South Carolina presents a unique challenge for the LSU offense to attack this next Saturday. The Tigers will face a team that plays a multiple front and plays the run really well.
The defensive linemen for South Carolina are a well-rounded unit. There’s no superstar. There’s no Jadaveon Clowney or Javon Kinlaw. What the Gamecocks do provide is an experienced group that works well together.
How well that unit continues to play, as well as the backups increasing their production, will go a long way in determining if LSU can win the game this Saturday night. That starts with LSU being more balanced.
It’s time for LSU to start becoming a more balanced and effective offensive unit. South Carolina’s front provides a chance to begin that journey, but the personnel for the Gamecocks will not be easy to overcome. Here is a look at some of the players that lead South Carolina’s good defensive front wall.
Defensive Lineman to Watch
Perhaps the best player to spotlight would be junior defensive ‘Buck’ defensive end Kingsley Enagbare. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound edge defender already recorded four sacks and 15 total tackles this season. He’s strong enough to hold the point of attack against the run, while he’s quick enough to dip his shoulder and bend around the edge of a talented offensive tackle. He’s not alone when discussing South Carolina’s talented defensive linemen.
Despite only playing in three games, senior Keir Thomas already recorded three sacks and 16 tackles. The Miami native, when lined up in the same unit with Enagbare, helps provide South Carolina with a really good one-two combination of pass rushers.
A Balanced Starting Defensive Line
Even when Enagbare and Thomas are out of the lineup, it’s still a solid group. There’s size, quickness and experience. At 6-foot-1, 245-pounds, senior defensive end Aaron Sterling and 6-foot-3, 285-pound senior defensive tackle Jabari Ellis provide the athleticism and size to apply pressure on the quarterback.
Reserve junior defensive tackle Rick Sandidge would start at many schools. He’s a 6-foot-5, 295-pound presence that commands attention. LSU will need to be concise with its pass protections because any of the front four, when given opportunity, will expose pass protection and run blocking mistakes.
Beyond Sandidge, the depth of the South Carolina defensive line did not yet prove it can be counted on for a consistent amount of big plays. The backups certainly rotate into the lineup, but they have yet to really make a major impact. How they perform against LSU could actually determine if the Tigers get their ground game going to become a more balanced offense.
If the South Carolina backup defensive linemen do not do well against LSU, it could lead to advantages for the Tigers in the latter stages of the game.
Gamecocks Depth and Scheme Will Be Factors
Sometimes a talented front wears down because there’s a lack of depth. By the time a fourth quarter rolls around, that front simply does not hold up any longer. That will not likely be the case when the Tigers welcome the Gamecocks to Death Valley. More importantly, South Carolina may not be a great team to try and kickstart the Tigers’ rushing attack because the scheme fluctuates.
The Gamecocks operate a 3-4 defense under veteran coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson. It’s not a true two-gap defense, however, as there are one-gap principles that shift towards a 4-3.
In short, it’s a multiple defense that adjusts well to the opposing offense, depending on offensive personnel. That’s where it becomes interesting because LSU needs to be more balanced on offense.
The Tigers need to get the running game going, and that will not be an easy task versus the Gamecocks. LSU’s rushing game woes are well documented. LSU is averaging only 96.7 yards rushing per game. The South Carolina rush defense gives up 96.3 yards per game. A big reason South Carolina was successful would be the veterans up front, but the youngsters could be ready to play more.
The younger defensive linemen have yet to make their mark, statistically speaking. No freshman or sophomore recorded a sack to date. It’s surprising, but perhaps the past month allowed the younger players to develop better technique and grasp the overall scheme better.
With four games under their belts, perhaps former elite recruits like sophomore Zacch Pickens and freshman Jordan Burch are ready to start making more plays. Both were national recruits. Burch, in fact, almost came to LSU.
Regardless of which specific defensive linemen enter the lineup for South Carolina, it will be important for the LSU offensive linemen to be ready to take on highly talented players. The South Carolina defensive line two-deep depth chart will not be easy to overcome.