by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
In our record prediction piece, we warned all Tigers fans about this coming Saturday:
When LSU take the field inside Death Valley for their home opener vs McNeese State, it won't just be a typical non-conference blow out against a small in-state school.
Out of Lake Charles, Louisiana, McNeese State possess a dangerous weapon to the Tigers' defense....not just on the field, but the psychological effects his presence could muster on the sidelines:
QB Cody Orgeron....yes, that's right....Coach Ed Orgeron's son will be taking on his own father in a battle that will bring tears and hugs when triple zeros hit the clock at Tigers Stadium.
Although LSU are monumental favorites heading into this game, one must understand the fragile stakes here:
However unlikely it might seem, if Cody is to beat his father's LSU Tigers at Death Valley, not only would it be McNeese State's greatest moment in program history, it may literally cost his Dad's job.
Judging by this week's slate of intense practices, LSU are aiming to flex their muscles for the first time since South Carolina 2020:
The team are trying to fight through swirling criticism and mounting pressure, all while Coach O's under-fire staff work around the clock to fix their glaring mistakes vs UCLA........will it be enough to overcome a small in-state opponent? Or will Coach O's Tigers overstep their confidence once again?
Watching the UCLA game at least 5 full times now, it's easy to point out how the Tigers allowed the Bruins to take control:
Or ultra soft?
Despite some strong first drives from Daronte Jones' defensive unit, LSU lost all discipline in run defense once Jay Ward left the game...there was no one at the back end to put a stop to Charbonnet or Brown's 6 yard carries turning into 34 yard back-breakers...
...instead, with so many Tigers missing tackles, including (Ward's replacement at safety) Todd Harris lunging at air, LB Damone Clark's lack of speed being picked on repeatedly, and our DEs being bullied inside, Chip Kelly's offense rode the gravy train.
Kicking our ass to the tune of an 11 point victory, rushing for 200+ yards, and racking up 38 points on LSU; I was sure Daronte Jones would've started beating a referee in vicious, frenzied delight if that outcome was even hinted at over the past few months....and yet here we are....and there was no referee to blame, only Jones himself...a DC we believed was the right choice.
Let's look at LSU's most successful plays vs UCLA....the first few drives of the game:
The Tigers were using a 4-2-5 base, with two lineups on the DL, Anthony, Farrell, Evans and Gaye, plus Ojulari, Anthony kicked inside to DT, Maason and Gaye...then, you look at LBs: Damone Clark, Micah Baskerville and at nickel, Cordale Flott (who was one of the better defenders on the day) finished off by Stingley Jr, Ricks, Burns and Ward at corner & safety.
This group seemed to be equipped with more speed than any other unit, Flott's pace at nickel coming in handy when covering for Clark's lack of quickness.
This same lineup could be dynamic if Damone Clark is benched in place of Navonteque Strong, while I also believe second year DT Jaquelin Roy should've seen the field far more often vs UCLA.
At the Rose Bowl, Coach O and his staff favored veteran experience over youth, an annoying philosophy which carried over from 2020 and cost our Tigers the game:
Damone Clark was beyond ineffective....he was diabolical.
I don't care about his SEC leading 14 tackles, these numbers are always grabbed 20+ yards down the field after an opponent runs right down his gap;
Move Damone Clark to OLB in a 3-4 Cheetah package where he simply attacks the line of scrimmage as an outside rusher, that's it...because he has become a pivotal liability for this team, #18 status or not.
I despise calling out a guy, but you know what's even worse?
Knowing the truth but still lying to yourself.....
Since his coaches don't have the minerals to make the move, stepping aside from the starting LB spotlight himself would be the most #18 thing Damone Clark could do.
With strong side DEs Ali Gaye and Soni Fonua both out vs McNeese, doors are opening for red shirt freshman wunderkind Phillip Webb, a rarely-used / often-injured athletic prodigy wearing #39, yet there's also every chance for exciting freshmen Saivion Jones, Zavier Carter, Bryce Langston or Landon Jackson to really grab some playing time here.
I feel like now is the time for Phillip Webb to be given a true shot at DE, and if Webb isn't available, then let's go with Saivion Jones or Zavier Carter.
Our defensive line were pitiful in the physicality department, which is why I want to see a shake-up on the DL interior. Almost every name on the DL were manhandled, regardless of their sack total or however many tackles for loss they racked up.
