LSU’s offensive machine takes aim at Auburn

Ben Cook

September 17, 2013 at 10:48 am.

Terrence Magee is one of several dynamic runners for LSU. (Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

Lost in the glare of the Alabama/Texas A&M spotlight last weekend was another outstanding offensive show that took place in Baton Rouge with very little fanfare.

LSU vs. Kent State didn’t grab the national attention as the Crimson Tide and Aggies matchup did, but the 89,113 in Tiger Stadium Saturday night sure took notice. With the Tigers opening SEC play this weekend against Auburn, the rest of the SEC also needs to take notice: LSU has put together an offensive powerhouse.

Through the first three games of the season, LSU is averaging 46 points a game and 488 yards of total offense. LSU’s defense hasn’t yet been what we have grown to expect out of the Tigers but the offense has more than obscured any defenses shortcomings.

One factor for LSU has been the addition of former Miami Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron as quarterback coach and offensive coordinator, a position he also held with the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers.

“Cam Cameron is having an impact,” said LSU head coach Les Miles. “The place to improve there is run the ball a little bit more efficiently.”

Okay, the Tigers are averaging 218.7 rushing yards per game, which is not bad. With all the talent among running backs Jeremy Hill, Terrence MaGee, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard there is little doubt that when the Tigers have to grind out some yardage on the ground it will be there.

“With all of the talent that we have, as long as we push each other throughout the season, I feel like Kenny, Terrence Magee, Jeremy Hill and myself could all rush for over 500 yards,” said Blue.

The biggest difference that Cameron has made can be seen in the improved play of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. There was never any doubt about the quarterback’s physical skills; he has been plagued at times by bouts of inconsistency. But not this year. Mettenberger has thrown for 797 yards and nine touchdowns and has not been intercepted.

“Zach Mettenberger continues to improve; playing with a lot of confidence but working at it,” said Miles. “Confidence comes from preparation. He’s not going by anything. I saw him early Saturday morning studying his iPad. I generally get up early and have breakfast and go into what is our team breakfast area, and he’s in there studying, and you can just tell that he’s in it.”

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who has 17 receptions for 246 yards and five touchdowns, can see the difference in Mettenberger from last season to this.

“His growth has grown with his production. As we progress through the season he will do things even better,” said Landry. “It’s him buying into the system and he’s done a great job. His commitment to the program is unmatched.”

While most people think about the Tigers’ running back talent, they sometimes overlook the fact that 11 players have already caught passes. The top two are Landry and Odell Beckham, who has 15 catches for 330 yards and four touchdowns.

“We have guys like Travin Dural, Kadron Boone and James Wright who are great players,” said Beckham, who is also an exciting return specialist. “Other teams are going to try and focus on Jarvis (Landry). We have other receivers who are equally as good and can make the plays but haven’t had the exact opportunities.”

Beckham has five punt returns for 68 yards and six kickoff returns for 171 yards, which has led to comparisons to other great LSU return men Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson.

“To be even compared to guys like Tyrann and Patrick is such an honor,” Beckham said. “They are guys that I looked up to in terms of the return game. Tyrann taught me so much about the return game and from watching Patrick I’ve learned so much. It’s great to be mentioned with them.”

The competition gets much tougher for LSU with Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State, Florida and Ole Miss on the docket over the next five weeks. And don’t forget Alabama, Texas A&M and Arkansas awaiting on the November schedule. Miles knows that while LSU looks to be an offensive juggernaut at the moment, there are tougher challenges ahead.

“We’re putting a lot of young faces on the field, and that’s good,” said Miles. “We’re going to need them. Down the road you get these guys snaps in our stadium, you get them against a quality opponent, live, let the bullets fly, and then we get later in the season, they’ll be able to make plays in the kind of games that we’re going to need them to make plays in so we can win a championship. So enjoy the fact that we’re playing young guys.”

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