“I feel this running game is going to come around. We’ve got to get better with our technique first. We’ve got to do both: run the ball and pass the ball. Our first option is to run the ball.” ELLIOTT PORTER, LSU center
Zach Mettenberger, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have been providing most of the offensive highlights during No. 8 LSU’s 2-0 start.
But as impressive as Mettenberger’s efficiency, Beckham’s versatility and Landry’s consistency have been, the Tigers are seeking more balance. Other receivers have to emerge, and Jeremy Hill has to be reintegrated into the running game if LSU is going to continue climbing in the polls.
“I think what has to happen to an offense is it must have the ability to hurt you with both the run and the pass,” LSU coach Les Miles said Monday. “I would not want to change our development to this date in any way.
“I would think that now that we’ve established some of the parameters of how we’re going to play, let’s get a little bit better in the running game. Let’s make sure we’re more efficient and come off the football a little bit more aggressively, understand our footwork and (make our) technique cleaner. I think that’s one of the areas of improvement for this week.”
Now that the disciplinary action against Hill is over, the Tigers have all of their running backs available: Hill, last-year’s leading rusher who had six carries for 50 yards against UAB last week; Alfred Blue, who has started the first two games; Terrence Magee, who was the leading rusher in the opener against TCU; and Kenny Hilliard, who was the leading rusher against Alabama-Birmingham.
Miles said “we’ll have to see” regarding how quickly Hill’s playing time increases, but there’s little doubt he’ll be a major part of the offense.
Statistically LSU’s running game is doing just fine, though the rigors of Southeastern Conference play still await.
“I feel this running game is going to come around,” center Elliott Porter said. “We’ve got to get better with our technique first. We’ve got to do both: run the ball and pass the ball. Our first option is to run the ball.”
Even with all the success of the passing game under first-year coordinator Cam Cameron — Mettenberger’s 533 passing yards and six touchdown passes are the most by any quarterback through two games in LSU history — the Tigers are running the ball more frequently than they did last season, though the lopsided win against Alabama-Birmingham (56-17) might have skewed the numbers.
LSU has run the ball on 61.2 percent of its plays compared to 59.7 last season. The biggest statistical difference is that they have averaged 272 passing yards per game, compared to 200.5 last season.
The Tigers rushing statistics through two games are very similar to what they were for all of last season. They have averaged 174.5 yards rushing per game (compared to 173.7 last season) and 4.3 per rush (the same as last season).
“Technically there’s just a little more work to be done there,” Miles said. “We should have been much more efficient rushing than we were.”
Landry said if teams start focusing on him and Beckham, the running game will make them pay for it.
“If you double the outside guys, we’re going to run it down your mouth,” Landry said.
Landry has a team-high 13 catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns; and Beckham, whose 331 all-purpose yards against UAB were the third most in school history, has 10 catches for 254 yards and three touchdowns.
With no other receiver having more than two catches, it seems logical that opponents would try to find a way to take away Landry and/or Beckham.
“I think that’s something that’s going to be very difficult to do,” Miles said.
During the preseason, redshirt freshman Travin Dural seemed most likely to become the third receiver. In each of the first two games, he has caught a pass that turned a third down into a first down on the Tigers’ first series, then didn’t catch another pass.
Kadron Boone had one catch against TCU, Quantavius Leslie had one against UAB, and James Wright has none.
“They’re going to try and focus in on Jarvis and I,” Beckham said. “And it’s not going to work, because you have these other receivers who are equally as good and can make these same plays but just haven’t had the exact opportunities.”
Landry said the early success of the passing game has made a difference.
“We’re keeping teams off balance,” he said. “People watching film on us right now don’t really know what to expect.
“I think as time progresses and we continue to find out who we are, a lot more guys are going have to get involved and make plays for this offense.”