Les Miles was pretty non-committal on Monday when asked that question, but I sense he could be playing possum a bit. Jefferson is mostly going to be used as a situational wildcat-type back while he gets into the flow of things, but it won't shock me if he doesn't come in to start a series in the second quarter and maybe another in the third – depending on the score and what kind of momentum either LSU's offense or Florida's defense has. Jefferson adds a wrinkle the Tigers have been missing, similar to Tim Tebow to Chris Leak as a freshman in 2006, but Jarrett Lee is the clear-cut starter.
2. Since offensive coordinator Gary Crowton took the same job at Maryland, does the offensive scheme look any different? What are some of the new touches that Steve Kragthorpe and Greg Studrawa have added?
At first blush it does look very similar, in large part because no matter who else is around, Les Miles is still the offensive architect and he wants an offense based on the run with play-action passing set up from that. So, LSU looks very much the same schematically, but there's less confusion before plays and during series. Another variant has to do with Lee as the starter rather than Jefferson and that's the fact that Lee – for better or worse – is willing to take more gambles on 50-50 throws downfield, especially to Rueben Randle, and that has helped open the offense up and loosen defenses. A big key against Florida's talented defense and something that has changed a bit is LSU's willingness and ability to throw the ball on early downs and stay ahead of the chains.
Ware will play against Florida. He's one of those players who you'd have to amputate a limb for him to sit out a game of this magnitude. He could've played much more against Kentucky, but Miles wanted to keep him as fresh as possible for this week and the next two.
Style-wise, Ware is more of a bruiser in the mold of Stevan Ridley and Charles Scott, although he's a little more shifty and athletic than both of those guys and not yet quite as adept as Ridley at creating running lanes when they don't exist. That said, of the current LSU backs, Ware is the one who can carve out 3-4 yards when it doesn't look they are there and he administers punishment as willingly as he absorbs it, so he wears a defense down both physically and mentally. Ford and Blue are more explosive on the edges. Ford is especially effective when he gets into open space and has a chance to make tacklers miss. Blue is a hybrid of the two, although all three of them will say Blue is the fastest of the group, but he is still a little raw when it comes to reading defenses and knowing where to find creases.
Sounds simple, but being on the field more has been the biggest key. Montgomery missed half of last season with a knee injury, Mingo was a pass-rush specialist (made him easier to block) and Logan didn't play a whole lot, period. All three have matured quite a bit, Montgomery is healthy and they've gotten better at finding the right angles to get to the quarterback. With Montgomery and Mingo, not overrunning the pocket and allowing the quarterback to step up and avoid pressure is also a key. And it'd be wrong not to mention that LSU's talented and suffocating secondary is covering receivers much better than last season and giving those guys more time to get to the QB.
5. What makes Tyrann Mathieu so special? How unique is his skill set to be such a versatile player for the LSU defense?
Ah, the ‘Honey Badger.' Not sure I can do his skill set justice by trying to describe them. He's fast, he's quick, and he's strong for such a small package (5-foot-9, 175 pounds), but the one thing that sets him apart from any player I've seen in seven years covering LSU is his amazing instinctive/reflexive combination of skills. He's an avid video watcher and that explains it to a degree because he's learned how to interpret trends and traits – I wouldn't want to play poker with him. But more than that, when you watch him, he almost always moves into the right position to be around the ball on every snap and that's why playing nickel back instead of straight-up corner really suits him so well.
6. How has LSU benefitted from such a tough early season schedule? What is the biggest question mark on either side of the ball that still hasn't been answered?
The Tigers have benefitted from their schedule because there's not a lot they haven't seen thus far in terms of different schemes on both sides of the ball, so nothing will really surprise them between the lines. Also, LSU came into the season relatively young on defense and at the receiver and running back spots and all of those guys have jumped into the deep end and swum pretty well with the meat of the SEC schedule coming up.
As far as question marks, on offense the big one is whether or not receivers other than Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. can step up and be counted on for plays – and not dropping passes – when those two are blanketed by SEC defensive backs. The defensive question mark is the same one that LSU began the season with: Linebackers. Ryan Baker is very solid on the weak side, although he hasn't really blown up yet this season. After that, though, the Tigers are young and the older players they've relied on (Karnell Hatcher, Stefoin Francois) have struggled at times, especially when they've been asked to lend a hand in pass coverage. The dominant defensive front and lock-down secondary have covered up those shortcoming for the most part, but teams like Florida, Auburn and Alabama will create problems if the linebackers don't make some progress.