How do these work as far as mind-boggling stats go: in his last two games, LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry has hauled in 17 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
Alright, so that in itself isn't crazy -- simply a solid couple of days of work for the sophomore. But here's where it gets really weird: if those two games had come during LSU's 2011 season, Landry would have finished fourth on the team in receptions, fourth on the team in yards and tied for third in touchdowns. With the exception of departed star Rueben Randle, Landry basically matched in two weeks what LSU's receiving corps was able to accomplish en route to the BCS championship game last year.
It's an old point by now, but it quite simply hasn't been a good time to play in the Tigers' passing game these past few years. Landry himself remembers frustrations with the Tigers' offense from 2010 -- his senior season in high school.
"If you really look at the passing game when I was coming out, it was kind of iffy too," he said.
Passing performances that failed to top 100 yards have become something of a norm in Death Valley recently, which makes it even more impressive and surprising that LSU has managed to nab talents like Landry and fellow sophomore Odell Beckham Jr. It's hard to believe, but quarterback Zach Mettenberger's 273 yards last Saturday made him the first LSU quarterback since 2008 to top 200 yards in back-to-back weeks.
"It opens a lot of people's eyes -- myself included," Landry said. "As a guy coming in you really wouldn't look at LSU as being that dynamic as far as passing. You always hear about their running game and their five backs, but as the playbook opens up you're starting to see more guys emerge at receiver."
Talk about a good time to open up that playbook. Sure, there aren't many college football recruits who are swayed by the performance of a team in one game, or even two. But there's no denying the fact that the Tigers' offense was clicking when one of the nation's top wide receivers in Ricky Seals-Jones (Sealy, Texas/Sealy) was just recently in Baton Rouge to watch the Tigers play the Crimson Tide. There's also no shortage of currently committed wide receivers with an eye on the offense, and that doesn't include high-profile ESPN Watch List prospects for 2014, such as Speedy Noil (New Orleans, La./Edna Karr) and Trey Quinn (Lake Charles, La./Barbe).
The Tigers probably aren't going to sway anyone solely on the back of a new-look passing game, but it certainly can't hurt to see LSU display an ability to air the ball out.
"It means a lot. Recruiting is the foundation of college football. I don't care what school you go to -- the reason this school has been successful the last few years is because we've recruited well," said senior receiver Russell Shepard. "When you can show skill guys making plays -- your quarterback throwing the ball 30 times and making those big-time throws on national television -- it does good for recruiting. It makes those big-time recruits that can catch the football or throw the football want to come play for a program like this."
With that acknowledged, Landry added a point that can't be ignored -- there's more to a college commitment than the promise of stats, just as there's more to a successful season than an impressive highlight reel.
"I'm buying into the W's. As long as we're winning, honestly, statistical things and personal things doesn't even matter," Landry said. "As long as we're winning, I'm buying into whatever the coaches have to offer."
But at the end of the day, top-notch talent is going to be attracted to a situation where it can excel. The Tigers attract bluechip defenders at an unbelievable clip because of a defense that has ranked among the best in college football for the better part of a decade -- the same goes for a running game that has produced seven NFL draft picks at running back in the last 10 or so years.
"You hope that quarterbacks and wide receivers are 'team first' guys, and that they will unselfishly hand the ball off if they are quarterbacks and run block if they are wide receivers, if that gives their team the best chance of winning," said Dave Quinn, Trey Quinn's father. "At the same time, quarterbacks like to throw the ball downfield, and wide receivers like to make plays. It is still a game, and if you play those positions you want to be involved too."
If LSU can make a trend of this newly improved passing game, they shouldn't have a problem attracting talent or getting that talent involved.