LSU Tigers: Jeremy Hill
Here's how we see them fitting in.
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2012 record: 10-3
2012 conference record: 6-2
Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 3; special teams: 1
Top returners: QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Jeremy Hill, RB Alfred Blue, OL La'el Collins, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Odell Beckham, LB Lamin Barrow, SS Craig Loston, CB Jalen Mills
Key losses: DE Barkevious Mingo, DE Sam Montgomery, DT Bennie Logan, LB Kevin Minter, FS Eric Reid, CB Tharold Simon, OT Josh Dworaczyk, C P.J. Lonergan, K Drew Alleman, P Brad Wing
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Jeremy Hill* (755 yards, 12 touchdowns)
Passing: Zach Mettenberger* (2,609 yards, 12 touchdowns)
Receiving: Odell Beckham* (43 receptions, 713 yards), Jarvis Landry* (56 receptions, 573 yards)
Tackles: Kevin Minter (130)
Sacks: Sam Montgomery (8)
Interceptions: Tharold Simon (4)
1. A new offense: The arrival of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron saw the Tigers throwing the football around all spring. It's clear LSU's sometimes anemic passing offense will be asked to carry a larger load this fall, with Mettenberger returning along with his favorite deep threat (Beckham) and his go-to possession receiver (Landry).
2. Barrow's a leader: After losing Minter to the NFL draft, LSU will look to its other 100-tackle linebacker for leadership. Barrow was productive all spring while staying at the weak-side linebacker spot where he excelled in a 104-tackle junior season. He could possibly move to middle linebacker in the fall.
3. More power: Even in a more open offense, LSU should be able to run the ball. With La'el Collins moving from left guard to left tackle and Josh Williford replacing him at left guard (sliding over from right guard), the Tigers will be able to start four offensive linemen who have started at least the majority of a season somewhere on the line. With fullback J.C. Copeland and four proven running backs returning, don't look for Cam Cameron's offense to abandon the run.
1. The Hill situation: LSU's leading rusher was suspended from the team indefinitely after he was arrested for his part in a bar fight that happened while he was on probation for a previous charge. If Hill serves a long suspension or is not on the team, the Tigers will be down to three scholarship running backs. Would that force the Tigers to change their offensive identity?
2. A new front four: The Tigers lost all four starters on the defensive line, including three (plus a backup) who were picked in the NFL draft. LSU has recruited well, but a lot of unproven talent will have to perform up to expectations for the defense to be as good as it was in 2012. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who played starter-like snaps as the third tackle last season, will take on a leadership role.
3. Special teams dominance?: Under Les Miles, LSU has usually outplayed opponents on special teams. But with Wing giving pro football a try and kicker Alleman finished, there are serious questions about whether LSU can be as consistently good as years past. Walk-ons will be asked to replace Alleman's consistency.
Hill's attorney, Marci Blaize, said the heckling began before a cell phone caught Hill on video during the altercation.
"There's no denying he's on the video, but the video is 15 seconds long and certainly doesn't tell you everything that happened that evening," Blaize said Thursday. "In my experience and the cases I've had, there's usually a reason why a person will strike another individual, and I can tell you that's the case here."
According to police, Hill punched the alleged victim in the side of the head before a second, unidentified suspect knocked the alleged victim unconscious. The cell phone video shows Hill exchanging "high fives" with the second suspect and others after the alleged victim was on the ground, Baton Rouge police Lt. Don Kelly said.
Hill, who led the Tigers with 755 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, was arrested early Saturday morning and booked with misdemeanor simple battery. Coach Les Miles suspended Hill indefinitely on Monday. Hill was already on probation after he was arrested in early 2011 for an alleged sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl. Hill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was allowed to enroll at LSU last year.
But this situation could cost Hill more than just missed games or the 2013 season, considering he was already on thin ice when he arrived in Baton Rouge.
Complicating matters for Hill is the fact that he told police that he wasn't in the fight, despite the video -- which is considered evidence -- showing Hill involved in it. Police said Hill told officers before and after he was shown the cell phone video that he was near the fight, but wasn't involved. He also said he didn't know the second suspect.
Blaize hasn't disputed that Hill is in the video, but added that she wasn't sure why Hill's comments were taken the way they were.
Regardless, this has to be an extremely frustrating situation for Miles. He isn't commenting on Hill's situation until the legal process plays out, but if Hill is found guilty of simple battery -- after being on probation -- Miles will have to seriously considering parting ways with Hill.
