LSU’s regular season recap: Defensive personnel losses just too much

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SDS recaps every team’s 2013 regular season:

LSU Tigers

Final Record: 9-3 overall, 5-3 SEC

2013 was an interesting year for LSU. Known primarily as a great defensive club with just enough offense and specialty to win championships, the Tigers took a slightly different identity than years past.

Related: SEC final regular season standings

We knew that Cam Cameron had to take the offense to a different level if the Tigers would contend in the division, knowing the defense had to replace eight starters, including four along the defensive line.

And, boy, did Cameron and the offense deliver. Cameron guided the offense to a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard running back for the first time in LSU history. Zach Mettenberger had a fabulous season, completing nearly 65 percent of his passes and throwing for 3,082 yards, 22 TDs and eight INTs, transforming his game into a late first- to second-round NFL Draft pick before injuring his knee.

Related: Full SEC Bowl Schedule

Trio Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry benefited from both Cameron and an improved Mettenberger. Hill rushed for 1,185 yards and 14 TDs, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Landry caught 75 passes for 1,172 yards and 10 TDs, while Beckham caught 57 passes for 1,117 yards and eight TDs. Landry is the better receiver, but Beckham is the better playmaker. They complemented each other well. Beckham also led the SEC with 2,222 all-purpose yards and averaged a nasty 20.8 yards per play. One surprising player in 2013 was RB Terrance Magee. Magee rushed for 614 yards and eight TDs – more than Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard.

The offensive line was anchored by left tackle La’El Collins, who could be a top NFL prospect. Vadal Alexander also had a great season, too, and the Tigers gave up 21 sacks during the season. But much of that had to do with a non-mobile QB.

The defense, however, was the biggest issue with the Tigers not making a championship run. The Tigers replaced four defensive line starters, including Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, but DT Anthony Johnson would anchor the fresh faces. Although Johnson was solid, Ego Ferguson may have the higher ceiling. Ferguson finished fifth on the team in tackles – as a DT – with 58, while Johnson recorded seven tackles for loss and three sacks. DEs Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco were solid and each recorded 6.5 tackles for loss. The Tigers finished the season with 24 sacks after finishing with at least 35 the last two seasons.

Linebackers Lamin Barrow, DJ Welter and Kwon Alexander finished in the top four in tackles, with Barrow leading the team with 86 tackles. However, Alexander is going to be a star, and he recorded 61 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.

The real problem was in the secondary. Replacing All-American safety Eric Reid and CB Tharold Simon would be no easy task. And it showed. The Tigers often looked confused and inexperienced during the season. One game in particular came against Georgia, when Aaron Murray had his way with a then untested secondary, and there were obvious concerns. CB Jalen Mills is a player and was consistent, and he recorded 61 tackles and five passes defended. Freshman Tre’Davious White showed a lot of promise and athletic ability with seven pass breakups and eight passes defended, but as most freshmen do, he showed his inexperience, too. Jalen Collins is going to be a nice corner. Safety Craig Loston anchored the defensive backs, and he recorded 51 tackles and two INTs. Corey Thompson and Ronald Martin also had their moments.

LSU just missed that swagger player they’ve had the last several years. Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Kevin Minter come to mind, and nobody really assumed that defensive role in 2013.

Here’s a look at the team stats:

Category (SEC rank)
Scoring Offense 37 PPG (6th)
Rushing Offense 200.83 YPG (6th)
Passing Offense 265.1 YPG (4th)
Total Offense 465.9 (6th)
Scoring Defense 22.7 PPG (5th)
Rushing Defense 148.83 (6th)
Passing Defense 200.8 YPG (3rd)
Total Defense 349.7 YPG (4th)

One that got away: Two of the three losses were games that got away. The Tigers’ secondary couldn’t slow up Georgia’s passing attack, and Aaron Murray carved them up for four TDs, including the game winner with 1:47 left. The other one was obviously Ole Miss. The offense and defense failed to show up, and Les Miles took the blame for the loss. The Rebels hit the game-winning field goal as time expired to pull off the upset. Both games were winnable and should have been won, but they were the two that certainly got away.

Related: Get to know Iowa before the Outback Bowl

Offensive Stud: There were four to choose from, but no doubt everything went through Zach Mettenberger. His game went to another level in 2013, and WRs Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, as well as RB Jeremy Hill, benefited from Mett’s progression as a much-improved passer. His numbers went up across the board.

Defensive Stud: There wasn’t really any one standout for the Tigers’ defense, but the experienced senior and glue of the linebacking corps was Lamin Barrow. He led the team in tackles (86) and recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Barrow also nabbed two pass breakups and two QB hurries. Others in Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson played well, but no one player was overwhelming on defense.

What’s Next: Zach Mettenberger’s injury was terrible, but backup QB Anthony Jennings is getting valuable time replacing him during bowl practice and furthermore against Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Jennings is a great looking dual-threat prospect, and he could add a totally different dimension against the Hawkeyes. The NFL Draft could wipe out the Tigers again, and it’ll be interesting to see how many players are lost. Nonetheless, LSU is about to reel in a big-time recruiting class and head into the offseason with some solid momentum.

Photo Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

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