JOHN CHAVIS IS THE JOHNNY FOOTBALL WHISPERER
Johnny Manziel has made even the best defenses look like they belong in the Pee Wee Leagues. But not John Chavis'. The LSU defensive coordinator has made Johnny Football look human in both of their encounters, including Saturday's dominating 34-10 victory for the Tigers. Chief has the formula, and regardless of how many players he loses to the NFL, he proved he can still stifle Manziel. LSU limited Manziel to just 54 yards rushing Saturday and he completed just 16 of his 41 passes with two interceptions.
Though the 2013 version of LSU's defense was nothing compared to the 2012 version, LSU still had the same results. The defensive line and linebackers got just enough pressure to force Johnny out of the pocket, but they did a solid job of containing him and forcing him into gang tackles. And when they forced him to throw, Manziel was mostly inaccurate through the air. LSU fans may have been frustrated with Chavis and his defense through most of this season — and rightfully so — but Chief proved that he can still craft a scheme to shut down one of the best in the game.
There were plenty of questions leading up to this game about where LSU's motivation would be. It was no secret that LSU dropped off the intensity after the loss to Alabama last year, and it showed in closer-than-expected wins against Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Many feared LSU would fall into the same rut again this year, but LSU brought plenty of energy Saturday against A&M. Even with rain, wind and cold, the Tigers didn't appear fazed and maintained a high level of play throughout the contest. All championship possibilities ended in Tuscaloosa, but LSU played like it still had everything left to play for, and this team can still reach the 10-win mark by defeating Arkansas and its bowl opponent. This season won't end in Pasadena, like many had hoped, but at least the Tigers aren't calling it a season.
THERE'S A NEW FACE OF DBU
A big player in LSU's defensive dominance Saturday was true freshman Rashard Robinson. The CB who arrived only days before the start of LSU's season was tasked with guarding Mike Evans, a consensus favorite to be the No. 1 WR taken in next year's draft. He proceeded to shut him down, limiting him to just four catches for 51 yards, 38 of which came late in the game when Evans found an empty part of LSU's zone coverage. With one of Manziel's favorite targets essentially removed from the game, that certainly limited where he could go with the ball and really hindered his production.
It was a coming out party for Robinson, who has earned his spot this early in his career. His length and physicality was the perfect antidote for Evans and it will be for many of the other top WRs in the conference. Though LSU's secondary has struggled through most of this season, Robinson showed there's reason to be optimistic about the future of DBU.
THAT'S WHAT A FOUR-HEADED RUSHING ATTACK LOOKS LIKE
The Tigers pride themselves on their deep backfield, and showed every inch of that depth on Saturday. All four LSU RBs averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry, and three eclipsed the 60-yard mark. Each back served as the ideal complements for the others, and with each one having success, they were able to keep each back fresh. Most fans would probably like to see more Jeremy Hill, who only had two second-half carries, but if the Tigers can put up those kinds of numbers with their featured back only getting 14 attempts, they'll take that every time.
LSU anticipated this to be a big recruiting weekend, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The Tigers hosted a number of elite visitors, and the coaches couldn't have asked for a better environment. The weather didn't prevent Tiger Stadium from having an impressive atmosphere, and a dominant win against a division rival is always a plus. It's already proved to be a beneficial weekend for the future of the program.
TIGERS PULLED OUT THE RED CARPET FOR TRIO OF OFFICIAL VISITORS
The same can be said for five-star LB Clifton Garrett. He brought his parents for their first trip to Baton Rouge, and the family will leave early Monday after arriving Saturday. All indications are that the entire party had a great visit, and Garrett's parents liked what they saw at LSU. The Tigers already had a clear advantage after his positive visit this spring, and it's likely that LSU did enough to secure his commitment. He's slated to announce his pledge at the U.S Army All-American Game, though don't be surprised if he pulls the trigger earlier, possibly during the Core 6 Banquet in December.
Though Texas A&M was considered the favorite heading into Frank Iheanacho's official visit, the Tigers feel like they showed enough to warrant being in the mix. LSU is recruiting the 6-6 prospect as a TE they can flex out in the receiving game, and the coaches were able to sell Iheanacho in his potential role in the offense. It's still early and it will take a continued effort to recruit him, but LSU likes what it accomplished with Iheanacho this weekend.
DESPITE NOT MAKING VISIT, LSU STILL IN THE MIX FOR D'HAQUILLE WILLIAMS
One prospect that didn't make it to campus was JuCo WR D'haquille Williams. Though he originally intended to make an official visit this weekend, the coaches encouraged him to wait until December to take that trip when they can spend more time with him. Expect that to be the time where LSU begins to put on the press to flip him from Auburn. LSU will first want to make sure they have their other high school prospects locked in, but Williams will be a priority in order to help the young offense next season. Things will probably quiet down on the D'haq front for the next few weeks, but once he trips to Baton Rouge for his official is when things should definitely start picking up.
Recently offered Darrel Williams made an unofficial visit with his parents this weekend. It provided an opportunity for he and his parents to sit down with Frank Wilson and discuss LSU's intentions in his recruitment. Though the Tigers offered him as a ATH, which Williams and Co. didn't love, Wilson was able to clarify the situation and I've been told the conversations were very positive. Williams still plans to take all five of his official visits, and he'll announce his commitment on National Signing Day, but all indications after this weekend are that he'll commit to LSU when that time comes.
ED ALEXANDER BECAME THE FIRST PLEDGE FOR 2016
LSU didn't have to wait long to get 2016 five-star Ed Alexander on board. The Tigers only offered him on Thursday, and Alexander went ahead and committed during his visit this weekend. Alexander made his pledge less than an hour after the Tigers' victory, and it's a huge addition for LSU in the sophomore class. There aren't many prospects rated as high as Alexander in 2016, and he could be one of the top defensive lineman, regardless of class, in the state this year. He marks LSU's first pledge for the 2016 class, and they couldn't have asked for a better start. Considering it only took two days for Alexander to make his commitment, it's safe to assume that he'll be a firm pledge throughout the process, and it's a promising sign for the future of LSU's defensive line.
LSU CONTINUES TO REEL IN ITS TOP IN-STATE TARGETS
Though the weather prevented some of the big names from attending Saturday's game, it still attracted guys like Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre and Gerald Willis. LSU is always happy to get guys like this on board, and all signs continue to be positive for all three. The Tigers will still have to wait, but it would be a surprise if any of those three signed anywhere else.