Back from the Spring Game and with the sunburn to prove it. I can't think of a sufficiently witty intro aside from the usual Allen Iverson-esque disclaimers, so let's just dive right in.
- And of course that has to start with the reason we were all watching, Zach Mettenberger. Y'all know I'm not one to wild swings on a spring game. He looked good -- confident, and most importantly, smooth in the pocket. There was a rhythm to his progressions, and there were several throws that showed off his unique arm talent. He finished 14-25 after missing on his first three passes, which included one batted down at the line, and two long-balls to James Wright that were into fantastic coverage from Jalen Collins. His first big'n, a scramble play to Jarvis Landry, would've at the very least been reviewed and might have been overturned due to Mettenberger being very close to the line of scrimmage and possibly over it (Freak Johnson complained to the officials to no avail). Either way, the throw was an absolute beauty -- perfect touch from a very awkward angle to Landry's back shoulder. There just aren't that many quarterbacks out there that can make that kind of throw, and if Mettenberger can make it consistently...
Russell Shepard on a corner route in the endzone that had a similar placement to the Landry throw.
As for the interceptions, the first was a solid decision, but a poor throw; Mettenberger floated a corner route and Ronald Martin made a good play on the ball, along with a nice return. The second one was far more defensible, as it was a very catchable ball off of Tyler Edwards' hands. In fact, the off-balanced catch and run by Lamar Louis was a heck of a play in and of itself.
All-in-all, the talent is there, along with a...don'tsaygunslingerdon'tsaygunslingerdon'tsaygunslinger...propensity to take some risks. And that's not a bad thing. If anything, it's extremely common with big-armed quarterbacks, but there's a cost of doing business with that. So where on the risk/reward wheel ratio does it settle?
- Backup Stephen Rivers scattered things around a bit, and struggled with his accuracy at times, albeit against the first-team defensive backfield. Overall, he looks competent enough right now for a limited role, but if he was pressed into service for a long stretch, I'd be worried. Jerrard Randall flashed a fantastic arm, but mostly played with and against walk-ons so it was difficult to get much of a read on him.
- On the other end of the passing game, the wide receiver roles broke down very similarly to how I envisioned with regards to the top three. Odell Beckham, Jr. will be the deep threat/big-play specialist, with Jarvis Landry working the underneath run-after-catch routes (I have a feeling he'll be the most active in the screen game as well) and Wright the possession routes with some occasional deep throws that can take advantage of his size.
- In coverage, I spent most of the time trying to observe Jalen Collins and David Jenkins, as the starters are who they are at this point. Jenkins was solid, giving up some underneath plays at times and holding his own at others, but most importantly he showed that he can stay with speedier guys like Beckham down the field. Collins struggled slightly in this regard, but had two outstanding breakups when matched with Wright -- whether that says something about Collins' speed or Wright's, is another question. Overall, they both show good size the sort of physicality we've grown used to seeing from LSU cornerbacks in the last few seasons. Now it's all about refinement.
- At the line of scrimmage, I'd say call most of the battles stalemates. Both the white and purple lines had their more successful drives on offense and defense. The white team (mostly starters) kind of started flat but still exerted themselves impressively at times.
- Overall it was pretty clear which players took the game more seriously than others. That isn't to say that I really saw anybody full-on taking plays off, but players like Anthony Johnson, Jermauria Rasco, La'El Collins, Elliot Porter and Lavar Edwards were all showing some particular hustle. Purple squad linebackers Ronnie Feist and D.J. Welter in really throwing themselves around as well.
- At the running back spot, Kenny Hilliard made a few nice moves and showed solid speed to the corner on some toss-sweeps. Much like he did at the end of last season. Otherwise, the backs looked much like they did last season. Hilliard and Spencer Ware were the sledgehammers inside, and Alfred Blue provided little more burst on the outside zone plays. Jeremy Hill looked to be in good shape, but I can't say stood out tremendously in relation to the others, but nobody really got the carries they would need to stand out anyway.
- Overall, I was rather impressed with the turnout. It certainly looked like more people than the listed 33,000, especially early on for the championship celebration. They slowly filed out over the first half and all but disappeared at halftime, which was understandable what with the sun beating down.