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by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Sure, LSU haven't had the season this author or many others believed, however there are some significant positives flying under the radar amidst the sordid collective performances.
There have been 5 players who we feel have consistently shown out for the Tigers when their team, fans and university needed them most;
In spite of a lack of help and usually forced to make plays as a solo artist, there are five guys I feel have successfully represented the purple and gold thus far:
ZACH VON ROSENBERG
LONG: 60, 58. 55, 54, 50
INSIDE THE 20: 11
INSIDE THE 10: 4
INSIDE THE 5: 3
Yes....it's sad when your best player through 5 games is your punter (during LSU's best win vs South Carolina, Zach Von Rosenberg never attempted a punt...coincidence?), and yet this is exactly the position LSU find themselves...awarding a punter the top spot.
When looking for the true #1 player on this squad, we didn't just geaux for the sexy position or who we think put up the best stats, we favored heart, determination and positive overall influence on proceedings....guys who did everything possible to win....and Punter Zach Von Rosenberg is without a doubt LSU's most consistent player.
Routinely pinning the opposition deep, handing his struggling defense every chance to get the ball back, he's also been the most frustrated, most recently watching a booming punt pin Bo Nix and Auburn at their own 1 yard line...only for Malzahn's squad to march 99 yards on Pelini's defense and score a game-sealing touchdown.
Still, every time he boots the ball away, Zach is aiming for victory, hoping he can jettison this defense through the powers of his immortal right foot...but the best punter in the game can't fix this defense.
With the best punter in college football pinning opponents deep at will, ZVR booting 11 punts inside the 20 and four at the 10 yard line or less, ZVR not only deserves the Ray Guy Award but our defense owes him a big apology.
Since the season has been lost anyway, in terms of winning a title, Orgeron and Special Teams Coordinator Greg McMahon need to call some fake punts and field goals involving Rosenberg, not only because he's good at these plays and could convert them (He completed a pass on Derek Stingley Jr during Thursday practice) he deserves the chance for what he's meant to LSU.
And as far as special teams trickery, you won't find a better coach than former Saints Super Bowl Champion Greg McMahon (yup...the onside kick at halftime in Miami vs Peyton...he's the architect of that play).
ELI RICKS (CB)
1 INT RET TD
11 TACKLES (5 SOLO)
30% OPP. COMP.
106 YARDS ALLOWED
1 TD ALLOWED
45.2 NFL RATING
As the #5 graded freshman in the nation, it goes without saying Eli Ricks isn't just a high octane newbie proving he belongs, he's become a major strength and pillar for this team. We just didn't expect LSU's secondary would rely on Eli so soon, as much as we preferred Ricks starting over Flott, we heard all summer about the unimpeachable greatness of Cordale Flott.
Anytime anyone mentioned their excitement for Ricks, plenty of highly paid LSU analysts (who seem to have lost interest before or since the championship) would defensively bark "FLOTT!" and point to a misleading statistic to back it up...yes, Flott was above Stingley in opposition completion percentage, yet Stingley played nearly three times as many snaps as Cordale Flott...
Ricks was the man for the outside corner job...and instead of placing Flott at nickel (where he's performed far better), LSU's DB staff continued, for better or worse, to trust Cordale in those uncomfortable scenarios out wide....and accordingly, Cordale has allowed a touchdown in every game, including 3 vs Miss State and the lone score vs Vandy.
Eli wasn't given his proper dues, even after the first interception (which nearly propelled LSU to a come from behind victory, preserving their #6 ranking).
Though the defense has played poorly, Eli continues to make smart solo tackles on the edge, only breaking contain vs Miss State during his debut and is proving to be a more trusted tackler than linebacker Damone Clark...imagine that....
At 3 INTs already and more targets coming his way, I wouldn't be surprised if Ricks picks off 7 passes this year....he's that good and our opponents will be airing it out against us (335 passing yards allowed per game).
DEREK STINGLEY JR (CB)
18 TACKLES (14 SOLO)
2 PD (1 in red zone)
7 FORCED INCOMP.
(Coverage Rendered Target Uncatchable or Uncontested)
-Allowed 4 completions
-2 games allowing 0 yards, 0 completions
While rarely tested, Stingley has followed up his showstopping freshman year with an understated, mature, headstrong campaign.
Bailing LSU out with more than a handful of touchdown-saving solo tackles (14 of 18 showing his tackling reliability), he also made one of the rare great plays for the Tigers vs Auburn.
In what will be remembered as one of Stingley Jr's greatest plays at LSU, he recovered from a Seth Williams catch to turn and punch the ball out a millisecond after the Auburn receiver established possession (and right before before he crossed the end zone) fumbling the football into the end zone and out of bounds fir the touchback...Stingley Jr directly subtracting a touchdown off the board.
