From the Box: Mettenberger’s Magic

In this age of the spread offense, the LSU Tigers are a throwback to a previous era. LSU primarily wants to line up in the I-formation behind a big, physical line, and run right at the defense.

No perform better epitomizes this philosophy compared to LSU’s lead toss play. Typically, when offenses toss the soccer it is to run an outside sweep. Not so with LSU. The Tigers’ direct toss is effectively an remoteness play. LSU will toss with all the offensive line blocking inside zone or power. In either case the Tigers are seeking to create double teams in the point of attack. From there, LSU’s 270-pound fullback J. C. Copeland executes a lead block for the play side linebacker to direct 235-pound tailback Jeremy Hill off-tackle.

Put simply, philosophically the Tigers’ are seeking in order to mass bodies at the point associated with attack to overwhelm the opposition. The purpose of tossing the football is actually to get the tailback the ball since deep as possible so that he can use his vision to pick through the openings opened up front.

But that is not all there is certainly to the Tigers’ offense. New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has revitalized LSU’s passing game, and with it, quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s career. Cameron has added three components to complement the LSU run game. Initial, the Tigers employ an effective display screen game, with middle screens to the tailback as well as bubble screens to the slot wide receivers.

Second, the Tigers use the quick passing game, mainly in the form of double slants or stick routes. LSU likes to utilize the quick game in third and short or medium down and ranges.

Third, and most importantly, Cameron has installed a vertical passing game which utilizes the skills of Mettenberger and LSU’s talented receiving corps led by Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. Specifically, LSU’s downfield passing game is built upon vertical comes. That means that all routes begin with the particular receivers running directly downfield – as opposed to a crossing route, for example. The foundational play is all straight routes. As it sounds, the receivers split the field into thirds or even fourths and each run vertically.

But Cameron works multiple concepts off the straight stem. The simplest is deep return routes. Often this is a post-snap learn by Mettenberg and the wide receivers based upon how the corners are within the vertical route. The outside wide receivers push hard vertically but then reverse to the quarterback on the outside. Mettenberger seeks for the back shoulder and includes it high and outside prior to the receivers’ break, preventing the cornerback from adjusting.


Cameron includes other combinations off the initial vertical push, particularly from a “twins” pre-snap alignment, meaning that the two broad receivers align to the same side with one in the slot. Two preferred combinations are double out routes and “Houston. ” Just as it sounds, double out route involve each receivers breaking outside at different yardages, with the outside receiver running a deep out and the inside recipient breaking out at a shorter yardage. Houston is a route combination in order to defeat cover 4. It can be run either from twins or a base alignment. The inside receiver runs the vertical seam route, with the outside receiver and running back operate a curl flat combination. The objective is to hold the cover 4 basic safety with the seam route, creating a 2 on 1 hi/lo vertical stretch on the cornerback.

The vertical nature of the Tigers’ passing offense is suitable to Mettenberger and his wide receivers. Big and strong in the wallet, Mettenberger can make any throw and is able to deliver the back shoulder return throw on a line. Landry and Beckham, Jr. are both physical receivers who do an excellent job going up to high point the soccer. This allows Mettenberger to deliver throws to the duo when they seem otherwise covered, putting the football high to some spot where only they can go up and elevate to make the catch.

Bringing in Cameron’s vertical passing tree provided Les Miles an additional benefit. It provides the LSU offense a scheme well outfitted to respond to LSU’s rival Alabama, specifically Nick Saban’s pattern complementing principles. From a schematic perspective, pattern matching is Saban’s most long lasting contribution to football. Pattern complementing is the equivalent of a matchup zone defense in basketball, with the protective back playing man coverage inside their zone.

If the wide receivers run downfield it will look like man coverage. However, if the wide receivers cross, the protective back will pass the recipient off to his teammate, getting the receiver that is sure to come in his zone, The backs disperse the pass patterns amongst themselves by reading the receivers initial steps and identifying typical route combinations. Patterns such as shallow traversing routes can be the easiest to read since wide receivers immediately break in one direction.

Compare that to Cameron’s straight stems. To a defensive back, each route looks like the receiver will be running downfield up and till the receiver breaks into his route.


One area in which the Tigers may have an advantage against the Crimson Tide is in utilizing these strong outside routes. Alabama will likely perform ample amounts of cover 1 (man with a free safety) to provide an extra defender in the box against the LSU run game, leaving their edges in man coverage. The Crimson Tide utilized a similar formula against Texas A & M. But Alabama has struggled to identify a large part opposite Deion Belue, starting 4 different players at the position. Tx A & M was able to exploit this matchup with receiver Mike Evans downfield early and often, allowing him to go up and make plays.

LSU has two similar big and bodily receivers in Beckham and Landry, and a quarterback who can deliver all of them the football in those spots, providing Cameron a blueprint contrary to the Crimson Tide. From there, the LSU offense must play mistake free of charge. Despite his improvements Mettenberger continues to be prone to making poor decisions and turning the football over, something LSU cannot afford Saturday.

Ultimately, however , LSU’s chances may come down to whether their young defense can hold up and get a few stops. Given the particular talent for both offenses, this edition of the Alabama and LSU rivalry may very well be a higher scoring contest then the classics of recent years.

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