Thomas' Take: Grading Auburn

LSU defeated Auburn 31-10 on Saturday and after reviewing the film Scouting Analyst Jason Thomas hands out his grades.

It’s easy for LSU fans to get pretty optimistic about Saturday’s performance against the Auburn Tigers. It was the most complete game to date by the LSU squad, and they did dominate the scoreboard with a convincing 31-10 victory.


Temper your enthusiasm though. Remember that Auburn has one of the worst defenses in college football. Sure LSU scored 31 points, and sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson had a career night, but there are still some questions.


There is no doubt that the LSU offense gets bogged down way too much, considering the substantial amount of talent on that side of the ball. The Tigers were marching up and down the field early in the game, and suddenly packages start coming in that couldn’t execute, and don’t seem to be effective. Maybe I’m old school, but why not stick with what works?


Another positive is that LSU seems to have decided on an offensive identity and this should help everyone on the offensive side of the ball moving forward. They will throw the ball down the field it appears. This team now belongs to Jordan Jefferson for the foreseeable future, and any calls for Jarrett Lee should’ve been put to rest Saturday night.


Something peculiar occurred to me while watching Russell Shepard entering the game. It’s almost like Les Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton have been taking suggestions from the phone lines and message boards. Jefferson was playing great, establishing a rhythm, but it seemed crucial to the coaches to get Shepard in the game.


For the record, his snaps at quarterback were completely non-productive, and besides the one long run his time at running back was not so impressive either. The young man has talent, but there are plenty of other talented players on this LSU roster. He should be in the game, but limited to one role with a specific package until he gets that down.


Defensively, the performance was top-notch. As bad as Auburn is on defense, their offense came into the contest as one of the highest ranked units in the country. They were limping after losing two straight contests, but their offense by all accounts was diverse and efficient.


On Saturday night Auburn had less than 50 yards in total offense after the first half. That speaks for itself. After the bye week, the Tiger defense played great assignment football, and created turnovers. This is certainly what LSU fans have been expecting by another extremely talented unit.


One thing is clear. LSU played Saturday night’s contest against a heated rival with the intent to attack on both sides of the football. That is an improvement and a clear change in direction for the coaching staff. It will pay dividends down the line for fans and players alike.





Something happened to Jordan Jefferson during the bye week. Either the coaches told him to be more aggressive or he got completely healthy. He threw the football with great decisiveness, and ran the football with authority as well.


Frankly, he didn’t look like the same quarterback that had played in the previous six games. The biggest improvement was how quickly Jefferson was making decisions and delivering the rock. Furthermore, the passes were accurate and not forced into double coverage.


Up until this performance it appeared that the spread offense left Jefferson with too many options. In this game at least, he put those concerns to rest. It was an impressive performance compared to his last outing. Not many young men have the confidence to bounce back from such a disastrous performance and play that well.


Again it was against one of the worst defenses in all of college football, but the Auburn game is usually a physical, hard fought battle. Jefferson and the offense took control early in the game, leaving the Auburn fans and players demoralized.

Jordan Jefferson had a career night on Saturday

Jefferson finished the game with a stat line of 21 of 31 for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball 12 times for 26 yards – after sacks – and one touchdown. Again it was a career night, and a great recovery from the Florida game.


Jefferson did have a fumble when he failed to switch the ball to the sideline and secure it. This was more of a curious coaching decision, but it was a poor example of handling the football. He generally doesn’t do that well.


Shepard carried the ball a handful of times from the quarterback position and didn’t have much positive yardage. He also rarely hands the ball off to Holliday, either because of inexperience or youthful enthusiasm. Either way, he’s doesn’t appear to be reading the option well, or is simply told to keep it.


Grade A-



Wide Receivers


The wide receivers had a solid outing. There were a number of dropped passes in the game, but for the most part the LSU wide outs showed why they really are collectively the best group in the SEC. Between Brandon LaFell, Terrance Tolliver, and some help from Rueben Randle, the LSU wide receivers can leave an opposing coordinator with some tough decisions.


Double Tolliver or LaFell and the other will make you pay. Randle is showing that he can make some tough catches as well, and Richard Dickson has yet to really emerge.

If LSU continues to be a pass-first team, this offense has the opportunity to be extremely tough to defend.


Tolliver had nine catches for 86 yards and one touchdown. His long catch was 14 yards. For now, he seems to be Jefferson’s favorite target.


LaFell chipped in six catches for 67 yards and also one score with a long of 19. LaFell appears to be the better route runner of the two, but doesn’t appear to be as physical in coverage, or catch the ball as well in tight coverage, at least this season.


Randle had the one catch for 31 yards, but it was an athletic grab on the sideline in which the true freshmen simply out jumped the defender. He has very good instincts when playing the football.


Holliday showed some pretty solid hands with two catches for 32 yards. He certainly might have the opportunity to try and stretch defenses if he continues to catch the ball well.