Until Miles has to make any sort of decision, he'll wait for all of the facts to come out, which could make for a longer spring/summer than intended for LSU's coach.
Alabama lost nine draft picks, including three first-rounders, but Nick Saban has a host of talent returning on both sides of the ball, and the Tide's schedule isn't too daunting after the first two games.
But there are teams that will test the Tide's road to a national championship trifecta in 2013. Colleague Travis Haney picked five teams from around the country that could challenge Alabama's title hopes this fall. Ohio State topped his list, while Texas A&M made it from the SEC.
No surprise there with the Aggies. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel returns with a bundle of riches to accompany him in the Aggies' backfield.
Johnny Football might not have Luke Joeckel protecting him, but Jake Matthews provides quite the safety net with his move to left tackle, and there is still talent and experience up front. Mike Evans leads a young but talented group of pass-catchers.
The defense is a concern, with five members of last season's front seven gone, but the Aggies will still be equipped to win most shootouts.
A&M benefits from getting Alabama at home early in the season, but has to play Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU and Missouri on the road. Even beating Alabama early doesn't guarantee the Aggies will make it to Atlanta over the Tide.
Here are four other SEC teams that could wreck Alabama's title train this fall:
The Gators will yet again be elite on defense. First-round draft picks Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam might be gone, but Dominique Easley moves back to his more natural position at defensive tackle and could one of the best at his position this fall. Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy could be the top cornerback duo in the SEC, while inside linebacker Antonio Morrison has the makings of being a budding star.
The offense is still a concern, especially with the lack of proven receiving talent, but quarterback Jeff Driskel has found a lot more confidence in his second year under offensive coordinator Brent Pease, and he'll have a much tougher offensive line and another loaded backfield to work with.
Sure, the defense is younger and less experienced, but people in Athens are excited about the younger guys taking over. They were very receptive to coaching and showed continued improvement this spring. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins has playmaker written all over him, while freshman Tray Matthews could be the next big thing at safety. Having Damian Swann back at cornerback is huge.
Offensively, Georgia will be able to score on just about everyone. Aaron Murray is looking to be the first SEC quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in four seasons, and should leave with a handful of SEC/Georgia records. He has five offensive linemen returning, the best one-two running back punch (Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall) and plenty of receivers to throw to, including Malcolm Mitchell, who has moved back to offense full-time.
Yes, the Tigers lost a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but Les Miles seemed pretty happy with where his defense was -- especially his defensive line -- at the end of spring. Jermauria Rasco could be a big-time player at defensive end for LSU, while linebacker Lamin Barrow has the talent to be an All-SEC performer. The return of cornerbacks Jalen Collins and Jalen Mills should continue the Tigers' trend of having an elite secondary.
The offense should be better, too. Zach Mettenberger is way more comfortable in the offense and has developed better chemistry with his receiving targets, which all return from last season. He'll have a solid offensive line in front of him and a loaded backfield. Although, it will be important to see what happens to the suspended Jeremy Hill, who could be the Tigers' top offensive weapon.
Jadeveon Clowney hasn't left, and the Gamecocks should once again be stacked along their defensive line. South Carolina does have to replace its two-deep at linebacker and has a couple of holes in its secondary, but we all know that a good defensive line can mask weaknesses behind it.
And the offense should be pretty balanced this fall. South Carolina possesses two solid quarterbacks and a talented running back stable led by rising sophomore Mike Davis. Bruce Ellington is back at receiver, and it sounds like the very talented Shaq Roland is finally starting to come around and should be a valuable receiving target this fall. This team has the personnel to make it back to Atlanta.
The Tigers are always good for offseason news and, as recent events tell us with the off-field arrests of Jeremy Hill and Tharold Simon (on his way to the NFL), the news isn't always good.
Things never get boring on the bayou. Here are five storylines to look out for prior to LSU starting August camp.
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesJeremy Hill's arrest and suspension puts LSU's offensive fortunes in flux.
The questions are many. Does Hill face a serious legal problem given his probation? If he does, will he still be available at the start of the fall semester?
If he doesn't face a serious legal issue, might he face a discipline issue from Les Miles and, if so, what might that be?
The Tigers have just four scholarship running backs, including Hill. Losing him before the first August practice could hurt LSU's power running identity.
2. The Leslie situation: What might cushion the blow of either losing Hill or seeing him serve a lengthy suspension would be improvement to the Tigers' sometimes anemic passing game.
That's where junior college transfer Quantavius Leslie comes in.
