Tag:Les Miles
Posted on: April 4, 2011 11:47 am
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Jefferson, Lee still atop LSU depth chart

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We noted in our LSU Spring Practice Primer that more than a few Tiger fans were hoping for big things, big immediate things, from JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. With Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee's results the previous three seasons ranging from "decent" to (most often) "mediocre" to "flat embarrassing," you could hardly blame them for crossing their fingers that Mettenberger's blue-chip arm and practice battles with Aaron Murray at Georgia would give their Tigers the consistent passing attack they've craved ever since the departure of Matt Flynn.

As it stands today, though, those fans aren't going to get their wish. In fact, unless Mettenberger finishes spring with a huge flourish, their wish is going to enter fall camp still stuck at third-string, according to Les Miles:
While Jefferson seems to be the clear-cut starter, Miles said senior-to-be Jarrett Lee has the edge on junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger for the backup spot.

“Mettenberger has a very strong arm and makes a lot of nice throws and is really improving,” he said. “I think Jarrett Lee has a very distinct advantage over the time he’s been in the system. And he throws the ball very well, so I think Mettenberger has some time, he’s taking advantage of his coaching. But I think, it’s currently Jefferson and Lee and then Mettenberger.”

So for the fans in question, that's the bad news. And that the ever-wobbly Lee remains one injury away from full-time duty again is probably the worse news.

But there's good news, too, namely that Jefferson has been impressive enough to end the supposed quarterback battle even before it really began. Miles said the senior was making "much better decisions" and threw four touchdown passes in Saturday's scrimmage. If that's the case, it's possible Jefferson's MVP performance in the Cotton Bowl thrashing of Texas A&M was a turning point rather than a one-off blip.

And if that's the case, the Bayou Bengals could very well make good on the championship expectations that have been percolating ever since the 2010 season ended. Even if Mettenberger's initial season in Baton Rouge proves to be more hype than substance, assuming Jefferson's continuing offseason momentum pays dividends on the field, LSU's quarterbacking glass is still more full than empty.

Posted on: March 29, 2011 3:45 pm
 

LSU receivers happy to have Kragthorpe on board

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

This just in: LSU has been really, really terrible the last couple of years at throwing the ball.

OK, so that's not exactly a breaking story. But it does help explain the obvious, vivid frustration of the Bayou Bengal receivers when they discuss the departure of former play-caller Gary Crowton ... and, more importantly, their excitement at the arrival of new play-caller Steve Kragthorpe:
"I think we'll be more aggressive than we were last year," wide receiver Rueben Randle said. "I think we'll take more shots. Like in the scrimmage the other day, the first play, we took a shot down field. It kind of got us all excited as a receiving corps to see that" ...

"I think our passing game was like all messed up last year," tight end/wide receiver DeAngelo Peterson said. "I felt a lot of times last year I was beating linebackers, but the ball wasn't there" ...

"I think he (Kragthorpe) is the guy that we need here to get this offense rolling and make big plays down the field," said Randle, the No. 1 receiver in the nation out of Bastrop two years ago who has caught only five touchdowns in his career. "Throughout this spring, I can tell that coach Kragthorpe, he's pretty much a passing guy. I've got a feeling we're going to throw the ball more than we did. He's just a little more aggressive with the deep ball. He doesn't just call the deep shots whenever the defense gives us that. He takes it to them. That was a little different than what we did last year."
It's not unusual to see players extolling the virtues of a new coach, but the not-so-subtle digs at the previous coach aren't necessarily your run-of-the-mill responses. There's also Peterson's "ball wasn't there" complaint, which might interpreted as a dig at incumbent quarterback Jordan Jefferson. Peterson also wasn't shy about hailing the potential of new JUCO transfer (and former Georgia signal-caller) Zach Mettenberger:
Mettenberger has excelled at the deep ball and has a quicker delivery than Jefferson, who tends to wind up.

"He can throw," Peterson said of Mettenberger. "He's got an accurate arm — a strong arm. I think right now, he's just learning the offense. That's what's holding him back, but he's a good quarterback from what I've seen so far."
The overall tone from the LSU receivers makes it clear that Jefferson is still considered the likely starter ... but it's also clear that Mettenberger has their (and no doubt Les Miles's) attention.

