The next three days of practice are critical for LSU. Potentially without starting quarterback Myles Brennan, all other phases on offense and defense will need to come together if the Tigers hope to get back to .500 this weekend.
Offensively, the Tigers have found some answers on the goal line according to coach Ed Orgeron and center Liam Shanahan. Defensively, simplifying the gameplan and presnap assignments has been the focus for Jabril Cox and the defense.
Speaking with some of the veterans on Tuesday, there seems to be newfound confidence with an extra week to prepare for the Gamecocks. Here are three players we’ll be paying close attention to this weekend.
Arik Gilbert (TE)
The freshman tight end has become increasingly involved in the offense in each of the three games LSU has played this season. His most recent six catch performance for 97 yards and a touchdown displayed the breakout potential Gilbert has moving forward in this offense.
He and Terrace Marshall have been quarterback Myles Brennan’s favorite targets but with the potential of a freshman drawing the start on Saturday, Gilbert’s role will be even more important. A sure-handed playmaker who can do damage in the middle of the field with a slot corner or linebacker in coverage will make TJ Finley and Max Johnson’s jobs much easier.
Marshall will be the primary target and South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn will certainly be hoping for a repeat performance after intercepting Auburn's Bo Nix twice last weekend. If LSU is able to establish the run like it wants, it'll set up more throwing lanes for Gilbert to take advantage of.
Through four weeks of the season, Gilbert is likely on a short list of SEC Freshman of the Year candidates as he’s brought in 14 catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
Ed Ingram (OL)
Ingram is more of a symbol for the offensive line as a whole but after missing the Missouri game, his presence was sorely missed in the run blocking. The junior guard will be ready to go this weekend against South Carolina and with the potential of a true freshman at quarterback, the offensive line will need to be a well oiled machine for the Tigers to have continued success.
Ingram is a huge part of that equation as LSU's highest graded offensive lineman. Just watch this Jontre Kirklin screen pass against Vanderbilt as Ingram asserts his dominance by opening up a big hole down field.
Meeting with reporters on Tuesday, Ingram says that three games into the 2020 season, the Tigers have shown improvement as an offensive line as a whole.
"I think we have developed a pretty good chemistry now," Ingram said. "The first game the whole team didn’t gel together. The offensive line, I felt personally, we didn’t gel. But three games in, I am confident in the guys."
Jabril Cox (LB)
South Carolina features a top notch running attack and it’ll be important that LSU finds some answers to the miscommunication and gap assignment problems that have plagued the team. Otherwise, this Gamecock running attack will run circles around the Tigers.
That starts up front but extends to the linebackers like Cox and Damone Clark, whose job is to not let running backs reach the second level of the defense. It’s been an issue the Tigers have had the last two weeks against Vanderbilt and Missouri.
LSU has spent the last week trying to simplify the defense. Cox told reporters on Tuesday that the unit was able to start piecing together some answers.
"Getting the extra week, we had a lot of time to prepare for South Carolina," Cox said. "We just need to fix up tackling, wrapping up better and stopping them at the line of scrimmage and not letting them get to the secondary.
"I feel like that we just need to get our cleats in the ground and just get ready. A lot of times before the snap we're still moving and communication going on but once we settled in we'll be ready to go."