The Hinds Community College sophomore needs to finish coursework at his junior college to be eligible to join the Tigers this summer. If he makes it, the hope is he gives LSU the big, downfield threat it's looking for. LSU has plenty of experience back at receiver, but all of the top receivers are around 6-foot tall. Leslie would add something the Tigers currently lack.
The hope was that Leslie would graduate at the end of the fall of 2012 and join the team in the spring semester. That did not happen and he had to return to junior college to finish his degree requirements. Reports from his juco have been good, but Leslie still has to finish.
3. Scheduling: LSU seems to be in the minority in being unhappy with the SEC schedule format.
The Tigers are stuck having to play an annual game with Florida as its "permanent" cross-division rival while the other SEC West kingpin, Alabama, gets to play Tennessee, which has struggled in recent years.
LSU's preference would be to eliminate the permanent cross-division rivalry or, possibly, add a ninth SEC game. Neither idea seems to have much traction as the conference members, for the most part, are content with their league schedules. But LSU will try again in both fronts at the SEC spring meetings later this month.
4. Youth is ready?: We usually think of a new recruiting class beginning to compete for playing time in August.
In reality, it starts much sooner than that. Eight members of LSU's recruiting class enrolled in spring and several made pushes to be on the two-deep. The rest of the class will be on campus in June, ready to go through the offseason workout program.
By the start of August camp, we might already have an idea who is ready to push for time based on what we're hearing about their offseason work.
5. Pursuing the 2014 class: Given an unusually strong year for talent in Louisiana, LSU has a legitimate chance at a No. 1 recruiting class nationally.
The Tigers entered May with nine commitments and are on the short list for several uncommitted players in the ESPN 150. Starting with LSU's late-May "Bayou Picnic" for top prospects and continuing with a pair of summer camps in early June and mid-July, the Tigers will have a series of recruiting events that traditionally have yielded the Tigers dividends in its recruiting classes.
This year, LSU will hope to use the camp to land some big names from the state and the region in a year where Louisiana has the nation's top prospect (running back Leonard Fournette) and its top offensive lineman (tackle Cameron Robinson), among several other top recruits.
1. LB Lamin Barrow: LSU had eight players drafted from its 2012 defense and Barrow, with 104 tackles last season, was more productive than many of those guys. A starter at weakside linebacker in 2012, he should end up as the Tigers' middle linebacker and defensive leader.
2. QB Zach Mettenberger: The senior had a good spring, throwing for big yards in touchdowns in all of the scrimmages while looking mostly comfortable in Cam Cameron's offense. LSU might lean on its passing game more this season.
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It was also a bit of a black eye for Tigers football.
On the same weekend LSU set an NFL record with six defensive players drafted in the first three rounds and a school record with nine players total getting picked, the Tigers also had two players arrested -- their leading rusher and a draft prospect two nights before he was picked.
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJeremy Hill's arrest over the weekend was the latest in a series of disturbing events involving LSU football players.
Jeremy Hill, who rushed for 755 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman in 2012, is the one dominating the headlines Monday.
Already on probation after pleading guilty to carnal knowledge of a juvenile, Hill was arrested Saturday night after allegedly punching someone outside a bar near LSU and subsequently has been charged with simple battery. He was suspended from the team indefinitely by coach Les Miles on Monday.
His arrest came two nights after former Tigers cornerback Tharold Simon was arrested on several charges, including public intimidation, in a dispute with police in his hometown of Eunice, La. Despite the arrest, Simon was drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU finished its spring drills Saturday, capping 15 practices spread out over six weeks, and while a lot of the big names performed as expected, other names emerged.
Zach Mettenberger is solidly entrenched at quarterback, as is Jeremy Hill at running back. Linebacker Lamin Barrow has stepped into a leadership role on defense, as has defensive tackle Anthony Johnson.
But who took the biggest steps in the spring? Let's look at five.
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- For the first time since the disappointing loss to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, LSU will be in action for public consumption Saturday when the Tigers play their annual spring game at Tiger Stadium.
Like many teams in college football, most of the Tigers' preparations are done behind closed doors. For the public, there is no access to practices. For the media, there are a mere 10-15 minutes of open practices most days. For students, there's Thursday's open practice (4 p.m. with student ID).
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From: Tone (Denver): Gary, do you think Zach Mettenberger will be better prepared to perform at a higher level than last year?
