4 OFFENSIVE MYSTERIES (SOLVED??) FOR THE LSU OFFENSE VS UCLA


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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips


Under second year quarterback Max Johnson, starting the 3rd game of his collegiate career at the Rose Bowl, will 2019 expectations hound Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz and his squad?

Are the shadows of Joe Burrow, Steve Ensminger & Joe Brady becoming a phantasm of unattainability? Is there an overwhelming pressure or expectation placed upon Peetz's offense to do it again?

National college football analysts will ponder these 2019 vs 2021 comparisons or questions, but the LSU Tigers' offensive staff don't give a damn about that...I assure you.

This isn't about Joe, this is about Max...

Everyone at LSU is focused on what this team can do right now: for future & current stars like Johnson & Boutte, who set SEC records together, the sky is the limit; overall, the slate is wiped clean, even for the most fringe members of LSU's offense.

2020's Ensminger/Linehan-led unit were a high scoring group during some outings (racking up 41+ points under three different quarterbacks, two being freshmen); on the other hand, they were nearly shutout on other occasions, playing well below their capabilities and ultimately disappointing themselves last season.

Now, they're dialed in, they're present...and there's a readiness about this unit: they shouldn't be making too many silly mistakes vs UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

While there's a willingness to diffuse the pressure, there is also no questioning its presence:

Possessing such a bountiful unit of offensive weapons across the board, QB Max Johnson should put up some epic numbers this season, placing his Tigers in a big advantage offensively for every Saturday....LSU fans should feel confident in their leader's talent and intangibles.....although, will Johnson's reign produce an SEC West / championship-contending team?

Will LSU's new offensive staff, under Head Coach Ed Orgeron's watchful eye, be ready to catapult the purple & gold from a program that wins championships into a championship program??

The questions will begin to be answered by Jake Peetz, Max Johnson and company on Saturday evening in Pasadena, California at the Rose Bowl....

For now, we will attempt to solve a few Tiger puzzles, as well as answer how these factors will impact the week 1 bout vs UCLA, only here at LSU Odyssey, baby:


4. RUNNING BACK


Who will start at running back??

More importantly, which back will receive the greatest number of carries, sustain their involvement in the passing game, and become Max Johnson's effective safety valve?

My money is on 2019 National Champion and Saban favorite Ty Davis-Price assuming control:

He's averaged 4.6 and 4.3 yards per carry in his first two seasons at LSU, scoring 6 TDs as a freshman backup to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but through it all, he's proven to be the running back ace LSU is looking for:

Including his game-winning scamper vs Florida, Ty had a joyous freshman campaign, barreling into the end zone vs Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, demolishing Oklahoma defenders in the CFP semifinal, while enjoying a strong debut campaign.


Last year, fighting against his own offensive line or ill advised running back rotations killing any chances at maintaining a rhythm, plus a late season ankle problem, Ty averaged the most yards per carry of any Tiger, punching in another 3 touchdowns from just 4 starts (catching a fair touchdown vs Arkansas which was taken off the board somehow).

To my eyes, when judging by his off-season snaps, Ty looks like a different running back in 2021....

TDP is far more multi-faceted than people remember, averaged more yards per catch in the passing game over the past two seasons, and he hasn't shown a dropping deficiency, like John Emery Jr most definitely has.

Overall, TDP touched the ball 112 times for 493 yards, 4.4 yards per play & those 3 touchdowns.....as for John Emery Jr???

Despite Emery Jr's overall struggles, John had some explosive moments last year which point to an unstoppable talent at his best:

Until Max Johnson took the field late in the second half vs Alabama, Emery Jr was the only bright spot for LSU, scorching the Crimson Tide for a long touchdown and 7 rushes for 79 yards, showcasing his dynamic home-run hitting abilities.


Altogether, Emery produced 89 plays, 453 yards, 5.1 per play and touchdowns vs Alabama, Vanderbilt and South Carolina, averaging over 4.9 yards per rush in all three outings....in fact, he averaged a filthy-good 8.6 and 11.3 vs Vanderbilt & Alabama.....the problem?

The other 7 games:

27 yards from 7 attempts vs Miss State (3.9 per), 2 rushes for 7 yards vs Missouri (3.5), 21 yards off 9 carries during his worst overall performance as a Tiger (2.3), 33 from 12 vs Arkansas (2.8), 4 for 13 yards (3.3) against A&M, and finally 4 carries for 7 yards vs Florida for his season-low average of 1.8.

Neither TDP nor John Emery Jr have ever scored a receiving touchdown, either, though TDP's wrongfully disallowed diving catch vs Arkansas is closest, each running back is neck to neck with the other in nearly every category....

If our offensive line can stay healthy and the least bit consistent, one of these two backs will separate themselves throughout 2021, although it would be even better for our offense if both could be complimentary as well as individually dominant.

I have always backed the massively underrated, versatile, violent running TDP as the starter, however I believe in John Emery Jr's powerhouse abilities, I believe in our freshman duo (Corey Kiner & Armoni Goodwin), and I think Josh Williams has the potential to be a really solid contributor.....

I feel the ability, the proper personnel & the right structure (set in place by Kevin Faulk's unbridled management and Jake Peetz's McCaffery-influenced pedigree) are in place to produce another great LSU running back........the question will be: is this season (or the moment) too soon for LSU's running backs?

Against UCLA, these backs should combine for 160+ yards at a minimum and pose a true threat in the passing game.

Ideally, you want to see an LSU running back geaux for 100+ on Saturday.


