5 KEYS FOR THE LSU DEFENSE VS UCLA

Updated: Sep 1, 2021



by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips


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Today, LSU's players will no doubt be taking to the Houston Texans' NRG Field with heavy hearts.....still, their coaching staff will be reminding them:

Raising awareness through their social media & focusing on beating UCLA is all they can do to help right now. Though it will do little to save someone's family members, restore power & infrastructure, or rebuild lost homes, providing an opening victory would no doubt bring plenty of much needed good vibes to the Great State of Louisiana (in the wake of Hurricane Ida's devastation).

I know many of you reading this have been affected by Ida, but I will fulfill my duty to you and supply a temporary escape while bringing ultimate awareness.

Join us tonight at 7pm central here for a live stream in which we will be posting links to the most trusted charities.

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This coming Saturday, LSU's defense will have a microscope on their ass when they take the field at the Rose Bowl, every college football analyst and future opponent looking to see if the psychological impact from Bo Pelini's tyranny is still at play....


Detractors will be hoping for LSU's failure once again, but don't count on such a thing with Daronte Jones at the helm, assisted by America's #1 DBs Coach Corey Raymond ("The Godfather of DBU"), NFL Hall of Fame shoe-in Andre Carter, former defensive coordinator Blake Baker at LBs Coach, and joined by a slew of top analysts / GAs across the board, the Tigers' 2021 group are a whole different Louisianimal.

There seems to be a better camaraderie and mutual communication between this year's squad, a harmony which was prevented by the extreme social distancing & socio-political divide of 2020, as well as the pandemic's forced isolation.

As far as on-field cohesion and chemistry?

Every indication is looking great, with LSU's defense winning most of the scrimmage battles against Jake Peetz's deep reservoir of high-powered skill position talent.

Now, as their "warm-up" / mock game on Saturday was cancelled, LSU's team moved to Houston for their game-week preparations, all as Head Coach Ed Orgeron's hometown of Lafourche became ground zero for Hurricane Ida's destruction.

Therefore, ahead of an "Us vs The World" season, Coach O's squad will be using the events of this weekend as even more fuel to light their collective fire, I can guarantee you that........but the page cannot be turned, the script cannot be flipped unless Daronte Jones' defense breaks through in 2021.

Here are 5 keys for how Jones' defensive unit can stop UCLA:


1. STOP THE RPO RUN GAME RHYTHM


Our LBs and defensive ends will be critically valuable if LSU are able to stop Chip Kelly's RPO attack:

Utilizing two running backs, Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown, both with similar profiles, UCLA ran amok vs Hawaii, gouging their defense for 184 yards between the duo.

Overall, UCLA ran for 244 yards as a team, averaging 5.7 per carry on the ground....fantastic production which led to big plays in the passing game, including WR Kazmeir Allen's 44 yard touchdown catch down the sideline. Despite QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson's poor throw, Allen easily won the mano e mano battle on the outside; I believe the running game wore down Hawaii's defense just enough, including draining their DBs, all of which culminated in that specific big score.

Though running back Zach Charbonnet would take off for 106 yards from only 6 carries, punching in 3 touchdowns and averaging just under 20 per touch, his teammate Brittain Brown's opening 3 carries for 39 yards set the tone.........once these two backs were in rhythm, their offensive line moving righteously, there was little Hawaii could do.

On Charbonnet's first touchdown, the back could not be stopped:

Although he was met by 3 defenders after only a few yards, the Bruins' #24 chewed 'em up, busting through their silly tackling attempts and dancing his way for a 47 yard touchdown scamper.

Thanks to their effective rushing attack, UCLA were able to dominate the line of scrimmage, and therefore control the entire afternoon.....

After a 2020 campaign where the Tigers' defense allowed 169 rushing yards per game, a trio of outings surrendering 206+ yards, a single outing of 307 to Ole Miss, five other contests allowing 150+, and only a pair of displays giving up less than 4 yards per carry, Daronte Jones must have his defensive unit ready to play their best game of the year, right here...right now.

This is where our tone is set....

Specifically, LSU's LBs Coach Blake Baker will be tested straight out of the gates, with attention to detail being the #1 concern headed into their showdown at the Rose Bowl:

It's up to the LSU linebacking unit to prevent 5 yard gains from turning into 47 yard touchdowns, and in doing so, Jones & Baker must choose the best linebacker tandem / trio, make the right adjustments if something isn't working, and do whatever it takes to stop the Bruins' ground game from holding any momentum.

We need demonstrative pace off the edges...so does that mean we may not see LSU's 4-2-5 formation as the base set-up for Week 1??? Or will it mean Jones utilizes more DBs to make up for some of his linebackers' lack of speed?

The only way to find the answer to that question?


Play a drive or two against Kelly's UCLA.....that's the only to find out.

Is Damone Clark fast enough to take his place among the LB duo, or will his presence be limited to 4-3 packages only?

Could Micah Baskerville and Mike Jones Jr run the show as the LB tandem?

What about Navonteque Strong or Jared Small??

How LSU's linebackers perform will geaux a long way in deciding this game.


