The No. 6-ranked, defending National Champion Tigers are fully aware of Appalachian State’s well-earned reputation of being a most formidable, opponent in light of the recent success attained by the Southern Conference power.
That’s particularly so after the Mountaineers charged their way to a third consecutive, Football Championship Subdivision (formally 1-AA) National Championship and even more so after their 34-32 victory over Michigan in the “Big House” last season.
The LSU defense will be especially vigilant of the high-powered, ASU spread offense, led by the talented, Armanti Edwards at quarterback.
The Tiger defenders will have to be vigilant of Edwards’ dual-threat presence after he combined for 3,536 yards and 38 touchdowns rushing and passing a year ago.
One of the guys who will be looking to make life miserable for the ASU signal caller is Ricky Jean-Francois, who is making his first start in Tiger Stadium on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a great thing for me to start my first game in Tiger Stadium,” Jean-Francois said. “I want to come out and start off playing my best and continue doing so every game. The main goal of our team this year is to be the most consistent t playing defense and be better than last year.
“A lot of the guys from last year that are now in the NFL say that we won’t be better than them because they won a national championship. But, we believe that we can be better than them even though they were older and smarter. That’s because we have younger guys that are willing to work harder and quicker at getting to that level in their first start.”
A source of strength for the defense in stopping the potent, Mountaineer offense will be Darry Beckwith, a 6-1, 235-pound, senior, who is expected to be a leader at his mike linebacker post.
“This my final year and I want to make the best of it in helping our team win,” Beckwith said. “I’ve played along side and watched a lot of great players to do that since I’ve been here. I learned a lot from watching and listening to guys like Glenn Dorsey, Laron Landry, Ali Highsmith and other great players, but now it’s my turn to take the lead.”
Beckwith is part of a talented and experienced group of defensive players that will be ready to put a halt to the Appalachian State offense’s hope of moving the ball consistently.
Cornerback has been an area of concern for some heading into the opener but Beckwith has a different take on the youthful but talented secondary.
“I don’t have any concerns about those guys,” he said. “They’re top athletes, especially (Jai) Eugene and (Chris) Hawkins, who have both been here for a while. They’re ready to play well as are (Brandon) Taylor, (Ron) Brooks, and (Patrick) Peterson. I know they’ll get the job done starting on Saturday so that nobody will be able to say anything bad about our corners.”
One of Beckwith’s many roles will be getting the signals from the sidelines and getting the defense in the right play.
The Tigers will be operating under co-defensive co-coordinators, Bradley Dale Peveto and Doug Mallory, for the first time under the lights and if they do as they have been taught then Tiger fans should like what they see on Saturday.
“The main thing we’ve got to do to stop the spread is stay in our gaps,” said Beckwith. “If we don’t do that then they’ll be able to gash us for a lot of yards. Maintaining the gaps under control will enable us to get 11 guys to the ball, and play our technique. We’ll be alright if we do that, otherwise we’ll be in big trouble.”
The Tigers have gone through a little more than three weeks of fall camp in preparation for Saturday’s contest and at this point the guys are just ready for a change and looking forward to running out of the tunnel in the North end zone a few days from now.
That point was never more obvious after listening to one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball.
“I’m anxious right now,” said Tyson Jackson. “We’re all tired of going up against ourselves and are eager to get after somebody else for a change. It’ll be great to finally go against an opponents’ offensive line.”