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In this era of the versatile back, that's hardly unusual. But at LSU, where power football has ruled the day under Les Miles and previous offensive coordinators Greg Studrawa and Gary Crowton, seeing Blue out wide may represent something of a sea change in the Tigers' approach.
Is it time to forget Miles' signature toss lead on third-and-3 and instead look for something more creative? Evidence suggests that time may have come.
David Drapkin/AP PhotosCam Cameron brings years of NFL experience with him to LSU, where he'll attempt to open up the Tigers' offense.
Under Cameron, LSU may still get the ball to a running back, but not necessarily by running a toss lead, power, or a swing pass out of the backfield. If Blue has a slow linebacker on him, he might go out wide to try to create a 1-on-1 mismatch. If a tight end has a small defensive back on him, he might be isolated.
"We're all part of the passing drills, same as the receivers," running back Jeremy Hill said. "Everybody has to be prepared to be part of it. Even fullbacks."
This should come as little shock to those who have followed Cameron, the former Indiana University and Miami Dolphins head coach who was named LSU's offensive coordinator in February.
As offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers in the early 2000s, he developed an offense that routinely took advantage of mismatches involving running back LaDainian Tomlinson and tight end Antonio Gates. Cameron would often use running back Ray Rice in the passing game with the Baltimore Ravens, where he was offensive coordinator until he was fired midway through the 2012 season, just before Baltimore began a run to the Super Bowl.
While Cameron has insisted he's the one adapting to what he called a "great system" at LSU, the change in emphasis this spring is unmistakable.
LSU finished 10th in the SEC in offensive yards per game last season (374.2), the third time in four seasons the Tigers have finished near the bottom in the SEC offensive rankings, including a dead-last finish in 2009 (304.5 yards per game). Only the 2011 team, which averaged 355.1 yards per game en route to an SEC title and appearance in the BCS championship game managed to finish in the top half of the SEC in offense.
Some of the lack of production could be blamed on LSU playing to its strengths on defense and special teams. But most of LSU's big losses in recent seasons were games where the Tigers would go long stretches with anemic production, like the 21-0 loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS title game and last year's 14-6 loss to Florida, a game in which LSU went two quarters without picking up a first down.
Miles first attempted to solve the offensive problem by hiring Steve Kragthorpe as offensive coordinator after Crowton left for Maryland following the 2010 season. Kragthorpe, however, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and never coached a game as offensive coordinator, leading to the promotion of Studrawa from offensive line coach.
A year ago, the hopes were put on new quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who had the big, accurate arm that the Tigers perhaps lacked since JaMarcus Russell. But Mettenberger put up modest numbers.
Regardless of the changes, the results have stayed the same. Some blame Miles, a former offensive coordinator who favors the power style. But Miles made it clear he would allow his old friend, Cameron -- who once shared an office with Miles while on Michigan's staff under Bo Schembechler in the early 80s -- to enjoy a free rein with the offense.
"There will be an ability for him to change and restructure," Miles said.
So far, Miles seems hands off, staying with the offensive line at practice, helping Studrawa, who moved back to offensive line coach after Cameron's hire.
Meanwhile, Cameron is on another field, lining up running backs wide and installing a redzone offense Landry said was "completely" different from what LSU did last year.
And while there are always growing pains associated with a new offense, the hope is that by the time the season kicks off at Cowboys Stadium against TCU on August 31, a more creative offense will be unleashed.
“It’s tough because it’s a new offense,” Mettenberger said. “It’s going to take some time. But once we get it down, this is going to be a good offense for us.”
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertFollowing a 12-touchdown season in 2012, Jeremy Hill aims to keep the Tigers running next season.
In fact, he could be the X factor in LSU's offense.
The Tigers want to throw the ball more, and probably will with Cameron's philosophy and all of Mettenberger's receiving targets returning, but a powerful running game has always been in Les Miles' arsenal. Having a bullish back like Hill, who resumes his role as LSU's No. 1 running back, will help continue that trend.
But like Mettenberger a year ago, there will be a lot of pressure on Hill to perform. He arrived with a load of hype last year, and once he took over as the starter midway through the season, he was one of the most exciting running backs to watch in the SEC. He finished the year with 755 yards and 12 touchdowns. He started five of the 11 games he played in.
Starting with the South Carolina game in early October, Hill carried the ball at least 12 times each game during the last two months of the season. During that span, he gained 124 yards in a win over the Gamecocks and 127 yards in a win over Texas A&M a week later. He rushed for three touchdowns in those games and averaged more than 7 yards a carry in both outings. A week later, he carried the ball 29 times for 107 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Alabama.
