Rabalais: LSU sends positive message

Sometimes, it’s important to send a message. Saturday’s Spring Game was one of those times for the LSU football program.

LSU was in full positive spin mode. The school let fans into Tiger Stadium for free, showed off last season’s Southeastern Conference championship and multiple national award winners.

There were fan activities, ticket giveaways, anything to erase the perception that 2011’s 13-1 record was a failure because it ended with a Titanic-like loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game.

It wasn’t, of course, but there was a clear message that Saturday that this is a program that has turned a meaningful page. And that the new page of the playbook features passing aplenty.

Offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe bristled at the notion that LSU didn’t pass enough last season, citing the many lopsided wins the Tigers had.

“If you go back and study us, we threw the football in first half of games,” Kragthorpe said. “I think it’s a bit of a misnomer.”

Perhaps, Coach K, but the freshest memories for your fans are of zero first downs in the first half against Georgia in the SEC championship game, or the inability to crack 100 yards total offense against Bama.

No, the talk all spring has been about Zach Mettenberger, the Fab Five receivers, Mettenberger’s ability to throw effectively to said Fab Five and lead this offense to new heights.

It certainly looked like LSU was intent Saturday on making a point. Mettenberger completed 14-of-25 passes for 270 yards with two touchdowns — one a bomb to Odell Beckham Jr., the other a beautiful pass to a well-covered Russell Shepard in the end zone. He also completed passes of 53 and 54 yards and attempted several other home runs — and made it look rather effortless, too.

“It’s what we’ve been doing all spring,” Mettenberger said. “We mixed it up very well. We took a lot of shots more than usual. But we wanted to show we are aggressive and are going to make some plays.”

(Editorial note: A-ha!)

Certainly all the passing was only in a small part about pleasing the fans.

It also had to be a lot about pleasing recruits.

There’s no guarantee Mettenberger, a junior, will be back in 2013 if he has a stellar 2012. And to be blunt, backups Stephen Rivers and Jerrard Randall have a long way to go. Whether incoming freshman Jeremy Liggins (who was in attendance Saturday on his birthday) will ever be a legitimate quarterback at 6-foot-3, 270 pounds is highly debatable.

Kragthorpe has been piling up the frequent flyer miles cultivating relationships and making scholarship offers to quarterbacks across the country. LSU needs to sign a quarterback or two for 2013. It would behoove LSU to be able to go to those quarterback say, “You see when we have someone we trust who can throw it we will. Plenty.”

Sometimes it’s important to send a message.