After the Miss State game, many people cried "Stingley isn't that important!" arguing how the presence of one man, even #24 wouldn't have had an effect vs K.J Costello: but after his performances thus far in 2020, he's shown his value time and time again, grading as LSU's most consistent defensive player; throw in his returning exploits (which handed LSU a few scores vs Vanderbilt) and you can argue Stingley Jr is LSU's best player during the first 5 games....and he missed the first.
MYLES BRENNAN (QB)
8.5 YARDS PER ATTEMPT
Brennan....you gotta feel bad for the blonde haired quarterback...here he was, LSU's season on the line after one defeat and he was throwing his guts out (literally)...chucking 432 exquisite passing yards and 4 Touchdowns (3 after the injury) and yet when the game came down to the final pass, Myles' injury obviously affected his delivery, forcing the hesitation (even as the tape reveals he's noticed Terrace Marshall open for a 3 second window)....but the torn abdomen made Brennan reel back in grimacing agony and he hit the pass by the 4th second, just barely allowing the defensive back time to recover on Marshall's route and break on the ball.
He was a warrior out there...and boy do LSU need fighters right now...
Myles threw for just under Joe Burrow's first three game 2019 totals, amassing 1,112 yards, 11 TDs and produced the #1 accuracy and efficiency against the blitz of any quarterback in the SEC.
I really wonder where LSU's fortunes would be right now with a healthy Myles Brennan...perhaps if #15 doesn't receive a first quarter wallop, he doesnt throw for 432 yards, he easily could've dropped 600 on Missouri and LSU my have walked out with a 2019-esque 60-30 win...
Say all you want about the defensive horrorshow atrocity (like Rob Zombie directing Kramer Vs Kramer), this offense were flying under a healthy Myles Brennan....with or without an SEC-level offensive line or even a below-par rushing attack leaning far too heavily on Chris Curry and John Emery, Brennan abused opposition DBs with one Burrow-esque toss after another.
The passes weren't polished, he still left receivers waiting or turning over their shoulders slightly (instead of leading targets into space) yet these are the little details Myles can only improve on by playing SEC football against the best defenses...
A piece of that opportunity has been physically torn away, however if he can make it back in time to face Alabama, the experience of a top tier SEC game alone, win or lose, could provide invaluable benefits in preparations for 2021's title launch.
But that's a big IF...Coach O reported Myles was "hurting" after his first practice back from injury and "couldn't do much" and called his return "extremely doubtful"....his voice full of resignation and as much sorrow as Orgeron would ever allow himself during a press conference.
Is it even safe to throw Myles back out there vs Alabama, let alone practice right now or throw a football?
This kid is tough as nails we know that, he doesn't need to eviscerate his insides to win LSU fans' respect...but is it worth the risk to play him vs Alabama?
Until he's 100% we can't ask that of the young man's body.
We tie Myles with Terrace Marshall, as his disappointing Auburn showing takes him down a few spots from where he should be, it would've been impossible to deny him a spot.
TERRACE MARSHALL JR
9 TDs (5 in the Red zone)
17.4 PER CATCH
Marshall has dropped 6 passes this season however he's also caught 9 Touchdowns, 5 in the red zone, remains a Biletnikoff frontrunner and still the Tigers' biggest threat and (at times) only hope on big down conversions.
Terrace has scored touchdowns every way possible, from bursting long runs to the end zone after the catch, back shoulder fades, crossing routes through traffic, holding on to tough grabs while taking nasty hits, Marshall is the complete receiver, only 4 Touchdowns away from breaking Dwayne Bowe's all time receiving TD mark at LSU.
With two freshmen quarterbacks potentially starting until Myles is healthy, are Marshall's seemingly sealed chances of breaking the record now up in smoke?
Had Brennan stayed healthy, chances are Terrace has 12 Touchdowns right now, but when he's targeted by Max Johnson or T.J Finley over the next game or two, interested NFL scouts will be paying keen attention to how Terrace adapts.
If he can still score touchdowns and make plays with these freshmen (as he did vs South Carolina) Marshall would ensure his selection in the Top 10 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
B.J OJULARI (DE)
7 QB HITS
Ojulari remains the #1 ranked freshman since his debut vs Miss State (according to Pro Football Focus) issuing 4 sacks (3 vs South Carolina), 1 FF vs Vanderbilt, he leads all edge rushers with an 86.8% pass-rushing grade, 16 total pressures with a 29.3% win rate (once again, highest among any active edge rusher in the nation) while burying quarterbacks for 7 total QB Hits.
Making a smart 3rd down solo tackle on Bo Nix last outing vs Auburn, Ojulari was one of a few Tigers who could hold their heads high after the thorough ass-kicking.
Though he shows some deficiencies in edge containment at times, B.J plays every snap like a heathen nightmare of a lost pagan youth, storming through the gates like a ghost in the night.
Who knows what honors he'll hold by season's end, although one things for sure: LSU have an unforgettable talent on their hands, a young man who's treacherous powers Orgeron doesn't want to waste.
WHO'S IN YOUR TOP 5???
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2020 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
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