You can't blame the LSU receivers at all for their excitement; players like Randle, Peterson, and Russell Shepard were some of the most highly-prized recruits in the country, and couldn't have imagined they'd spend two years playing for one of the most buttoned-down, ineffective, unexciting passing games this side of the triple option. The hire of Kragthorpe was widely panned after his crash-and-burn tenure as Louisville head coach, but compared to Crowton's final two years, things literally could not get any worse from the LSU passing perspective. His arrival and the potential represented by Mettenberger are, without question, good things for the Tiger receiving corps.

But are they good things for LSU? It's not enough for Kragthorpe to simply open up the offense; it's going to have to be opened up efficiently and effectively, and with a reliable quarterback under center, as anyone who remembers Dave Clawson's 40-pass debacles with Jonathan Crompton at Tennessee could tell you. And with Mettenberger lurking, a team-dividing quarterback controversy could rear its ugly head if Kragthorpe can't get Jefferson to finally fulfill his ample potential.

Yes, LSU's receivers should be excited. But LSU fans, on the other hand, might be better served to take the wait-and-see approach.
Posted on: March 11, 2011 9:05 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:08 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: LSU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Here's a look at LSU, who begins spring practice today.

Spring Practice Question: Can anyone be the quarterback LSU needs to win a championship?

As soon as the dust settled on LSU's comprehensive demolition of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the stakes for 2011 were set for Les Miles and Co.: it's some form of championship or bust.

The Bayou Bengals have been playing second fiddle and even third fiddle for three straight seasons, not only missing out on those three SEC West titles but missing by a combined ten games. Not only has LSU not gone to Atlanta since their magical run of 2007, they haven't even come close, as their divisional rivals at Alabama and Auburn have barreled their way to national titles. There's a reason (other than his clock management) Miles has somehow ended up in the annual "hot seat" chatter even as he's won 78 percent of his games at LSU.

There's a lot of reasons to think that changes this year. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has taken the Tigers to finishes of 26th and 12th in the nation in total defense his two seasons in Baton Rouge; even without Patrick Peterson, Drake Nevis and the like, fearsome young defenders like end Sam Montgomery and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu should have his unit among the nation's best again. Jumbo senior guards Will Blackwell and Josh Dworaczyk should pave the way for a powerful running game, particularly if rising sophomore running back Spencer Ware can prove his explosive Cotton Bowl performance (102 yards on 10 carries) wasn't a fluke. With former five-star recruits Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard coming into their own as juniors, receiving talent is no problem.

So there's just one question: what's going to happen at quarterback?

OK, two questions, the first being who is going to be the quarterback; expect the overwhelming majority of headlines coming out of the Tigers' spring camp to breathlessly detail the three-way battle between incumbent Jordan Jefferson, his longtime competitor Jarrett Lee, and JUCO-by-way-Georgia- dismissal transfer Zach Mettenberger. It's Mettenberger who represents maybe the most intriguing option , coming in with NFL-quality size (6'5", 247 pounds), a 32-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio at Butler County (Kan.) Community College, and the endorsement that comes with having battled Aaron Murray tooth-and-nail for the Bulldogs' backup quarterback job in 2009. Given the way Lee flailed his way through his 16-interception 2008 season and the roller coaster ride Jefferson's career has followed the past two seasons, you'll forgive LSU fans for hoping Mettenberger wins the job.

More SEC

But what's more important than who emerges from the scrum is how that player -- or players -- performs. If spring practice shows that the Tigers have three quality options available at quarterback -- and given all three's combination of experience and talent, and the fresh start offered by the arrival of Steve Kragthorpe as offensive coordinator, that's a distinct possibility -- then the team will be poised to potentially make good on what may be preseason SEC title projections. Jefferson, Mettenberger, or Lee, what's critical for LSU is that someone comes out of spring practice having cemented himself as an above-average SEC quarterback.

Of course, the possibility also exists that all three will show themselves to be lacking. Jefferson also had an outstanding Cotton Bowl but over the course of his two seasons has been entirely less than reliable; Lee has been Jefferson's backup for those two seasons; and for all his salivating potential, Mettenberger has yet to take a snap at the SEC level. If that's the case, well, we've seen already these past three seasons what happens when LSU has everything but a quarterback.

And it's a lot closer to bust than championship.



Posted on: March 4, 2011 2:07 pm
 

Les Miles keeping an open mind with his QBs

Posted by Tom Fornelli

LSU will begin its spring practice a week from today, and the position everyone will be looking at is the quarterback position where Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee and newcomer Zach Mettenberger will be competing for the starting job. As for which one has the edge, according to head coach Les Miles, none of them do. Which is why the mad scientist will retreat to his lab, mix some concoctions together, and see what he can blow up.

