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Weekly Breakdown: LSU defense vs. Jacksonville State

Tiger Blitz breaks down LSU's defensive performance in the Tigers' win over Jacksonville State.

LSU faced a two-headed monster in Jacksonville State with quarterback Eli Jenkins and running back Roc Thomas. The Tigers defense displayed a bend, but not break style yet again — outside of a 76-yard touchdown pass by the Gamecocks.

As the Tigers enter SEC play, Tiger Blitz breaks down a few areas of the defense that we've had our eye on.

Who got picked on?

Last year, Kevin Toliver played with a torn labrum and was targeted on many throws and challenged a lot especially with Tre'Davious White opposite of him. Against Jacksonville State, Toliver saw four targets, three of which were caught, but none were very worrysome. The three completions were all 8-yard comeback sideline routes thrown on timing with Toliver there to push the receiver out of bounds.

So with Toliver not being targeted, what's concerning in the secondary? Donte Jackson and Rickey Jefferson were the ones targeted most often. Jacksonville State had mixed success against both and you've also got to take some receptions with a grain of salt.

Donte Jackson: Jackson was targeted often late in the game especially with LSU playing off coverage and allowing underneath routes. Jackson did get beat on a post route to get Jacksonville State down inside the redzone, but it was brought back on a penalty. Jackson was in coverage on the slant route that went for 76 yards and a touchdown, but Jamal Adams should have had his help coverage, but instead cheated the route and got beat for the touchdown trying for an interception. Jackson was generally making plays on every ball thrown his way unless LSU was in off coverage. The interception he reeled in was not intended for him, but he got it anyway and made a great return out of it.

Rickey Jefferson: Jefferson was targeted seven times on the night and had mixed results against the Gamecocks. Jefferson was responsible for the running back out of the backfield much of the night and JSU saw success with the swing pass that Mississippi State will also utilize. Jefferson will have to diagnose that and move better on that. Jefferson worked against some of the Gamecocks' slot receivers and quick outs were something he got beat for a couple times being just a step late to break up the pass. Jefferson was also caught looking in the backfield on Roc Thomas' wheel route in the first quarter that was called back due to a hold. 

Tre'Davious White: White was only targeted once on a slot curl, which White couldn't make the tackle on and Jackson missed later, resulting in a first down. Other than a back shoulder throw target, the Gamecocks steered clear of White.

Jamal Adams: On JSU's long touchdown pass, Jackson had the off coverage with Adams having the support on the back end to make a tackle and stop it for a short gain should it be caught. Instead, Adams cheated and tried to time the interception, which wasn't made and the receiver was able to go all the way untouched for a touchdown.

Saivion Smith: The true freshman was picked on three times in final drive. The former five-star defensive back was a step slow trying to break up a pass and that went for a first down. The other two times, Smith had good coverage and made the breakup.

Xavier Lewis: A redshirt freshman, Lewis fell victim late in the game to a similar play that Jefferson allowed on the swing pass. Lewis allowed two quick out receptions for seven yards each, but made tackles. LSU was up and playing off coverage there. Had solid coverage on a corner route late in the redzone as well that was incomplete.

JSU passes vs. LSU

Valentine vs. Gilmore

Greg Gilmore and Travonte Valentine were the two nose tackles LSU played for the majority of the night in the Tigers' base defense along with Ed Alexander at times. 

Gilmore would be a step late at times defending zone-read, but moved well laterally on when the running backs of Jacksonville State ran inside. Two of those well defended runs were when LSU sold out against the run while JSU was burning clock. Against zone-read versus Jacksonville State, the center would often let Gilmore go where he wanted while sealing him off. If he went right, center would seal it so Jenkins could run off the center's butt. Valentine meanwhile was much more content wth just occupying the center. 

For Valentine, LSU mixed him in well with Gilmore, but with much better success defending the run. With Valentine at nose, LSU was six-for-six against the run with him in there limiting runs for a yard or so. Twice in the second half on JSU's opening drive, Valentine collapsed the right half of the line. The big man also shed a double-team to make the tackle himself on an inside run. 

On Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins' big run at 1:14 on the runs video, Valentine and Co. would have had Roc Thomas dead to rights in the backfield while Kendell Beckwith had Jenkins. Beckwith moved with Thomas, lost Jenkins, who went for a huge gain after Beckwith missed the tackle. That eye discipline is the only thing that really could hurt LSU with Valentine in the middle.

Gilmore gives LSU a more athletic look up front with the pass rush to help collapse the pocket, while Valentine can often occupy linemen to allow linebackers to flow better and get pressure.

JSU runs vs. LSU

Notes on LSU's defense

  • On 3rd down, Davon Godchaux moved inside with Lewis Neal, Arden Key and Tashawn Bower being the four-man front that brought pressure. The group got burned by Jenkins up the middle for a big run.
  • Ed Alexander rotated in and was moved by the center and guard out of the middle allowing Jenkins for a 5-yard pickup. 
  • On the play option to the boundary: Arden Key went for grabbing the pitch and the quarterback and lost contain. Duke Riley got blocked trying to pursue form a tough spot and Roc Thomas beat them to the outside for eight yards.
  • Both Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith shaded a little bit too far outside on some plays, getting themselves blocked and creating a few extra yards if not for good gang tackling.
  • Sci Martin lost contain on a zone-read on a 3rd and 1 and allowed the running back to get outside for the first down late in the game.
  • On a swing pass, LSU safety Rickey Jefferson came up and made a nice tackle, but not before a gain of seven. Watch for opponents to use that as a way to clear out LSU defensive backs when the Tigers are in man and take advantage.
  • LSU had three coverage sacks on the night.
  • Twice LSU let Jenkins get outside and run for first downs. Man coverage will do that at times though.
  • Ed Paris had great coverage down the sideline. The ball hit him in the back. If he would have turned, he might have had a shot at an interception. That was the same play Rashard Lawrence had a huge hit on Jenkins.
  • Beckwith had man-to-man coverage with the slot receiver on Jacksonville State's long third down conversion pass. Beckwith got caught looking in the backfield and Jamal Adams had helped the top deep route on the field.

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