With six early entrants to the NFL draft gone from last year's defense, there's a lot of pressure on LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger and first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
While they will soak up most of the preseason spotlight, LSU's success or failure this season may be riding on the shoulders of the Tigers' wide receivers
Despite finishing 11th in the SEC in passing offense last season with 200.5 yards per game, the team's talented and experienced wide receiving corps—highlighted by Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Kadron Boone—has the ability to kick-start the offense and prevent the Tigers from having a true rebuilding season.
While Mettenberger takes a lot of grief for LSU's passing woes, it's not all on him. His wide receivers have room for improvement.
We saw some of that this spring.
Timing is key, and Mettenberger certainly looked like he was on the same page with his wide receivers during the Tigers' 2013 spring game in April.
In the screenshot below, Mettenberger's primary target is Odell Beckham Jr. at the top of the screen. Mettenberger has already set his feet and is in the process of throwing the football as Beckham makes his break on a 10-yard hitch.
The timing wasn't always there last season.
In the screenshot below, which is essentially the same play, Mettenberger is almost done with the throw when Beckham starts his break. This pass fell incomplete and led to a turnover on downs in the second quarter of the Arkansas game.
Sure, timing was disrupted a bit by a blitzing cornerback off the edge, but Beckham could have broken off his route a bit early and this play would have resulted in a first down.
Beckham is the leader of the group and will likely have a decision to make at the end of the season. After all, he is ranked in the top 50 of CBSSports.com's draft-eligible players for the 2014 NFL draft.
But it isn't a one-man show in Baton Rouge.
Landry showed that he has what it takes to become a superstar last season with 56 catches for 573 yards and five scores, leading the Tigers in receptions and touchdowns.
During his first two years in Baton Rouge, Landry has proven that he has the ability to make the highlight-reel catch, including a spectacular one-handed grab in the final game of the regular season against Arkansas.
The 6'1", 195-pounder will be counted on this year to be a big-play receiver and someone who can go over the middle and take the punishment. According to ESPN.com, Landry looked the part of a superstar this spring.
Timing was an issue with all of LSU's wide receivers last spring, but Landry showed that he and Mettenberger were on the same page during the spring game, as he caught six passes for 132 yards—including this tough catch over a safety on a corner route.
If Boone takes the next step, this wide receiving corps could be one of the best in the SEC.
The 6'0", 207-pound senior caught 26 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns last season. He has the big body and plays physical, but needs to be more consistent with his route running and getting separation from defensive backs.
He only caught one pass in the spring game, but it was nice 35-yard reception in which Zach Mettenberger hit him in stride down in tight coverage.
Don't fall into the trap and write this LSU team offense off because it sputtered at times last season.
The experience and depth at wide receiver is going to be a huge benefit to Mettenberger, especially now that Cameron is calling the shots on offense. The trio of Beckham, Landry and Boone has a ton of talent and will be pushed by James Wright and several incoming freshmen this summer.
LSU's wide receivers could be one of the SEC's most pleasant surprises this season. They have the talent, and now that they've had time to become even more familiar with Mettenberger, it could be all LSU needs to re-energize the offense.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!