May 7, 2013

Spring wrap-up: LSU

For the past two seasons, the LSU football team has been in the spotlight - both in the Southeastern Conference and nationally.

Two years ago, the Tigers swept through 12 regular season opponents and whipped Georgia in the SEC title game. However, LSU couldn't finish the deal as it dropped a 21-0 decision to Alabama in the national title game.

This past year, a team loaded with NFL draft choices on defense couldn't complete the job in its regular-season game against the Crimson Tide. The Tigers let Alabama drive for a game-winning touchdown in the last minute. As a result, the Tide went on to the national title and LSU played in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

The Tigers will be under the radar in the SEC West in 2013. LSU still has the talent to win the division, but most of the preseason talk will surround Alabama and Johnny Manziel-led Texas A&M. The Tigers have a tough schedule with Florida and Georgia as its Eastern Division opponents.

LSU once again received spotty quarterback play in 2012 with Zach Mettenberger as a first-year starter. Coach Les Miles hired former Baltimore Ravens coordinator Cam Cameron to run his offense. Miles can only hope Cameron can be as successful as John Chavis has been with the defense.

Chavis was hired as defensive coordinator following the 2008 season when the Tigers had difficulty stopping the opposition. Chavis has turned out productive defenses and NFL-ready players. In the past four drafts, LSU had 19 defensive players picked as compared to seven offensive players in that time.

In spring practice, Cameron introduced a new system at a new pace. Mettenberger put up good numbers in the spring game - 12-of-19 for 236 yards and two touchdowns, but they came against second and third-team defensive players.

There is less depth on this Tigers team than the ones which have posted a combined 34-6 record the past three years. Miles stressed throughout spring drills that the freshmen joining the team this summer will have an opportunity to play - not just on special teams.

"When this team reconvenes in June with a real quality freshman class, it should be a strong team," Miles said. "There's a lot to build on. When we get to the summer, we will recognize that we have a quality opponent to start the season. We will look forward to playing TCU."

The offense is more experienced, although the legal status of tailback Jeremy Hill has put a cloud over that side of the ball. But, it all comes down to how Mettenberger performs. LSU has been successful recently with average quarterback play. The Tigers will not have that luxury in 2013.

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