How the LSU Defense is Preparing for Tide's "Four-Headed" Monster at Receiver
LSU coach Ed Orgeron can't recall a battle between two collegiate teams that features so much talent at the receiver position.
On one side you have the Tigers, led by Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall, a trio that has combined for 120 receptions, 1,901 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2019. On the other side, there's Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith and Henry Ruggs, who have combined for 121 receptions, 1,916 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Even sophomore Jaylen Waddle is carving up defenses with 21 receptions and nearly 300 yards in 2019.
"It goes to show you the direction of the SEC," Orgeron said. "The spread. All the top players in the country have an interest in coming to play in the SEC. So we basically can go anywhere in the country and get the top receiver. We have just been fortunate we have had great receivers here in the state of Louisiana. Which all three of our receivers are from the state of Louisiana, so we're excited about that."
While the three-headed monster will likely be causing Nick Saban and his defense fits on Saturday, the question becomes what will the LSU defense do to try and slow down an offense with four legitimate threats at receiver.
The Tide run a lot of slant and short routes with their uber-talented receivers, allowing them to make plays with their feet. Orgeron said on Monday, limiting those slant routes to three and four yard gains is what will lead to success for the LSU defense Saturday.
"I do believe that if they're playing man coverage you're probably going to catch the slant. But it should be three or four-yard gain, not for a 10 or 15-yard gain," Orgeron said. "I do believe that Coach Aranda has been working on this for a long time along with our analysts and that we have a very good game plan."
The only way the secondary will be able to combat those short slant routes is by making tackles in the open field, an area that's been a struggle at times for the Tigers.
LSU senior cornerback Kristian Fulton agrees with his head coach, saying that all of Alabama's big plays come off slants routes and that tackling in the open field will be a premium for the unit.
"We have to make sure if they do catch a pass they don't get any yards after the catch," Fulton said. "That's our main emphasis for us as a secondary. We do tackling drills every Tuesday, working on whatever the team we're playing strength is, we go through their routes in our drills. That's helped us make great strides the last few weeks in our tackling issues."
Stopping the yards after the catch will be almost as important as not allowing the reception at all. Fulton said what Alabama thrives in is turning five-yard completions into 60-yard touchdowns because of the speed and athleticism of the receivers.
"Those yards after the catch pop out after every game, they catch the slants and those bubble routes and are able to make a lot out of those short routes," Fulton said. "I feel like if we can take that away, then I like our chances.
Being able to go against the LSU receivers everyday in practice for the last two months has prepared the secondary, particularly the corners who will be in man-to-man coverage with the Bama receivers, for this moment.
"They're kind of similar to us, they spread the ball around and run the same route concepts so going against them in practice helps us a lot in our preparation," Fulton said.
As a linebacker, junior Jacob Phillips knows a bunch of those slant routes wind up in the middle of the field, an area that he, along with Patrick Queen control on Saturdays.
"We have a defense schemed for that specifically but I won't go into detail about that," Phillips said. "That's something we're aware of and we're looking to stop it on Saturday."
Regardless of the defensive scheme LSU will throw at the Crimson Tide offense, Orgeron knows the game will come down to two very important areas the Tigers will need to excel in.
"It's going to come down to blocking and tackling, it always does," Orgeron said. "This is a new team, they [Alabama] haven't beaten this team yet. These are new guys, these are new coaches, and let's see what happens."