The LSU basketball team is chasing a
fleeting tourney berth. The baseball team is just getting kick started. But hell, Spring football is just around the corner, so how about a little depth chart talk?
Has [game redacted] wore off for you yet? I think I've finally moved on with signing day in the books, the NFL combine under way and the coaching staff finalized. I now turn my eyes to the season-to-be and the characters therein. In many ways, LSU returns a very similar team to what we saw in 2011, but with a few key losses. Who overtakes those positions? Will Mettensavior finally be the sole bearer of the QB position? Will any RB take on a leading role? Even on a mostly settled depth chart there are plenty of questions abounding. Let's dive into some of those after the jump.
There is zero question who will be LSU's starting QB in 2012, as Mettensavior takes the reigns. For the past four years, LSU has lacked even a modicum of consistency from the QB position. Both Jefferson and Lee played well in spurts followed by often dreadful performances, as both failed to establish themselves as quality, dependable starters. All reports suggest that Mettenberger is absolutely the real deal (and while I hate to bring it up, it must be noted that we did receive copious, repeated positive reviews of Jefferson as well), and if you follow the players on twitter, it's obvious a bond is being formed between Mettenberger, Shepard, Beckham, Landry, Boone, Wright and the like. Taking time to work with the WRs and develop chemistry is an important part of building a consistent passing game.
The question which lingers in the back of many LSU fan's minds is will there be yet another "2-QB" system for LSU in 2012? The "meme" has become that Miles likes his 2-QB systems, but history doesn't exactly back that up. For his first few years at LSU, we exclusively relied on Russell. At Oklahoma State Aso Pogi, Josh Fields and Donovan Woods all held down the starting position by their lonesome at one point or another. Even during Flynn's season as the starter, RP was used sparingly and almost exclusively as a change-of-pace runner. If I had to guess, I would say that 2012 will most closely resemble 2007. If Randall makes a positive showing in the Spring and Summer, Miles may see the opportunity to mix him with special packages. That being said, I doubt very seriously Randall sees any more than 5-7 snaps a game, if that. For those who scoff at this notion, remember that the 2007 LSU offense is one of the finest in school history. It can work... if you have talented players.
I feel extremely confident in saying this is the most talented and deep running back corps in the country. After his Freshman season, Ware looked poised for a breakout 2012, but he seemed to take a step backward. Ford is the biggest boom/bust RB on the roster, at times looking like a bowling ball with a rocket booster and at times looking like a tap dancer in pads. Hilliard's approach can best be termed: no nonsense. Chris Berman has wet dreams to calling Kenny Hilliard highlights. Blue is more of a one-cut and go runner with a solid, though unspectacular all around skill set. Magee, we've seen little of, but what little time he had and highlight tapes show a guy who runs behind his pads, low to the ground and with good vision. And finally, Hill is a back that many, even Miles himself, said they believed to be the best back they recruited last year (which is to say better than either Hilliard or Magee).
So, are you keeping up? What does all this mean. By season's end, Hilliard seemed to emerge as the go-to back. Ford and Ware's carries waned, and while Ware remained the starter, it was more "in name only." Comparatively, Ford saw 21 total carries over the final three games, Ware 10. Hilliard saw 19 against Arkansas alone. So naturally, Hilliard will be the man for LSU in 2012 right? [Insert Lee Corso not so fast my friend here].
Ware was noticeably less nimble in 2012 than 2011. He looked to have added some additional bulk. Perhaps he thought he needed extra weight to carry the load? Perhaps being on the baseball team interfered with him sticking to a full off-season regiment? Perhaps he thought he had the starting job locked up and simply slacked off? Who knows, but I'm guessing having a 240-pound fire-breathing bull riding storming down your ass is cause enough for motivation. I still think Ware has the talent to be a versatile, unique force in the LSU offense that none of the other backs can offer, but he needs to get focused and prepare.
Ford frustrates me, as he is equal parts explosive and indecisive. At times he bowls over defenders, at times he goes down at the force of a meager puff. Even still, it's never bad to have a fastball, and Ford can certainly be explosive. His best work came on the option plays last year. Could we see a Randall/Ford option package? Speed + speed equals defensive dizziness.