Gaye, Ojulari, Farrell Jr (uncredited) and Anthony all picked up a single sack, as well as 8 combined pressures (Ojulari leading the way with 4); freshman Maason Smith produced a pair of pressures himself, creating an Ali Gaye sack on one play.
But none of the stats matter when these titans were bullied like a youth basketball team coached by Christopher Lloyd:
UCLA's Pac 12 OL ravaged LSU's ends inside and ran the Tigers' DL into each other, all while Charbonnet or Brown's speed and agility exploited Blake Baker's pitiful LB corps on the outside.
At safety, we're almost 99.9% sure Jay Ward will be held out as he recovers from what I'm reporting to be a concussion....so who's best to take his place while #5 heals?
If Daronte Jones opts for Todd Harris at safety opposite Major Burns, I'm terrified we could actually surrender large chunks of yardage & points to Cody Orgeron's dual threat "Gordon Bombay" mentality; Is Jordan Toles the answer? Would freshmen Matthew Langlois, Derrick Davis Jr or Sage Ryan be ready?
Surrendering 21 yards after catch per reception (according to Pro Football Focus) against underneath dump offs and over the middle crossing routes, LSU's LBs and safeties were atrocious vs UCLA, allowing TE Greg Dulcich a stunning 117 yards & a TD from only 3 catches!!!
Overall, the tackling was absent, both individually or as a team, the pass-rush wore down after the second quarter, Blake Baker / Daronte Jones and Andre Carter's coaching was naive, and the improved communication everyone talked about all off-season may have been their worst trait.
It was a despicable momentary lapse of Tigerdom from our defense, although when you look at some of these guys in motion at their best, I see greatness: Stingley Jr of course, Eli Ricks, B.J Ojulari, Jaquelin Roy, Maason Smith, Jay Ward, but where is that elite linebacker?
Where the hell is Mike Jones Jr? We never saw the Clemson transfer vs UCLA...
LSU better find a reliable LB fast, whether that man is Strong, Baskerville, Jones Jr or someone else, this group must figure it out now before the Tigers lose any more games.
Daronte Jones can use these next two games to fortify a defensive identity, based around a more trustworthy grouping of personnel. Stopping a running quarterback such as McNeese State's Cody Orgeron, much like UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson, suggests you need speed at linebacker, correct?
If so, then switch out Damone Clark for Mike Jones Jr and find out what he's all about on Saturday...if he's even available....
Offensively, new OC Jake Peetz should be able to quickly identify the mistakes he made on Saturday:
First off, he must be a bald man now after tearing his hair out in stark, bleary-eyed realization: "I do not have a f**&in offensive line..."
Second, he outsmarted himself...going away from the dynamism and attack-minded passing flurry of the Tigers' first scoring drive:
When attacking with a plethora of quick strike, short to intermediary passes, LSU's aerial onslaught proved unstoppable, burning UCLA over the middle through freshman debutant Jack Bech, junior mainstay Jaray Jenkins and of course, Mr. Kayshon "Bouttnikoff" Boutte, slicing & dicing the Bruins' overmatched DBs on the outside via Trey Palmer and Brian Thomas Jr...the problem???
Peetz slowed down the pre-snap movements, grinding the rhythm to a complete halt and very quickly UCLA's defense could read everything coming their way.
Jake's play-calling wasn't just vanilla, worst of all it was transparent....giving up far too many free shots on our quarterback, not just from a porous offensive line, but due to his usage of the running back:
Making TDP a nonstop pass protector actually creates a "sitting duck" type scenario, where the defense is given an extra blitzer at the QB....
UCLA recognized Peetz's tendency to keep Ty in the pocket as a pure blocker immediately following pressures or sacks...
Soon enough, TDP was a pure 6th offensive lineman, not even a safety valve.... a true disaster which set Max Johnson up for failure.
If Jake Peetz wants "every player to be a threat on every play" like he claimed this off-season on multiple occasions, it's time to rack up the points, flex some muscles and shake off the Brady shadow, beginning this Saturday with a blow-out over McNeese.
