Raise your hand if you were against LSU evolving from its traditional even-front scheme into a 3-4-based one (**raises hand**). Huh? Are those crickets I hear? Yeah, probably so, as I may have been the only analyst who was staunchly against it.
Now, don't get me wrong; the minute I heard my man, Dave Aranda, would be the architect of said evolution, I immediately jumped on board. But I still had/have reservations about the long-term prognosis of the move.
For one: LSU seemed to be the very best at attracting 1- to 5-technique interior linemen, and I've always felt you get the most out of those guys in a four-man front. I couldn't imagine a player like Glenn Dorsey being stuck playing a Shade when he was the ultimate one-gap penetrator.
Additionally, I'm not a fan of tall, athletic edge-players having to play in reverse opposed to being traditional hand-in-the-dirt linemen and being, virtually, tasked with solely getting upfield -- like Barkevious Mingo and, of course, the great Arden Key.
http://www.scout.com/college/lsu/story/1719731-new-tiger-blitz-members-r..., more importantly, I thought it provided players who are aware of scheme fit a different avenue other than their chief rival, the University of Alabama; I've talked to quite a few front-seven recruits who prefer certain schemes over the other, so being different had its advantages, too.
However, I can't argue about the results on the field, as the Tigers have to be in possession of one of, if not THE, most underrated defensive units in the country.
Without a shadow of a doubt there's too much emphasis placed on the other side of the ball, and rightfully so, as it's been a sticking point for numerous years, but folks need to buy into the fact that LSU has the ability to stifle its opponents like you wouldn't believe.
I've noted before that Aranda hasn't truly attempted to reinvent the wheel, as of yet, as LSU is still primarily based out of a "40 front." This allows him to bring his philosophy along at a slower pace while utilizing the bevy of players whose skill sets fit best in an even front.
As of this article, LSU has the 13th-ranked defense in the country, highlighted by its 18 sacks (17th) and 103.7 yards allowed on the ground per tilt. (What makes me most excited is the 2.89 (!) yards per tote allowed.)
Here's an example of the type of gap control the Tigers have displayed the majority of the season; notice how disciplined they are for each respective gap.
Superstar Kendell Beckwith, who mans the "Mike" spot in LSU's even-front alignment and the strong-side inside linebacker in its "30 front," has been one of the most impressive players I've studied on film this season. He has a complete understanding of everyone's role and knows just where to assist; his counterpart, Duke Riley, has been his equal, at times.
Combo safety Jamal Adams does box work like nobody's business; interior linemen Greg Gilmore, Rashard Lawrence, Frank Herron and Travonte Valentine have been straight "doin' work" -- for lack of a better description.
But I have to show love to Key for having some of the best backside pursuit for a player known for getting to the quarterback.
Case in point.
With that being said, which makes this article kind of strange (lol), LSU's ability to stifle rushing attacks won't be the focal point against the University of Mississippi. Instead, it's going to be about its ability to bluff and execute pre and post snap.
Ole Miss has rarely seemed interested in lining up and running the ball, instead opting to rely on its dynamic QB and a host of NFL-caliber receiving targets. "Jet," or "10 personnel," is its grouping of choice which, theoretically, aligns with what LSU is all about: Defensive Back University.
While trying to corral big targets like Quincy Adeboyejo (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), Damore'ea Stringfellow (6-2, 211), DaMarkus Lodge (6-2, 190) Van Jefferson (6-2, 187) and A.J. Brown (6-1, 225) is a task in itself, slowing down hybrid player Evan Engram (6-3, 227) may prove to be monumental.
This makes the deployment of the defense uber-important, as LSU's inside defenders have struggled in man-coverage situations, periodically. It's also imperative that LSU is able to go to some of its fabricated-pressure packages to attempt to confuse QB Chad Kelly as he's been known to give it up -- and not to mention the Rebels' offensive line has been known to leak like an old valve cover gasket.
Look at the inner-workings of this particular sequence: bluff blitz, tackle/end exchange, press-man to the boundary, pattern-matching underneath and some serious pocket-collapsing; that's tough for anyone to deal with.
I look for Aranda to try to matchup Adams with Ingram in what may be the main event of the evening.
Look for the Tigers to have a valiant effort on defense and support that with a dynamic rushing attack from the best one-two punch in the nation: Derrius Guice and, some guy you may have heard of, Leonard Fournette.