LSU Football: Midseason Grades for Players and Coaches
In grading the LSU players and coaches midway through the season, you'll notice a lot of high grades on the offensive side of the football.
That's because the offense has carried the Tigers in 2013, and if it not for a return to form against Florida, the defensive grades would have been poor.
While the Tigers offense continues to impress, the defense has stepped up its play within the last six quarters, giving up nine total points.
So with the ups and downs of the 2013 season, what are the appropriate grades for each unit, head coach and major coordinators?
A midway season grade for Zach Mettenberger last season wouldn't have been pretty.
This season? Well, it's about as beautiful as it can get, by LSU standards that is. This season has seen Mettenberger mature into a seasoned veteran, capable of making the correct reads on the football field.
No longer is Mettenberger staring down his target on every single play, but instead, he's identifying coverages and progressing through his reads.
The change and improvement in accuracy has seen Mettenberger pass for 1,890 yards and 15 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He might not be a Heisman contender after the Florida victory, but he's the main reason the Tigers have a fighting chance to win the remaining games on the schedule.
Jeremy Hill is elite, and the cast around him isn't too bad either.
Hill is on the same level as Todd Gurley and T.J. Yeldon in the conference. His size and speed allow him to accelerate past defenders and lower the boom to finish runs. His blocking ability and solid hands make him the Tigers' most complete running back.
We knew this coming into the season, though. What we didn't know is how productive Terrence Magee would be in Hill's absence.
Magee, with 251 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns this season, is second on the team in rushing, which makes this backfield deeper than we once thought. Add Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard to the mix and you've got yourself one of the best running back corps in the country. It doesn't hurt having fullbacks J.C. Copeland and Connor Neighbors to run behind either.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry might be the best wide receiver duo in LSU history.
Folks who remember the 2001 season are ready to whirl every curse word my direction right about now. I hear you, but listen up—as good as Josh Reed and Michael Clayton were, Beckham and Landry are just as good if not better.
Beckham and Landry have combined for 1,407 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns, and entering the Florida game, both receivers were tied for most plays beyond 10 yards by a receiver in the nation with 29. The receivers haven't been perfect, though.
With Landry and Beckham shredding defenses, few wide receivers, with the exception of Kadron Boone, have stepped up and produced in a big way (third-leading receiver is Hill with 87 yards). And as for the tight ends, they haven't made a huge impact on the passing game, but the group's ability to block gives them an overall passing grade.
The offensive line hasn't been perfect, but it's been physical.
Physicality upfront is crucial for LSU's recipe for success, and though the Tigers have been throwing the ball around the yard a little more in 2013, the running game is still a gateway for victory at LSU.
Hill and company would be nothing without the gaping holes provided by the offensive line.
The Tigers have shown great toughness upfront all season long, as the "hogmollies" get stronger as the game goes on. La'el Collins has been one of the best linemen in the country, while Jerald Hawkins has been as good as any freshmen in the nation. The game is won in the trenches, and with these players blocking for LSU, the Tigers won't lose many battles.
The defensive line finally woke up against Florida.
It saved them a "C" grade. After weeks of failing to get penetration and provide pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the Tigers, led by Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson in the middle, imposed their will.
The front four constantly got pressure and wreaked havoc in the backfield with four sacks and eight tackles for loss. Johnson, Jermauria Rasco and Ferguson ripped through block attempts and shredded double-teams.
Danielle Hunter came around at the end position in the contest, batting down balls with his long limbs. The defensive line isn't at LSU status yet, but this group is molding into another solid LSU front. It's up to them to build off this performance.
The linebacker play is coming, slowly but surely.
Lamin Barrow is the leader of the group, serving as a versatile playmaker who stones opposing running games.
Kwon Alexander is the most talented, who makes great plays, but also makes mental mistakes that have put his team in bad situations.
As for D.J. Welter, Lamar Louis and others, well, they're all solid, but they're far from being a Kevin Minter. Through seven games, the Tigers' weakest position on the team has been the linebacker position. Moving forward, I don't expect that to change a whole lot, but I do expect this group to continue to get better with every passing game.
The secondary might have finally found its winning rotation.
With Corey Thompson and Craig Loston starting at safety and Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson manning the corner position, Jalen Mills is lurking around the line of scrimmage.
Mills is not a No. 1 cornerback. His speed and willingness to engage in a physical confrontation with backs make him more of a nickelback, and with the emergence of Robinson and White, he's able to do so.
LSU hasn't been DBU so far this season, giving up 207.5 passing yards through six games. However, the tandem of the true freshmen cornerbacks can make it DBU once more. With Loston and Mills providing the leadership in the defensive backfield, the talents of Robinson and White will make LSU's pass defense qualified to stop high-flying offenses.
"The Mad Hatter" has himself another championship-caliber club.
And though he's had great teams in the past, this might be his most explosive yet.
Les Miles gets an "A" for his coaching job in 2013 for handing over the offensive duties to Cameron. He's allowed Cameron to implement his offensive scheme and run timely plays, which has seen great results.
Along with that, Miles has given this team another physical presence the Tigers will need to contend for the SEC championship coming down the stretch.
From LSU fans lips to Cam Cameron's ears. LSU fans have been on cloud nine this season, watching the Tigers offense put up numbers they have never seen before.
With Cameron using schemes he once taught at the NFL-level, he's opened up LSU's offense and maximized this unit's potential.
The result has seen Mettenberger become one of the greatest quarterbacks in the country. Oh and the offense averaged 45.5 points per game through the first six games of the season. That's a school record.
Most will think that this grade is far too high. You're dead wrong.
In fact, I could make the argument that John Chavis is having his best season yet as defensive coordinator. You try coaching a young and inexperienced defense.
Anthony Johnson said it best last week when he told me that the coaches have put the players in a position to succeed, and it's up to the players to go out there and execute.
The players did just that against Florida, when LSU's defense stifled the Gators' front. Considering the youth he's had to coach, Chavis has done a fine job getting this LSU defense back to form.
Jake Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a contributor for the The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from The Sun Herald.