After starting off SEC play with a great showing against Mississippi State, the Tigers are beginning to find their groove. With the run game starting to click and the defense finding consistency, the time is now for LSU.
Coach Ed Orgeron hit on the run game starting to gel, the secondary stepping up without Derek Stingley Jr. and the pass protection still growing as Max Johnson finds his rhythm.
The true freshmen one-two punch of Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin has been a pleasant surprise for this LSU offense. Along with Ty Davis-Price staying healthy, this running back room has the chance to be scary once the offensive line gets some continuity.
"We're disappointed in it,” Orgeron said. “I think we have some outstanding backs, we just don't have any room to run. We have some guys that are getting knocked back. Sometimes we have holes, sometimes we don't have holes. We just need to be more consistent and we need to choose the runs that we can run well. We had some big plays. We have to stay with that. We have to do the things that we know to do well and do them better."
In order to be successful, Orgeron knows this run game needs to expand so coordinator Jake Peetz can diversify his playbook, but it all starts with protection from the big guys up front. To achieve the main goal of winning in SEC play, this offense understands they cannot get where they want to go without growing the playbook and running the football.
“I think that you have to run the football,” Orgeron said.“There's some things that we can do to help our offense, but we have to find a way to run the football."
The impact of Cordale Flott goes without mentioning in Saturday’s victory over Mississippi State. Causing two momentum shifting turnovers early, he really stepped up when this defense needed him most, especially without Stingley Jr.
"The two turnovers he caused were game changers for us,” Orgeron said. “Two of the biggest plays in the game and with the nickel spot, it's almost like base defense. Cordale is a starter for us. He's a tremendous player. You look at the slot position in the SEC, especially in the SEC West, you have to cover some of the best receivers in the country, guys that are potential first round draft choices, potential Heisman Trophy winners, so that is a huge position for us."
Along with Flott, sophomore cornerback Dwight McGlothern came to play in Starkville for the Tigers. Orgeron harped on the excellent job Corey Raymond did in recruiting McGlothern to come to Death Valley and the impact he’s had on this LSU locker room.
"Corey Raymond did an excellent job of recruiting Dwight,” Orgeron said. “Dwight was a highly recruited guy, but he wasn't the best guy in the country or nothing like that, but Corey found him. He was right on him. The thing that impresses me with Dwight is his instincts and his feet. He's very quick. He can change direction. He's tough. He's very smart. I thought he played very well. I think that one time he let the guy behind him, but they didn't complete the pass. He didn't have any major snafus. Didn't give up any touchdowns. I thought he did very well."
Pass Protection and Dynamic Play of Max Johnson
In order to have a successful offensive scheme, the big guys up front need to give Johnson time to allow plays to develop. Though having a small timeframe to make plays, Coach Orgeron has been impressed with the play of Max Johnson to this point, keying in on him being nowhere near reaching his peak.
"You know, I don't look at the numbers as much as I'm impressed with the type of young man he is and still has room to grow,” Orgeron said. “Now, that touchdown he threw, he got hit by that safety and he's a big strong quarterback. Most quarterbacks would've went down, he stayed up and made a tremendous throw. I think the better we can protect him, the more success that he's going to have.”
This offensive line has had inconsistency and problems all year long, dating back to the Tigers fall camp. The savvy veterans haven’t been reliable and the constant injuries are hurting the success of this offense whether it be through the air or the run game.
Orgeron knows this unit needs to get it together before the peak of conference play starts if this team wants to compete at the highest level.
"I think continuity [needs to be fixed],” Orgeron said. “Really, pad level. Being aggressive and knocking people off the ball and pass protection. I think this week we'll get Cam Wire back and perhaps Charles Turner. I think that's going to help us with some depth."
This team has something special within them to compete in this brutal conference. As both sides of the ball begin to find consistency and this roster gets healthy, things could really come together for this Tigers team.
As the young running backs get into a groove and the defense starts to click at the right time, LSU has a chance to surprise everyone and get things right as the Tigers prepare to host Auburn in Death Valley.