Ex-Tigers’ NFL successes make you wonder

Published 10:25 am Wednesday, December 24, 2014

OK, it’s a fair question.

It was presented to Cincinnati Bengals’ running back Jeremy Hill Monday night after the former LSU star torpedoed the Broncos for 147 yards and a serpentine touchdown.

It was Hill’s fourth game of the season with 147 or more yards and, with the jaw-dropper 85-yard touchdown on Monday Night Football, would have been a strong statement for NFL rookie of the year.

It would have, that is, if another ex-Tiger, the Giants’ Odell Beckham, Jr., hadn’t already pretty much locked up the award with an historic season that includes the slightly over-hyped Greatest Catch in NFL history, physics-defying division.

A noted sports rag, The Wall Street Journal, strayed from its usual buy-sell orders to suggest that Beckham might be having the best rookie season by any receiver in, like, the entire history of the NFL, at least based on early trading.

And you could make that case — as usual the WSJ used numbers to back it up. No other rookie has ever averaged over 100 yards receiving per game (Beckham is at 101.8, and rising steadily in active to moderate trading as his stock rallies after missing the first four games of the season).

That’s barely the half of it.

If not for those two, Jarvis Landry, a Miami Dolphin receiver also one year removed from LSU, might be in the rookie of the year conversation.

And Alfred Blue, who had to escape Baton Rouge for the NFL to get out from under Hill’s shadow, is the Houston’s Texans’ second leading rusher.

More?

James Wright had five receptions for the Bengals before being injured — which is five more than he had as a healthy LSU Tiger last year who was relegated mostly to special teams and watching the Landry & Beckham Show from the sidelines.

Meanwhile, back in Baton Rouge, Les Miles is mounting a more pro-active campaign this year to try to stop the early evacuation of juniors to the NFL.

Good luck with that, although certainly the Tigers won’t lose the record numbers that were kidnapped in the last two years.

It has become an epidemic and Miles is trying to stem it.

He has offensive tackle La’el Collins as Exhibit A. Collins hung around for his senior season and it apparently paid off. Viewed as second- or third-round pick last year, he was named the SEC’s best blocker and is a likely first-round pick come April.

So there’s that.

But the Beckham-Hill-Landry trio, all of whom could have been Tigers in good standing this season, isn’t setting a very good example.

The transition isn’t supposed to be as ridiculously easy as they’re making it look.

Oh, and remember Trai Turner, the fairly unheralded LSU offensive guard from a year ago?

He raised some curious eyebrows when he bolted early last year, along with a few skeptical smirks and mainly begged the question of “What in the work is HE is thinking?”

No clue, but what he’s doing right now is starting for the Carolina Panthers.

But the quandry of LSU’s early departures wasn’t the question for Hill Monday night, not after what amounted to his own national coming out party.

Gosh, and almost forgot. There’s also Zach Mettenberger, of course — it only seems like a decade or more since LSU had a viable quarterback.

He’s hurt now, too, and he plays for the gosh-awful Tennessee Titans, but before going down he earned the starting job and at least gave his new team hope that they have found their quarterback to start building around.

Anyway, the questioner on the NFL Radio Network basically asked Hill, “How in the world did all you LSU guys ever lose a game last year.”

In other words, he sounded just like a typical LSU fan, not just for last year, but most any year.

But it’s a legitimate question.

The more passionate Tiger fan will also note that they managed three losses.

It obviously wasn’t for lack of offensive talent.

A quick review will also show it wasn’t for lack of offense.

That team, for all its three losses, was the first in SEC history to produce a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers.

It could flat go up and down the field.

It just picked the wrong year for LSU to show up with an, at best, average defense.

It was mostly the same problem that plagued LSU early this year — soft up the middle — but unlike this season it didn’t improve markedly and it didn’t have a Kendell Beckwith yet ready to step in at middle linebacker and restore order.

Two defensive tackles left early for the pros anyway, but, unlike their offensive mates, Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson seemed to be saving themselves for the NFL rather than auditioning for it.

The first loss was to Georgia, despite maybe Mettenberger’s best college game —at the least one that had to light up the eyes of NFL scouts — and it looked like some sort of Big 12 track meet before Georgia scored late for a 44-41 victory.

Ole Miss was Mettenberger’s only real stinker, at least in the first half when he threw three devastating interceptions. They dug an early hole that LSU overcame in the second half before the defense faltered again at the end.

Against, Alabama, well the Tide was just the better team, but it might have been more interesting if Hill had gotten the call on the early play where fullback J.C. Copeland fumbled just before crossing the goal line.

Stuff happens.

Just imagine if this year’s LSU defense had been paired with an offense that had Beckham, Landry and Hill back for their senior seasons.

Or don’t bother.

Mettenberger was a senior, out of eligibility.

So it’s doubtful much would have changed.(Associated Press)

Michael Conroy