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State of the Hogs:
LSU's defense, like all great defenses, can take you apart if you play in a straight-up conventional way. If you give them something to keep them off balance, then things change a bit and they play a bit more tentative.
That's what happened in the fourth quarter last season. Two things happened to change that game. First, LSU really began to come after Matt Jones with blitzes and most were effective until Fred Talley popped on the draw. That changed the game. Also, we began to get to the corner with the option. I can remember two option plays, one with Mark Pierce, where there were solid gains in the running game.
The option will be the weapon that pins down LSU's blitzes, in my opinion. Of course, you can't just run the option. That won't work either. But if you keep LSU's linebackers off balance with draws, options and counters out of the shot gun, then LSU becomes like every other defense we've seen of late, a defense that is guessing. I'd hate to be guessing with Matt Jones back there and that will slow down the blitzes. The option, in my opinion, changed the game last year. It forced LSU to play straight and that is when we began to move the ball. LSU was afraid of giving up the big play in the fourth quarter and abandoned its blitzes. Hopefully, we can force that to happen again. Defensively, I worry about LSU's running game gashing us with our thin and inexperienced linebackers. Even Caleb Miller could be dubbed inexperienced because he's playing middle linebacker and not strong linebacker now with Sam Olajubutu out. Desmond Sims can be had with counters because he hasn't totally gotten to the point where he sticks with his keys and keeps his eyes from straying because of fakes. LSU has not been a solid running team this year. It has done more damage with the pass than with the run, but that can change if it thinks we are vulnerable to the run. I thought we were vulnerable against Mississippi State but the Bulldogs just couldn't sustain any drives because of turnovers. They did find running lanes, though, and gashed us there in the first half. The game got out of hand because we got the last possession of the first half and the first in the second and scored touchdowns both times. From there, MSU just began to throw and that was fine with us because we got to play our preferred package, the nickel and dime sets. However, until then, MSU was able to run on our base set, our eight-man front. Will Sam Olajubutu play against LSU? That to me is the key to the game. He is solid against the run and gives us the ability to play two solid inside linebackers. I do not think Desmond Sims is quite ready to play against LSU's running game. That's a tough issue for a coach wanting to make a statement in regards to the drinking issue. Does he give in and protect the team? Or does he stick to his guns and discipline Olajubutu for another game in hopes of sending a message?
Of course, the other key question concerns the health of Ahmad Carroll. Can he play this week and play effectively? I don't know the answer and there may not be one until Friday. He sustained a rolled ankle and a bruised knee in the second half against MSU. If anyone can come back from those injuries and do the hours upon hours of rehab and play this week, it is Batman Carroll.
Carroll has a great work ethic and is usually the first one to the Broyles Center each day and among the last to leave. He is dedicated to being ready each week and will do what it takes to get himself fit.
The Hogs will need Carroll. LSU's three great wideouts -- Michael Clayton, Devry Henderson and Skyler Green -- will be tough for the Hogs to track without Carroll. Whether or not Carroll will be full speed will have a big bearing on how effective the Hogs can be against the LSU passing game.