As a sophomore, Richard Dickson caught 32 balls for 375 yards and 5 TD's. And we thought LSU had found its next great tight end. Surely, he would build off of this season and become one of the primary targets for the inexperienced Tiger QB's.
2008? Dickson caught 31 balls for 324 yards and 5 TD's. Essentially, the same exact numbers. And so far this year, Dickson has caught 3 balls for 23 yards. Now, he started slow last year as well, but for a guy we expected huge things from, the drop in production is extremely disappointing.
It's not like Dickson is an unreliable receiver. I honestly can't think of any key drops he's had, though I'm sure he hasn't caught every ball thrown his way (because if he had, he would be the greatest receiver in the history of football). The problem, I believe, is not with Dickson but with the offense.
During last year's interception-palooza, Jarrett Lee became understandably skittish about throwing the ball over the middle. If you miss a receiver by the sideline, the ball is probably going to be incomplete. If you miss a receiver over the middle, well, it's far more likely to end up in the arms of some guy wearing the other team's jersey. Dickson, like most tight ends, makes his living in the middle of the field. As Lee lost all confidence, so the passes to Dickson dried up. In fact, Dickson's two biggest reception totals came against Florida (before the meltdown) and Georgia Tech (after Jefferson has taken the helm). In the six games from Florida until Arkansas, when Jefferson finally became the starter, Dickson caught 11 balls.
So far this season, the LSU coaching staff has bent over backwards to minimize risk. Jefferson has thrown almost exclusively short passes or long bombs. The offense has seemingly completely abandoned the intermediate route over the middle of the field.
Now, I understand the thought process behind this. Lee's problems last year were primarily mental, not physical. The interceptions took their toll on the quarterback and he completely melted down. Faced with another young starter this season, the LSU staff is doing everything it can to protect Jefferson's psyche. And let's give some credit, Jefferson hasn't thrown a pick all season.
But you cannot run an offense that way all season. If you call plays only to minimize risk, you are giving up the rewards that come with taking the risk. And it's not like there is no risk in the current offense. As I've already pointed out, nearly 20 percent of the offensive plays against Vandy went for a loss. You think that doesn't effect a guy's confidence?
By abandoning the middle of the field, LSU allows opposing defenses to stack the line, which exacerbates the problems with the offensive line. Charles Scott certainly would appreciate a little more room to run. Lafell probably wouldn't mind some more space when he catches those bubble screens. Know what could give them space? Throwing some balls over the middle of the field and forcing the defense to cover the entire field. The spread doesn't work if you don't actually spread the defense.
There's a guy on the roster who probably could attack the middle of the defense. His name is Richard Dickson, perhaps you've heard of him? Big things were expected of him a few years ago. Throw him the ball. It'll help everyone out.
Stop coaching scared. Yes, throwing over the middle will mean Jefferson will throw more interceptions. It also might mean more yards for everybody, more space for the offense to work, and more big plays. Free Richard Dickson!