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I posted this on TOS in August. I came across this and found it interesting, especially the last portion with the LSU defense being decimated by early entrees to the NFL.
The reason why LSU will NOT win a National Championship this year
I want to preface and qualify these paragraphs with a few simple facts.
1. I want LSU to win the National Championship this year as I do every year.
2. I am not a “nega-Tiger” (glass half empty) or a “sunshine pumper” (glass half full), just a realistic fan
3. I am writing this because I feel alarmed by the expectations of perfection placed on the 2012 team
LSU – the 2012 squad – has so many championship pieces in place!!! So how could I possible consider a situation where they could go wrong?
If you already know all about the team and/or just don’t want to read all this stuff, scroll down to the next bold area.
Let us begin with all the positives.
The DEFENSE is ALL WORLD, an amazingly true statement considering the #6 pick/Thorpe Award winner (Morris Claiborne), #14 pick (Michael Brockers), #73 pick (Brandon Taylor), and #124 pick (Ron Brooks) of the 2012 NFL draft are being replaced.
The big guys up front sustained a tremendous loss when “the house” Michael Brockers declared for the draft. Have no fear, LSU has Bennie Logan to anchor the middle. Also, Josh Downs will provide some experience on some snaps, and 5 star recruit Anthony Johnson looks to keep improving in his 2nd season. The real guy to watch is Ego Ferguson. By many accounts he has moved past Anthony Johnson in the rotation. With Downs’ unlucky history of injuries, Ferguson could have a breakout season. Ferguson may have such a big season; he could pull a “Brockers” and leave after his redshirt sophomore season. Quentin Thomas and Mickey Johnson seem to be waiting their turn after both redshirted last year.
To help the transition, I am not certain a college football team has ever had such a dynamic and athletic DE combo as LSU has this season. Sure, there has been some truly remarkable and freakishly athletic DE’s for collegiate teams in the past, but I challenge someone to find a pair more remarkable than Sam Montgomery and Kiki Mingo. This pair along with the rotation depth available will only help the transition for the new starting DT for LSU this year. The depth comes in the form of 2 seniors – 1 experienced player, Lavar Edwards, and 1 often injured player, Chancey Aghayere. The most exciting and dynamic backup DE in the rotation is the young 2nd year man Jermauria Rasco. Justin Maclin is coming off injury and will have to earn his rotation time. Jordan Allen is a hardworking 3rd year player trying to scratch up some playing time. Danielle Hunter will have every opportunity to redshirt and spend a year developing his strength and conditioning.
The combination of skill and depth up front makes replacing all the senior OLB’s from LSU a bit easier. Even though LSU lost 3 senior LB’s from last year, I actually consider this group comparable and saw glimpses of sub-par play from the exciting seniors. Chavis did find time to log some meaningful playing time for the new starters this year in some contest last year. I know Chavis has been high on Tahj Jones for some time and I will always trust the Chief’s instincts when it comes to LB’s. Jones, a true junior, is paired with 2 redshirt juniors to provide a healthy rotation and depth chart at the OLB positions. Lamin Barrow will probably start with Luke Muncie being the first off the bench. If more depth or rotation players are needed, LSU will look to its huge class of OLB’s that come in inexperienced but with some fresh and fast legs. Most notable to have an opportunity to contribute would be Lamar Louis and Ronnie Feist, respectively. Filling out the large OLB haul is Lorenzo Phillips who could arrive in the fall and find a way to contribute as a true freshman and two players coming off injury. Trey Granier and Kwon Alexander will have to prove healthy to fight for playing time and will have every opportunity to redshirt and heal for the 2013 season.
A distinctively strong spot for the LB core at LSU is in the middle. Returning starter Kevin Minter has certainly developed the body type to thump in the middle. The redshirt junior has maintained good health thus far at LSU – knock on wood. As the primary middle backup, redshirt sophomore DJ Welter, has proven to play well when provided the opportunity even though he is a slight bit smaller than what we usually expect at the MLB position at LSU. Deion Jones comes in as an amazingly fast and instinctive true freshman and will do well to redshirt and develop more size and strength.
