LSU’s WRs haven’t caught on

Back in the day, not so long ago, it used to be the game within the game for LSU fans.

For the last few years of the Les Miles regime, the Tigers were habitually quarterback challenged, of course, although the Mad Hatter generally had a work-around for the oversight and they’d most of the time still be winning.

Not always, of course.

But for the most part, LSU was the pretty good team in search of a real quarterback so the Tigers could be a great team.

Miles once went 13-0 and straight to the 2011 national championship game with Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson alternating at the position, maybe the greatest sleight of hand in coaching history (until Miles forgot to alternate them for the national championship game against Alabama).

In fact, Alabama always seemed to be about the only team that had a clear advantage at quarterback against the Tigers (that appears to have changed this year), leading to speculation that the position was overrated.

But it became a curiosity exercise for LSU fans watching their own quarterbacking pratfalls over the years.

It seemed particularly popular when the Tigers were playing — and beating — the whey out of Texas A&M, and not just when Johnny Naughty Football was on the other side. The Aggies always seemed to dial up a quarterback who could do dazzling things and make all the plays, which was never enough to keep LSU from winning while its own quarterbacks were happy to complete the occasional screen pass.

Texas A&M was hardly alone in that fraternity.

Ole Miss, this week’s opponent, was always in that number.

Most other SEC teams, too, even some with non-Power Five affiliations.

So, at the games, even as the scores would mount in the Tigers’ favor against some team, it was hard not to watch the action and wonder aloud:

“What if these two teams could switch quarterbacks right now? Let them exchange jerseys right at midfield. Oh, the carnage you’d see then. LSU might be winning a zillion to nothing instead of letting this bunch hang around.”

It got to the point, I remember one time an LSU fan asking me, with a straight face, “How come we can’t go get us a Drew Brees or something?”

“Oh, sure,” I told him. “No problem. I’m sure they’ve got two or three of those over in Opelousas or somewhere. They’re just not looking hard enough.”

Well, Drew Brees never quite showed up in Tiger Stadium.

But — news alert! — quarterback is not the issue with this current offense.

Oh, in some circles the jury is still out on Joe Burrow even though he’s 4-0 in the most important statistic. But last week’s Louisiana Tech game was the first that he’s even completed 50 percent of his passes (16 of 28) and none of the other numbers have been eyepopping.

Ignore that stuff.

The guy is a quarterback. He can be the quarterback LSU has always wanted.

But the LSU fans’ game within the game has changed this year.

It takes two. Somebody has to catch the fool thing.

And so now, through the first four games, it’s been a mismatch.

You watch and wonder … what if these two teams could switch wide receiver corps?

Then LSU might really be on to something with this offense — even with a patched-together offensive line that is about one more injury from calling for bodies out of the student section.

Miami, it was no contest. Even with Southeastern Louisiana, and especially with Louisiana Tech (going against a far better LSU secondary), the better circus catches seemed to be coming from the opposition.

For years it’s been my observation that one of the easiest things to do in football is to ALMOST make a great catch.

Key word, Almost.

And that’s about where LSU is right now.

Almost. The Tigers generally have to get wide open to make the catch while watching from the sideline while different-colored jerseys make the highlight reels.

LSU has had more flat-out drops than unusual catches.

This might not be too easy of a week to play the game within a game.

Ole Miss calls its receivers N.W.O., which sounds like a rap outfit, but the meaning is actually Nasty Wide Outs. The Rebels — who honestly don’t have a lot else going for them, especially on defense — think they have the best trio of passcatchers in America and a lot of people agree, including a lot of pro scouts.

For LSU, not so much.

The consensus in fall camp, amidst a lot of question marks elsewhere, was that the receivers would work themselves out, that the Tigers were loaded with too much untapped talent at the position. Wads and wads of them, and some of that potential had to come busting out.

Not yet. Not quite. But almost.

Derrick Dillon was the hero of the Auburn comeback, with his 71-yard touchdown grab setting the stage.

It looked like a breakout.

His stats for the season? One catch, 71 yards, one touchdown.

Jonathan Giles was supposed to be the plug-and-play option, a transfer coming from Texas Tech where they catch passes strolling to class. He had 69 for 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016.

Four games at LSU? Three catches for 19 yards.

The closest thing to a go-to receiver to emerge has been Justin Jefferson (13-for-195), although he was kind of MIA last week.

The latest tease was Dee Anderson, whose measurables (6-foot-6) are off the charts, and maybe those five catches for 80 yards against Tech was the unveiling fans have been waiting on.

Even if so, he needs some company if this offense is going to make its quarterback proud.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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LSU wide receiver Stephen Sullivan and Miami defensive back Romeo Finley compete for a pass during a Sept. 2 game in Arlington, Texas. The pass was incomplete. LSU has completed 52 passes to 11 receivers for 731 yards and three touchdowns through four games.

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