White shuts out Purple, 37-0. So what's it mean?
Something. What, eh, that part's a bit hazy. Myself, PodKatt and Kris took this one in together. There was good, there was bad. Thankfully, there wasn't much ugly. I tend to be pretty wary of takeaways from these things. There were some Yays and some Nays, but not what I would call an incredible amount of either. Here are some thoughts.
- In terms of the offensive differences, I can't say that I saw all that much. Different personnel spread out a couple of times -- Connor Neighbors went into the slot and caught a pass at one point. But no new formations. No pistol, no no-huddle. The passing concepts looked largely familiar, save for a few more targets for the tight ends and a lot of screen calls (though unsuccessful ones). If there was a constant, it was that the three-level concept, called the Flood in an Air Coryell parlance. Reports that the staff let the quarterbacks call some of their own plays are interesting, and may indicate that there's come comfort with that particular read. That could be because it was one of LSU's favorite play calls last season as well.
- If there was a new wrinkle, it was some interesting bootleg plays off of stretch runs. We'll get to some of those at a later date.
- Zach Mettenberger was up and down. If he can match his overall numbers consistently, especially in the yards per attempt area, this offense can be special. He was a little streaky with his accuracy, and that can be looked at two ways. Either it means he's going to have some lulls in games and we'll just have to deal with them, or it might mean that he's learning and adjusting to himself. After misfiring on a very open deep ball to Jarvis Landry, he certainly reset himself and took advantage later. There was some outstanding placement on a couple of throws, but the highest compliment that I can give him is that he looked fluid and comfortable. He moved through progressions, got in and out of the huddle quickly, and didn't even seemed bothered by some predictably bad snaps out of Ethan Pocic.
- Behind him, does LSU have quarterback depth, or does it have quarterback depth? Everybody was watching Anthony Jennings, and while he had his "yeah, that's a senior in high school" moments, he also made some fantastic plays. He hit Kadron Boone with a deep sideline throw that was almost about as perfect as it could be, and did a strong job of avoiding pressure from a defense that had no reason to be holding back. But then the second half came, and Stephen Rivers stood up and told everybody that he would not hand over the backup job without a fight: 7-10 for 185 and 2 touchdowns. Yeah, he was bombing on some backup and walk-on defensive backs, but that's more than he could say a year ago. I have a feeling he's not going to hand the 2014 starting job over to Jennings without a fight.
- Another interesting schematic note was that there was not a single zone-read or option play for Jennings in the game. The question there does it indicate that he's working more on the whole playbook, or are they working more towards a specific package of plays for him and simply didn't want to show anything.
- If there was a QB that looked a bit overwhelmed at times, it was probably Hayden Rettig. But hey, chances are one of the two has to redshirt.
- One of the better pieces of news from the day was that there might have been one or two real drops on the day. That, folks, was refreshing.
- The biggest takeaway from the offense today was that OMG JEREMY HILL. He ran hard. He ran fast. He used his feet. He used his hands. He did everything he could to look like as good of a running back as LSU has had in some time. The playcalling even tried to keep him involved a lot in the passing game with a number of screen passes...
- Granted, almost none of them worked. I don't know if the defensive line was keyed on something from practice, or the offense was tipping something during the play, but just about every running back screen was sniffed out and blown out without too much effort on the defensive side.
- Among the other running backs, Terrence Magee was easily the most impressive. He runs hard for a back that isn't nearly as big as his teammates, but also shows some very quick feet and a feel for the passing game. Kenny Hilliard looks a little slimmer and faster, but I just don't see the same explosion and determination he showed as a freshman. He'll have to find that again.
- At receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. dropped a quick slant on one of the early plays, but after that, he and his mates did a fine job of getting their hands on the ball and holding on. The plays took care of themselves after that. Beckham's speed and Landry's ability to make plays were clear, and Travin Dural showed some very nice speed and acceleration. But it was once again made clear that this unit needs Quantavious Leslie to show up in June.
- On defense, two guys really stood out: Craig Loston and Kwon Alexander. The former was flying up and down the field, making tackles at the line but still doing a good job of getting down the field in pass defense. The latter wore a lot of hats well, especially in coverage. He made two fantastic plays in coverage on some long crossing routes, one of which robbed Mettenberger of a touchdown. D.J. Welter looked a little overwhelmed at times at middle linebacker, and it would be really hard to believe that Alexander won't be one of the defense's top three back there come August.
- Otherwise, the defensive tackle play of Freak Johnson and Ego Ferguson stood out. Ferguson in particular. He looked like he had something to prove. But behind them...ehhhh. Again, the new guys are going to have no choice but to contribute come August.
- Danielle Hunter is an incredibly active player, and he really was all over the field, but at the same time, you just didn't see him making a lot of plays behind the line the way you'd like a defensive end to.
- On the offensive line, Pocic, as I said, really struggled on his snaps. But not on his blocks. He's a mauler, and I would be very, very surprised if he didn't contribute this fall. In another pleasant surprise, Jerard Hawkins did a fantastic job at right tackle in place of Vadal Alexander. Controlled his man in the running game and looked agile in pass pro. The competition there might be very interesting in August.