Thomas' Take: Grading ULL

LSU moved up to No. 7 in the AP Poll and stayed put at No. 7 in the Coaches' Poll after Saturday's victory over ULL. The Tigers did just enough to post what looked like a convincing win, but was it?

On a dry field Saturday night the LSU Tigers coasted to a 31-3 win against ULL. It was a dominating win on the scoreboard, but to the sophisticated observer there is still a lot of room for improvement.


The offense for LSU still doesn’t seem to be in rhythm. In 2008, Charles Scott and the Tigers ran the ball between the tackles very well.  In 2009, after three wins, LSU has yet to truly control the line of scrimmage.


ULL is a scrappy bunch. They played hard, but this was a game for LSU to get well. They should’ve developed an early lead, and cleared the benches of young and inexperienced “cubs”.  Instead they plodded along.


Some Tiger fans might suggest that a 31-3 win is sufficient. They might suggest that the critics are nitpicking, that fans and critics alike are spoiled by the recent success of the LSU program. Those suggestions are wrong.


This LSU team can play a lot better, and they need to start this Saturday. The road win against Washington got a lot better after the Huskies beat USC 13-10.


It’s time for the SEC season now. The next four games on the LSU schedule will go a lot further in defining the 2009 team, than the first three games did.


It’s hard to say if Coaches Gary Crowton and John Chavis are playing some sort of shell game. Perhaps the offense and defense have been experimenting with new formations a little too much. Maybe the coaches are just getting a feel for the players and what they can do.


Either way, this is where the rubber meets the road.



Jordan Jefferson continued his development on Saturday night. In only his fifth start, the young field general came out determined to press the ball down the field. It wasn’t long before he turned the ball over, throwing an interception on a deep ball – his first pick in 100 throws.


Jefferson missed on at least five long balls, but he continued to press the ball down the field. He also tried to force a pass to Brandon LaFell and a ULL defensive back jumped the route. It should’ve been a pick six, but it wasn’t.


Jefferson is speeding up his decision making process. On several blitzes, he read the defense and the ball was out of his hands. Snap decisions are paramount to a quarterback being successful. 


Against ULL, Jefferson was not holding the ball. He was not taking sacks, and he was not waiting for plays to develop. He was trying to anticipate them. On one play in particular, Jefferson was running an option right, he got hemmed in by the defense and seemingly just threw the ball out to his right. It was a perfect toss to Keiland Williams and illustrates the awareness and playmaking ability of the young quarterback.


Look, he needs to be more accurate on his deep throws. It’ll come. Jefferson is a relatively accurate passer. For the game he finished 16-of-25 for 165 yards with one interception and two touchdowns.


Jarrett Lee completed his only pass attempt for a touchdown, and Russell Shepard ran four times for a total of 21 yards.


Jefferson played well on third down, and despite the interception, he showed growth.


Grade: B



Running Backs

Charles Scott got his first touchdown of the season. It was a short pass on the goal line from Jarrett Lee, but I’m sure he’ll take it. Scott played his best game of the year rushing 12 times for 63 yards.  That’s an average of 5.2 yards a carry.


Keiland Williams took a step back rushing 10 times for 43 yards and no touchdowns. Williams didn’t seem as decisive as before, but once again it’s not all on the running backs. He also caught two passes, but it was actually for a negative six yards.


Trindon Holliday had two rushes for 14 yards and found the end zone on a nifty option pitch from Jefferson. It was good to see Gary Crowton utilize Holliday in this formation as opposed to Brandon LaFell.


Overall, the tailbacks played well. Scott seems to be ready for the upcoming trench wars that define the SEC. LSU has one of the deepest backfields in college football. They just need a little space to operate.


Grade: B



Wide Receivers

It’s clear that Jordan Jefferson and Terrance Tolliver have developed good chemistry. Tolliver caught six passes for 68 yards with a long of 15, and the duo seems to be getting better with each game.


Brandon LaFell had his best game of the young season. He caught three passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns with his longest going for 21 yards. The play that stands out, though, was his first score where he caught a short pass and made a move that left a defender in his tracks then raced to the end zone.

Brandon LaFell celebrates on one of his two touchdown grabs against ULL

When Tolliver and LaFell are both catching balls, the LSU offense will be hard to stop.


Richard Dickson chipped in with three catches for 27 yards before leaving with a mild concussion. Chris Mitchell caught one pass for four yards, but Jefferson missed him again on a deep ball.


