The Tigers are building their defense, and it’s one game at a time. With eight sacks up front against McNeese State, it was certainly a great start before SEC play begins. Still, it’s just one game.
LSU needs to continue its improved play this coming week when Central Michigan comes to Baton Rouge. If the LSU defensive line plays well two weeks in a row, that’s when the Tigers coaching staff will know that players are learning and improving. For now, it’s time to take a closer look at why the game against McNeese State impacts the defense.
Changing Play Calls
Regardless of the opponent, eight sacks from one game is a lot. The Tigers overwhelmed the McNeese offensive line, and four separate defensive lineman recorded at least one sack. From that group, true freshman defensive tackle Maason Smith produced three sacks, while senior defensive lineman Andre Anthony recorded 2.5 sacks.
Those types of performances change blocking schemes, as well as change how teams attack the Tigers.
An opposing offensive coordinator knowing that his offensive line cannot consistently handle the LSU pass rush also means he is more likely to divert from five and seven-step drop passing plays. Those are the same passing plays that often allow the wide receiver corps the time to move down the field to catch long passes.
Defensive line pressure also allows the LSU defensive staff to drop more players into coverage. The Tigers only gave up 91 passing yards to McNeese State, and much of that domination would be from the results of the pass rush getting home to the quarterback.
Football is a game. It’s supposed to be fun. Obviously, sacking the quarterback eight times is fun. If the LSU defensive lineman are not dialed in during this week’s practices after last week, something is amiss.
There needs to be an uptick with everything LSU’s front does now. The success should make the Tigers hungry for more. To make that happen, the attitude must be energetic, positive and capable of allowing the defensive line to stay focused on everything from film study to weight lifting to one-on-one block destruction drills during practice.
To complete the transition from a defense that was not dictating to the offense during the UCLA game, the LSU defensive lineman must prove it during back-to-back games. That starts with the proper attitude, and it leads to one final category.
Playing as a Unit
Football is also a team game. While sacks are great, playing run defense takes 11 defenders communicating and then creating havoc for an offense. While Central Michigan will not be like Florida or Texas A&M, stuffing the run is still a priority.
Run gap responsibilities need to improve each and every week. Being gap sound is the difference between winning and losing. Does not matter if it's the aforementioned Smith or another defensive tackle such as Neil Farrell or a defensive end like BJ Ojulari, each player must contain his area to help the overall defense.
Team first. Player second.
Against McNeese State that type of team-first attitude took place, as the Tigers only allowed 51 rushing yards from 42 carries. If LSU can keep rushing totals that low, including allowing 1.2 yards per carry, it’s defense is back to its old ways.
There’s a really long way to go to absolutely know that LSU’s defense is back in charge as it should be. With the way the Tigers overwhelmed McNeese State, however, there’s optimism for the future of the LSU defensive line.