But before Les Miles and the Tigers invade the House that Jerry Built to battle TCU, TSD will get you ready by tackling a question a day for seven straight days surrounding the shape of LSU's team entering the Aug. 31 opener.
Saturday – Which freshmen will make an impact on defense in the opener?
Sunday – Can LSU's new-look offensive line gel in time for kickoff?
Monday – How will LSU be different in 2013 than 2012?
Tuesday – Who will provide secondary depth and play in special packages?
Today's Question: Will the formula change this year for the LSU offense and Zach Mettenberger?
Broken down a little farther, this question is really asking a few different things. One: Will the run-pass ratio be the same or similar? Two: How much (if at all) and in what ways will starting QB Zach Mettenberger be asked to do more this fall than last? Three: Will the Tigers attack defenses in the same way – in similar sets and with similar personnel?
Let's address all three of these areas one at a time.
First, in respect to the run-pass ratio, here's a snapshot below of how LSU's fallen on that scale in every season since Miles took over as head coach in 2005.
2005: 509 rushes, 360 passes – 58.6% run
2006: 450 rushes, 368 passes – 55.0% run
2007: 612 rushes, 442 passes – 58.1% run
2008: 495 rushes, 391 passes – 55.9% run
2009: 435 rushes, 336 passes – 56.4% run
2010: 538 rushes, 301 passes – 64.1% run
2011: 591 rushes, 279 passes – 68.0% run
2012: 527 rushes, 356 passes – 59.7% run
Up until the 2010 season, it's really remarkable how consistent (and balanced) the LSU offense was. For five straight seasons the run-pass ratio didn't vary by more than 3.6 percent. That's most certainly commentary on the staff's trust in the quarterbacks who were pulling the strings during that time, especially the first few years when JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn were under center. Then, in 2008, LSU had to throw more often than it wanted under Jarrett Lee because of all the deficits the team faced. 2009 was actually Jordan Jefferson's best statistical passing season, so the numbers were still fairly in-line with what Miles & Co. would like to do throwing the ball.
It was the 2010 season, when the wheels started to come off for Jefferson, that Miles changed course ... noticeably. During the 2010 and 2011 campaigns, Miles took the game out of his quarterbacks' hands for the most part and let a very talented stable of backs run rampant. But it's clear the tide started to change last season with the strong-armed Mettenberger at quarterback.
Heading into this season, and answering the first question from above, I expect that number to continue to ease back toward the pack and settle in somewhere between 55-58%. And, honestly, I think it has very little to do with Cam Cameron's presence as offensive coordinator. Mettenberger's natural progression into his senior season and second full year as a starter has provided the staff with a confidence that the offense can be more balanced than it has been in the past three seasons, particularly in 2010 and 2011.
Second, as a follow-up to the point above, if Mettenberger is going to throw more than the 352 times he did in 2012, then obviously he will be asked to do more in 2013. However, in no way do I think LSU is about to completely change course and put the bulk of the game on his shoulders rather than relying on a strong run game. So the percent change of how much more will be asked of Zach will be incremental in terms of pass versus run.
Where he'll challenged at a much higher rate than he was last season is in leading the offense cerebrally – through establishing and maintaining the desired tempo for a particular game, to making more checks at the line of scrimmage and just generally having a little more input and say-so to what happens on a play-by-play and drive-by-drive basis after reporting back to Cameron in the press box.
Third and lastly, the Tigers are likely to alter the way they attack defenses and present themselves, subtly for the most part but possibly wholesale in at least one facet.
The one not-so-subtle change is something we've discussed for weeks. LSU has installed an up-tempo pace at practice, something the Tigers are not just dabbling in but running almost exclusively behind closed doors. It's yet to be seen how much of that will be on display in Arlington and throughout the 2013 season, but it's a safe bet that LSU will use the no-huddle more than usual this fall to catch opponents off-guard in the power-run game.
Other than that, there are some expected slight alterations to monitor. With Chase Clement and Nic Jacobs no longer in tow, it would seem less likely that LSU go to the well on two-TE sets as often as it has for the past three seasons. The Tigers would like to be a little less predictable in that sense, having a guy at the position (in one-tight sets) that can both run-block and catch passes. I would also expect the Tigers to find ways to use multiple backs at once on Saturday night. There are a number of things Cameron can do with Kenny Hilliard at fullback and also Terrence Magee as a slot receiver.