Ed Orgeron knows the threat this South Carolina team poses. The Gamecocks are coming off a top 25 win over Auburn, a defining moment for the program in the Will Muschamp era.
With an extra few days to prepare for South Carolina, Orgeron says the Tigers are well rested and prepared with the one exception being quarterback Myles Brennan.
Everyone benefitted from the impromptu bye week. Even on Tuesday, when Derek Stingley Sr. made his weekly appearance on Off the Bench, Stingley said his son was one of the beneficiaries after turning his ankle against Missouri and will play against the Gamecocks.
The Tigers will need all hands on deck for every game it plays during this all-SEC slate but with the Gamecocks in particular, LSU faces a team full of confidence.
“Will Muschamp has done a tremendous job with the South Carolina. Two-game winning streak right now. Played great against Auburn,” Orgeron said. “Will has always done a tremendous job with his defenses. His defenses up front are very active, a lot of stunts, playing zone coverage, man coverage, zone blitz. It's going to be a tremendous challenge for us.
First and foremost, the LSU defense will need to be wary of running back Kevin Harris, who has rushed for 409 yards and six touchdowns in four games this season. The Tigers' run defense has been far from exemplary in its last two games, surrendering 333 yards on the ground to Vanderbilt and Missouri.
LSU has had some success getting after the quarterback but in order for the front seven to have success against the running attack, the linebackers and defensive linemen must stay gap sound. Orgeron says that preparing for Harris will be a challenge, mainly because of his ability to make the first guy miss.
"He's hard to tackle. He's hard to get down with one guy. He sees the hole. Outstanding. He can block. He has vision. He breaks tackles. He can catch the ball in the backfield. He's an all-around back," Orgeron said.
Staying gap sound against this South Carolina offensive line will be a big ask as Orgeron was extremely complimentary of the Gamecock blockers. In a pro style offensive system where the Tigers will see plenty of I-formation and focus on the running game, LSU figures to face some wrinkles it hasn’t yet seen.
Orgeron talked last week about the importance of sticking some bigger defensive linemen on the field for run heavy teams, which could mean more snaps for sophomore Siaki Ika.
"We had an offensive line scouting report, extensive scouting report, on each one of the young men. They're very good on their double-team blocks. Very well-coached. Their center can handle a nose tackle one-on-one, reach them," Orgeron said. "I think they're better run blockers right now than they are in pass protection. They've struggled in pass protection. That's why they made a change. I think they're getting better at it."
The defense is led by a staunch defensive line as well as talented cornerback Jaycee Horn, son of former New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn. Horn is off to a stellar start in 2020, recording 10 tackles and two interceptions, both of which came in the Gamecocks most recent win over Auburn.
"He's a great press guy. He's very handsy in a competitive way. Obviously he has great genes. One of the top corners. He's playing very well. He's an open-field tackler. Plays the ball very well. Outstanding player," Orgeron said.
With potentially a freshman quarterback set to start this weekend, the matchup of Horn against LSU receiver Terrace Marshall will be one the junior receiver will need to win. Orgeron says the Tigers will continue to be versatile in where they line Marshall up, saying he could not only line up on the outside but in the slot as well.
"Marshall has an advantage over most guys because of his athletic ability. I'm sure we're going to find ways that Terrace is going to move around," Orgeron said. "It won't only be against Horn. Some situations where he's in the slot, some situations where he's on the other side of the field."