Moving to the defensive backfield, LSU has such strength in this area. Replacing the 2nd LSU Tiger Thorp award winner in a row is always going to be difficult. NOTE: the only other time a school had back-to-back Thorpe award winners was Texas 2005-2006 – Michael Huff and Aaron Ross. Amazingly, I do not consider replacing Morris Claiborne the most difficult transition in the secondary. With the 2 true juniors, Heisman finalist Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu and Tharold Simon on the job LSU seems to be just as solid at the CB position. Granted some adjustments may be necessary to fully accentuate each players unique physical abilities, but the playing level will be what LSU fans have come to expect. Redshirt freshman Jalen Collins has solidified his spot as the 3rd corner. After a group of transfers out of the program, LSU is left with true freshman to add to the rotation if necessary. Dwayne Thomas seems the most promising coming out of high school and Jalen Mills will have the opportunity to prove himself. Derrick Raymond is rumored to have grade issues and may not be able to report to LSU.
True junior Eric Reid is certainly the smartest DB at LSU and seems to use his intelligence to place himself around the ball. Reid is the best returning starter for the defensive backfield. The other safety position provides the largest question mark. To replace departing Brandon Taylor, LSU is looking to highly touted and often injured redshirt junior, Craig Loston. Loston has not exhibited the superior development as the other starting DB’s. Loston is a hard hitting and athletic player, but sometimes seems lost and out of position. Hopefully, with a full off season getting heavy reps, Loston can live up to his 5 star billing. If Loston can’t get it done or is injured again, LSU will look to redshirt freshman, Micah Eugene. Eugene has reportedly been very impressive in practice throughout the spring but is unproven and inexperienced in SEC play. True sophomore Ronald Martin has shown flashes of brilliance and bone headedness. He sits as the 4th safety in the rotation and has to climb out of Chavis’ doghouse to get more playing time on the field. Rockey Duplessis, a true junior, looks to be a special teamer with limited ability to contribute on defense. Rounding out the safety position with an excellent potential to redshirt this year in their true freshman season is Jerqwinick Sandolph and Corey Thompson. In the past LSU has surprised with some true freshman getting playing time at odd times to bolster depth and experience. We should assume that could happen again.
In summary, LSU looks to be solid at all defensive positions. If recent trends in development continue, LSU may have a stouter defense than last season. Sam Montgomery looks to be the vocal leader for the group with Honey Badger coming with the attitude and swagger. This could be derailed by some key injuries however. I rank the injury impact in the following order of severity from worst to least: Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu, Kevin Minter, Bennie Logan, Tharold Simon, Sam Montgomery, Kiki Mingo, Craig Loston, Tahj Jones, Lamin Barrow, and finally, Josh Downs. I know some will see Minter as being too high on this list, however I see a big drop off in play from he to the backup. Other positions look to have greater depth so a starter is not as missed.
Special teams play looks to be another very strong phase of the LSU football team. With an amazing all world punter in redshirt freshman Brad Wing, solid placekicker in redshirt senior Drew Alleman, and promising true freshman long snapper Reid Ferguson the sky is the limit for the specialist. Add to this group preseason SEC 1st team returner Tyrann Mathieu and special team tackler extraordinaire, Jarvis Landry and LSU looks to be stronger than most anyone in the country. Any number of true freshman, starters and underclassmen could find ways to contribute on special teams as LSU is willing to play the best regardless of position or class level in this phase of the game. LSU may see excellent contributions from true freshman LB’s Lamar Louis and/or Ronnie Feist in this area. Also in line to make an impact are Micah Eugene, Dwayne Thomas, Lorenzo Phillips and Travin Dural. As long as the true freshman long snapper doesn’t pull a “Russian-Alex-Style” on the team at a critical moment, the special teams should be superb.
The offense has much to prove. Losing the 2 senior QB’s from last season may prove to be addition by subtraction (X2). Losing consummate tease of an athletic receiving TE, Peterson, will prove to be another addition by subtraction. Losing Will Blackwell is easier to bear with the depth at guard. Losing blocking TE Mitch Joseph is bearable with the blocking TE’s on the roster. Losing T-Bob Hebert is addition by subtraction (X2 positions C and OG). Losing junior WR Rueben Randle to early entry to the NFL draft is the most difficult for the offense by far.