The young man, Reuben Randle, caught his first pass for 15 yards. He also was targeted on a deep throw and almost pulled it down. It was encouraging to see the true freshman get some balls thrown his way because LSU still needs a third receiver to step up.


There were a few drops but the receivers continue to be the most consistent group on this side of the ball.


Grade: A-



Offensive Line

The offensive line held its own, but against ULL’s front much more was expected. They didn’t win by any means, but they didn’t lose either. They gave up one sack.


The tailbacks were able to find room on the outside, but again there wasn’t much real estate for sale between the tackles.


It seems that the line is still coming together. The game against Mississippi State will tell more of the story. The Bulldogs are always a big, physical football team. It will be interesting to see how the LSU line plays against them.


You’d expect the front five to play a little better at this point in the season despite breaking in two new starters at center and left guard. You’d also expect a little more out of Ciron Black as he hasn’t quite lived up to his pre-season billing.


One has to wonder if there will be some tinkering with the offensive line before long as Lyle Hitt continues to struggle at right guard.


Grade: C-



Defensive Line

It was another lackluster performance by the LSU line. This was a contest in which the front four for the Tigers was supposed to get well. However, they played just okay which in my book is unacceptable.


Tiger fans were expecting a dominating performance by this unit. There is no clear cut leader on the defensive line. Rahim Alem and Drake Nevis are playing consistent football, but the Bayou Bengals are lacking that impact player on the line of scrimmage.


There were no sacks for the LSU defense. None. Chew on that a while.


Alem did have two tackles for losses and a total of two for the game. Chancey Aghayere also had one tackle for a loss with a total of two as well, and Lavar Edwards chipped in one.


On Saturday night, the only guy consistently pushing the pocket was Alem from the outside.


All of the great Tiger defenses were anchored by a dominant defensive tackle. That player is probably not on this squad, but someone needs to emerge and start pushing the pocket from the inside. Otherwise, the more talented teams in the SEC will exploit this LSU defense.



Give the D-line credit for the goal line stand, but that wasn't enough to offset the performance in general.

Grade: C




There was nothing spectacular about the game the linebackers had, but they had another solid outing.


Harry Coleman continues to lead the unit as he recorded eight tackles – five solos and three assists. He also had one tackle for a loss, and forced a fumble. The decision to move Coleman from safety to linebacker is paying dividends weekly.


Kelvin Sheppard had a fine game recording eight tackles as well with three sols and five assists.


Jacob Cutrera had five stops, but missed quite a few during the game. Cutrera is seemingly always around the football, but has problems closing the deal. Perry Riley chipped in with five tackles, one solo and four assists.


The linebackers are playing well. Just like everyone else, though, they have to pick their game up.


Grade: B



Defensive Backs

Chad Jones had his best game of the season. Jones had two interceptions and broke up a pass to go with four tackles – two solos and two assists.


Jones is one of the best athletes in college football, but has yet to put it all together thus far. It’ll be interesting to see if he can build off of this performance, but so far, he has underperformed.


Chris Hawkins had a solid outing with seven tackles. He contributed two solo tackles, and assisted on five. Hawkins continues to play solid, fundamental football. He may not be the most talented player on defense, but he understands the game and his responsibilities.


Patrick Peterson recorded two tackles and broke up a pass. He continues to improve, and offenses are wary of throwing in his direction. How long before he becomes the ultimate weapon, a true shut-down corner that blocks off half of the field?


Brandon Taylor recorded five tackles with four solo tackles, and one assist, and Danny McCray used primarily as a nickel back, recorded six tackles.


ULL had open receivers at times, but they didn’t make the grabs.


This unit hasn’t really been tested since the Washington game, but it’s showing signs of improvement as the season progresses.


Grade: B+



Special Teams

Holy Smokes! Josh Jasper kicked a 52 yard field goal and few thought that he had that kind of leg.


On a dry field, the LSU special teams performed adequately. However, you’d expect a house job from the special teams by now.


With all the talented athletes on this roster, and with those athletes actually playing special teams, you expect more big plays. You can’t split hairs though. If the special teams aren’t making mistakes, that’s okay.


Still the punt return team finished with three returns for 15 yards and a five yard average. The kickoff return team had two returns for 25 yards or a 12.5 yard average. There have to be bigger plays somewhere for both return teams.


Punter Derek Helton continues to get comfortable. He averaged a very solid 44.0 yards a punt with a long of 48.


Grade: B

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