In our recently released Preseason Draft Guide, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is ranked as the top senior passer. That ranking will be immediately put to the test as he and the Tigers face off against one of the best coached defenses in the country, TCU.
Will Mettenberger prove himself worthy of the nod as top senior quarterback in this match-up?
Opening the 2014 NFL Draft scouting season as our top rated senior passer, Zach Mettenberger (#8) will get no warm welcomes from Gary Patterson’s talented and disciplined 4-2-5 defense. Facing a shutdown corner in Jason Verrett (#2), an active robber safety in junior Sam Carter (#17), and an experienced free safety in senior Elisha Olabode (#6), the LSU passing attack will have their hands full. Many believe Verrett will be matched with LSU’s speedy receiver and return specialist Odell Beckham Jr. (#3). Yet, while there may be instances with the two facing one another, I believe TCU will shadow LSU’s top wide receiver Jarvis Landry (#80). Verrett is the only TCU corner that has the physicality to match up with Landry, who will makes the most of his frame to box out and pluck the ball away from his framework. Verrett operates out of his pedal with refined footwork and excels at directing routes downfield with hand usage both off the line and downfield, making this a premier wide receiver-defensive back matchup.
On the flipside, Beckham Jr. could potentially have a breakout performance in this opener, facing junior corner Kevin White (#25). In year two as the starter, Mettenberger and Beckham Jr. need to nail down their timing in the vertical passing game, as the two narrowly missed on converting a handful of explosive plays downfield. Beckham presents an elite catch radius to his quarterback thanks to his leaping ability and body control, but he needs to cut down on the focus errors and untimely drops to make the most of this matchup.
Upfront, LSU’s La’el Collins (#70) will be making the switch from LG to LT. After showing the ability to create consistent movement in the running game and execute his assignments in pass pro a season ago, it’ll be interesting to see just how athletic Collins is. A player Collins would’ve likely faced a year ago, is TCU DT Chucky Hunter (#96). Although Hunter measures in at 6’1, he’s an agile and powerful 300+ pounder that wrecks havoc on the interior. Hunter flashes the ability to bull rush opponents or implement arm-over swim moves to disengage, but hand placement and leverage need to improve for him to be a consistent factor.
TCU has a stud quarterback of their own in Casey Pachall (#4), but major off-field concerns have put his draft grade in jeopardy. Pachall is an excellent athlete for his size and a gifted passer, however there are key flaws to his throwing motion that require correcting. Struggling to create ideal weight transfer in his lower half, Pachall tends to fall away from his throwing base and deliver off of a straightened front leg –these issues put undue pressure on Pachall’s arm itself and lead to inconsistent ball placement on the back end of throws. Mechanics aside, Pachall was one of the higher rated passers in the country before his suspension from the TCU squad and he certainly has the talent to climb the senior quarterback rankings with continued on-field performance. He’ll be throwing to a bevy of large receivers, with 6’3, 200 pound junior Cam White (#88) and 6’4, 225 pound redshirt sophomore LaDarius Brown (#85). Both Brown and White more than look the part of NFL receivers, with LaDarius Brown presenting the same type of upside as Texas A&M’s highly touted receiver Mike Evans.
With that in mind, I believe the prospect to watch will be slot dynamo Brandon Carter (#3). Coming up with the biggest plays in the most crucial points of the game, dating back to his playing days at Texas high school powerhouse Euless Trinity, Carter showcases plus athletic traits and a wide catch radius not dissimilar to the LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was discussed earlier. Carter uses his hands effectively to create separation within his route and will likely be targeted down the seam, which leads to another big time prospect worth taking note of. That man is Craig Loston (#6) and he’ll have his hands full with the speedier Brandon Carter. Loston, who nearly notched an injury-free season a year ago, has all the tools you look for in a playmaking free safety from plus range to plus ball skills. Yet, while he moves like a free safety, Loston carries a strong safety body type and delivers punishing hits all across the field. Loston will need to sharpen his angles to the ball carrier and focus on wrapping up more in 2013, but he’s got an excellent shot of locking up the top position on safety boards.
Last but not least for the Tigers’ defense, LSU’s DT Anthony Johnson (#90) is nicknamed “The Freak” for a reason –making a mess of things on the interior, Johnson displays outstanding body control and balance from an athletic standpoint while also bring powerful, club-like hands to disengage from opposing blockers. He’s the total package at the 3-technique position and is continually improving.
Others to watch:
Alfred Blue, RB, LSU – #4, 6’2, 222
(JR) Kenny Hilliard, FB, LSU – #27, 6’0, 233
J.C. Copeland, FB, LSU – #44, 6’1, 270
Kadron Boone, WR, LSU – #86, 6’0, 202
James Wright, WR, LSU – #82, 6’2, 203
Josh Williford, OG, LSU – #74, 6’7, 343
(JR) Jermauria Rasco, DE, LSU – #59, 6’3, 262
(JR) Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU – #9, 6’3, 309
Lamin Barrow, OLB, LSU – #18, 6’2, 232
(JR) Ronald Martin, S, LSU – #26, 6’1, 218
Waymon James, RB, TCU – #32, 5’8, 203
Eric Tausch, OC, TCU – #73, 6’3, 300
Keivon Gamble, CB, TCU – #16, 5’10, 180
(RS SO) Davion Pierson, DT, TCU – #57, 6’2, 305