Every LSU fan knew that the Tigers were going to be 2-0 on the year following Saturday. The only thing that slowed their process of accomplishing that mark was a slight lightning delay before the game. After that, lightning struck on the field throughout the night in the right arm of Zach Mettenberger as the Tigers cruised to a 56-17 victory. Despite a sloppy second quarter, the LSU defense held the Blazers offense scoreless for the first, third and fourth quarter. Finally, OBJ made the special teams...well... special. Unfortunately, due to stupid stat-keeping rules, his impressive return of the short field goal will go down as 100 yards, but we all know it was at least 109. Enough of the recap, class is out of session and it is time to hand out some grades.
I know it was UAB, a team that allowed Troy quarterback Corey Robinson to go 30 for 32 and 319 yards the week before, but it was the way Mettenberger played that impressed me more than his stats. Don't get it wrong, the Mettsiah made his presence felt with 282 yards and 5 TDs with only throwing 19 passes in the game, but there was a lot more to it than just numbers. I don't know if it's Mettenberger having a full season starting under his belt, the introduction of QB guru Cam Cameron calling the plays, or a combination of both, but the Zach of this year and the Zach of last year appear to be two entirely different people. There is poise, a focused mindset and an exuberance of confidence coming from every one of his throws. Short, mid, long, from the other hash, it didn't matter. Mettenberger showed that he could complete every pass in what looked like a walkthrough.
He still gets the highest grade, but if there was one thing that I would like to see, hopefully next week, is he gets other targets a little more involved than Beckham and Landry, even if it is forced. We all know those two are two of the top receivers in the SEC, possibly even the nation. Even though 9 players caught a pass, only the two previously mentioned had more than one catch in the contest. When it comes to SEC play, it would be nice to see if Dural and DeSean Smith can be counted on to be an effective part of the offense.
Running Backs: B
When I saw Jeremy Hill come in and run like he did as if he didn't miss a beat and how he dominated the SEC, I smiled. Knowing what we have in him and the massive progression from Mettenberger makes the whole LSU offense feared for the first time in a long time. While the running game did put up good numbers against TCU, outside of the Magee TD run, it just felt like something was missing. That was the complete running game of Hill. Getting him back will help guys like Blue, Hilliard, and Magee get more comfortable in their roles. The problem is their number of carries will significantly drop, which they knew was coming once Hill returned. Hilliard had a decent game, while Magee and Blue were barely used, but that can be attributed to the score and how the game played out.
Next week will be interesting to see how the running game is carried out as they get Hill back into his lead role and see how the rest of the committee plays out before SEC play starts up the following week against Auburn. With Hill's return, I think Jeryl Brazil will need to show something against Kent State if he plans on getting any SEC carries. I don't see that gimmick being used too much as we go along and have the high-caliber games in the SEC we have coming up.
Wide Receivers: A
Let's just get this out of the way right now: OBJ and Landry are VERY good. While Beckham took the early spotlight with a number of catches, it was a TD catch from Landry that finished off their two-man show on offense. In what will likely go into his career highlight film, Landry made an impressive catch only topped by his reception against Arkansas. You can tell that these summer workouts the receivers had with Mettenberger have paid off because the connection he has with OBJ and Landry appears like they have been playing together for years. Having two guys like them can help make any quarterback feel a lot better sitting there in the pocket. In short, once again, those two are VERY good.
OBJ and Landry gave this position an A on their own because no one else in the receiving corps had more than one catch. Yes, it was nice to see seven other guys record a reception in the game, but someone is going to need to break out, and do it quickly before the big games come at a rapid pace. What if, god forbid, one of those two big receivers goes down or misses key time in a big game? Everyone has heard the great things about Dural, we saw the great catch he had in the summer practices, and we have heard the potential. Unfortunately, two catches in two games isn't going to cut it right now if he is relied upon. Again, it's not his fault. Why pass it around when there is about a 99% chance that OBJ or Landry will be open?
That's why I saw under the quarterback section I would like to see Cam and Mettenberger spread it around against Kent State. The Golden Flashes will not be a flash in the pan and steal this game from us, so why not try to spread it around more. Let's see more of what we could possibly have with Dural, DeSean Smith and Quantavius Leslie. Give them a chance to add a little more gameplanning for these upcoming SEC opponents.
Offensive Line: A
Mettenberger is one hell of a quarterback, but everything becomes easier when there is a textbook pocket nearly every time he drops back. If people were unsure of having only one starter returning to his previous position from last year in Trai Turner, this line has answered all doubts. La'el and Vadal are just dominant on the left side. Trai is the stocky mauler that he was last year and Hawkins is showcasing his athleticism on the right side. Finally, Porter is manning the middle and doing a solid job of being a leader on that line. Watching the NFL games on Sunday, I think even Mett has better pockets to throw from than most of the NFL QBs did throughout the day.