The strongest area of the offense is the big heavies. This version of the LSU offensive line is 7 years in the making and is surely what Les Miles and Coach Stud envision a strong, deep group to look like. Being their specialty, this line has the looks, pedigree and notoriety of being the strongest group in the school’s history. Just as on defense, the strength comes on the outside. LSU boasts 2 great tackles in redshirt senior, Alex Hurst, and redshirt junior, Chris Faulk. Both have been mentioned as possible 1st round selections in mock drafts for the upcoming 2013 NFL draft. Realistically, Faulk has more potential and may leave after the season. Hurst has all the tools for RT and should be drafted in the first 3 rounds next April barring injury. The primary backup for the tackle position is not as established. I’m not certain who comes off the bench in the horrible circumstance of one of the two extremely talented starters going down. The depth chart would read redshirt junior and 5 star recruit Chris Davenport at LT. He seems to be progressing well after finally moving to the O-line. On the right side redshirt sophomore Evan Washington is listed as #2. Redshirt freshman, Jonah Austin, is also available. I haven’t heard much noise from him which is expected in redshirt freshman sometimes. Having every opportunity to redshirt for their true freshman year are Derek Edinburgh and Jerald Hawkins.
On the interior of the offensive wall, LSU is strong with true senior, PJ Lonergan. Untested original Tiger commit, turned Kentucky Wildcat, turned transfer, turned scholarship #2 center, sophomore Elliot Porter is unproven yet promising. Look for the coaches to find snaps for this player before SEC play begins. Slotted as the 3rd center and reserve guard is redshirt freshman Corey White.
LSU has 3 proven starters to man the 2 guard positions. Super true sophomore La’el Collins, 6th year senior Josh Dworaczyk, and redshirt junior Josh Williford. In reserve roles there are emerging early enrollee true freshman Vadal Alexander who could play tackle, and redshirt freshman Trai Turner. By all accounts, junior college player Fehoko Fanaika is set to redshirt and has 3 years to play 2.
The tight end position is an area of strength and weakness. The strength of the group is as blockers. Redshirt senior Chase Clement and redshirt sophomore Nic Jacobs are above average blockers. True freshman Dillon Gordon will be groomed to a great blocker as well. As a receiving group, Clement seems to be the best of the bunch. Redshirt senior Tyler Edwards and redshirt sophomore Travis Dickson seemed to have stalled in their development. The lack of high end threat to catch from the tight end spot is an area of concern. If Clement were to be injured, the impact to both phases of the game would be tremendous.
True junior JC Copeland completes the blocking phase of the game nicely. He is a tremendous FB and is the only scholarship FB.
Another strength and just behind the lineman, the running back group returns all the contributors from last year. LSU certainly incorporates the running back by committee approach and turns to the heavy hand when one guy gets hot. Each back fulfills certain roles and dynamics within the offense. This provides Coach Stud and Coach Kragthorpe with tremendous flexibility. Highest billing is 5 star true junior Spencer Ware. Ware is a jack of all trades and former high school quarterback. I list true junior Alfred Blue next because he is the best combination of size, speed, and skill. 3rd on the chart is the bruiser, true sophomore Kenny Hilliard. Redshirt junior, Michael Ford, is the faster, quicker, slashing back but has shown some fumbling problems in the past. True sophomore Terrance Magee is another former high school quarterback that I think of as a “poor man’s Kevin Faulk”. Maybe in the next 3 seasons he will become a “rich man’s Kevin Faulk”. True freshman Jeremy Hill may need a season to knock the rust off after not playing last fall. This group has become stronger than last season due to more experience and added depth.
