FishWrap Friday Game 1 Preview: Oregon vs. LSU (Part 2: Almost Certainly Biased Analysis)

Josh Schlichter FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Well here we go, we’re under 2 million seconds (1,296,000) until football season starts, and the tension continues to build as we wait for the Ducks to take the field in Dallas.

LSU Defense

Let’s just jump right into it; the biggest point of debate is Oregon’s undersized offensive line against LSU’s physical and fast defensive line. The most notable result used in comparison is the Auburn-Oregon game in which the Ducks were held way below their average on the ground (not just below their average, but sub-100 yards) and were held to 19 points.

LSU has a fantastic defensive line, there is no doubt about that, and inexperience (if you can call it that- more on that in a second) on the defensive interior against any other team would not matter.

There are 3 “LSU Favorable Point to make” First of all, LSU is going to clog the line with a couple of big boys, Michael Brockers at 6’6″, 300 and potentially Anthony Johnson, a freshman at 6’3″, 300. Secondly, Brockers isn’t inexperienced, he played in 13 games last season, just being held short of a start. Thirdly, if Oregon decides to pull guards and make this a east-and-west “wait-you-out” kind of game, LSU has some potential for a good rotation, with redshirt Sophomore Bennie Logan (good enough enough to push for a starting bid) and redshirt Freshman Ego Ferguson (top 100 prospect).

Oh I almost forgot, LSU is ridiculous on the ends as well, Kendrick Adams and Lavar Edwards return, but they could give way to super-sleeper underclassmen Sam Montgomery (knocked out by injury last year) and Barkevious Mingo. All 4 are lightning fast and can wreak havoc on passing downs if Thomas isn’t careful.

On the other side, Oregon has a point or two of their own. To start, you need experience to play against any option team, let alone one in the spread, and then even more so Oregon. The Ducks are going to challenge the discipline of the freshmen on LSU’s defensive line, especially when Oregon will be reading someone on the interior to compensate for having to deal with a 300 pounder who runs like the wind. Against any other team, LSU would have no problem letting Johnson roam free and gobble up running backs, but against Oregon, gap responsibilities, zone discipline, etc. will be extremely important in stopping Oregon’s spread attack. Secondly, Oregon’s offensive line isn’t horrible, either, the biggest finger to point would be at the center position, but we all already know that Chip is going to be pulling his center to the outside, leaving a DT unblocked, therefore making a midline read and we’re all dandy with not two, but three solid tackles on the outside in Asper, Weems and Cody.

LSU has some of the best talent in the nation along the defensive line, with speed everywhere, most prominently at the ends, but don’t forget about the guys clogging the middle, who can make things that much more difficult for LaMichael and Barner, but, LSU will miss their perennial stopper at defensive tackle, so Johnson and Brockers will need to improve and learn discipline rapidly while they are being magnified by Oregon’s dynamic offense.

LSU’s linebackers aren’t nearly as clear cut as the defensive line, but still boast talent, despite not being particularly deep or experienced.

Ryan Baker, without a doubt, is the #1 guy for this unit. Despite being at the weak side spot (potentially for the scrape exchange?) Baker is quick, and athletic, and has no problem getting into the thick of things. Kevin Minter will be at the Middle-Linebacker spot, and he’s built to be a run-stuffer at 6’1″, 225. At the strong side spot, Stefoin Francois will return after starting in all 13 games, but converted safety Karnell Hatcher will make a case at the starting spot as well.

After the starting 3 and change, things get a bit blurry; at Mike, two freshmen will spell Minter. At Will, five sophomores to spell Baker.

LSU has plenty of Speed and talent amongst the starting linebackers, and Chavis should have no problem finding a way to devise creative schemes for this lot, however, they are both thin in depth, and thin in stature- they might be fast, but plugging the middle is going to be essential in their week 1 matchup where the inside zone concept will occur in abundance.

As for the secondary, oh boy, Tyrann Mathieu, and Morris Claiborne are going to have little trouble locking down the outside. Mathieu is an up and coming super star, and Claiborne is a Thorpe frontrunner. Simple as that.

Spelling them are two very capable backups in Tharold Simon, and Ron Brooks. Simon is big, and has great skills around the football, while Brooks is similarly versatile and has spectacular speed.

At the Safety spots, Brandon Taylor, the defense’s selected leader, and Craig Loston. Taylor is fast and has a good nose for the football despite being undersized. Loston is his complement, being a great hitter and an all around athlete.

The secondary, above all, is deep and vastly talented. LSU’s secondary is definitely one of the best in the SEC if not the nation, but there is still a bit of uncertainty considering the loss of Patrick Peterson; you can’t get better when you lose the best cornerback in the nation.

LSU’s defense is going to be the best the Ducks will face in the regular season. With an absolutely stellar secondary and an immensly talented defensive line, there isn’t much room for the Ducks to adjust. If Oregon wants to win, they’ll need to successfully establish their keystone plays in the inside zone series to attack the interior of the LSU defense, which (if Chavis’ past proves correct) will be lining up with 6 men in the box.

LSU Offense

As has been the case for quite some time, LSU’s offense is also studded with plenty of talent, but that talent (at least last year) underachieved greatly.

[LSU went 11-2 last year, but  LSU did it] with an inept offense that finished last in the SEC in passing, 11th in yards, and ninth in scoring – with plenty of help from the D and special teams to put points on the board,

LSU has had plenty of talent along the offensive line, which doesn’t bode well for the Ducks, especially with Sophomore bruiser Spencer Ware getting the ball for LSU, a serious mismatch for the “weak up the middle” Ducks. Keliikipi and Heimuli are going to be tested right away, there is no doubt about that.

The Tigers have also compounded an NFL receiving corps that, as said before, has underachieved in the past few years. Reuben Randle and Russell Shepard were mismatches for the Ducks when Cliff Harris wasn’t suspended, and will be even bigger problems for the Ducks without him. The only thing in between an easy day for the Tigers through the air and a struggling one is Jordan Jefferson.

In his third season as the starter(-ish) QB, Jefferson has huge expectations on his shoulders. According to Coach Miles, Jefferson had a great spring, but then disappointed in the Spring Game. He performed great against teams like Alabama, but then stunk it up against teams like UL Monroe, some of the best examples of consistent inconsistency.

Jefferson threw 7 TD passes last year. 2 in the season opener against a depleted North Carolina defense, 3 in the bowl game against a mediocre Texas A&M pass defense, and 2 in the rest of the season.

Jefferson will get time, and he will have open receivers from time to time. However, should he make mistakes, Oregon’s traditionally hungry secondary will have no problem making Jefferson’s storybook tale a nightmare.

Oregon is really going to be challenged defensively by the Tigers. If Oregon’s linebackers have problems clogging up the middle, LSU will have their way with the Ducks, but if Heimuli can carry most of the load, Oregon will force Jefferson to pass which could spell trouble for the Tigers. As you can see, you can’t really predict what is going to happen until it does, because Jefferson is a coin toss, and Oregon’s defensive interior may be a coin toss as well.

Come back next week for some X’s and O’s analysis of LSU’s defense. Make sure you check out FishDuck’s breakdown of the inside zone play, and this article on the midline. Study up!

WTD & Go Ducks!



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