Hilliard, I've already noted. He probably has the leg up, for the time being. With a full off-season on campus dedicated to refining his body and improving his game should be a scary thought to SEC defenses. Hilliard has a deceptive burst and exceptional power. In the words of Mr. Hilliard, "no ceilings."
Blue is the type of player you just hurt for. After the terrible tragedy his family suffered and being buried on the depth chart, how can you not root for him? If Blue went to Ole Miss or Mississippi State or Vanderbilt, or hell, even Auburn, he'd probably be a starter. Instead, he's clawing for carries as LSU's 4th back.
Magee is a bit of an interesting candidate. From a pure numbers perspective, Magee is an attrition candidate. He's good enough to play in the SEC, but mired in a situation that wouldn't offer him significant opportunities until 2013... at the earliest. I'm quite a fan of his game, but where does he fit in? That's the huge question mark. But, Magee doesn't seem like the usual attrition candidate either. For one, he's both in-state and from a school LSU routinely returns to for prospects. Not exactly the type of player LSU could cut ties with without some lateral wounds. All that being said, I hope he sticks it out. RB depth charts have a funny way of getting thin in a hurry.
Hill is the wild card of the bunch. As I mentioned above, Miles (seemingly) and others believed him to be the best back from the 2011 LSU signing class. His legal incident kept him from stepping foot on campus in 2011, but he's spent the entire season staying in shape and working hard. Hill won't be coming to LSU to RS in 2012, in my opinion. He's going to fight for playing time. The question is how? That, I can't answer.
The only remaining question is a possible position switch for one of these guys? Well, John Chavis does have a phenomenal track record of turning solid running back prospects into phenomenal linebackers (see Mayo, Jerod). Could the next one of those be on the roster? Well, maybe, but how do you convince a guy like Alfred Blue to make a sudden position switch after two years of playing RB, and playing capably at that? I'm not sure Magee has the size to make the transition to the LB position, and I doubt Hill would come to LSU if they planned to simply flip him. Blue seems the only logical candidate, but even that seems a stretch.
Russell Shepard, SR.
Odell Beckham Jr., SO.
Jarvis Landry, SO.
Kadron Boone, JR.
James Wright, JR.
Jarrett Fobbs, SO.
Armand Williams, SO.
Paul Turner, FR. RS
Travin Dural, FR.
Avery Johnson, FR.
Kavahra Holmes, FR.
It's put up or shut up time for Russell Shepard. Shepard has, at times, flashed play-making abilities, but lacks consistency as a route runner and as a hands catcher. Shep is one of the leaders on the team, and with Mettenberger feeding him the ball, 2012 could be the year he finally breaks out. Studrawa needs to find more creative ways to get Shepard the ball, and Mettenberger may allow for that.
At times, OBJ looked like the best WR on LSU's roster last year. He's explosive, a sharp route runner and a great hands catcher. As can be expected from most true Freshman (and with LSU's level of QB play), the level of his play oscillated. This kid has a lot of drive... I suspect a big year is coming.
Landry also was on the field often, though he didn't see nearly as many balls as Beckham. Landry is a big WR in a little guy's body. He's tough, physical and nasty. He likes to hit, and he likes to block. His touches will definitely go way up this year.
Both Boone and Wright were surpassed on the depth chart by the younger and more talented guys mentioned above, however, all is not lost. After waffling on transferring, Boone stuck with LSU. Miles undoubtedly gave him a little heart-to-heart. Boone still has some big play ability and remember he connected with Mettenberger on a deep ball in the spring game last year. Could there be early chemistry? Wright's situation is less controversial, but as it stands he's the lone "Big WR" on LSU's roster. Could that make him a RZ target? Wright is a hard-nosed football player, but I was never under the belief he'd be a big-time WR for this team. A solid role player, however.
After that, you have three unknown guys. Fobbs, Williams and Turner. Fobbs has always seemed like a tweener (is he a DB? is he a WR?). He came to LSU under the promise to play WR. He's still young with time to prove his ability. I don't have a great feel for him, honestly. Williams is the tallest WR on LSU's roster and possesses elite athletic tools, though he's the least refined of them all. I've always felt Williams could be a big-time player if he put it together. Could it happen? Finally, Turner is a guy who I loved on tape. He played QB, but he's a small, explosive guy. With Brooks graduating, I wouldn't be shocked if Turner got first dibs at returning kicks.
