Anticipation was high for the LSU offense coming into the 2017 season. Much was made of hiring offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who offered a welcome change from the stagnation of the Cam Cameron era.
But for all the bells and whistles of the pre-snap motions, the results are fairly similar to last season in many areas.
|Points Per Game||28.1||28.3|
|Yards Per Play||6.3||6.7|
|Rushing Yards Per Game||210.8||233|
|Yards Per Carry||4.9||6.1|
|Passing Yards Per Game||201.3||190.1|
|Yards Per Attempt||9||7.7|
Now that you’ve gotten a look at the numbers, it’s time to see how we graded the Tigers at each offensive position.
Danny Etling was a polarizing figure for the LSU fan base to debate, but the numbers show he provided the Tigers with stable and above-average play at the position. He did what was asked of him, which is why Etling threw just 2 interceptions in 242 pass attempts — one of which was a cheapie on a last-second Hail Mary heave in a loss to Troy.
LSU’s biggest offensive improvement this year was in the passing game, the the biggest leap being a 20-point raise in passer rating.
Etling isn’t renowned for his arm strength, but LSU became one of the better teams in the nation at hitting deep passes this season. The Tigers are 16th in the country with 24 completions of 30 yards or more and 13th with 15 completions of 40 yards or more. Last season they were 66th with 19 completions over 30 yards and 69th with eight completions over 40.
He played poorly in losses to Mississippi State and Alabama, but outside of that Etling was good enough to meet LSU’s needs.
Running backs: B
The Tigers took a slight step back in the rushing game this season, but that’s what happens when you lose Leonard Fournette. That the step back was hardly noticeable is a credit to how well Darrel Williams stepped up as a secondary option behind Derrius Guice.
Williams was particularly dangerous as a receiving threat. He ranked second on the team with 22 catches for 327 yards, an average of 14.8 per completion. That’s an absurdly high average for a running back in the passing game.
A knee injury prevented Guice from compiling Heisman Trophy numbers, but he’s still plenty magical. Despite playing one less game, Guice rushed for more yards (1,153) than hyped Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (1,134).
Wide receivers: C+
DJ Chark distinguished himself as the best LSU wide receiver of the post-Odell Beckham/Jarvis Landry Era. Chark finished fifth in the SEC with 811 receiving yards.
More importantly, he was LSU’s money man. Only Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown accounted for more yards on third-down receptions this season. Chark made 15 catches for 295 yards on third down. He was also second behind Brown with 14 receptions of at least 25 yards.
Russell Gage was an indispensable Swiss Army knife, finishing third on the team in both rushing and receiving.
But behind seniors Chark and Gage, the drop-off was significant. Derrick Dillon, Drake Davis and Stephen Sullivan all showed flashes of promise, but none stepped forward enough to become a definitive third option. Next year, they won’t have a choice.
Tight ends/H-backs: A
Of all Canada’s wrinkles, this one brought the most to the offense. Six of LSU’s 15 receiving touchdowns went to tight ends or H-backs. Foster Moreau’s 20 catches were the most by an LSU tight end since Richard Dickson snagged 21 receptions in 2009.
Moreau, Jamal Pettigrew, J.D. Moore and Tory Carter also played important roles in LSU’s blocking scheme, helping a very inexperienced offensive line come together as the season progressed.
Offensive line: B-
After an extremely rough start to the season, the young LSU offensive line became one of this team’s strengths. The Tigers went from getting pushed around up front by Troy to holding their own against Auburn and Alabama. If we graded this solely on midseason improvement, it would be an A+.
Alas, we have to take the whole picture into account, and it’s undeniable the offensive line was a factor in losses to Mississippi State and Troy.
The lumps the Tigers took by starting two freshmen should pay off next season when they are poised to return all five starters.
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