Mailbag: Offensive line will be strong

BATON ROUGE, La. -- GTN's Gary Laney took your questions on a SportsNation chat Tuesday, but ran out of time to get to all of them. Instead, he turned them into a mailbag:

Ricky (New Orleans): How is our offensive line shaping up, since we had problems protecting Zach Mettenberger last year and our running game was not as productive as previous years?

GL: The offensive line could be the strength of the offense next year. With so many young players getting playing time, LSU has a lot of guys coming back. There are two key areas.

1. Center: Will Elliott Porter be able to give LSU the necessary leadership? We can't take for granted the job P.J. Lonergan had to do calling blocking schemes.

2. Left tackle: Is La'el Collins the answer? Collins developed nicely at left guard in his sophomore season. Will he be just as good as left tackle?

LSU will return right tackle Vadal Alexander and has three primary candidates for two guard positions -- Trai Turner, Josh Williford and Fehoko Fanaika. The Tigers look to be in good shape there.

Scott (Los Angeles): So far, five questions posted about new OC/offense (on the Tuesday chat). So you think the fan base is unrealistic? Or are they right in calling out Miles on certain issues? The BCS title game vs. Bama and calls he admitted to vs. Bama this year, and the ending to the Clemson game. Where is the Mad Hatter?

GL: It's interesting. He was the Mad Hatter against Alabama and it backfired. If you recall, the Tigers missed on an onside kick, missed on a fake field goal, then tried a longer field goal at a questionable time. None of it worked.

In the big picture, the play calling might be more conservative now than it was when he kept going for it on fourth down against Florida back in 2007. I think that's more a reflection on the confidence Miles has in John Chavis and the defense than anything.

As for the fan discontent with the offense, numbers don't lie. LSU's offense has not been in the top half of the SEC in a while now. I can understand the impatience with that. LSU likes to portray itself as being an elite program and having fans with high expectations -- maybe even unreasonably high expectations -- comes with the territory.

Kishore (Denver, CO): How can we get Mett to move in pocket more? Is it something that coaches can do by moving the pocket? Is it something we have to live with? Do you think (Anthony) Jennings is a rare talent that can run and throw?

GL: I don't think Mettenberger started the season with a good feel for where he needed to be in the pocket and where pressure was coming from, but it got better as he went along. I think it will continue to get better, but if you expect him to be as proficient at moving in the pocket as, say, Peyton Manning, that won't happen. I think he'll enter the NFL -- and yes, I think he'll enter the NFL -- with plenty of work still to do in that area.

I think people are assuming Jennings is a run-first guy, but let me suggest this: You don't win a regional Elite 11 competition MVP because you're a run-first guy. Jennings can fling it around. If Hayden Rettig is to be the quarterback of the future, he'll have to withstand one heck of a challenge from a classmate. For that matter, you can say the same for Jennings.

Scott (Los Angeles): Playing Oregon set the tone for the 2011 season, as even some players have stated. Any talks of getting another game like that in the coming years? No offense to TCU, of course.

GL: Don't undersell TCU. The Horned Frogs have a ton back on defense and plenty back on offense. They might be a notch below where Oregon was in 2011, but when you consider that the game is in Cowboys Stadium, about 20 miles from TCU's campus, this game is indeed comparable to the Oregon game.

I expect it to hang over LSU's offseason and create the same sense of focus in August that the Oregon game created. After the Clemson loss, LSU will not only be looking at a big-time opponent, but also a chance to show that, even after a bowl loss and the loss of a slew of NFL players, LSU is still LSU.

Nick (Syracuse): Why did (Robert) Nkemdiche choose to decommit from Clemson? They have an established QB, RB, and WR, things LSU doesn't have. Oh, and LSU has an exodus of talent to the NFL, Just thought I should throw that in there.

GL: Nick, you may want to rephrase that question in an Ole Miss context. I'll be surprised if Nkemdiche ends up at LSU at this point.

Kevin (CA): More of a comment than question. I've heard about all of the displeasure with Les Miles the our fan base has had recently, but I believe that he has more 10-win seasons (or equally as much) as all of the previous coaches combined. I think we as a fan base need a little more perspective in regards to how good of a recruiter and coach Les really is.

GL: Good point Kevin, although I'd add that Miles has done it in an era of 12-game schedules where his predecessors dealt with 11- and 10-game schedules. Still, the bottom line on Miles' record is impressive.

Lawson (Atlanta): Gary as I have been telling you LSU wasted time and money of recruiting Robert Nkemdiche and now they are wasting their time on Priest Willis also. Why does LSU waste its time like that?

GL: There's no downside to it. LSU filled most needs early and had the luxury of being able to shoot for big names late in the process. Willis, in particular, would fill a need in the secondary, probably still the biggest need not filled by this class. Don't think for a minute LSU has not done its due diligence with, say, an Eddie Jackson.

Matt (Baton Rouge): With both Anthony Jennings and Hayden Rettig presumably staying true to their commitment to the 2013 class, I'd like to get your thoughts on the following question/fear: Les Miles has openly displayed his affection for a running QB. With Jennings being mobile, and Rettig not so much. are we in store for more Mad Hatter QB shuffling game plans in the future, a la Jefferson/ Lee?

GL: I would think if Jennings gets the nod over Rettig, there won't need to be a change-of-pace guy because Jennings is a good passer who can go through progressions and throw it well. If Rettig is the guy, then maybe you would see a running change-up guy, but probably not Jennings, who is more of a pure QB than that. Perhaps somebody like Terrance Magee, who played high school QB, could be a Wildcat guy. Down the road, maybe a Jeryl Brazil or John Diarse, two more prep quarterbacks.

One other note: Both Jennings and Rettig are already attending LSU, so you no longer have to presume their commitments.