“We’re going to give (Lee and Mettenberger) the opportunity to do the things that they do and give Jordan Jefferson the opportunity to do the things that he does -- and make us better,” Miles said on Thursday.

“I don’t know that we’ll be in a two-quarterback system, but we’re going to let those guys that might naturally throw, throw, and we’re going to let those guys that might naturally have athletic ability and movement to do those things that they do. So, the competition will be a fair one.”

I think it's obvious that the obvious thrower Miles refers to is Mettenberger, and the natural athletic ability would belong to Jefferson. Because, let's be honest, if Jefferson's natural ability is to throw the football, then he sure had a funny way of showing it throughout most of 2010. That being said, Jefferson does have a bit of an edge over Mettenberger with his experience, as does Jarrett Lee.  It's just that most of the experience Jefferson and Lee have involves turning the ball over.

Still, if Jefferson can come into camp and perform the way he did against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, then I don't think he has much to worry about. Jefferson completed 10-of-19 passes for 158 yards and 3 touchdowns in LSU's win. He also ran for an additional 67 yards and another score. More importantly, he only turned the ball over once. If he can perform that way this spring, then the starting job should be his.
Posted on: March 4, 2011 12:35 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Oklahoma State

Posted by Tom Fornelli

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Oklahoma State, who begins practice on Monday, March 7.

Can the Cowboys offense keep the same beat? It seems like every season is supposed to be the season for Oklahoma State. The year where everything comes together, and the Cowboys win the Big 12 South, get past Oklahoma and Texas, and head to a BCS bowl. Then, without fail, the Cowboys fail to meet those expectations.

That wasn't the case in 2010. Most people weren't entirely sure what to make of the Cowboys heading in to 2010, and they shocked the world by winning 11 games and tying for the Big 12 South. The Cowboys were a 47-41 loss to Oklahoma -- one of the most entertaining games of the season -- away from the final Big 12 Championship Game.

It was the most explosive offense in the Big 12, leading the conference with 75 plays of 20 yards or more and in points per game with 44.2. So since it was the offense that brought so much success to the school, it's vital that the offense maintains its performance in 2011 if Oklahoma State is finally going to win the smaller Big 12.

On the surface, this shouldn't be that difficult to do. After all, both quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon are back. Those two paired up 111 times in 2010 for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. Making things even better, all five of Oklahoma State's starters on the offensive line are back as well.

So this should all work out, right? The two biggest playmakers on offense are back, and so is the entire offensive line. Piece of cake!

Yes, well, the man who designed the offense those guys thrived in isn't. Dana Holgorsen has moved on to West Virginia, where he awaits a head coaching job. Replacing him in Stillwater is Todd Monken.

Monken comes to Oklahoma State from the NFL, where he spent last season as the quarterbacks coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but this isn't his first time in Stillwater. Monken was the Cowboys passing-game coordinator and receivers coach from 2002 to 2004 under Les Miles. He then left with Miles to go to LSU for a few seasons before leaving for the Jaguars.

Can Monken maintain what Holgorsen started last season?

He certainly plans on trying, and it seems Monken is no fool. He saw how well the offense worked last season, and he knows all the key components are back, so he's said he has no plans on changing anything. He'll run the same system that Holgorsen ran.

The question is whether or not he can develop the same feel for it as Holgorsen had. So when spring practice begins for the Cowboys on Monday, it will be an odd situation.
Instead of watching the players and seeing how well they grasp the offense, everybody will be keeping their eye on the man now calling the plays. Practice isn't just for the players after all.
Posted on: February 24, 2011 6:07 pm
 

Mattison, Kragthorpe to make $700,000 or more

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

This just in: the upwards spiral of major college football coaching salaries isn't going to de-spiral anytime soon.

Your latest evidence arrived this afternoon with the release of salary information for coordinators at both Michigan and LSU. In Ann Arbor, the university has committed some $750,000 to new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison (pictured), with more than $900,000 possible in the (unlikely) event the Wolverines bring home a Big Ten championship. Mattison's contract represents an increase of almost $500,000 over Greg Robinson's approximate $270,000 in the same position last year.

In Baton Rouge, the propsed contract for new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe will match the $700,000 a year currently being paid Bayou Bengal defensive coordinator John Chavis (despite Kragthorpe's substantially thinner resume). Given that Chavis already has his deal signed and delivered, approving the same salary for Kragthorpe appears to be a mere formailty.

