The next two weeks of practice could be the most crucial in season work for the 2021 LSU Tigers. In viewing practice this week, the coaching staff is putting all its efforts into keeping the players engaged and focused on what each needs to do in order to quickly turn this season around.
There's a lot of belief in the locker room that the issues that plagued the team against UCLA can be fixed. But belief doesn't mean anything until shown on the field. Here are a few players we'll be keeping a close eye on against McNeese State.
Tyrion Davis-Price (RB)
It's been well covered now but the run game was absolutely missing in the Tigers offense against UCLA and there were a number of contributing factors. For starters, the team was down two scholarship players in John Emery and Armoni Goodwin, who were both expected to take on significant roles in the running attack.
That left the Tigers down to Davis-Price, Josh Williams and freshman Corey Kiner. Davis-Price was in and out of fall camp with an injury and was still roundng into form come kickoff. His burst didn't seem the same on the 13 carries he received for a total of 31 yards. Davis-Price's best style of running is downhill where he doesn't make a ton of cuts but the lanes weren't opened against the Bruins, something that needs to change starting with McNeese.
Orgeron told reporters that Kiner will get more opportunities against the Cowboys but the bulk of the early weight will be put on Davis-Price's shoulder. Putting an emphasis on getting to the edge with reverses, toss plays and screens don't really play into Davis-Price's strengths but the purple and gold will need to mix it up which is where Kiner could come into more playing time.
"Kevin [Faulk] wanted to put Corey in last week but it just wasn't the opportune time," Orgeron said. "The kid deserves a chance, those guys I plan on playing this week for sure."
Ed Ingram (G)
Putting Ingram on this list is more symbolic of the offensive line as a whole, the most scrutinized group of last week's performance. He's just one of the few veteran leaders on this offense, including center Liam Shanahan and right tackle Austin Deculus.
This group struggled with everything against UCLA. Opening up lanes for running backs and protecting Max Johnson both deserved failing grades as the front line looked completely overpowered against the Bruins. With both Deculus and left tackle Cam Wire ruled out for week two against McNeese, an already weak offensive line in terms of depth is even weaker now.
"We've gotta have more continuity, we just got a new offensive line coach, I'm not making excuses for them but it's different for the guys," Orgeron said. "I believe in Brad [Davis], I believe in this offensive line but some of these young guys have to step up."
Charles Turner, Garrett Dellinger, Anthony Bradford and Marlon Martinez are just a few of those players who will be asked to step up. But Ingram, Shanahan and Chasen Hines will need to step up their play as well if the offense wants to shift in a more positive direction.
Damone Clark (LB)
Three series in, the LSU defense looked like it had learned from many of the lessons that had plagued this unit in 2020. The Tigers were gap sound, aggressive and had forced three punts but one play really turned the game on its side.
A 75-yard touchdown to tight end Greg Dulcich on a crossing route ignited the UCLA offense that never looked back. That crossing route became just one of the blueprints of the Bruins offense the rest of the night and LSU could do nothing to stop it. It's a route this defense will face in every offensive gameplan until it can improve on defending it.
Orgeron told reporters Tuesday that watching the film, the coaching staff thinks it has an idea of how to fix the issue but words won't matter until it's seen on the field.
Clark is the leader of this linebacker unit that was consistently out of position. Mike Jones, the Clemson transfer, didn’t play much against UCLA and should receive some snaps against McNeese to get his feet wet. But this will be defined by how big of a difference the corrections can have on linebackers and safeties.