Grading the 2012 season
How offense, defense, special teams and coaching panned out in 2012
Well another LSU season is in the books.
It seems like it was just yesterday that LSU was taking the field for fall camp in 100-degree August heat.
13 games have come and gone, and we’ve been right here to cover it for you throughout.
So now that LSU won’t take the field again versus another school until its trip to Jerry World to take on TCU 239 days from now, it’s time to look back at the season that was.
Here’s my grades for LSU’s 2012 season.
Except for a brief period in November, the offense never really got out of its own way in 2012. In a lot of ways, it should have been expected with inexperience at many of the skill positions and offensive line spots. Three opening-day starting offensive linemen didn’t finish the year, and Josh Dworaczyk, Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander went through their growing pains but seemingly had turned the corner until struggling in the bowl game (Alexander most notably). But the 2012 offense will be best remembered for coming up short when it mattered most. Eight first downs/eight three and outs or turnovers within three plays versus Florida, the inability to drive the nail into the coffin versus Alabama and nine first downs/eight three and outs versus Clemson directly resulted in LSU’s losses. Zach Mettenberger’s first year as a starter didn’t live up to the lofty expectations set before him, but his passing numbers aren’t fair to him considering how little he had to work with. The emergence of Jeremy Hill keeps this grade from being even lower.
It wasn’t that long ago that LSU’s defense was closing in on an A. Then it gave up four consecutive 300-yard passing performances to round out the season. That has dropped LSU from No. 2 nationally and first in the SEC against the pass in early November to outside of the top 20 nationally and likely in the bottom half of the SEC following bowl season. LSU’s run ‘D’ was solid all year with rare exceptions. LSU gave up practically right at 100 yards per game on the ground. Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow became a scary one-two LB punch with 234 stops between them. Sam Montgomery led the Tigers with eight sacks. Eric Reid earned several national accolades making 91 tackles and two picks, but most who watched attentively would tell you he didn’t have his best year. The run defense gets an A, but the pass defense can get no higher than a low C or high D. Average it out and the defense gets a B-.
LSU’s 2012 special teams were a far cry from what they were in 2011. However, it’s tough to live up to a year of near perfection. Kicker Drew Alleman made 16-of-18 of his field goal attempts in 2011, and he followed that up by making 21-of-29 in 2012. Five of those misses were attempts at career longs (and his miss at Auburn was on the coaches), so he gets somewhat of a pass for being thrown out there to try to do something he had never done before. LSU was still formidable but not like it was in 2011 at punting this year. After missing the first game, Brad Wing took several weeks to find his old form, and his fellow-Aussie backup Jamie Keehn showed flashes of brilliance but also shanked a couple here and there. Odell Beckham Jr. brought two punts back for scores - one of which was magic against Ole Miss - and Michael Ford had a near kickoff return touchdown versus Arkansas at a critical juncture. LSU also blocked kicks in consecutive contests to finish the year. They were good. But not great.
This is where many fans and critics will grade LSU the harshest in 2012. The offense was bad far too often in 2012, and that’s going to fall at the feet of offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa and head coach Les Miles. LSU’s offensive performances in some games were inexcusable, even if they achieved the goal of keeping the turnovers down. It resulted in a few ugly wins, but also a couple ugly losses. First year position coaches Corey Raymond (DBs) and Adam Henry (WRs) arguably coached the least productive individual units for the Tigers this season. Granted the loss of Tyrann Mathieu on defense and the lack of talent in the receiving corps didn’t help, but their struggles this year were frightening at times. Then there’s the late-game decision making that retrospectively cost LSU the Alabama and Clemson games. And don’t forget the unnecessary risks versus the Tide. Miles has always struggled with clock management, but somehow against all odds his gambles have paid off in his tenure. Not in 2012, however.