever…in HS he had a different set up every year, then he goes to UGA and plays from spring to spring, then he’s off to Butler JC for a year, then he winds up at LSU, where he’s been for 1 year now…his footwork always needed a bunch of work…at UGA this was his, and for that matter Murray’s, biggest obstacle as young players…Murray finally appears to have mastered his footwork, but Mett may need this season and next spring to get his footwork down…Murray always had high praise for Mett and his abilities/talents, but he said they both struggled with the mechanics necessary to go from HS to D1 ball…with some stability in LSU’s system, Mett should grow into the position and be fine as he gains more experience and confidence…just my thoughts…Snake out