What We Learned

It was a disappointing week in the world of LSU football after a tough loss to Alabama. TSD breaks down the big story lines coming out of Saturday's game and takes a look at all the latest on the recruiting trail in this edition of "What We Learned."

Here's a rundown of all the latest developments, happenings and information in the world of LSU football and recruiting from the past week. It's TSD's "What We Learned" for the week of November 4 - 10.

FOOTBALL

ALABAMA SEPARATED ITSELF IN MORE THAN JUST THIS GAME


Nick Saban still has LSU's number (USA Today)
LSU kept it close for the better part of three quarters, but Alabama eventually pulled away with three unanswered touchdowns to seal a 38-17 victory Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tigers overcame two early fumbles, only surrendering three points off the turnovers, but the Tide's run game eventually became too much for LSU to handle. Alabama controlled the clock with consecutive drives lasting 7:50, 4:44 and 5:00. Meanwhile the LSU offense that had moved the ball well early in the game went stale late, not able to convert a first down on either of its last two possessions.

While Alabama separated itself in a literal sense, most couldn't help but sense that Alabama has also separated itself as a program. The win marked another notch in Nick Saban's belt and it removed one of the few remaining hurdles between another national championship for the Tide. Though LSU kept it close, it was ultimately another loss to Alabama, the third straight. While there may not be a huge gap between the two programs, it's starting to become clearer that one does exist.


WE DIDN'T LEARN ANYTHING NEW ABOUT THE DEFENSE…

And that's a bad thing. Most everyone agreed coming in that LSU's offense could keep up with Alabama, but the most pressure would fall on the Tigers' struggling defense. Well, that unit didn't leave anyone thinking it turned a corner. LSU did get off to a hot start, forcing consecutive punts to open the game then limiting Alabama to only a field goal on a fumble-created short field. But the Tigers' defense didn't get another stop after that. Excluding the final possessions of the second half and end of game, the Tide scored a touchdown on each of its five other drives, dominated primarily on the ground. LSU had little answer for T.J. Yeldon in particular, who racked up 133 yards rushing on missed tackle after missed tackle. While this has certainly been a down year for the LSU defense, this offseason will be pivotal in developing the younger players into SEC contributors, because the excuses made this year won't work next season.


LSU couldn't get the run game going (USA Today)
WHEN LSU CAN'T RUN, THEY CAN'T WIN

While Zach Mettenberger and the passing attack had a decent amount of success, LSU got little going in the ground game. None of LSU's running backs surpassed the 50-yard mark and LSU's 43 yards total (including 29 lost to sacks), was by far its lowest of the season. In fact LSU's three lowest rushing totals this year coincide with the Tigers' three losses (114 vs. Ole Miss, 77 vs. Georgia). That's not a coincidence. When opponents stop the run on early downs, that forces the Tigers into passing situations on third-and-long, which allows for the kind of pressure that LSU struggled with late against Alabama. Les Miles always says how important balance is to this offense, and we saw that firsthand Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

THE POSTSEASON WON'T BE ALL THAT EXCITING

No SEC Title Game. No BCS Bowl. After LSU's loss to Alabama, the Tigers will likely now fall in one of the conference's middle-tier bowl games, like the Gator or Music City Bowl. While Jacksonville and Nashville are destination cities, those bowl games don't really produce the kind of postseason prestige that LSU is used to. While LSU's three remaining games will be important for the future, particularly for the defense, they won't carry the same weight that most fans had hoped these late contests would. That leaves little to get excited about down the closing stretch of the season, but hey, basketball season starts tomorrow.




FOOTBALL RECRUITING

BIG WEEKENDS IN ALABAMA, TENNESSEE, FLORIDA

It was a big weekend in the SEC for recruiting as many of LSU's top targets ventured elsewhere on official and unofficial visits. No destination was more popular than Tuscaloosa for the nation's best recruits. Each of the nation's top three overall prospects (Leonard Fournette, Cameron Robinson and Tony Brown) were in attendance, as were other LSU targets like Hootie Jones, C.J. Hampton, Damien Mama and Shawn Burgess-Becker.


Tony Brown visited Alabama officially this past weekend
Most of the focus surrounds Jones, who'll announce his decision on Nov. 25. His mother did not make the trip with him for the unofficial visit, though she recently told Scout's Mike Coppage that she likes both schools. His visit to Baton Rouge for the Texas A&M game will still be important for LSU to try and lock him in two days before his decision date. Brown was the top prospect in on an official visit, which he made with his mother. Brown has two officials remaining, and LSU still appears to be in great shape though they'll certainly have to hold off some competition.


Tennessee also attracted an impressive visitor list for their loss to Auburn on Saturday. LSU targets Adoree Jackson and David Sharpe each made official visits to Knoxville for the contest. That marked Jackson's fourth official visit, and it looks like Oregon will get his final one. LSU still likes where it stands are making a strong impression during his visit to Baton Rouge, and they'll hope to stay in the mix as the next couple months pass. LSU's still trying to lock in Sharpe for an official visit, likely for the Texas A&M game. A four-star offensive lineman, Sharpe also wants to play basketball. Tennessee is reportedly recruiting him on the hardwood, and that could end up a big factor in his recruitment.

Two of LSU's top in-state targets made official visits to Florida this weekend. Gerald Willis and Speedy Noil were each reported to be in Gainesville, but LSU still remains firmly in the lead for both prospects. Though Florida has stayed in the picture for both prospects, the uncertainty surrounding that program as it heads toward a seven-loss season seems to be hurting the Gators on the recruiting trail.

LSU OFFERS DARREL WILLIAMS AS AN ATHLETE

The Tigers made their interest official this past week in 2014 prospect Darrel Williams, an Arizona State commit from John Ehret HS in New Orleans. The senior running back racked up 2,036 rushing yards this season and 29 touchdowns. LSU doesn't want to see him leave the state, but for now the offer to Williams is as an athlete. Williams only wants to be a RB, so right now he's giving equal consideration to Arizona State, Tennessee and Missouri. He plans to make official visits to each of these four schools in the month of January with LSU likely being the last one. With Sione Palelei recovering from a knee injury, LSU will likely need to take three RBs in this class, so Williams will probably find a spot, but it probably won't happen until LSU secures Leonard Fournette's commitment.


Brandon Harris signed a financial aid agreement
BRANDON HARRIS SIGNS FINANCIAL AID AGREEMENT

QB Brandon Harris became the first LSU recruit to take advantage of one of the NCAA's newest rules. Recruits on track to enroll early can now sign financial aid agreements that secure their scholarship with the university. This does not bind the player to a school as the National Letter of Intent does, but it does remove all limitations on contact for the school, and Les Miles is expected to visit him in-person this week. LSU can, and already has, started publicizing Brandon Harris, which previously wasn't possible until a player steps foot on campus or signs a NLI. Ed Paris will be the next LSU commit to sign a FAA, which he'll do Thursday afternoon.

LSU OFFERS ARRION SPRINGS, STILL TARGETING ELITE DEFENSIVE BACKS

Four-star DB Arrion Springs (San Antonio, Texas) reported an LSU offer this past week. An Oregon commit, it will be hard for LSU to get in the mix, but they will try to bring him in on an official visit before he signs. That follows what LSU has done with several big-name defensive backs like CJ Hampton and Jamal Adams. Until LSU actually receives a visit from some of these prospects, it's hard to consider the Tigers anything better than a longshot. But with Hootie Jones and Adoree Jackson still very much on the board, LSU isn't slowing down in its pursuit of elite secondary players.

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