TIGER RAG REPORT CARD:<br>The grades are in

Believe it or not, LSU's win over Florida marked the Fighting Tigers' sixth game of the 2004 campaign. <br><br> Basically, with a tumultuous road schedule courtesy of the SEC front office finally out of the way, LSU has passed the halfway point of their current regular season. That can only mean it's time for the midterm report card.

Now normally grades are handed out to individuals, but in the case of the Fighting Tigers there are a lot of positions that have become group projects.  As such, some of the marks below required grading on a curve.





Group project No. 1.


Things could not have started any worse for Marcus Randall.  His first pass of the season was intercepted after his team was already down by a score on a muddy track thanks to a special teams blunder. 


But then after being lifted in favor of his backup, Randall scored the winning touchdown from off the bench.

In the weeks that have followed, Randall hasn't been flawless, but overall he has completed 63 percent of his attempts (51-of-81 for 587 yards with five TDs and two INTs).


Short fields against Arkansas St. didn't help his yardage total, and he had a nearly perfect outing against hapless

Mississippi St.


All he did against Auburn was lead the team on a 14-play touchdown drive to start the game that consumed over six and a half minutes.  He was promptly taken out, and by the time he got back in the momentum was gone.


Against Florida he may have played the best game of his career, engineering a comeback when already down 14 thanks to a pair of early interceptions he wasn't responsible for.


Randall has also rushed for 77 yards on 27 carries.


JaMarcus Russell shined a bit in the season opener when Randall's luster was lacking, and has played well in spots. 


Russell's immaturity has been apparent at times though, including a couple of sacks where he has attempted to make something out of nothing with not-so-good results.


Thus far Russell has completed 51 percent of his passes (48-of-95 for 743 yards with six TDs and three INTs), but on 17 carries has netted minus 13 yards. 


Both Randall and Russell have been sacked seven times each, and for a good part of the season have found themselves running for their lives.  Both have also missed on some basic throws that were uncontested, but with a softer part of the schedule approaching it appears Randall may have finally stepped up to the level Nick Saban was hoping someone would.


GRADE:  B – (Performances pretty good considering all the flip-flopping)





Group project No. 2.


LSU's running game was expected to carry the offense while the passing game developed, but like the quarterbacks the stable of horses have had difficulties to overcome.


Aside from not getting the gaping holes expected to run through until the Florida game, no one really established themselves as a feature back.  Maybe that has been the plan all along.


But Joseph Addai's 93-yard performance against the Gators coupled with his other outings make him the Fighting Tigers' leading rusher with 300 yards on 34 attempts.  An average of 8.8 yards per carry is pretty good.

Alley Broussard has been a workhorse, and Shyrone Carey has done well in the only three games of the season in which he has played.


The biggest question mark of course has been the ineffectiveness and somewhat disappearance of Justin Vincent.

Against conference foes, Vincent has been a non-factor, and against Georgia and Florida netted just two yards on three carries.


GRADE:  C (Look for marked improvement in the second half)





Always a group project, this year's receivers were tasked with growing up in a hurry and for the most part have done so.


Dwayne Bowe put the season opener on his shoulders, simply telling Russell he would get open and to get the ball to him. 


Craig Davis is behind Bowe by just one reception on the year with 23 currently, and led LSU with five catches for 65 yards against Florida.


Going even younger, Early Doucet has rebounded from the pass that ricocheted off of his body and into the arms of Junior Rosegreen at Auburn to make a considerable contribution in the win over the Gators. 


Xavier Carter is coming along a bit slower, but showed a sign of his brilliance against Mississippi State with a 67-yard dash for a score.


Injuries have kept go-to guy Skyler Green from contributing as much as most thought he would.

For the tight ends, the pickings have been slim from a receiving aspect. 


LSU's first pass of the season was actually an attempt to a tight end, but overall the combined efforts of David Jones, Keith Zinger, and Demetri Robinson have yielded six catches for 57 yards.


Dropped balls have not been rampant, and from a blocking standpoint the receivers and tight ends seem to be doing what they are supposed to.


GRADE:  B (Don't look for Corey Webster to see anymore time on offense)





Center Ben Wilkerson has walked up to the line to hike the ball with a different group of guys quite often it seems.


Against Florida, that was indeed the case as in addition to Andrew Whitworth at left tackle and Rudy Niswanger at right guard, the starting lineup put Will Arnold at left guard and Paris Hodges at right tackle.


While Wilkerson will be gone after this season because of his senior status, at this point it appears Whitworth won't be leaving early.


Nate Livings and Terrell McGill have seen starts as well, and there is no doubt the o-line's best performance of the season thus far against a quality opponent was against the Gators.


Yes, Marcus Randall was sacked three times, but they weren't always the fault of the line.


Considering the upcoming slate of games, it will be interesting to see if LSU's newly revamped front can wear out teams and push opponents down the field the way they were able to against Florida.


GRADE: C – (Considering all the changes, this grade should probably be an incomplete)





There hasn't been as much pressure from the front four as was hoped, but Kyle Williams has indeed done his best to fill the enormous shoes left behind by Chad Lavalais.


Williams leads the bunch in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks.


Without question Marcus Spears is receiving a lot of attention because of Marquise Hill's absence, and in that vacant spot both Melvin Oliver and Kirston Pittman have done admirable jobs in their assigned roles.


