LSU Tigers wrap up spring practice with annual game, head into 2013 with confidence

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Spring football games aren’t exactly the most precise indicator of how a team will perform in the fall. Nevertheless, the LSU Tigers came out of their annual spring contest with confidence and enthusiasm for the 2013 season.

On a crisp, clear, Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium, the White team, made up mostly of starters, soundly defeated the backup-laden Purple squad, 37-0.

With former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron now in the fold, Tiger fans were ready for their first glimpse of LSU’s new offense. As expected, however, they were only able to witness the bland version.

The Tigers operated under a largely vanilla game plan, on both sides of the ball, but there were still enough impressive performances to please head coach Les Miles. LSU was also fortunate to end the day without significant injuries.

“The key statistic today is that we are not coming away with injury,” Miles said. “It didn’t appear to me that anyone got hurt, so we go into the summer season with a lot to improve on.”

Starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who had a season of ups and downs in 2012, enjoyed a productive day. The senior completed 12-of-19 passes, for 236 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.

“Coach Cameron allowed us to call our own plays and it was the first time I’ve ever done that,” Mettenberger said. “It was kind of a slow start to get going, but we turned it around and had a pretty good day.”

Zach Mettenberger is poised to flourish under new coordinator (Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports)

Zach Mettenberger is poised to flourish under new coordinator Cam Cameron. (Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports)

While Mettenberger has the starting position locked down, a significant focal point throughout spring practice was on the backup spot. Stephen Rivers certainly did nothing to hurt his cause, and turned in perhaps the most impressive offensive performance of the day. The 6’8″ sophomore completed 7-of-10 passes for 185 yards and two scores for the White team.

Purple team starter Anthony Jennings, meanwhile, was only 8-of-21 for 98 yards, but was matched up against LSU’s starting defense for much of the game. The true freshman early enrollee connected on several impressive throws, and demonstrated uncommon poise for a player who could have been attending his high school senior prom, instead of taking snaps in Tiger Stadium.

When it comes to realistic expectations for LSU’s offense for next year, however, the most certain of all bets is that running back Jeremy Hill will get lots of carries.

The 235-pound sophomore ran around and over defenders for 102 yards on 13 carries. Despite the emphasis on an improved passing game, the Tiger offense once again proved that its bread will be buttered with a powerful rushing attack. If yesterday is any indicator, SEC defensive fronts will be bracing themselves in 2013, as Hill rumbles downhill behind mammoth fullback JC Copeland.

Defensively, LSU hopes to reload, rather than rebuild. Even though defensive coordinator John Chavis’ unit was hit hard by early entries to the NFL Draft, the overall speed of the unit is certainly formidable.

Tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson were fixtures in the Purple backfield, while defensive end Jordan Allen and linebacker Kwon Alexander also stood out. Senior safety Craig Loston is settling nicely into his leadership role in the secondary, and will be a key cog in the equation if the Tigers enjoy success in 2013.

Spring football doesn’t offer a whole lot that can be set in definitive stone, but it can provide a fleeting glimpse into what the next season may bring. For the LSU Tigers, that could very well be an improved passing game, as well as a reloaded defense.

“There’s a lot to build on,” Miles said. “It’s certainly a great challenge to start a summer season.”

THE BAYOU: Les Miles answers reporter’s cell phone during Spring Game press conference