3. WRs: WHO WILL SHINE OUTSIDE BOUTTE? AND HOW GREAT CAN KAYSHON BOUTTE BE IN YEAR 2??

Sporting a roster full of speedy, athletic receivers....starting with the man who broke the all-time SEC single-game receiving record alongside Max, Sir Kayshon Boutte, then we move to freshman track freak Chris Hilton Jr, blazing senior Jontre Kirklin, the man who snapped a decades long "kickoff return for a TD" drought at Death Valley Mr.Trey Palmer, fast & versatile Koy Moore, and dynamic debutant Deion Smith; it is abundantly apparent: LSU possess a deep army of burners....and we're not even including YAC machines such as Jack Bech, Malik Nabers (out until Week 3) or Brian Thomas Jr!

Who's geauxing to be that guy?

I believe LSU won't have to find that out immediately, as there will be a number of potential candidates ready to step into the role at any time: the main candidates you should expect to hear called during the UCLA game?

Brian Thomas Jr will be the exciting freshman everyone's keenly watching, and it could be mismatch hell for UCLA's DBs inside the 25; if Koy Moore's injury troubles subside, he can take over and have a wonder-year, Joe Brady-schooled Jaray Jenkins should be taking the mantle this season, while both Trey Palmer and freshman Malik Nabers (out until Week 3) have made colossal strides this off-season.

New PGC and 2019 analyst DJ Mangas is working beautifully alongside longtime WRs Coach Mickey Joseph, but we won't know the kind of potential they've uncovered until the whistles are blown for kickoff.

Don't forget the other pass-catching weapons for Max Johnson to find: TE Jack Bech appearing to be a monster, plus these running backs slipping out wide in motion and catching the ball in space could be a disaster for any opponent.

With all weapons combined & maximized, LSU should have a top 3 passing game in the country.........(no, that wasn't the Captain Planet theme but it was close)......


2. WILL BRAD DAVIS' OFFENSIVE LINE FIGURE IT OUT & STAY HEALTHY?


Losing supposed starting LT Dare Rosenthal through the transfer portal, seeing their position coach fired (and now suing the University), sporting ill-timed camp injuries to stud freshman tackle Garrett Dellinger, veteran guards Chasen Hines & Anthony Bradford, as well as a small non-concerning knock that kept our best trenchman Ed Ingram out of the final scrimmage, LSU's current offensive line have endured a rough off-season.

Although they return all 5 veteran starters from 2020, as well as 4 of the 5 being returning 2019 National Champions, Coach Brad Davis' hands are full.....this will no doubt become the most challenging season of his coaching career.

All isn't doom and gloom, there have been some boosts to help Davis as of late:

Hines is back to full health, Bradford is too and Dellinger looks to be close to a return by either Week 2 or 3, while his availability for Week 1 vs UCLA is yet to be ruled out.

Leaders Austin Deculus (right tackle) and center Liam Shanahan are leaner, meaner and more aggressive in practice than they've ever been wearing purple & gold....Coach Davis understands his two anchors must fire on all cylinders for his unit to work itself out.

Now, how do these moving parts affect the Tigers' O-Line vs UCLA?

While UCLA registered only a pair of sacks to go alongside 7 tackles for loss, their front were bearing down Hawaii's backfield on pretty much every single play, showing athleticism and veteran steel. However...LSU's 2022 commits...aka high school seniors....could have waltzed through that invisible OL, too.

LSU will have a few hiccups against UCLA's underrated defensive front, but this is a battle an SEC O-line should be winning, regardless of absences....when you look at the most important / experienced names on that O-line, you see a group who's appeared in 147 total games for LSU, including 84 starts....

Austin Deculus will be the first LSU Tiger to ever appear in 60 games if he can make it to Week 11, Liam Shanahan started all 799 offensive snaps throughout his debut season, four guys have started over 10 games, and duo Deculus & Ingram are the most experienced holding 34 and 24 starts respectively....

LSU's utility OL Charles Turner

Backed by young, hungry bruisers and Brad Davis disciples such as the valuable, versatile, brilliant Xavier Hill, another unproven Swiss-Army knife in Charles Turner, Michigan-native beastking freshman Garrett Dellinger, the highly talented yet enigmatic Kardell Thomas, and of course the NFL build from Anthony Bradford pushing to make his first ever start at LSU, this unit have the perfect coach for this adverse situation......

There will be whiffs, mistakes, miscues, miscommunications, near disaster, LT Cam Wire may struggle on occasion.....but all in all, I feel our O-line unit will figure it out, never lose sight of the plot, and ride out the season as a collectively average, individually strong offensive line.

Against UCLA, the Tigers should be able to run the ball for 150-200 yards without an issue, limiting the Bruins to 2 or 3 sacks at most....but games aren't won on paper....and the word should never meant a damn thing in between the lines.

1. CAN MAX JOHNSON PARTY LIKE IT'S 2019? WILL HE HAVE TO FOR LSU TO BE SUCCESSFUL?


Max won't be shy of bright lights, big cities or big name opponents....in fact, Max Johnson lives to conquer on this stage.

Already possessing an iron will, a lust for greatness, an undefeated record in the saddle, a team full of friends who back him, a robust physical frame built to withstand vicious blows, I believe Max is due for a 40+ TD season at his apex.......as for winning a championship in 2021, Max Johnson gives LSU a strong opportunity to contend....why not?

I know Alabama's second year QB Bryce Young is great, but he took zero snaps of consequence during 2020...Max Johnson had the weight of LSU's program on his shoulders as a freshman headed to play #6 Florida in the Swamp and set records a week later...and he won with untamed intensity, poise and presence through various adverse scenarios.

Why can't Max be anointed if Bryce Young has already been crowned?

Only injuries, poor O-line play or a handful of opponents getting the best of LSU stand in his path.


By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips

Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc


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