By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a (hopefully) season-long look into LSU’s quarterback play. I’ll be charting every throw made by an LSU quarterback in 2017, with as much detail as possible. If you’d like any particular aspect of the Tigers’ passing game analyzed, comment below or hit me up on Twitter, and I’ll track it. This week: Danny Etling and D.J. Chark’s connection.
Week One: First down success vs. BYU | Week Two: LSU shows off its deadly deep ball vs. Chattanooga | Week Three: Etling Under Pressure | Week Four: I Was Too Busy Doing This and Making a Magazine to Chart a Loss to Troy | Week Five: Intermediate Issues
The Danny Etling-to-D.J. Chark connection that fueled LSU’s comeback win over Auburn last weekend has been years in the making.
The two first began developing their chemistry in the 2015 season on the scout team, when Etling was redshirting after his transfer from Purdue and Chark was buried on the depth chart behind Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural, John Diarse, and Trey Quinn. That partnership blossomed last year, when Etling found Chark 26 times for 466 yards and three scores. And with Dupre and Dural gone to the NFL after last season, and Diarse and Quinn now catching passs at TCU and SMU, Etling-to-Chark was always going to have to thrive in 2017 for LSU’s offense to follow suit.
So far, so good – though not without hiccups. Here’s a breakdown of Etling’s passes to Chark this season.
Danny Etling on Attempts to D.J. Chark
[table]Attempts, Completions, Yards, Touchdowns, Interceptions, Passer Rating
33, 20, 465, 0, 1, 172.9 [/table]
Those numbers soar when adjusted for two key Chark-Etling plays negated by a penalty and a drop, both against Mississippi State. Etling fired a first-quarter touchdown pass to Chark called back by a bogus offensive pass interference call, and Chark dropped a third-quarter touchdown pass in his mitts. Adjusted for the season, Etling to Chark has produced a 212.76 passer rating – and that doesn’t account for some balls Etling has underthrown that Chark would’ve scored on.
Their most productive play has been the deep play action ball. Etling is 6-of-8 for 214 yards when targeting Chark on play action, good for a 299.7 passer rating. Chark has also been a reliable third-down target for Etling. The pair is 6-for-11 for 11 yards on third downs, converting them into first downs 45.45% of the time, compared to Etling’s total third-down success rate of 32%.
Their connection against Auburn proved vital, too. Chark finished with five catches for a career-high 150 yards. Of those five catches, two were conversions on third-and-long (11 and 15 yards). Knowing Chark was LSU’s best deep threat – the average pass from Etling to Chark is 18.97 yards downfield, compared to Etling’s season average of 9.42 yards – Auburn tried to take the top away from No. 7. Etling adjusted smartly, hitting Chark with two perfect back shoulder throws, both of which picked up first downs.
On the day, Chark was Etling’s most dangerous threat, as he has been all season.
Danny Etling vs. Auburn
Receiver, D.J. Chark, All Other Receivers
Targets, 6, 18
Completions, 5, 8
Yards, 150, 56
TDs, 0, 1
Rating, 293.3, 88.9 [/table]
Clear patterns have emerged among LSU’s receiver corps. Chark is clearly the go-to guy, while Russell Gage is the jet-sweeper of choice, picking up 168 yards on 18 carries.
Derrick Dillon has emerged as a go-to man on third down for Etling. The sophomore has a team-best 66.7% success rate on third down targets. Six of his 13 targets have come on third down, and he’s converted four of them. Among players with at least 10 targets, he leads the team in percentage of catches leading to a first down (75%), and Etling is 5-of-6 for 56 yards when targetting Dillon on third down. The shifty slot man creates solid separation on the outside and has shown good hands from that position, dropping just one pass on the season.
Drake Davis has been infrequently used but explosive when called upon. Etling’s passer rating is highest when throwing to Davis (297.9), who has touchdowns on two of his three catches.
Darrel Williams has been a reliable checkdown, grabbing 10 of Etling’s 12 targets directed his way with a 141.4 passer rating.
Danny Etling Target Breakdown
[table] Player, Passer Rating, Success Rate
Chark, 172.9, 45.45%
Gage, 138.0, 40.91
Dillon, 111.2, 46.15%
Moreau, 122.1, 36.84%
Williams, 141.4, 33.33%
Davis, 297.9, 42.86%
Sullivan, 158.58, 40.0%
Average, 148.08, 42.25% [/table]