Of the true freshmen, both Dural and Johnson could be ready to play immediately. Johnson has the size and frame. Dural is a bit more spindly but a lot more fluid. Holmes is a raw upside prospect, and I think a RS is in order.
J.C. Copeland, JR.
After a couple years of splitting time with walk-on James Stampley, who Poseur is sad to see move on, Copeland takes the full-time reigns at FB. He's a raw brute downhill blocker with some surprisingly nimble feet. Copeland brutalized some defenders this year and when he misses, he misses big. He likes hitting folks, folks. It's unclear who will be his backup at this point, perhaps one of the brothers Edwards or Dickson.
The usage of the TE position has moved to virtually nonexistent since Matt Flynn graduated. Some would argue that DeAngelo Peterson was never taken advantage (though I would disagree). Mitch Joseph was a blocking only TE (and a damn good one), that much was apparent. Chase Clement has the ability to be the best two-way TE for LSU in quite some time. He's shown flashes, but he's failed to put it all together. Clement has progressed as a blocker, and he's a solid receiver when called on. Could he emerge as a bigger weapon this year? I think so. LSU needs big targets, and he could fill that void.
I pencil in Jacobs as the second TE, if only because his size (6'5, 253) and ability to be a dominant blocker. He reminds me a bit of Mitch Joseph with perhaps better athletic ability. Edwards has never turned into the player his brother was, but he has some ability. I could see him being employed as the primary 2nd, blocking TE, but I think Jacobs is more apt to fill the roll. Dickson, like his older brother is a smaller TE, but lacks the receiving prowess. It's hard to draw any major conclusions from any of the TEs behind Clement.
One final note: I wish John Thomas from Airline would get eligible. He has the athletic ability to contribute immediately as a receiving TE. There's a lot of unknown at the TE position for LSU in 2012 and no real conversion candidates on the roster, save maybe Jordan Allen, who is lost in the fray at DE...
Faulk was LSU's best lineman in 2011. Period. End of sentence. It wasn't close. This kid is very, very good. Good athletic ability, raw power, and just rugged, nasty meanness. I love watching him play. Davenport converted just last year, and he may finally be realizing his potential. Collins I have at 3rd string, but only because I think bigger things are in store for him for 2012...
Yes, I know Josh D. got his 5th year, but I just think Collins has the edge in two ways: talent and health. Collins was recruited to be a stud for LSU. He didn't RS. Les has to get him on the field this season. I'll be surprised if he doesn't start somewhere on the OL. Turner is still young and developing, but I definitely have faith he can be an SEC starter.
P.J. Lonergan, SR.
Elliot Porter, SO.
Corey White, FR. RS
Lonergan is the entrenched starter and for good reason. I thought his 2010 campaign was maybe the best of all of our OL, but he didn't seem to be the same player in 2011. Injuries certainly didn't help. Even still, Lonergan is a solid, dependable starter. Porter is the backup, and I'm guessing the top interior swing lineman for this year (The "TBob" if you will). White is a big-bodied kid for a Center, but that is the position I believe he's being groomed to play.
I'm duty bound to post the depth chart as I believe it will come out, but in my ideal world Alex Hurst would man this spot. More on that later, but Williford has been a solid player for LSU. He's a good downhill power blocker, though not as agile as you'd like from the guard position. Alexander is a special talent at guard and his early enrollee status says to me that he'll be ready to go as a backup this season. He's already got the frame, and he plays with a nasty mentality. Branch, a converted TE, has never shown anything.
Hurst is entrenched at RT, though his MNC game performance leaves a sour taste in my mouth. In 2010, Hurst looked like a dominant tackle, but his 2011 was up and down. He is a force in the run game, but he struggles mightily without outside speed rushers. To me, his skillset may be best suited inside, but it's unlikely he shifts from tackle to guard after two years on the outside. I still have high hopes for the athletic upside of Evan Washington, and Austin and Edinburgh are big-bodied projects with potential.