LSU's First Quarter Report Card

Tiger Rag grades the LSU football team after its first three games of 2002.

QUARTERBACK: Matt Mauck did not start the season with a resounding performance against Virginia Tech, but you cannot pin the LSU loss entirely on his shoulders. For the most part, Mauck's decisions were good against the Hokies but his lack of proper execution – along with that of his receivers – produced the Tigers' offensive woes.


An encouraging sign from Mauck through three games has been his steady improvement in each game. From Virginia Tech to The Citadel, he made smarter choices. Against Miami of Ohio, he displayed his best implementation of the LSU offense to date and provided a nice complement to the Tigers' dominant running game. Grade: C


RUNNING BACK: The Tigers didn't get off to the start they wanted to against Virginia Tech with its ground game, but the combination of LaBrandon Toefield and Domanick Davis appears ready to set the pace in the Southeastern Conference.


As the season goes on, we should see more contributions from both players in the passing game and unprecedented help from the fullbacks. Joseph Addai has an expanded role at this position and will probably see action as the No. 3 tailback.


The only shortcomings from this group have been early fumbles and dropped balls. Grade: B


OFFENSIVE LINE: The injury bug, while not yet serious, has struck the LSU offensive line early in the 2002 campaign. The response from the reserves called upon has been solid thus far. Ben Wilkerson will return for the Mississippi State game, and Rudy Niswanger is ready to play wherever needed.


There was a question of depth on the line entering the season, but a few younger players are slowly getting into the mix. Health and luck will need to stay on the Tigers side here, but the future is promising based upon what we've seen so far. Grade: B


TIGHT END/RECEIVER: The results from LSU's crew of pass catchers probably haven't lived up to the lofty expectations most had before the season, but there have been a few brief glimpses of their potential. Shading most of their accomplishments, however, has been a slew of dropped balls. The mistakes have lessened over each game, but even one could be costly against conference teams.


Despite the temporary loss of starter Eric Edwards, tight end has been a position of strength for the Tigers. Grade: C+


DEFENSIVE LINE: Everyone has been looking for big sack totals from the LSU defensive line, but the Tigers have faced just one true passing team to date. A better indication of the pass pressure they have engineered can be found in the number of forced incompletions they have caused, but the category isn't recognized as an official statistic.


The line can take partial credit for putting LSU atop the SEC in pass defense, but it didn't fare as well against the potent rushing attack of Virginia Tech. The Tigers will continue to face tough tests throughout their SEC schedule. Grade: C


LINEBACKER: The presence of Bradie James boosts a linebacker corps that would still be pretty solid without him. Jeremy Lawrence is playing well in pass rush situations, and the combination of Lionel Turner and Cameron Vaughn has manned the weak side effectively. There is still the concern about a lack of depth here for the Tigers, but the players they have available are all capable of making big plays. James will continue to lead the charge while Turner and Vaughn improve, and Lawrence should get his chances to shine. Grade: B


SECONDARY: The aggressive look of LSU's defensive backs has been a welcome one, but only time will tell if Nick Saban's approach will hold its own against the SEC's top passing teams. The group has depth and experience going for it, and these will no doubt account for improved results compared to last year's unit that was so susceptible to the big play.


Speaking of the big play, Damien James and other veteran players will have to make them to take some of the burden off the offense. Grade: B


SPECIAL TEAMS: John Corbello remains consistent on field goals and has been fairly dependable on kickoffs. When healthy and protected, Donnie Jones can help LSU with field position.


Penalties have sabotaged some big returns from Domanick Davis, but the potential remains for the all-purpose standout to score each time he touches the ball.


The coverage teams continue to excel despite having to replace a couple of gunners from last season. Grade: B




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