I don't care about a shaky, beaten down or (if you listen to center Liam Shanahan and guard Ed Ingram) a "tired & out of shape" OL, the ball must be out of Max's hands no longer than 5 seconds after the snap: LSU's offense were at their most dangerous vs UCLA when Max released the ball under 4 seconds.
Against UCLA, these bulleted screens, quick hitches and crossing routes were giving our play-makers time and space to destroy opponents in the "yards after catch" department.
To illustrate just how explosive LSU's passing offense could be, Max tossed passes of 14+ yards to 7 different receivers....two of which (freshmen Jack Bech & Brian Thomas Jr) only received 3 total combined targets all game.
Following a nationally televised game where everything seemed to go against him, QB Max Johnson should be playing with a fury on Saturday, coming out ready to throw for 500 yards and 6 TDs against McNeese St's Southland Conference secondary.
Regarding this electric church of aerial inquisition, there are records waiting to be broken by 2021's quarterback and receiving corps......there's no way LSU can fail in the passing game for a second straight weekend, right?
The real issues at the heart of this offense belong in the trenches and backfield:
Upon hearing center Liam Shanahan and guard Ed Ingram's stunning & revealing press conference comments, our OL sound weary after only one game, broken in some ways, defeated and bitter in others....but can they figure this thing out & at least rush for 100+ yards against McNeese State?
I'm not too sure after what we've seen, especially given the defeatist comments from LSU's veterans the last 48; however, forget injuries, lack of depth, new coaching "confusing" our trenchmen, one of the biggest indicators of doom had to be the disgraceful UCLA performance from our best OL Ed Ingram.
When I watched Ed blocking Casper, turning and staring at the play as the action bypassed him, I knew our heads were simply not in the game.
"They showed us things we weren't ready for" was another shocking quote, as if UCLA were the second coming of he '85 Bears.....how weak can an SEC offensive line look?
Coach Brad Davis must figure out how to repair his battered offensive line, without both bookend tackles Deculus and Wire....the Louisiana-native simply has to find a combination that works, and it may require a stunning mix of freshmen or fringe Tigers to make something positive happen:
Could Xavier Hill and Garrett Dellinger take their spots at left and right tackle?
Where is Marcus Dumervil and why hasn't he factored into the equation?
Where would Charles Turner play along an OL that simply need to rid themselves of Chasen Hines' passive play at right guard?
This OL scare me....their quarterback Max Johnson took way too many hits this last week, rushing passes away from pressure for 5 QB hurries, taking 2 sacks and being clocked by a Bruins' defender damn near every snap.
That cannot happen...even in defeat, McNeese still have the power to hurt our quarterback...only a true freshman and a pair of walk-ons to back him up.
To grab momentum on the OL and running game, LSU must keep their undersized center and tackles in motion, but are they capable of slightly complex protections? Are they athletic enough? Are they physical?
It's now or never for a guy like Anthony Bradford....and if Kardell Thomas isn't hungry for a spot, he never will be....
If Peetz can keep his foot on the gas via LSU's short passing game, it'll open up the run just a bit more; if their OL can remain in motion, if the outside runs begin to work, if Peetz will stop deploying a running back as a blocker....if our offensive coordinator is ready to live by his philosophy "make everyone a threat on every play", then LSU's offense should rack up 45+ points vs McNeese.
Though Ed Orgeron enjoyed a career stretching back to the early 80s, building dynasties at Miami and USC, as well as coaching the G.O.A.T 2019 LSU team, taking on his son this Saturday will be 4 quarters Coach O will cherish most....a once in a lifetime opportunity, a rarely seen father vs son battle on the CFB stage.....all while Coach O rides on a flaming hot seat:
Love him or hate him, Orgeron's life reads like a college football story straight from a dream Hollywood movie:
But could his own son "Flip the script" and turn the temperature on his hot seat to a feverish boil?
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
CRAZY STATS FROM WEEK 1:
-Max Johnson went 4/14 against pressure
-LSU's defense surrendered 21 yards after catch per reception
-LSU's defense gave up 11 explosive plays
-LSU's WRs dropped 8 passes, including one TD, another potential score & multiple would-be 3rd down completions.
-LSU RB Ty Davis-Price averaged negative yards before contact, more than hinting at the Tigers OL catastrophe
-LSU's defense has now allowed 34+ points during 7 of their last 11 outings, giving up 40+ points on 5 occasions (1-5 record)