His numbers dipped in the final three games of the season, but he came roaring back for three quarters against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. After rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns (averaging 10.3 yards per carry along the way), he didn't touch the ball at all in the fourth quarter, and the Tigers let a 24-13 lead slip away inside the Georgia Dome.
On the season, Hill averaged a rugged 5.3 yards per carry. He also gained 490 of his yards on first down, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Eleven of his touchdowns also came on first down, and he rushed for 291 of his yards (5.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns in the fourth quarter, making the Chick-fil-A Bowl game plan in the fourth quarter that much more perplexing.
Mettenberger should be better this fall, but Hill will have to pick up where he left off and be able to carry even more of the load. He'll be able to get breathers from Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard, but Hill will be the focal point of the running game. He has a great combination of size and speed and packs quite the punch, making it hard to prevent him from toughing out a couple extra hards on every run.
People continue to pump up guys like Todd Gurley and T.J. Yeldon -- and for good reason -- but keep two eyes on Hill this fall. He has all the talent to be a special player in this league, and if the passing game gets going, Hill will be freed up to do even more in 2013 ... and that's not a good thing for opposing defenses.
While neither Ford nor Ware was the Tigers' main back last season, both had niche roles based on specific skill sets that Magee also possesses.
Kim Klement/US PresswireLSU's Terrence Magee (center) played WR last season, and that boosts his confidence in taking on a hybrid role this season.
"But Michael didn't really catch passes," Magee noted.
That duty was largely the responsibility of Ware, who led LSU running backs -- and was tied for fourth on the team -- with 18 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown.
It just so happens that Magee moved to wide receiver for much of last season, his sophomore year. So now, back at running back, he has to feel good about his chances at getting to play one, if not both, roles this season, thus earning the first significant playing time in his college career.
"I feel like I do a good job of getting out of the backfield and catching passes and being the check-down for the quarterback," he said. "I also feel that I can run it as well as [the other] guys too."
LSU's first scrimmage Saturday seemed to affirm his belief. He led the team with 60 rushing yards on 10 carries and also caught two passes out of the backfield, one for a touchdown.
Instead of one group getting a repetition -- say, one quarterback handing off to a running back -- you've got three quarterbacks and running backs, side-by-side, running the same play. As quickly as one group is done with a play, another group steps up. It's a never-ending whirlwind of activity. "Organized chaos" is what new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron calls it.
"We're getting a lot more reps," running back Jeremy Hill said. "I got more reps than I thought I would get."
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Thanks to graduation and early jumps to the NFL, the defense has to replace a host of players, while the offense is looking to finally generate some consistent excitement/production in 2013.
The absences on defense are concerning, but people around the program are expecting more reloading than rebuilding on that side of the ball. The offense's transformation still seems to be the real focus at the moment, and the addition of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron coupled with a lot of experience returning in 2013 has generated some real excitement.
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesWide receiver Jarvis Landry says LSU's new offense "will be crazy this year" if all the players pick up on the differences, including timing of routes.
The Tigers have only gone through a few practices, but players are already starting to see (positive) differences in this offense compared to last year's.
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who caught a team-high 56 passes and finished the 2012 season with 573 yards and five touchdowns, said he expects LSU's offense to "attack it more vertically" with its passing game and be more consistent throwing the ball.
So far, Landry said practices have been devoted to slowly breaking the new offense down fundamentally in order to make things easy on players. Even the timing with routes -- new and old -- has been harped on, which has really helped this spring.
"If we continue to do that, the running and passing game will be crazy this year," Landry said.
For Hill, the offense seems more open than last year's and less predictable. Players are moving all around and things can get a little fast at times, but Hill said players are comfortable with the tempo of practice.
"Everything is under control -- it's not chaos out there," Hill said. "We're going fast, but it's organized chaos."
That organized chaos has Hill expecting to see some positive differences in LSU's offense this fall. The Tigers won't get away from their bread and butter that is running the ball with their stable of backs, but, like Landry, Hill senses the passing game will play a bigger role in LSU's success.
"We're still going to be a hard-nosed, smashmouth football team, but our passing game is going to be a lot better next season," he said.
Things are still a work in progress, and the Tigers are in the very early stages of this transition, but there's no question that the confidence is up on offense.
"The sky's the limit," Landry said. "It's kind of unpredictable right now, but it has potential. From where we started last year, it's kind of like the only thing we can do is go up."