In what has seemed like the blink of an eye, the college football season is halfway over. The Tigers of LSU have crawled to the mid-way point with a 5-1 record, but a bitter pill of a loss, swallowed forcefully at the hands of the Florida Gators, has them struggling to salvage what was expected to be a championship-contending season in 2012. Here you have the Tigers' grades, by position, at the halfway mark:
OFFENSIVE LINE: D
The awful play of this unit would have earned an "F", but for the unfathomable amount of injuries the Tiger offensive line has endured. Four of the group's five original starters are expected to be out for the South Carolina game. If any concerned Tiger fans feel that this understated fact has LSU's season swaying on the edges of disaster, they won't receive a strong argument to the contrary here.
While the downhill running game has been effective, this line's insufficient pass blocking has signal caller Zach Mettenberger scrambling for breathing room on nearly every throw. Shoddy pass protection is no way to help a still-developing quarterback, but the Tigers' road doesn't get any easier. Like a roll of thunder, here comes Jadeveon Clowney and the terrifying Gamecock pass rush. If the LSU line performs as poorly against South Carolina as they have thus far this season, Stephen Rivers will be the Tigers' new starting quarterback very soon. Hey Zach, duck!
RUNNING BACKS: B+
Along with the defensive line, the LSU backfield has been the strength of the team. The Tigers go five deep at the position, and each one of them has played the alpha role as the offense's go-to ball carrier in at least one game. Kenny Hilliard, Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, Jeremy Hill, and the currently injured Alfred Blue, have all run with authority and purpose. However, the "but" comes when mentioning this unit's propensity to fumble. Uncharacteric of a Les Miles-coached team, the untimely yet consistent fumbling away of the football, particularly in the red zone, has cost this group an "A."
LSU has been nothing short of abysmal at wide receiver. Tiger wideouts have dropped 23 passes this season, almost four per game, and 12 would have been first down conversions. This astounding statistic leads to rumblings of what could have been, but also of what could still be.
Such a devastating amount of dropped balls signals a lack of confidence, moreso than a lack of ability. These Tiger receivers are talented. Speed and playmaking capability can be found, but this leaderless group is quickly running out of excuses. Precedent must change, and change fast, or else the LSU wide receiving corps, as well as the LSU offense as a whole, will be viewed as a total failure in 2012.
Contrary to many critics in the media, Mettenberger has been a definite upgrade from Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. The junior transfer has shown off a powerful arm, and has also posted better statistics than his predecessors. But, he's also demonstrated a complete lack of pocket presence, and has not been as polished as some were expecting.
It must be stated, however, that not many quarterbacks can be successful when receivers are consistently dropping four passes a game, for half a season. And when he's not running for his life, Mettenberger has proven that he can stand in and make all the throws. Will he be able to put it all together in time to save the Tigers' season? If the nasty South Carolina defense has a say in the matter, LSU may be in trouble.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-
This group may very well be the best defensive line in the country. The fearsome foursome literally took over the game for the entire first half at Florida, which ended with LSU ahead 6-0. But what took place in the second half is what you'll see more of if LSU continously fails to demonstrate any semblance of a competent offense. Fatigue eventually took its heavy toll on the Tiger front line, and they ran out of gas. The defining moment of the game occured when the Gator offense mercilessly battered the Tiger defensive front for 25 straight run plays. But, this is still an elite group, and some day very soon, LSU will sorely miss the incredible tandem of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. Enjoy them while you can.
As the weak link on a ferocious defense last season, many fans had hoped LSU could shore up the linebacker spot for the future with the February signing of six new players. Through six games, this unit has been a pleasant surprise, as several of the freshmen have pushed starters for playing time, and in some cases, overtaken them. Improvement was expected from the John Chavis-coached group, but the newcomers have already surpassed their minimal expectations.
The biggest standout thus far at the position has been Kevin Minter. The man in the middle appears to be a budding star after putting on a linebacking clinic in Gainesville. Unfortunately, the injury bug has infected this group as well, as LSU lost freshman starter Kwon Alexander to a broken ankle last Saturday.
The unit that most fans were worried about was the LSU defensive backfield. Considering the loss of Morris Claiborne, followed by the unexpected departure of Tyrann Mathieu, this group's performance has been significantly better than expected. Although he's failed to make big plays, Eric Reid has been solid at one safety spot, while first-year starter Craig Loston has performed well at the other. On the corners, Tharold Simon's play has been steady, while impressive freshmen Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins have given Tiger fans something to be excited about for years to come.
All things considered, the first half of 2012 has been a huge disappointment for LSU. With early expectations through the roof, any loss this season was sure to be demoralizing. But there is still another half of a season to play. The No. 3 and No. 1 teams in the land are still set to invade Death Valley for night games, and LSU has nowhere to run. These Tigers can keep the status quo, or they can turn and fight.Back to the LSU Tigers Newsfeed