KNOW YOUR ENEMY: Five questions with LSUMaven's Glen West!
There's no better way to know your enemy than to get intel from someone familiar with the situation.
At least, that's how we approach matchups on a weekly basis here at GatorMaven. In order to best preview the upcoming game between the 7th ranked Florida Gators and No. 5 LSU, I'm glad to welcome LSUMaven publisher Glen West for a Q&A.
How the hell did Joe Burrow get this good? Can his offensive line protect him from the Gators' pass rush? How does Glen see the game shaping out?
Let's get to the Q&A!
1. Gators fans know Joe Burrow as the dude who threw a game-clinching pick-six to Brad Stewart last year in The Swamp. Who is he now compared to then? What's improved in his game that's made him so much better? Who's helping him out at the skill positions?
The numbers that Joe Burrow is putting up through five games, are quite simply staggering for an LSU quarterback.
Burrow is now tied for fifth all time for touchdowns in a season by an LSU quarterback with 22 through five games. That's only six off the school record held by Jamarcus Russell and Matt Mauck.
In addition, his 38 career touchdowns as a Tiger are good for fourth best in program history with still seven games to go in the 2019 regular season.
Perhaps the biggest development that Burrow and the offense have benefited from the most is the switch to the spread. Burrow played the spread in high school and passing game coordinator Joe Brady along with offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger have completely changed the offense to hit Burrow’s strengths.
LSU boasts perhaps the best receiving trio in all of college football with Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall. Marshall has been out the last few weeks due to foot surgery and probably won’t return against the Gators, but was a red zone threat LSU hasn’t had in quite some time, hauling in six touchdowns in the team’s first three games.
2. The offensive line allowed a whopping 21 pressures to Texas in Week 2. Was that flukey? Or is pass protection an issue for this team? How concerned you are about Florida's pass rush?
The LSU offensive line has taken great strides in 2019, mainly because the unit was downright bad in 2018. Against the Gators last year, the o-line allowed 11 tackles for a loss, five sacks and eight pressures.
This year the line has more depth and experience. We’ll be able to see for the first time Saturday what the unit looks like fully intact. The Florida pass rush is the best LSU has faced by a country mile so it’ll be a position group to watch on Saturday to see how they respond.
The Tigers will have junior left tackle Saahdiq Charles back in the lineup after sitting out the last two game as a “coaches decision” as well as some depth at guard with Ed Ingram now back with the team.
Ingram was the Tigers best offensive lineman in 2017 but was suspended indefinitely from the team in 2018 after being arrested for sexual assault. The charges were ultimately dropped a few weeks and Ingram was allowed to return to the team, adding extra depth on the interior o-line.
3. Onto defense, what's the pass rush been like? They haven't been stellar according to PFF's pressure counts but how do you see it affecting the relatively immobile Kyle Trask?
The LSU pass rush and really defensive line as a whole has been banged up since the Texas game. The Tigers have missed starting outside linebacker and preseason All-American K’Lavon Chaisson for three of the five games this season and senior defensive end Rashard Lawrence since the Texas game.
The team has also been without linebacker Michael Divinity, who led the team in sacks a year ago and suffered a leg injury against Vanderbilt that has kept him out of the lineup as well.
Chaisson returned to the lineup last week against Utah State and played well. Lawrence and Divinity will both practice this week with coach Ed Orgeron saying he’s ‘hopeful’ that both will be able to return Saturday against the Gators.
As a result of all the injuries, it’d be tough to say right now how they’ll affect Kyle Trask. If they come in with Chaisson, Divinity and Lawrence all healthy and ready to go, then Florida could have a problem on its hands. The status of Divinity and Lawrence will be something to monitor as we draw closer to Saturday.
4. What do Florida fans need to know about Grant Delpit, Kristian Fulton and Derek Stingley? From what I understand, those dudes can flat out ball.
These three are absolute studs in the secondary, but unfortunately, there isn’t much depth behind them. Stingley came into the season as the nations No. 1 recruit and he’s lived up to the hype.
Through five games, these are the true freshman’s stats: 10-of-27 (37%), 152 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 9 PBU, 37.9 NFL passer rating.
Stingley ranks first in the conference in pass breakups and interceptions while also having the highest PFF grade in the SEC for a defensive back. His high school coach said Stingley could’ve started for LSU as a junior in high school, and based on this kind of start, it’s hard to argue with. He’ll be fun to watch the next three years.
As for Delpit and Fulton, the two are just steady rocks in the LSU secondary. Delpit picked off his first pass of the season last week and is without a doubt one of the most talented safeties in the country.
Tackling issues became a bit of a red flag for the junior safety in the first four games, but the unit as a whole looked much improved against Utah State following a bye week.
Fulton has been your typical lockdown LSU corner the last two years. Because teams have had so much success in the slot, the Tigers experimented with Fulton as a slot safety in certain situations last week against Utah State. Orgeron liked what he saw in those scenarios but don’t expect LSU to do that this week with Florida as freshman corner Cordale Flott was injured last week and is unlikely to play against the Gators.
So for my prediction, I have LSU winning by a narrow margin of 31-24. The offense has failed to score less than 42 points all season but Florida’s defense is a different beast. LSU will try to establish the run early and if it can do that, should open up some holes for the uber-talented receiving corps to get some space.
I do think Trask and the Florida offense will be able to move the ball against the LSU defense early but must take advantage. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has a knack for halftime adjustments and just don’t see Florida being able to have sustained success for a full 60 minutes. Should be a wild, fun and electric scene in Baton Rouge Saturday night, no matter the outcome.