The run blocking was solid as well against the Blazers, but was overshadowed by their pass blocking. It might be a product of LSU having to use their 2-4th string running backs while Hill sat out against TCU and was slowly brought along against UAB. The Kent State game will be a solid sample to see how their run blocking is as Hill will likely get a majority of the carries in an attempt to get him ready for SEC play and mostly the Georgia game two weeks from now.
All in all, it is sheer beauty watching our passing, from the pocket created by the line, to the right arm of Mettenberger and the NFL-caliber play from our two stud WRs.
Defensive Line: A
I'm starting to feel like I'm back in college with all these A's this team is getting...okay, maybe it was the opposite, but hey, I did graduate and now I'm writing for this great website (sorry for the ass kissing there) so something worked out in the end. Even though it's been two games, you can already see the starting front four of Rasco, Freak, Ego and Allen getting better by the quarter. Again, I know it is UAB, but there is more to draw than just dominating the pocket against a subpar offensive line.
There were no question marks about the interior with Freak and Ego, and those two are showing the reasoning behind that confidence. Even being double teamed constantly, Freak is still finding ways to get into the backfield to make plays while dealing with some nagging injuries. If he wasn't already a handful, opposing interior o-lines will have to come up with something to stop Ego as well. Ferguson has begun to impose his will and is making his impact as well in collapsing the pocket from the inside. Quentin Thomas is beginning to show that promise that he had coming out of high school and is becoming a solid third interior d-lineman with Mickey Johnson and Christian LaCouture coming in for some spot duty.
What the dominance of the interior means is that Rasco and Allen will be getting a lot of one-on-one opportunities and they are both showing they enjoy that courtesy, the former moreso than the latter. Rasco recorded one sack and two QB hurries against UAB while Allen tacked on one more sack, and it is nice seeing the early progression of Allen. Allen reminds me of a more athletic Chase Pittman and I think we are only seeing the beginning from him. Lewis Neal and Danielle Hunter are starting to etch their names into the backup roles and continue to provide a constant pass-rushing presence and can be a handful as the season moves on.
This is where things start to get ugly, and for me, it ironically centers around middle linebacker D.J. Welter. Although he recorded three tackles against UAB, he seemed out of place a lot of times, took a number of bad angles and just seemed non-existant out there. This team is loaded at linebacker, so much so that they moved Melvin Jones to fullback during the summer practices. I hope we find a quick solution there because he just isn't working.
Barrow put up a solid stat line but he too was a perpetrator of a few bad angles as well. He is one of the leaders on that defense, evidenced by earning the renowned #18 and he provides more than what his stats show, so he gets a brief pass for now. Tahj Jones was there, but didn't record too much. Again though, this was his first game so I'll reserve my full judgement on him until I get a larger sample size.
This brings me to the younger guys in Kwon Alexander, Lamar Louis, Debo Jones primarily and Lorenzo Phillips and Kendall Beckwith to be mentioned as well. Flat out, they need to play more. There is a lot of speed and athleticism in those 5 players and they can make plays. Debo had an ill-advised roughing the passer penalty, but the good plays definitely outweighed the bad from this group. I hope we see a lot of them against Kent State because this group could be a key factor in how the defense plays in SEC games, but a little less than...
This group, and they need some work. When your two starting cornerbacks wind up being the biggest and a very apparent issue against a poor UAB team, that is something that needs to be sorely addressed and in an expedient process. Thankfully for Chavis, there is an answer in youth. Jalen Collins and Mills had subpar games, routinely getting beat on deep passes and were other perpetrators of poor angles, which resulted in longer players for the Blazers. Mills had a fairly solid game against TCU, so it was a little odd to watch him put together as poor a performance as he did. Collins has struggled in the first two contests and on a team that is loaded with talent, there isn't much room for error before your replacement is being sought.
For LSU, they have solid options in Tre'davious White, Dwayne Thomas and Rashard Robinson. Yes, you read that right, Rashard Robinson, the true freshman that was CLEARED on August 28th. He basically had 10 days in between that day and the UAB gameday and took a number of snaps for a top-ranked SEC team. That speaks volumes as to the talent of this kid. Tre'davious White is another true freshman that saw a good bit of action and made a number of plays. Watch for those two to begin their rise to the starting ranks.
The safeties played a little better than the corners in front of them, but there wasn't too much to give credit to back there. Craig Loston definitely had a better game against TCU, but he is another leader like Barrow and it would be hard to keep him off the field for significant time. Poppa can help strike fear in opponents so you always enjoy that intimidation factor. Micah Eugene has performed well at the nickel position, but with the recent rise of the true freshman, he may move back to the other safety spot where Ronald Martin currently holds the fort. Martin has played well but there is some room for improvement there for a true ball-hawking safety next to the hard hitter Loston.
Overall, a very solid performance from the offense, the defense had a few lapses in playmaking, and the special teams was basically the OBJ Show. LSU will have one more warmup game in Kent State before the SEC play starts and there are still ways this team can get even better. That's a scary thought now, isn't it?