This Saturday night in Death Valley, two freshmen quarterbacks will play their first action and it comes against South Carolina. For the Tigers to come out victorious, four areas of the team must step up and play very well to aid those freshmen signal callers.
Life in the SEC is never easy. LSU now must face a South Carolina team riding high after upsetting Auburn. For the purple and gold to win, certain aspects of the roster must find different ways to take pressure off of the young signal callers TJ Finley and Max Johnson.
First and foremost, the Tigers must be able to run the football. After LSU’s rushing yardage equated to 80, 141, and 49 during the first three games, there’s much to be desired. Is it scheme? Talent? Cohesiveness?
Everyone will begin to find out Saturday night. South Carolina will likely load the box and dare LSU to pass the football. Still, LSU absolutely must run the ball. That starts with the Tigers getting back one of it’s best overall players.
Ed Ingram Must Lead the Rushing Attack
The junior offensive guard Ed Ingram will hopefully be completely healthy for Saturday’s game. Ingram was banged up, but he’s reportedly trending in the right direction. He provides the most likely chance for the LSU coaching staff to call plays for the running backs to run behind. He’s athletic, strong, and battle tested.
Whether it’s John Emery, Chris Curry or Tyrion Davis-Price, the running backs need an offensive lineman they can count upon to open up holes. Ingram should be the choice. Now, there are some variables to consider.
Every running back possesses his own style, his own preference for plays. It will be up to LSU’s coaching staff to find plays that match the runners as well as make it easy for Finley and Johnson to check out of in case they see South Carolina in cover zero (both safeties near the line of scrimmage and/or blitzing) or another aggressive defensive call and need to switch to a pass play.
It’s not like LSU is going to just allow the youngsters to just check out of any given play. Thus, the running plays offered better be really good fits for all levels of the LSU offense. Speaking of play selection, a few early passes will be needed.
Get the Young Guns Early Passing Opportunities
There are numerous passing concepts that LSU can and will likely use to help Finley and Johnson. Roll out passes with one or two reads, bubble screens, a quick release by tight end Arik Gilbert into the flat, and quick swing passes to running backs are usually good ways for teams to help a young quarterback relax.
If LSU can get a passing rhythm, however basic it may become, it will aid the rushing attack and keep the Tigers defense on the sideline and resting. Move the chains, build momentum, and allow the young quarterbacks to gain confidence.
This is pivotal. LSU needs to be balanced offensively. If South Carolina can focus on the rushing attack and simply put eight in the box, it will probably be a long night for LSU. The Tigers need to throw the football early in the game to prove to South Carolina it can’t just stay in an aggressive defensive front regardless of down and distance. After the offense displays balance, it’s about the playmakers.
Players Make Plays
After a career day against Missouri with 11 receptions for 235-yards and three touchdowns, Terrace Marshall showed college football just how explosive he could be. Even after that great performance, LSU may need Marshall to be great, but in a different manner.
First off, he’s got to block extremely well. So do the other LSU wide receivers. Any extra yards for the running backs need to be bolstered by good blocks from Marshall and the wide receivers. As for the passing game, it will be interesting to see how the Tigers get Marshall the football.
It’s not as likely for LSU to throw a bunch of downfield passes towards Marshall since there are freshmen quarterbacks. That often requires more time in the pocket and more post-snap reads by the quarterback, the latter part of the equation being a freshman. That’s oftentimes how interceptions take place.
Sure, LSU will likely throw a few fades or go max protection, but Marshall needs to make plays after the catch with his underneath grabs. If there was ever a game Marshall needed to take a five-yard hitch and break tackles and go 75-yards for a score, Saturday’s game against South Carolina would be it. He’s not alone.
The same goes for Gilbert and all of the LSU skill position players. Curry, Emery, and Gilbert all come to mind. Do not be surprised if one of the LSU skill players like Racey McMath or Kayshon Boutte breaks for a long touchdown after a short pass reception. It’s time for at least one of them to break loose.
Finally, LSU needs to play defense like LSU should play defense. It’s time.
Time for the Real Tigers to play ‘D’
If you are an LSU fan, the first three games have been a shock. The defense is just out of sorts. Missed assignments, missed run fits, poor tackling angles, not physical enough, and not getting off the field on third downs. Those are all concerns.
Saturday night, all of that must change. LSU must get back to attacking the football. The Tigers will play against one of the SEC’s best running backs in Kevin Harris. He’s a load at 5-foot-11, 225-pounds. He has speed to the edge, but it’s the power behind Harris’s pads that gained him attention so far. Slowing down Harris will be priority No. 1.
Slow down Harris, and then the LSU defense can get back to creating havoc. That’s what LSU has always been about when it’s a good football team. Gang tackling, speed to the ball, and play aggressive.
That’s the bottom line. LSU must consistently slow down the South Carolina offense. Momentum will be even more important than usual because of the young signal callers playing for the Tigers. Additionally, the Tigers defense absolutely must slow down the Gamecocks because it’s not likely that Finley and/or Johnson is going to help the Tigers win a shootout with both teams scoring in the 40s.
Saturday night is going to say a lot about the LSU program. It’s going to be interesting to watch.