Few errors mar LSU's second spring scrimmage

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger throws the ball at spring practice Friday, March 15.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger throws the ball at spring practice Friday, March 15.

A simple fact was clear after LSU’s second spring scrimmage Thursday at Tiger Stadium.

Les Miles might be a little sour heading into spring break after a collage of little mistakes slightly marred what he dubbed an otherwise improving offense after nine practices.

Among the litany of small transgressions cited by the ninth-year coach: center/quarterback exchange issues, poor cadences, procedural penalties and fumbles during a scrimmage of mixed situations.

In short, corrections for Miles and the staff to make as it breaks for 12 days before returning April 2.

“We were sloppy on the offensive side,” he said. “They’re shooting themselves in the foot and need to understand we’re not going to play football that way.”

Quarterback Zach Mettenberger had another efficient outing, throwing for 247 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 21-of-35 passing for an offense that scored four times — two of those against the first-team defense.

How the day fared for backups Stephen Rivers and Anthony Jennings was more opaque. Rivers, a sophomore, went 3 of 9 for 30 yards, while Jennings was 4 of 9 for 18 yards.

Again, Jarvis Landry paced the receiving corps with seven catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, followed by freshman Avery Peterson’s three catches for 48 yards. Tight end Dillon Gordon added four grabs for 40 yards, along with Odell Beckham’s two catches for 30 yards.

In the backfield, junior running back Terrence Magee’s 76 yards on 11 carries, which included an 11-yard touchdown run, drew the praise of Miles.

“I really liked the way Magee ran,” he said. “He made some really difficult runs, nice cuts.”

Kenny Hilliard piled up 90 yards on 20 carries, while Jeremy Hill added 60 on 13 as LSU totaled 238 yards on the ground.

Granted, the first topic touched on by Miles stemmed from issues with exchanges, but he declined to name a reason for the snap snafus. LSU is in the process of replacing a bulwark in three-year starter P.J. Lonergan; auditions chiefly have been between Elliot Porter and freshman Ethan Pocic, with veteran Josh Williford seeing snaps.

Miles said the responsibility falls on both parties.

“I’ve always had the philosophy it’s on both guys,” he said. “The responsibility of giving the ball to the quarterback is the center’s, and the responsibility of the quarterback is to take it.”

Yet the coach was also quick to offer up a seemingly nuanced view instead of solely nitpicking in any critique.

“There’s some big plays and moving the football, but consistency and fundamentals are the things I’m upset with,” he said. “We have big plays, and we have talented guys. ... If we do the little things, this will be a very capable offense.”

On defense, Miles offered a plaudits to junior defensive end Jermauria Rasco, who tallied five tackles and three sacks — hinting the Shreveport native was a disruptive force on the edge. Craig Loston also had four tackles, including one for a loss.

“There were a couple offside (penalties) and a facemask penalty,” Miles said. “Other than that, the defense lined up and did the right things.”

Lagniappe

In the ongoing intrigue at middle linebacker, Miles said junior D.J. Welter saw most of the action at Kevin Minter’s old spot. Senior Lamin Barrow worked at his usual spot on the outside. “There’s an opportunity here that certainly he has, and some of these linebackers have to step in,” Miles said. “We’re not ready to say that’s a starting lineup yet.” ... Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins was singled out, too, with the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Baldwin product mentioned as a potential backup at the right or left side. “Guys that generally play with a smile on their face continue to get better, and he does that,” Miles said. “We kind of saw that athleticism coming out of high school, but we’re seeing it again and again in snaps here.”