Replacing the Rueben Randle is the tallest chore for the offense. Sure there talented players on the team, but not many players possess the combination of size, strength, intelligence, body control and hands with enough speed as Randle. I wish he would have stayed for his senior year and he may wish that also considering his slide to the end of round 2. The Giants seem ready to put him to work, so LSU needs to find their answer to fill his role. Believe it or not, I do not view this as the most difficult replacement for the LSU squad – I see that as the 2nd safety position. What will be difficult is to find the LARGE receiving target that can make the critical catch to move the chains at the critical moment in the critical game. True junior James Wright has the biggest body and looks to be #3 on the depth chart. Wright is actually listed at about the same size as Randle’s officially NFL combine size at only 7 pounds lighter and the same height. Wright doesn’t possess the same body control and will have to prove himself capable of delivering the goods to move the chains. More importantly to replace the receptions and general production LSU has true sophomore Jarvis Landry a 5 star WR recruit with all the tools to succeed. Returning as a second year starter is true sophomore phenom Odell Beckham, Jr. I actually think these two starters will match each other catch for catch, yard for yard, and TD for TD with a slight edge going to Landry in production. True junior Kadron Boone returns from an injury and will provide experienced depth. True senior Russell Shepard is this year’s DeAngelo Peterson. I sure hope I wrong, but his 5 star billing has not been matched by his development at the WR position. Lost in the shuffle are redshirt sophomore Jarrett Fobbs and redshirt freshman Paul Turner. Redshirt sophomore apparently has academic issues and we will have to wait and see if he is on the fall roster. Of the true freshman Kavahra Holmes seems destined to redshirt and develop but is a true burner. Other true freshman Travin Dural and Avery Johnson will fight to keep the redshirt off and gain playing time. Personally, I see Avery Johnson as more college ready, but others see Travin Dural as more prepared. Both seem eager to learn and compete. The WR corps as a whole should far exceed the output from a year ago. With all this production on paper LSU should look much better in the passing game. However, in the big game at the important moment to move the chains, LSU will need some timely plays from someone.
Redshirt junior transfer player Zach Mettenberger will provide LSU the passing presence that has been absent the last 4 years. While I appreciate the 2 departing senior quarterbacks, there is no denying that this looks to be addition by subtraction. I hope that Zach continues to develop as a leader, do the work outside of the practice routine, find extra time to throw to the receivers, watch film and improve his footwork. I know, not asking too much. But in the minor leagues for the NFL known as SEC Football, these are the tasks that are required for a QB to dominate… unless your name rhymes with “scam” and ends in “Newton”. After Mett, LSU may have issues. After admirable recruiting efforts my Miles and staff, signing 7 QB’s in the last 4 classes, LSU still only has 3 scholarship quarterbacks. Redshirt freshman Stephen Rivers looks like a promising prospect. If he were forced into action, LSU may be looking at the history of Jarrett Lee repeating itself. Other Redshirt freshman Jerrard Randall seems to have mixed reports. Hopefully, he is closer to the positive reports and becomes a great Tiger QB in the future. I don’t think his time is now.
To summarize the offense, LSU looks good; LSU looks good enough to be ranked #1. LSU’s O-line and RB’s will most certainly be stronger than last season. WR will probably be more productive and a stronger position group. The TE position group should be improved, as well. While I see QB as tremendously improved, an injury to Mettenberger would be debilitating. I rank the injury impact in the following order of severity from worst to least: Zach Mettenberger, Chris Faulk, Chase Clement, PJ Lonergan, JC Copeland, Alex Hurst, Odell Beckham, JR., Jarvis Landry, La’el Collins, Josh Williford and finally, a RB. I used the same reasoning as the defense with much emphasis on positions with a drop off in quality depth.
With all this going for LSU and if injuries do NOT derail the 2012 campaign, how could I think LSU will not win the National Championship?
In one word… HISTORY
I can think of no quarterback that has stepped into a team with so much around him on the collegiate level.
I am hoping that statement is the reason I am wrong and LSU does run the table and win it all, this year.
Mettenberger will be an improvement over the LSU QB play from a year ago. He will put up better statistics, pass for more yards, throw more touchdowns, and throw fewer interceptions.
What I fear is that his lack of experience will disrupt the season with maybe a single loss to the wrong opponent.
I fear he will look more like Ryan Mallett than Matt Flynn.
What do I mean by that?
Watching Mallett, you knew the guy had QB skills. He could spin the ball and make the plays to put up big numbers. BUT!, Mallett would miss the throw, take a sack, or make a mistake at the inopportune time. The only team that blew out Arkansas with Mallett pulling the trigger was Bama in his junior year. Arkansas did lose 8 games in his two years as a starter, while winning 18 games. Many games were blowout wins for Arkansas. Many losses were close (less than 1 score).
I realize Mett has a better situation to come into with all the talent on the LSU squad.
BUT!, It only takes one loss.
