WORSHAM: On the Ball
New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 Tigers
There have been worse years in LSU football, but 2012 may go down as the most painful 12 months in the program’s history.
Hyperbolic as that claim may seem at first glance, the pain of the year gone by in TigerTown can be realized and measured when reflecting on the season’s losses, in score and scope.
- A BCS title game loss in the program’s most pitiful showing on a grand stage on Jan. 9
- The loss of two highly touted recruits before (and on) National Signing Day in Gunner Kiel and Torshiro Davis
- The loss of a Heisman Finalist because of repeated drug abuse and violation of team rules
- The loss of an All-American tackle to injury for the season
- The loss of an All-Conference tackle to undisclosed personal matters
- A tough loss to Florida on the road, damaging national title hopes
- A crushing loss to Alabama at home, killing national title hopes
- A numbing loss to Clemson in a bowl game on national television, the first time in school history the team lost two bowl games in the same calendar year
Gracefully, however, the passing of time has put an end to 2012 - which of course was a leap year, providing an extra 24 hours for Tiger fans to endure.
If 2013 is to be better, it will take great resolution from the entirety of Tiger Nation. It’s only fitting, then, that we use our first Tiger Rag of 2013 to set - in no particular order - some New Year’s resolutions for an LSU football program that could use a healthy injection of resolve.
1. Offensive Line: Stick together
There was no single contributing factor more impactful to - and less blamed for - the Tigers’ struggles in 2012 than the attrition along the offensive line.
Widely held to be the strength of the LSU offense entering the season, the offensive line during fall camp featured a pair of All-SEC candidates at tackle in Chris Faulk and Alex Hurst.
But Faulk went down in practice leading up to LSU’s home contest against Washington, and Hurst disappeared from town after the loss to Florida, returning home to deal with personal matters. Add in the loss of guard Josh Williford, who was concussed against UF, and that’s 60% of LSU’s starting line gone two games into conference.
The result was an inconsistent line that failed to protect an immobile quarterback in dire need of time in the pocket. Replacements Josh Dworaczyk, Trai Turner, and Vadal Alexander each shined at times, but the latter two, in particular, had their share of freshmen faux pas. Sacks abounded, and the running game steadily declined down the home stretch.
The good news is that group enters 2013 more seasoned that it would have been otherwise. Williford will be back, as will Faulk. If that unit can stay healthy - physically and mentally - it could pay wonders for the offense in the fall.
2. Mettenberger and receivers: Show me
Quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe is fond of saying his favorite state is Missouri: “The Show Me State.” Kragthorpe implores his playmakers to let their play do the talking.
For all the talk during the season’s buildup, QB Zach Mettenberger and his top targets showed little more than flashes of potential amid mediocrity in 2012. There’s not much Mettenberger can do about his slow feet, but the overthrows and careless turnovers need fixing. The play of the line hurt, as did the lack of a go-to receiver, but Mettenberger can be - should be - better than what he showed this season.
The receivers, meanwhile, need to make it easier on their QB. The self-dubbed Fab Five looked more like Drab Five this year, with drops galore and poor route-running, offering little separation for Mettenberger to throw into. The unit as a whole should spend less time making up nicknames in 2013, and more time earning them.
3. Jeremy Hill: Do it again
Hill was the Tigers’ best weapon in 2012. When starter Alfred Blue went down with a knee injury, the freshman exploded onto the scene, to the tune of 775 yards and 12 TDs.
Now Hill has an even tougher task: improving. Tiger backs like Cecil Collins and Justin Vincent - even Kenny Hilliard - can attest to the difficulty of sustained success in the SEC backfield. Blue will be back in the fold to split the burden, but Hill will be the top Tiger in 2013.
A 2014 draft eligible sophomore, Hill will have plenty of professional motivation to take into 2013. LSU will need every inch he can give them - if not more.
4. Defense: Reload
For all the praise heaped on John Chavis and the LSU defense in 2012 - all of it deserved - the Tigers allowed 300+ passing yards to their last four opponents, after having allowed no offenses to reach that plateau in the nine games prior.
Now add in the confirmed losses of Kevin Minter, Eric Reid, Tharold Simon - and the likely losses of Sam Montgomery, Keke Mingo, and Bennie Logan - to the NFL draft, and things aren’t so certain for Chavis’ unit heading into 2013.
Luckily, LSU’s recruited depth at all positions. The defensive talent will be there; it’s just a matter of gelling as a unit and finding an on-field leader.
5. Les Miles: Just win, baby
Fans will forever be divided on Miles, if for no other reason than he’s not Nick Saban.
But fans will never be divided on victories.
Miles, for all his perceived flaws, has been remarkably successful at LSU. That a 10-win season warrants outrage among some is evidence enough of the preceding claim.
Sure, Miles needs to vastly improve an offense that’s finished 85th, 86th, 86th, and 112th in the country in the last four seasons, respectively. And he needs to break that nasty recent habit of losing games his teams could or should have won (Alabama and Clemson, this season).
But all of that can be cured by repeated doses of victory in 2013. It’s just a matter of resolution.
Cody Worsham is the editor of Tiger Rag covering football and men’s basketball. He is a graduate of LSU Journalism. Reach him at email@example.com.