Three Players to Watch: LSU Football vs Arkansas

Finley, Curry among the players in store for bounce back performance
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It's been three weeks since LSU suited up for a game and the results were anything but promising. The Tigers were throttled by Auburn 48-11 and have since undergone more adversity with the program being without a significant number of its players the last two weeks due to contact tracing and positive COVID-19 tests. 

With multiple players out, the Tigers who have been at practice the last few weeks likely have the edge up on significant roles this weekend against Arkansas. Here are three players we'll be keeping a sharp eye on against the Razorbacks.

TJ Finley (QB)

We've seen both sides of the freshman quarterback. We've seen the poised, confident, mistake free version that helped guide the Tigers to a 52-24 win over South Carolina and the turnover ridden freshman who struggled in a loss to Auburn.

In his two starts, Finley has thrown for 408 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 66.7% of his passes. Against Arkansas, Orgeron says it would take a monumental fall in practice this week for Finley to not earn the start against the Razorbacks, particularly with Max Johnson just getting back to practice.

"We have to take care of the football. Take care of the football. Make smart decisions which he did the first game. The second game he didn't," Orgeron said. "And we had three turnovers. You can't go on the road and turn over the football. It's not all on him. It's on the play-calling, keep it simple for him. It's on the other players surrounding playing better. It's about the offensive line protection. It's about everybody."

Terrace Marshall has been working closely with Finley over the last two weeks and said the chemistry between the two has become stronger in the two weeks since the Auburn loss. 

"TJ's been great, he's a very confident quarterback, he's doing a good job of stepping up and being a leader on this team and I couldn't be more proud of him," Marshall said.

Look for Finley to start getting back on track against the Razorbacks this weekend with a few more weeks of earning first-team snaps.

Micah Baskerville (LB)

As the struggles for inside linebacker Damone Clark continue, LSU has moved Baskerville into a more prominent role alongside Jabril Cox. The linebacker unit was expected to be a strength for the Tigers' defense after acquiring Cox in the offseason but that hasn't always been the case. 

Communication has been an issue and opponents have been able to consistently get to the second level in the run and pass game, an area that the linebacker unit is largely responsible for. Baskerville has seen his fair share of snaps this season but the Auburn game was the first time he was thrust into a starter level role. 

He recorded 10 tackles and one tackle for a loss in the 48-11 loss to Auburn and showed that he can be a reliable piece moving forward. While he proved to be a viable option in one game, Orgeron says that he and Clark will continue to rotate. 

"I think that's ongoing. Micah did a good job. He's starting right now, but that doesn't mean Damone couldn't. I think those guys rotate in, but right now Micah's the starter," Orgeron said.

Linebacker Jabril Cox has seen the growth from Baskerville and believes he's ready to take on a more prominent role with the defense moving forward.

"Micah had a great game against Auburn is a testament to the work he's put in behind Damone," Cox said. "His preparation, the way he studies and the extra work he's put in with me and Damone after practice, hopefully he can continue to build on that and continue to thrive."

Chris Curry (RB)

It's been a down start to the season for LSU's No. 18 on offense. After a nine carry performance against Mississippi State in week one, Curry hasn't exceeded five carries in a game since. 

But that all could change this weekend against Arkansas. According to coach Ed Orgeron, while making an appearance on Off the Bench, Curry was the only scholarship running back at practice the last two weeks with the team going through a spike of quarantined cases of COVID-19. 

With John Emery and Tyrion Davis-Price out of commission for the last few weeks, that leads a prime opportunity for Curry to earn the bulk of the carries this weekend and get back on track. He's proven to be capable with his 90-yard performance against Oklahoma in the CFP semifinal game against Oklahoma last year. 

In 2020, the running game has been wildly inconsistent with both Emery and Davis-Price having their moments but never really taking the job by storm. 

"He's really embracing the opportunity and he's been improving each and every week," guard Ed Ingram said of Curry. "I tell him all the time he has the potential to be a really dominant back, he reminds me a lot of Marshawn Lynch. I call him baby Beast Mode and I see a lot of that in him."