With Ed Orgeron taking over for Les Miles after four games and the Tigers standing at 2-2, it’s difficult to judge the Tigers as it really has been a total 180, at least offensively.
There’s new schemes, new players in the mix and new, positive results for the most part offensively. That being said, they’re graded for the whole season and here’s our first round on the report cards.
The Good: Danny Etling has been a calming force on this team. His intense preparation and work ethic is contagious for the Tigers. It’s made others elevate their game because Etling has pushed himself so hard since taking over in the Jacksonville State game. His ability to direct the LSU offense and be in the right play has been key for the Tigers. His accuracy in short to intermediate passing has been very good so far. He’s hit enough throws down the field to make defenses respect the deep threat of LSU’s receivers.
The Bad: Well, after all the offseason work he put in, Brandon Harris just couldn’t make it happen for LSU. LSU’s offense struggled to start strong or finish under Harris’ direction. His throws were erratic and finally, Les Miles pulled him and turned to Etling, but Harris has never taken the job back. Etling meanwhile has missed a few too many deep balls that while the Tigers have been having a lot of success, will be critical in the later portions of this season to hit.
What’s Next?: There’s still some necessary growth that will have to happen with Etling for LSU to achieve their goal of winning the SEC West and the SEC this season. He’s getting a better command of the offense and as LSU adds new wrinkles, he’ll be given different ways to get the ball in his playmakers’ hands. If Etling can hit more down the field shots, look out. That’ll help create running lanes for LSU if the Tigers can show more consistency to hit those down the field shots.
Grade so far: B-
The Good: Wow. Really, LSU’s running game has been outstanding for the most part this season even with a injured Leonard Fournette missing three games and shuffling along the offensive line. Fournette was injured for so much of the year that it’s really tough to judge his body of work fairly. Now that he’s healthy, it’s scary for defenses. Guice was down right explosive in Fournette’s absence and was the quickest LSU running back to 1,000 career yards. Darrel Williams has shown to be strong as a bigger, powerful back at times although his 100-yard game was followed up by limited touches.
The Bad: Outside of Fournette’s injuries and his couple fumbles after sitting out and returning for the Mississippi State game, all has really been pretty good with this group. Under Miles, the running backs weren’t phenomenal in pass protection help, but it’s been a point of emphasis since that time with the group in practice.
What’s Next?: Jabbar Juluke was handed a card I don’t think he expected in Fournette’s first game back. The junior rushed for a single-game record. That made mixing up the carries a little tough, but Fournette gave way to Guice and eventually Darrel Williams as well. I think LSU would like to see Guice in earlier as the main back, but it’s just something the team has to work out. LSU got both Fournette and Guice on the field, but that package seems pretty limited at this point as they continue to figure out the best way to use the trio of backs.
Grade so far: A
The Good: I’ll start by saying the blocking on the edge has been outstanding by the LSU receivers. That’s a huge key to this offense. Meanwhile, Dupre has been moved to the slot, which has helped him get on track. DJ Chark has been a great weapon for LSU as the Tigers have used him primarily as a deep threat. Travin Dural has been found by Etling to be the go-to receiver in the offense for LSU. Russell Gage and Jazz Ferguson continue to provide quality reps and are great blockers on the outside.
The Bad: Drops plagued the unit earlier in the season with Malachi Dupre being the main culprit. DJ Chark also had a drop against Auburn. The lack of rotation early in the year hurt LSU’s ability to get everything the staff wants out of its uber talented receiving corps.
What’s Next?: This doesn’t fall as much on the receiving corps as it does Etling, but continue to work those deep routes. Etling is getting chances and if you as a receiver stick with it, you’ll find one fall into your arms at the right time. Dee Anderson has slowly been working his way into the rotation more. If he can get more reps, another big-bodied receiver might work his way into redzone packages.
Grade so far: B+
The Good: DeSean Smith has really been outstanding the last couple weeks and has been open constantly it seems. Etling has been delivering the ball to him and the pair have connected on a few big plays this season. Colin Jeter has been outstanding as a blocker as has Smith.
The Bad: Outside of Colin Jeter’s couple drops earlier in the season (one hit him in the facemask), this unit has performed pretty well. Another bad part would be that the group was under utilized under Miles. Foster Moreau has been nicked up and is healthy again for the group, but missing him meant forcing Caleb Roddy into occasional duty.
What’s Next?: With Etling relying a lot more on tight ends than Harris or Miles ever did, tight ends could see their role in the passing game increase as LSU adds wrinkles to the offense while trying to keep its base personnel on the field. More opportunities for this group is a good with thing with how well they’ve played so far.
Grade so far: A-
The Good: Ethan Pocic has been impressive as usual for LSU at both center and right tackle. Center is his natural spot for LSU at this point and for good reason. Pocic is the heart of that line and has a lot of experience getting the Tigers in the right calls. Garrett Brumfeld is going to be a solid piece for LSU down the line as he’s been impressive in his game action. The unit really hasn’t had enough healthy time overall to see who’s really trending in the right direction for the season. Josh Boutte continues to be a road grader though and with Weathersby back, the two should pair for a nasty, physical combo on the right side.
The Bad: The inability to stay healthy. Right now, there’s not one original starter on the line that hasn’t been injured or sat out some time. It happens in the season, but with LSU’s offense experiencing so much change over the course of the year, it would have been a big help to have the line in tact. There’s been miscommunications in pass protection at times with the shuffling especially against Ole Miss early on, but that’s expected in a way. LSU has to continue to work through some of those issues so the unit can be ready for a big test against Alabama.
What’s Next?: Get completely healthy and settle on a unit. I said it before the season that continuity was key for this unit so the offense could be as productive as it can be. Getting that cohesiveness is the next step. You could see it all coming together a bit against Ole Miss.
Grade so far: B