2. HOLD UCLA TO FIELD GOALS INSIDE RED ZONE / 3RD DOWN & LONG SCENARIOS



Alongside holding UCLA to field goals inside the 20, LSU's defense must push Dorian Thompson-Robinson into repeatedly uncomfortable 3rd down and long scenarios.

Finishing with a lukewarm 4/12 from 3rd down vs Hawaii, while also being held to a field goal after a tremendous early opportunity (Hawaii's punter accidentally kneeled on his own 15 yard line), UCLA's offense isn't geared for 3rd & long success... nor are they built to outscore Orgeron's LSU Tigers.

If LSU can dial up the pressure on 1st / 2nd down, as well as force negative plays in the backfield by refusing to bite on fakes, if they can maintain spacial awareness and never break their contain assignments, Daronte Jones' "ultra-violent" defense will have success against UCLA.

Still, on those 3rd and long situations, LSU's aggressive defensive front must also have a spy....someone watching, following the pressure inside and reacting to the quarterback's every move....staying home to shut down the big scramble gains that Dorian Thompson-Robinson can make a living from....who could that be?

Just make Jay Ward the guy, using his side to side range & underrated tackling ability, supplementing his absence with a third safety.


3. CONTAIN CONTAIN CONTAIN


LSU's defense must be all on the same page when it comes to this part....CONTAIN! CONTAIN! CONTAIN!

There isn't much to it other than understanding space, who's next to you....who's behind you....and keeping that line....don't break that line....keep it straight or at a slight diagonal angle....if it's any other shape, you've broken contain.

From the safety at the back, outside linebackers in between, and defensive ends up front, all are equally important and play a vital role in keeping contain, just as we found out last year in many textbook examples.

Breaking contain directly led to nearly every single explosive play LSU gave up last year:

Has second year DE B.J Ojulari learned his lesson from the Arkansas game, a moment where Feleipe Franks juked him on the outside and burst inside for the airborne touchdown?

Are safeties like Todd Harris ready to turn the page on some bad angles and whiffs from 2020?

Will the last man tackle prowess we witnessed Major Burns display on the practice field show up during Week 1?

When DEs break contain, can our defensive tackles or inside linebackers bring enough athleticism to break on the ball and prevent long gains?

Just as big as keeping contain, LSU's defenders must wrap up on the tackle or Charbonnet, Brown and even QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson will all have a field day.


4. MAKE DORIAN THOMPSON-ROBINSON BEAT US THROUGH THE AIR


No UCLA receiver caught more than 2 passes vs Hawaii....

No UCLA receiver totaled more than 47 yards vs Hawaii, either....

Although this is just one game, what does this mean for LSU's defense?

With All-Americans Derek Stingley Jr & Eli Ricks at cornerback, soon-to-be All-American Jay Ward and the highly promising Major Burns at safety, backed by a bevy of talents at safety or nickel (Todd Harris, Jordan Toles, Pig Cage, Sage Ryan), I feel LSU can handle the passing game....it's the wear & tear from UCLA's ground & pound which has me concerned the most.

In fact, LSU need to master our rush defense until we force QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson to throw the football, especially considering he tossed a lukewarm 10/20 for 130 yards and 1 TD, alongside a 6.5 yards per completion metric.

Woeful stats, however these lower numbers are due to UCLA running the football continuously, knowing they were up against a unit who couldn't stop them.......simply put, they didn't need to pass the ball.

Now, Daronte Jones' group must force DTR to throw at least 30+ attempts, totally changing his mindset, making him second guess himself, and creating numerous opportunities for desperate heaves to become interceptions, slow-developing / indecisive scrambles to turn into brutal sacks, and for UCLA to live and die in 3rd and long scenarios.

If LSU can push UCLA to attempt 6 or more 3rd down & long scenarios, the Tigers should win the game.


5. SCORE DEFENSIVELY

This is a big one....

Though Hawaii didn't create a single turnover, UCLA should be susceptible to giving it away if LSU can awaken their INT/fumble-hungry vibes from 2020:

Conjuring 2.2 turnovers per outing over 10 games last year, anchored by 9 in their final two games, unbridled specimen such as Derek Stingley Jr, Eli Ricks, Jay Ward, and former Tigers Jacoby Stevens & Jabril Cox led the way as LSU's horrorshow 2020 unit supplied one of their only silver linings: picking off 13 passes, recovering 7 fumbles while forcing 10 and scoring 4 defensive touchdowns.

This team has a knack for the football, which will no doubt be helped by Andre Carter's unbelievably stacked defensive line creating hellish pressure up front, making it a long day for Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Blake Baker's versatile linebacking corps and Daronte Jones / Corey Raymond's top notch secondary should be chomping at the bit to take advantage of the bountiful opportunities our front four produce.

In fact, to make a prediction, I believe Eli Ricks will arrive back home in California in ceremonious, G.O.A.T fashion, completing his graceful homecoming when he picks off a DTR pass and races to the house for his 3rd collegiate pick six.

It could be an iconic moment.


DO YOU LIKE LSU'S DEFENSIVE CHANCES VS UCLA?


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ALL HANDS, ALL HEARTS (4 star rating by CHARITY NAVIGATOR)

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by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips

Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc


SHOUTOUTS: WE ARE WITH YOU LOUISIANA!!

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