FishWrap Friday Game 1 Preview: Oregon vs. LSU (Part 1: LSU by the Books)

Josh Schlichter FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Coach Kelly has always said, “One game does not define you as a team.” While that may be true for the fans, players, coaches, and everyone else in the program, this game on September 3rd in Dallas will most likely determine the post-season fate of the Ducks.

This article will begin the epic, spectacular, 3 part preview as we count down the seconds (1,835,484 seconds when this article is released) until the Ducks go out to “Win the Day,” against the Tigers of LSU. Part 1 will discuss the team as a whole, what they need to replace, and the “main-stream story lines,” at LSU. Part 2 will discuss LSU’s strengths and weaknesses. And finally, Part 3 will feature some in-depth analysis, and video cut-ups. Alright, let’s start the show.

LSU has 9 returners on offense, and 7 on defense. Notable losses include 3 members of LSU’s front 7: D-Tackles Lazarius Levingston, and Drake Nevis, along with Middle Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard (Sound familiar?), and All-Star Cornerback/Returner Patrick Peterson.

Replacing the three best players on the defense will be extremely difficult, especially when two of the three players were line pluggers. The most experienced DT is Jr. Josh Downs. Behind him, two Sophomores, and two Freshman, including the highly anticipated freshman Anthony Johnson. At linebacker, Kevin Minter and Ryan Baker will need to fill in for the veteran Sheppard.

LSU’s defensive M-O, even since Nick Saban was around, has been about aggressive, and creative play. Defensive coordinator John Chavis prides his defenses on their success on 3rd down. In fact, LSU was one of the best teams in the nation at 3rd down defense. LSU was #12 in the nation in total defense, #11 in scoring defense, #10 in pass defense, #17 in sacks, and #22 in TFLs, all byproducts of aggressive play, and the fact that Patrick Peterson could eliminate a whole side of the field every game. The only weak spot, at least in numbers, on the LSU defense was their rushing defense, that was #42 in the nation and gave up 137 yards per game.

On offense, the talent is filled to the brim in every position, except for one. Unfortunately, for the Tigers, that position is at Quarterback. Last year, the Tigers were 107th in the nation in passing offense, worst in the SEC, and returning Senior QBs Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee were at the root of the Tigers’ offensive struggles. In their platooning scheme, Jefferson threw for 7 TDs, but amassed 10 INTs and a mere 1,411 yards, while Lee threw for 2 TDs and 1 INT on 573 yards.

This spring though, Lee has given way to transfer QB Zach Mettenberger out of UGA and Butler CC in Kansas. Mettenberger is a big, athletic QB with a great arm and a lot of “zip” on his throws. Their battle, however has been rather one sided:

Even with highly touted transfer Zach Mettenberger emerging as the challenger to his starting gig, Jefferson said he’s ready for the pressure and more scrutiny.

“I think we, as a team and myself, can handle the pressure,” he said. “That’s what I prepare for and why players go to LSU. There’s some big games in the first half of the season. The team will be ready. I’ll be ready.”

Quite frankly, Jefferson’s success will determine LSU’s fate not only in Week 1, but in their goal of an SEC title and eventual BCS berth.

The rest of the Tiger offense is absolutely stacked. In the backfield, 5’11”, 225 lbs, two-sport beast Spencer Ware will most likely get the nod for the Oregon game. He is a load, and prides himself on running through defenses rather than around them. He’ll split carries with Alfred Blue, and Michael Ford, both physical backs. But who is making the holes for the backs? Only a massive offensive line, that averages 308 lbs, and only starts one underclassman in Sophomore Chris Faulk. Flankers Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard are both exciting players, with loads of talent, but they lack consistency, and that did not help Jefferson at all last season, and his problems could continue if the best two receivers aren’t helping the cause.

Just last week, LSU Offensive Coordinator Steve Kragthorpe announced that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Kragthorpe stepped down from the offensive coordinator spot to the QB Coach. Former OL Coach Greg Strudrawa was promoted to OC in his place, and Strudrawa is an experienced OC (formerly at Bowling Green, but no, he did not coach Freddie Barnes in that historic season).

The coaching changes may not matter too much to the play calling (Via ATVS):

LSU still has a veteran offensive line, a group of big and talented running backs and an uncertain passing game. Regardless of who is calling the plays, expect the Tigers’ offense to reflect its personnel. Moreover, given that practice began today with what appeared to be little noticeable change on the field, it’s possible that Kragthorpe will still play as active a role in the day-to-day offensive designs and game-plans as he can (a belief echoed in Les Miles’ remarks).

Promoting Studrawa allows for continuity within the staff along with a coach with success in the coordinator role, while simultaneously helping to alleviate Kragthorpe’s responsibilities and stress. By all accounts, Kragthorpe isn’t leaving Baton Rouge, and will still have a role in navigating the LSU offense. Studrawa will just be manning the actual steering wheel, and helping to lighten Kraghthorpe’s day-to-day role as coordinator.

Good teams always have good special teams, and LSU is no exception to that hypothesis. Coach Miles and new special teams coach Thomas McGaughey will always has something up their sleeves (see the 45 second mark), and he’ll have a solid kicker in Drew Alleman to perhaps get another carry here and there. Alleman is solid on kickoffs, and shouldn’t be a liability in field goal range.

Check out these links to hold you over until next week:




All in all, LSU is a really solid team on paper, and beating them will be a huge challenge. I expect a great game, no matter who comes out ahead. Next week, we’ll discuss LSU’s strengths, and key in on some weaknesses that the Ducks can attack.

Go Ducks & WTD!



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