Not many sacks have come from the interior, but aside from the 221-yard disaster on the ground at Georgia only one other team has managed to rush for over 100 yards this season against LSU (Auburn – 131).


Coming in from the JUCO ranks, Claude Wroten is doing his part with 19 tackles, and is relieving Spears of some double teams. 


Including an overtime game and the atrocity in Athens, LSU's defense has given up just 99 points through six games, an average of 16.5 per contest.


No other quarterback during the regular season will have the same type of day David Greene did, and there aren't anymore Cadillacs, Hummers, or Danny Wares lurking around either.


GRADE: B – (Having Hill back really would have provided the interior with more opportunities to get to opposing quarterbacks)





It is evident the linebacker corps doesn't always comprehend what their assignments are when it comes to covering running backs.


That had the chance to be disastrous during the Florida game for a second straight season, but ultimately things worked out. 


Lionel Turner leads the team in total tackles with 45, and Cameron Vaughn has 28, but they are probably wishing Eric Alexander was still around.


Ali Highsmith seems to be progressing, and while Kenneth Hollis is trying to get more playing time, Chevis Jackson will likely see more game action due to the ligament injury Dorsett Buckels suffered against Florida and the possibility that JUCO transfer E.J. Kuale will serve suspension time for his part in a fight.


Jackson did get beat for a touchdown last Saturday, but recovered to make a few defensive plays that made up for it.


The linebackers' depth problems have been hampered by the sudden departure of Darius Ingram.


GRADE: C (They're not the only ones, but missed tackles and assignments have hurt)





Corey Webster has been spread thin between defense, offense and special teams, and it obviously has taken its toll on the All-American.


Webster, who snagged seven interceptions last season, has just one in 2004 to bring his career total to 15.

Injury kept Webster from seeing the field against Florida, but throughout the five games in which he has played Webster hasn't always seemed 100 percent.


Missed tackles have plagued him, and an inability to jam receivers at the line in the last game he appeared in led to touchdowns.


Travis Daniels has experienced many of the same problems, and in addition to a lack of interceptions he was burned more than once by Greene in Athens for scores.


Daniels also was a step slow in the Auburn game when Jason Campbell completed a 13-yard pass under pressure when facing a fourth and 12 to keep what turned out to be the game-winning drive alive.


Senior Ronnie Prude took over for Webster against Florida, and overcame a couple of miscues to help the Fighting Tigers hold Chris Leak to just 142 yards passing on the night.


GRADE: B - (Only Georgia and Oregon St. have thrown for over 200 yards against the secondary, and only Derek Anderson has completed over 20 passes)





Jessie Daniels and LaRon Landry are doing all they can to make up for the loss of Jack Hunt's command of opponents' game film to put LSU in the right position on defense.  Up to this point they have done exactly what was expected of them.


Greene attacked the outside lines of the Fighting Tigers' defense, not the middle of the field, and both Daniels and Landry are near the top of the list when it comes to tackles.


Daniels arguably made a season saving play last Saturday night, stopping a scrambling Leak one yard shy of a first down on a third and six to force a punt.


Landry and Daniels each have an interception to their credit, and as the season has moved along it appears they are getting everyone into position to make plays.


Unfortunately for LSU, the execution hasn't always been there.


GRADE: B (Always room for improvement)





We can start with the kickers, or maybe we should take Saban's approach and simply leave these guys alone.

Chris Jackson is 14-of-18 on PATs, while Ryan Gaudet is now 3-for-4 following a perfect night at Florida.

Field goals have been problematic at times for Jackson as well, as he has hit on 4-of-8.


Gaudet is 2-of-2 in that category.


Kickoffs have gone out of bounds, and in general it seems every LSU fan has found it necessary to cover their eyes when the Fighting Tigers put the ball on a tee or line up after driving down the field and either getting into or close to the endzone.


Missed field goals and an extra point helped prolong the Oregon St. game, a missed PAT contributed to the loss at Auburn, and misses have come even when there was no tangible pressure in blowouts.


Punting hasn't been all that bad, but unfortunately Jackson has found himself backed up into some tight spots due to offensive ineffectiveness that haven't allowed kicks to have full effect.


But it isn't just the kicking that has been the problem.


With Skyler Green dinged up and Shyrone Carey suspended for the first three games of the season, kicks have been returned by Webster, Addai, Doucet, and Carter.


At the moment, everyone still remembers Carter's blunder at Georgia, so much so that it was last week's No. 1 in ESPN's ‘Not Top 10 Plays of the Week'.  It was good to see Carter catch a late touchdown to help him forget that though.


GRADE: D (Sloppy work in general, lack of focus)





The losses suffered in the offseason are more glaring than many imagined they would be, and on the whole the Fighting Tigers couldn't have achieved much more than what they have.


Taking Randall out of the game early against Auburn on the road proved costly, and LSU looked like they weren't expecting Georgia to come out and pop them in the mouths the way they did.


The Fighting Tigers have won the games they were supposed to win though, and the fact that Saban was able to keep his team playing for 60 minutes after falling behind early in ‘The Swamp' leads one to believe his players finally understand they can't just show up and win ballgames.

GRADE:  B - (Coaches can't kick extra points, throw passes or make tackles, but there have been a few questionable decisions made along the way)

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