OVER THE BAR
QB Zach Mettenberger
Everyone expected some improvement in Mettenberger’s game heading into his senior season, but few envisioned this kind of four-game start. Mettenberger is rewriting the LSU record books. His 10 touchdowns — a total that took him 10 games to reach last season — and 1,026 passing yards are the most by any LSU QB through four games. He was the first Tiger QB to ever eclipse 250 passing yards in each of the first three games, and he ranks second in the SEC in passer rating, passing touchdowns and yards per completion.
Not only are the numbers impressive, but he’s made such great strides in the things that don’t show up in the stat sheet, like read progression, footwork and blitz recognition. Mettenberger has excelled under Cam Cameron’s tutelage, and he’s been the catalyst for LSU’s offensive resurgence.
C Elliott Porter
While the consistency of the entire offensive line has been a pleasant surprise for LSU, Porter’s play in particular has been deserving of praise. Porter, who did play sparingly last season, stepped into a starter’s role for the first time this season and has excelled. He’s played every snap for the Tigers and leads the team with 21 knockdowns. The transition from PJ Lonergan to Porter has been seamless with snaps to Mettenberger not being an issue this season. Entering the year, there were some questions as to whether Porter could mentally handle the demands of the job. He has and then some, anchoring the center position for an offensive line that has played exceptionally well this season.
DT Ego Ferguson
Ferguson wasn’t the LSU DT atop most people’s watch lists heading into the season. All the talk was on Anthony Johnson, and deservedly so, which in turn led teams to send a little extra protection his way. That’s left openings for Ferguson, who has excelled in the opportunity. Ferguson ranks second on the team with 21 tackles, behind a LB (Lamin Barrow) and tied with a DB (Micah Eugene). He leads the team in tackles for loss (2.5) and earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Kent State, when he led the team with eight tackles, including a 15-yard sack. LSU’s starting interior linemen have been the most consistent strength of the Tigers’ defense, and Ferguson is showing he might deserve some double teams as well.
DT Ego Ferguson has anchored the defensive line
DB Micah Eugene
Few people paid much attention to Eugene during the weeks leading up to this season. He was considered a DB without a true position, and with more defined talent abundant in the secondary, it wasn’t clear what kind of impact he would have. Well through four games, Eugene has been one of LSU’s more versatile players on defense, playing well both at the line of scrimmage and in coverage. He leads the team in solo tackles (11) and has emerged as a starter in LSU’s last two games. Beginning the season as LSU’s nickleback — a position made famous by Tyrann Mathieu — Eugene has also gained the coaches’ confidence to drop back to safety. While there are definitely some kinks to work out in his game, Eugene has made the case to be on the field and the coaches are rewarding him with a lot of playing time.
CB Tre’Davious White
It’s hard to know what you’ll get out of a player during his true freshman season. Star ratings are nice, but high rankings don’t always guarantee Year 1 production. White was one of those highly-rated prospects, a four-star and the No. 6 CB in the country. But coming from a small North Louisiana high school with some concerns about his weight, most expected White would only contribute in LSU’s extra-DB sets.
It only took two games for LSU to move White into the starting lineup, where he’s already made a name for himself, ranking fourth on the team with 17 tackles. Sure he’s had his freshman growing pains, and there are still some concerns whether he can handle the physicality. But he’s shown fearlessness, and his sure tackling has been a pleasant surprise. White’s made a solid debut, and there’s plenty more to look forward to.
Honorable Mention: WR Jarvis Landry, RT Jerald Hawkins, FB Connor Neighbors, DE Jordan Allen, LT La’El Collins, OLB Kwon Alexander
UNDER THE BAR
RB Alfred Blue
Blue exited both the spring and fall as LSU’s unquestioned lead RB. While Jeremy Hill dealt with his legal issues, Blue seemed to be the surefire bet to carry the Tigers’ run game. He was even voted by the SEC coaches to the preseason third-team All-Conference. But Blue has struggled to regain his pre-injury form. He’s only gained 177 yards on 36 carries and hasn’t reached the endzone yet. He still seems to be dealing with lingering issues from the injury that knocked him out of last season, and meanwhile has been surpassed by Hill and Terrence Magee. There’s no denying his ability when 100 percent healthy, but his body seems to be preventing him from reaching that point.
WR Travin Dural
With some dazzling catches during fall camp, everyone fell in love with Dural. His blend of height, speed and leaping ability seemed like the piece missing from this LSU offense in recent years. With Cameron pledging to open up the downfield passing attack, Dural seemed the perfect fit for that role. But through four games, he hasn’t factored into the offense much. He’s only caught three passes, while LSU seems equally content to throw it to Travis Dickson and Connor Neighbors. Dural is still adjusting to the speed of the game though after missing his entire true freshman season with injury. But most thought he’d have a breakout season while he’s mostly gone unused to this point.
Travin Dural hasn't had much impact
LB Tahj Jones
On paper, Jones has all the tools to be a perfect fit in John Chavis’ defense. His speed coming from the SAM position led most to believe he’d have a big return to the field after missing last season as an academic casualty. But Jones hasn’t inspired much praise in three games of action (he missed the opener due to injury). Jones only has six tackles this season, one fewer than WR James Wright, and he hasn’t shown the aggression necessary to excel in the SEC. Jones has seen his playing time dwindle as Kwon Alexander has emerged as maybe LSU’s best LB. With plenty more promising young LBs behind him, it may not be long until he falls out of the starting lineup all together.
CB Jalen Collins
Collins received his fair share of criticism last season, and he was already on thin ice from a fan’s perspective. Still, Collins held off the younger talent behind him and earned the starting spot heading into the season. But even then, most didn’t buy in to what he was selling, and it didn’t take long for his critics to be proved right. Collins struggled in his first two games, getting beat deep on numerous occasions. He fell out of the starting lineup by Week 3, getting passed by the freshman White, and now appears to be relegated to special teams duty. LSU opted to go with Eugene and Dwayne Thomas in its nickel and dime packages, and Collins may have missed his biggest opportunity.
DT Greg Gilmore/Maquedius Bain
It’s hard to be too critical of true freshmen, but the growing concern for the lack of depth at DT has made this a major position of emphasis at this point in the season. That second half against Auburn was a glaring example of what can happen when a team can’t trust its backups, and at least for now, LSU can’t trust its young DTs. For what it’s worth, Mickey Johnson could easily go in this slot, though it’s hard to argue expectations were very high for him to begin with. Both of these youngsters came in with high ratings — Gilmore in particular was a five-star prospect and No. 5 DT nationally — and both failed to emerge in fall camp. They’ve struggled with weight and learning the finer points of the position. With Quentin Thomas’ injury looking more like a long-term issue, LSU will need one of these two to emerge in a hurry.
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