There were some dropped passes early on by LaFell and Tolliver. Fortunately for LSU, the Auburn players and officials bailed them out, and the drives did not stall.


Grade B+



Running Backs


It’s hard to grade the guys. They weren’t very involved in the football game. Charles Scott was the main ball carrier with 10 carries for 22 yards, but ran hard. There wasn’t much room to run.


Keiland Williams had one carry for four yards, and caught one pass for 20 yards. He should be getting more touches.


Shepard had six carries for 76 yards with a 69-yard touchdown included. On the scoring play, Shepard hit a seam and simply outran the Auburn defense. I think Holliday, a healthy Richard Murphy, or even Williams could’ve scored on this play. Just my opinion, but I don’t think you want to see a 186-pound tailback running up the gut against Alabama.


If Shepard is going to play some tailback, then use him in the option, a delayed shuttle pass or just a toss sweep. To me, as impressive as he is athletically, the success of that particular play was a mirage.


On the plus side, at least LSU is trying to find ways to get him involved.


Grade B



Offensive Line


Well the unit played better, and Jefferson helped them. They didn’t create too many big holes against what was one of the worst run defenses in the country. They did pass block well, and picked up the blitzes though.


If LSU continues to establish a single identity the line will play better. Generally, an offensive line will excel at pass blocking or run blocking. The coaching staff for LSU seems to believe this unit will be a better pass blocking group.


When Jefferson is decisive and not holding the football, he has plenty of time to throw the football. Auburn did record three sacks, but one of them was on a third and 21 play where Jefferson was reluctant to throw the football.


Jefferson also received an intentional grounding penalty when the protection broke down and he simply threw the ball away into the flat. There were no LSU players in the vicinity and it was a good call.


Again as Jefferson progresses, and if in fact this is the LSU offense, the line will play better after repeated repetitions.


Grade B



Defensive Line


This defensive line is similar to the offensive line. They are talented, but seem to excel at only stopping the run. That being said, they bottled up what was considered a very good running offense. Ben Tate had little room to run all night.


The LSU defensive front did a great job of holding their lanes and controlling the line of scrimmage. For the record, they did seem a bit more explosive. On a few plays, a lineman was seen flying through the line of scrimmage on a pass play, but was unable to record the sack.


Still, it’s been a while since the defensive line for LSU has consistently pressured the line of scrimmage. The bye week seemed to help this unit a lot.


Grade B+





The linebackers continue to play better each week. It appears that defensive coordinator John Chavis is really fitting the pieces together nicely.


Harry Coleman had his best game as a linebacker recording nine tackles with two sacks. He forced two fumbles and recorded five solo tackles. It was refreshing to see Coleman flying around the field and using his clear speed advantage from the linebacker spot. On both sacks he simply ran around the tackle to get to the blind side of the quarterback.


Kelvin Sheppard recorded 13 tackles with five solos and eight assists. He also recorded two tackles for loss. Again, Sheppard was consistently in the right place and made the play when the opportunity presented itself. Perry Riley had five tackles with two solos and three assists, and he also had one tackle for a loss.


It was a very solid performance by the linebackers.


Grade A



Defensive Backs


This unit is the cream of the crop for the LSU football team. With every contest they get more and more formidable.


Chris Hawkins makes a terrific one-handed interception against Auburn

Patrick Peterson had one solo tackle and recorded no other statistics. Again this shows that teams are hesitant to even throw at the true sophomore corner. It’s hard to criticize Peterson, because he’s an incredibly talented player, but I’d like to see him show up in more gang tackling.


When watching the games, I see opportunities for number seven to stick his head in the pile, but he seems reluctant. Perhaps he’s trying to avoid injury while engaging a player that appears to already be bottled up. Still, I like my corners to be nasty.


Jai Eugene, Chad Jones, Brandon Taylor, and Chris Hawkins all had excellent games. The group combined for a total of 17 tackles. On the few occasions that a pass was completed, there was a defensive back close by making a decisive tackle.


Chris Hawkins had the interception of the year, extending up high with his left hand and pulling the football down for an incredible one handed play. The benching against Florida was undeserved, and Hawkins responded to the challenge.


Danny McCray was an opportunist recovering two fumbles. There’s something to be said for recovering a loose football. He also chipped in for two solo tackles and two assists.


You do not want to get into a game against this LSU team and be forced to throw the football.


Grade A+



Special Teams


Well, it wasn’t a great performance by the special teams. There were no big plays returning the football either on the kickoff team or the punt team.


It appeared that Derek Helton pulled a muscle on his one and only punt that he shanked for a 27-yarder. The punt team did recover a muffed punt.


Josh Jasper was one for three, missing a 49-yard field goal attempt and a 52-yard attempt. Both misses were struck well and shouldn’t necessarily be cause for alarm. The only concern here is that kickers are a funny breed.


Up until Saturday night, Jasper was nine for ten on field goal attempts and riding a wave of confidence. It will be interesting to see how he recovers from this outing.


Grade B-

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