Before the week quickly turns to players/Miles interviews and looking ahead to Texas A&M, I wanted to drop some quick notes looking back one final time at LSU's performance versus South Carolina.
Some of these tidbits were mentioned in the Game Thread, but in case they're buried pretty deep, I'll unearth them now for readers.
Terrence Magee saw a lot more action at WR.
This was definitely an interesting development. The converted running back seemed to be taking away snaps usually designated for Russell Shepard in 4-WR sets. He first hit the field with 1:26 left in the first quarter on a very smartly designed play on third-and-10 from inside LSU territory. He lined up the middle of trips receivers to the wide side of the field (as he did every time he can in on the night), the receivers on his side faked the motion of a bubble screen to Magee and instead Zach Mettenberger hit Jeremy Hill on the short side with an easy dump-off screen. One Josh Dworaczyk open-field block later and Hill had gained 21 yards. Unlike the Florida game when Magee was the driving force in the play (on attempted Tebow jump pass), this time he was used as a decoy. And it paid off.
But there seemed to be more depth to his usage than just that play, otherwise they'd have brought Shepard back in the rest of the night. They didn't on those sets. It was Magee every time out, probably somewhere between 7 and 9 plays in total. He was even targeted once for a quick screen but Jadeveon Clowney batted down the pass. We'll see if Magee continues to factor in more at receiver.
LSU did a nice job throwing to RBs early.
Going back to watch the game film, the most impressive play to me by the offense was the fifth play from scrimmage on the very first drive. It was third-and-4 from the LSU 43. The Tigers brought Jeremy Hill in at fullback, sent him shuffling in motion to the left and had Spencer Ware at tailback in the I-formation. Hill went into the flats, something South Carolina obviously keyed on, and Ware, after faking play-action, went right over the middle to catch the underneath screen/shuffle pass. 27 yards. And it got the crowd into it early, behind the offense. It's also exactly what I've been talking about the last two days by saying LSU didn't go to its predictable options by formation. Hill was the guy there, but Miles/Stud found a creative way to get Ware involved without all the defense's eyeballs on him.
Between that play, the one referenced above with Hill/Magee and a few others, it's obvious LSU adapted its normal strategies coming into this game to take advantage of matchups at running back and slow down that USCe pass rush. It might not have lasted the whole game, but it was a welcome sight.
John Chavis showed a lot of trust in Lamar Louis.
Am I talking about a player who only had two total tackles (and two QB hurries)? Yes. But I'm also talking about a true freshmen who the coaches opted to keep in the game virtually every down in the first half, including a number of key passing situations.
To me that's significant and makes this specific tidbit something of interest. Through about 25 minutes or so of game action, I didn't see LSU go into nickel or dime one single time. Something that Chavis made a habit of the past two seasons went out the window for the most part. And it's obvious to me the reason is because Chavis trusts Louis not only in coverage but in re-creating some of the things Tyrann Mathieu used to do in that nickel role behind the line of scrimmage. Watching the tape, you see No. 23 lined up on slot receivers regularly, even when those offensive players got a lot of width outside the hash marks. Lot of responsibility for a young guy making his first start, but he acquitted himself extremely well. And, for the first time in a while, LSU might have an outside linebacker it can not lose sleep over in coverage.
There was another linebacker who played pretty darn well, too.
And, no, I'm actually not talking about Kevin Minter, who did his usual thing in the middle with nine tackles (second on the team) and a QB hurry. I'm talking about weakside LB starter Lamin Barrow. The junior had his biggest night of the season, racking up a team-high 12 tackles, one for loss, and forcing a QB hurry of his own.
Before the season started, it was Barrow who was the biggest question mark. Minter was a no-brainer, and Tahj Jones was the one with the most experience/upside at OLB. Barrow was the one fans were waiting for to come around. Well, fast-forward to October and, with no Jones in sight, Barrow has slid up to the role of second constant in the linbacking corps. He's been terrific. Right now Barrow is second on the team in tackles, with 51, trailing only Minter. Third place? Eric Reid with 39. Clearly, Barrow is doing work and tracking down ball carriers. He, like Louis, is also being trusted in coverage. Don't forget that when LSU does go nickel and dime, which seems like it'll be less and less, it's Barrow who stays on the field with Minter in two-LB sets.
Brad Wing was off. Les Miles didn't particularly seem disturbed by it.
Four punts. 33.5-yard average. None landing inside the 20. One that traveled only 10 yards in the second quarter. It was a very un-Wing-like performance. And, coupled with an admitted "shank" late in the Auburn game, it provides at least a bit of a pattern that would alarm some.
I asked him after the game if he was concerned by the way Wing punted. Miles responded, "Not really. I think he'll be fine. I don't think he was particularly sharp tonight (pausing), but he'll be fine."
Only time will tell, but it can't be a good sign that LSU's most consistent player from a year ago (which he absolutely was) is going through patches of a sophomore slump.
Also, I'll have weekly live coverage of the Les Miles' press conference today at 12:30 p.m. Check out the message board thread below to view my comments or drop your own line.
Click here for TSD's Lunch with Les thread.
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