Miles seeks improvement in run game
By BRYAN LAZARE
BATON ROUGE (AP) — In one season, LSU has gone from relying too heavily on power running to wondering if its ground game is now as reliable as it should be.
The eighth-ranked Tigers ran the ball well in the season opener against TCU, but had a much harder time moving the ball on the ground against heavy underdog UAB. LSU relied more on its much-improved passing game to take over against the Blazers.
“What has to happen with an offense is that it has to hurt the defense with both the run and the pass,” Miles said Monday. “We are not changing what we’ve done. We have established parameters at how we play. Now, let’s get better.”
LSU’s next chance to improve its running game comes this Saturday night when Kent State comes to Tiger Stadium. The Golden Flashes have been stingy against the run, yielding an average of 126 yards through two contests.
The Tigers’ Jeremy Hill, who was held out of the TCU game for disciplinary reasons stemming from an offseason arrest, had six carries for 50 yards against UAB, including a 3-yard touchdown on his first carry. His 8.3 yards per carry were promising, but Miles said Hill does not appear to be in midseason shape and needs more work.
Terrence Magee and Alfred Blue, who combined for 184 yards rushing against TCU, had only 15 yards on the ground last week. Kenny Hilliard was the leading rusher against the Blazers with 54 yards on 11 attempts. However, all but 14 of those yards came on the last two series of the game.
Miles was not entirely satisfied with the performance of his running backs or those blocking for them.
“The line is working hard,” Miles said. “Technically, there is more work to be done for them to get in a groove. UAB used a front they had not played. That threw us off with our technique and assignments. We should have been much more efficient running the football. We have to come off the ball better.”
Miles is not ready to say when Hill will receive more rushing attempts.
“This is another game week for” Hill, Miles said. “He’ll get his snaps in practice. We’ll see how the competition at the position goes and we’ll make the decision slowly. We’ll have to see.”
New offense coordinator Cam Cameron, whose specialty is working with quarterbacks and receivers, said he by no means intends to marginalize LSU’s ground game and loved the physical style Miles’ offenses had before he arrived.
So far, though, his arrival seems to have shifted the bulk of LSU’s production to the passing game.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has completed 63 percent of his passes (32-of-51) for 533 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.
Receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and and Jarvis Landry have combined for 23 receptions for 434 yards — an average of nearly 19 yards per catch. Each has three touchdown catches.
Those are encouraging signs with the Southeastern Conference opener against Auburn coming up in two weeks, and Miles is confident the running game will become more consistent as well.
“I am very pleased with where we’re going,” Miles said. “But, nobody is ready to hang the moon. We recognize that for us to do the things we want to do, we have to improve. If we continue to show improvement, we will be where we want to be at the back end of this thing.”