LSU showed what they’re capable of in their win over the McNeese State Cowboys Saturday night, but there is still room for improvement within the offensive line. Again, struggling all night long against inferior athletes, the big guys up front just couldn’t click from start to finish.
“Some of those guys were second team guys that didn't have a lot of experience,” Orgeron said. “But I need to see the film to see who was getting beat. Obviously getting Austin Deculus back, Cam Wire back, Chasen Hines back, Anthony Bradford back next week, we're going to be better."
With Deculus and Wire out this week due to injury, this unit still hasn’t had the chance to get their chemistry right to gel together. Throughout fall camp, this entire offensive line suffered injuries week in and week out, giving them no time to work as one. But even the injuries up front are no excuse for the struggles the unit faced.
In Saturday night’s victory over McNeese St, it looked as though no improvement was made from a week ago against UCLA. The same issues came back to light and the offensive struggled early as a result of it.
Giving Max Johnson no time in the pocket resulted in him scrambling and forcing more than a few questionable throws. As the pass protection was seemingly nonexistent, it slowed down this offense in a game where the score should have never been close. Coach Orgeron discussed the offense as a whole in his postgame press conference.
"Not good enough,” Orgeron said. “Starts with protection first. Got to protect the quarterback, we got to get better. We got to stay ahead of the chains and just need to keep continuing to make improvement. Hopefully, when our offensive line gets back, we're going to have a better protection for our quarterback and better schemes."
After an offseason of hope within this offense, the inconsistency has been a bit surprising. No one expected this offensive line to come out so flat to start the season, limiting Jake Peetz’ game plan each Saturday.
Unable to open up the run game with lackluster protection, the weight of the offense falls on Johnson to use his legs and force throws. The plays Johnson got away with against McNeese has no shot of being successful come SEC play, and it ultimately comes down to the offensive line doing their job.
“I’m a little surprised with how much we have struggled (offensively) these first two weeks,” Orgeron said. “We want to get our athletes in space; but right now, the protection is preventing it from working. If we can’t protect the quarterback; it isn’t going to work.”
Lucky for the Tigers, Johnson has the ability to make plays with his feet and scramble outside the pocket, but a more diverse offense will suit this team come conference play.
“We just got to figure it out, bring more diversity,” Johnson said. “I think we’re going to do that. I think we got to be better offensively, we ran the ball well tonight, but we need to be better in the passing game.”
The success in the passing game starts with the big guys up front providing time to make plays happen. Giving the receivers time to get to their spots, Johnson to check his options and open up a bigger playbook.
This will put the Tigers in better position to have success but because of the struggles, it's forcing Orgeron and the staff to rethink the identity of this offense.
"We're gonna have to, we're gonna have to slide the line, have to keep a tight end in, a back in, whatever it takes to protect the quarterback," Orgeron said. "All these routes and all these great receivers running down the field, if we can't protect the quarterback it's not gonna work."
As this offensive line gets healthy and begins to get more reps under their belt, it will be imperative they find a way to get better with protection. To see this LSU team grow, it’ll be up to the veterans up front to find a way to give this young offense a chance to shine.