With their new contracts, both Mattison and Kragthorpe vault into FBS's highest stratosphere for assistant pay; in 2010, only five assistant coaches nationwide earned as much as $700,000. (Along with Chavis and Texas coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Georgia "DC" Todd Grantham, and South Carolina DC Ellis Johnson also hit that mark. It pays and pays well to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC.)

Though Kragthorpe's not about to touch Les Miles' compensation, it's possible that like Jon Embree and his offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy at Colorado , Mattison's salary won't be all that far off from his head coach's. Not only does being an FBS assistant pay better than ever, these days it pays almost as well as being your own head coach.

Posted on: February 24, 2011 4:38 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 5:36 pm
 

Bryan Harsin chooses Texas over LSU

Posted by Tom Fornelli

It seems that new Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin was a wanted man this winter. With so many offensive coordinator jobs open at big schools, this doesn't come as much of a surprise considering the success that Harsin has had at Boise State . What is somewhat surprising is what Harsin passed up to take the job at Texas.

According to a story in the Austin American-Statesman , Harsin had just finished talking with Mack Brown about taking the job at Texas when his phone rang. It was Les Miles on the other end of the phone, and Miles was offering Harsin the same job at LSU . The difference was that LSU was offering a long-term deal with more money. All Harsin had from Texas at that point was a one-year deal for $625,000, and though Harsin accepted the offer, it was only an offer at that point. Harsin hadn't signed anything.

However, that did not keep Harsin from telling Miles no.

"LSU is a great school, and I really was flattered that coach Miles, who's an amazing coach, was interested in me," Harsin told The Statesman . "In any other situation, I would have talked about the offer with my family. I told him I'd already accepted a job at Texas, and I wouldn't feel right if I didn't honor that."

Given the amount of times we've all seen coaches go from job to job to take more money, it is somewhat refreshing to hear that one coach decided to do the honorable thing and stick to his word. It really is. Still, at the same time, I'm not sure that Harsin made the right choice here. I'm not saying that LSU is better than Texas or anything, but if you're getting a multi-year contract for even more money, don't you take that offer?

Maybe I'm just as greedy as the coaches, but if I'm thinking about my family, I'm taking the security that came with the LSU offer over the who knows about next season deal he took at Texas. After all, if the Longhorns have another down season, would anybody be surprised if Mack Brown and the entire staff is gone in 2012?
Posted on: February 24, 2011 4:07 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 5:36 pm
 

Starting QB position 'open' at LSU

Posted by Chip Patterson

Since their team won the title in 2007, LSU fans have made a hobby of criticizing the Tigers' offense, quarterback and coordinators. After three years of falling behind Alabama and Auburn in the SEC West, many believe 2011 will be Les Miles ' best opportunity to return to the SEC Championship Game.  With such high expectations, a lot of the focus this spring will be on LSU's offense and new coordinator Steve Kragthorpe .

Kragthorpe was hired on Jan. 20 to replace oft-criticized offensive coordinator Gary Crowton . His biggest question to answer leading up to the 2011 season will be sorting out the depth chart at the quarterback position. Highly-touted junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger will be eligible to participate in spring drills and enter the 2011 season as a sophomore. The former Georgia commit will be competing for snaps alongside seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee .  According to Kragthorpe, the position is open .

“The exciting thing about all three of them is they are very competitive,” Kragthorpe said. “They know, like all the players know, that every position is open.

“There are no incumbents.”

Asked if one quarterback or another might have talents that lend themselves better to his offense, Kragthorpe replied: “My favorite quarterback is the guy who leads the team down and scores touchdowns. His productivity and consistency levels have to be extremely high.

“A lot of times people don’t see the productivity of the quarterback. It may be a run check when we’re handing the ball to the running back and it may be a 20-yard touchdown run, but it’s because the quarterback chose the right running play out of the menu we gave him at the line of scrimmage.”
Despite incessant criticism from fans and occasional benchings, Jordan Jefferson finished the season as LSU's starter. He did leave a good lasting memory, tossing three touchdown passes and running for another in LSU's 41-24 victory over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Jarrett Lee never showed quite enough consistency to completely replace Jefferson at any time during the season, and Mettenberger has yet to prove anything at an FBS level.

So with a stable of question marks, it seems like opening the starting job to competition isn't just Kragthorpe's best move -- it is his only move.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com