Those wondering how effective LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger would be without one of his two dynamic receivers just may get a glimpse of that Saturday when the Tigers play host to Florida. Junior receiver Jarvis Landry has been hobbled in practice this week with an ankle sprain, and though coach Les Miles expects him to play, it remains to be seen whether he'll be at his normal effectiveness against the Gators, who likely have the nation's best set of cornerbacks.
"Jarvis practiced a little bit today," Miles said Wednesday, according to nola.com. "We're being moderate in our approach. I think he'll practice full (Thursday) and do a little something Friday. Rest him a little bit and get ready for the game."
Mettenberger's newfound success this season relied very heavily on the receiving of Landry and junior Odell Beckham.
Of Mettenberger's 107 completions, Landry and Beckham have combined for 77 of them, and the next option has been running back Jeremy Hill with just seven catches. Of Mettenberger's 1,738 yards, Beckham and Landry have hogged 1,302 of those. The duo represents 72 percent of the senior quarterback's completions and 75 percent of his yardage.
"That tells me he's not had to find a third receiver, but it also tells me a lot about what they're doing on offense, using play action to push the ball vertically up the field with their outside guys," said NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout.
Mettenberger's toughest challenge to date this season would be to have one of them unhealthy, unable to get open, or both. Worst case for LSU, if Landry is a step slow with his ankle, and Beckham is locked down by one of the Gators' three vastly skilled cornerbacks, Mettenberger will be forced to distribute the football far more evenly than he's had to all season, and find targets he's barely looked to.
Jeremiah said that challenge would be as much or more offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's as Mettenberger's.
"I don't predict (Mettenberger) will get exposed, but I predict we'll find something out," Jeremiah said. "Cameron will have to do something creatively to work around those cornerbacks. ... Mettenberger can make such tough throws and fit balls into tight windows, it will be a challenge, but it may also be a showcase for him."
And perhaps, more than ever, it will be a chance for a third receiver to emerge.