LSU preparing for 'best' offensive and defensive line team has faced all season

Glen West

LSU will face it's third top-10 team of the year on Saturday when No. 9 Auburn visits Baton Rouge for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff with the Tigers. During coach Ed Orgeron's Monday press conference, he called the Auburn offensive and defensive lines the best units LSU has faced this season.

The LSU offensive line will be getting starting left tackle Saahdiq Charles back in the lineup, Orgeron announced Monday. Charles has been in and out of the lineup all season but has played in the games where LSU has needed him the most. 

With an Auburn defense that ranks in the top-25 in total defense and 20 sacks on the year, the timing is right for Charles to make a return. Right tackle Austin Deculus should be fine after suffering an injury against the Bulldogs this weekend that looked serious, but ultimately allowed the junior to return later in the game. 

"This is the best defensive line that I've seen so far, led by Derrick Brown," Orgeron said. "I remember recruiting Derrick Brown and he stood in the doorway and filled up the whole doorway. That's the type of player he is, a mountain of a man and he's probably going to be a top-5 pick."

Brown has been a monster on the interior defensive line this season for Auburn, with 28 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and five tackles for a loss. It'll be a big challenge for interior linemen like Lloyd Cushenberry, Damien Lewis, Adrian Magee and Ed Ingram.

"Lewis is very physical, hard to overpower and is getting up to the second level and doing a fine job," Orgeron said. "The guy that's been the surprise of the year has been Adrian Magee. I thought Ed Ingram would start but Adrian has held on and is playing well there. They're going to get tested up the middle this week and we'll see how they respond."

Orgeron said the team like to go with five men protections to maximize the number of receivers on the field. If LSU were to do that this week, that means there will be a lot of one-on-one matchups with Brown. If the offensive line struggles with blocking Brown up the middle, the Tigers could be forced to change up their offensive gameplan by keeping an extra running back or tight end to help fend off the big man on Auburn.

"We want to get five receivers out all the time because it gives Joe [Burrow] better options," Orgeron said. "When you spread guys out the defense has to declare man or zone, it's hard to disguise and it gives our offense a better look. It all starts with protection though."

One of the area's the unit and the offense as a whole struggled with for the first time all season was converting redzone trips into touchdowns. The Tigers settled for three field goals on Saturday against the Bulldogs in the first half, which took some steam out of the strong start to those drives.

But LSU could be getting an ever-important redzone threat back this weekend in sophomore receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. 

Orgeron said Monday that the team plans to ease him along in practice this week but by week's end the hope is that he's ready to play against Auburn.

"He's going to do everything to be ready to go but we feel by gametime he should be ready to go," Orgeron said. "We'll see how much he can do this week. Jack Marucci and coach Brady have an excellent plan in place, we talked about it today."

With Marshall back in the fold, Orgeron is hoping the redzone offense will reap the rewards as defenses won't be able to key in on just Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson moving forward.

"We feel that with Terrace in there it's hard to double Ja'Marr or Justin and obviously Terrace gives us another big threat in the redzone," Orgeron said. "He's a great addition and I think having him back and making some adjustments in the formations is going to help us."

LSU goes into Saturday afternoon's game ranked No. 2 in the country for the second straight week. Orgeron has always maintained a level head about the rankings, making sure his players prepare the same way for every opponent they face.

This will be the eleventh top-10 game Orgeron has coached the Tigers in and was asked Monday what he has learned from past games that helps him prepare for a game like Aurburn on Saturday.

"I don't prepare any different to be honest," Orgeron said. "If it's a football game at LSU you've got to win. I don't change whether the record's great, whether it's poor. We focus on the task at hand and we go after it."

Full video of the entire Ed Orgeron Monday press conference can be found here.