WHAT WE ARE EXPECTING IS PERFECTION, Not only in record, but in performance from Mettenberger.
Of the last 34 teams in college football to win the National Championship, undefeated season, or shared National Championship, not one player has had as little experience as Mettenberger with their current squad with the exception of 1 player (Cam Newton 2010). Only 6 of these QB’s were not the every snap fulltime starter for their team at least the year before winning the National Championship. Mettenberger has played in just 2 games. Even Cam Newton played in more Div-1 games before winning it all from when he was at Florida.
List of 34 QB’s leading teams (and I purposely did not list the 2003 USC team)
2011 – AJ McCarron, Alabama (12-1) played in 9 games in 2010 [sophomore]
2010 – Cam Newton, Auburn (14-0) played in 6 games at Florida 2007 & 2008 [junior]
2010 – Andy Dalton, TCU (13-0)
2009 – Greg McElroy, Alabama (14-0) played in 8 games 2007 & 2008 [junior]
2008 – Tim Tebow, Florida (13-1)
2008 – Brian Johnson, Utah (13-0)
2007 – Matt Flynn, LSU (12-2)
2006 – Chris Leak, Florida (13-1)
2006 – Jared Zabransky, Boise State (12-0)
2005 – Vince Young, Texas (13-0)
2004 – Matt Leinart, USC (11-0)
2003 – Matt Mauck, LSU (13-1)
2002 – Craig Krenzel, Ohio State (14-0)
2001 – Ken Dorsey, Miami (12-0)
2000 – Josh Heupel, Oklahoma (13-0)
1999 – Chris Weinke, Florida State (12-0)
1998 – Tee Martin, Tennessee (13-0) played in 5 games in 1997 [junior]
1997 – Scott Frost, Nebraska (13-0)
1997 – Brian Griese, Michigan (12-0)
1996 – Danny Wuerffel, Florida (12-1)
1995 – Tommie Frazier, Nebraska (12-0)
1994 – Tommie Frazier, Nebraska (13-0)
1994 – Kerry Collins, Penn State (12-0)
1993 – Charlie Ward, Florida State (12-1)
1993 – Stan White, Auburn (11-0)
1992 – Jay Barker, Alabama (13-0)
1991 – Gino Torretta, Miami (12-0)
1991 – Billy Joe Hobert, Washington (12-0) played in 7 games 1990 [junior]
1990 – Darian Hagan, Colorado (11-1-1)
1990 – Shawn Jones, Georgia Tech (11-0-1)
1989 – Craig Erickson, Miami (11-1)
1988 – Tony Rice, Notre Dame (12-0)
1987 – Steve Walsh, Miami (12-0) played in 11 games in 1986 [junior]
1986 – John Shaffer, Penn State (12-0)
What do I expect?
I expect the LSU team to be a great team. I even think LSU will defeat Alabama. I fear LSU will lose to 1 other opponent that may cost them a shot at the National Championship game. The pressure for perfection is immense. The media is hyping LSU. I would much rather see LSU come from behind then defend the #1 ranking.
This season will come down to a handful of critical plays, in critical situations, and in critical games. I hope Mett makes the throws each time and LSU finishes with a perfect 14-0 record for a National Championship.
Next year will be too late. The defense will be decimated by early entrees to the NFL draft. This is the season for LSU. This is the window of opportunity.
This post was edited by TigerChim 15 months ago
Very informative and so many valid points.
I know you've probably already put some thought into this so I would love to hear what your way too early outlook is for the 2013 campaign if you have that done.
Many thanks for sharing
Damn Strong Football Team
Sonny, I think I'm going to wait until after Spring football to see what these new guys look like. If i can tear myself away from work I'll go watch a few practices and see how everyone looks in live action. I sure wish Leslie would have qualified for the Spring. The lack of a large WR target for Mett is a big question mark going into next year.
I guess what I most want to see is the O-line and see who is going to play LT and see how Porter handles his duties.
Yea, Leslie would have been a huge addition for the spring in more ways than one. He would have challenged for that #3 spot and would have also pushed Beckham and Landry. Not that he would have taken either of their spot but he would have provided some extra motivation being that he is an older guy.
Sonny, since Leslie won't be here in the spring who do you think is the #3 heading into the fall, Dural, Wright, or Boone?
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