Thomas' Take: Grading Tulane

LSU pitched a shutout against Tulane and after reviewing the film Scouting Analyst Jason Thomas hands out his grades on the Tigers.

Okay Tiger fans if you’re not drinking the Les Miles’ kool-aid again, then you’re just not having enough fun. Life is short. Enjoy it while it lasts.

 

Two things jump off the screen when watching the Tulane game. The first is that the LSU Tigers look born again. They are flying to the football. The difference is the same as when LSU has had a month off before their annual bowl game. Yeah. They look that explosive, and they’ll need it against Alabama.

 

The second thing I noticed was that LSU never stopped attacking. There are still some issues with the offense and the offensive philosophy in general, but the Tigers are pressing the ball down the field. Furthermore, the Green Wave was able to crack a couple of LSU blitzes, and fool them with some misdirection plays.

 

Earlier in the season that would mean the LSU “shell” would come out and everyone would just kind of sit back, and wait for plays to develop. Hey it worked. LSU was able to play a bend but don’t break style of football early in the season, but it isn’t exciting, and it doesn’t create turnovers. Now, even after giving up say 25 yards on a screen to the opposite side of the blitz, the Tigers are still attacking. It’s refreshing.

 

The worst thing about the Florida loss was that LSU fans could take no solace in a three point output. Forget that Florida only scored 13 points. The Tigers looked lifeless and frozen in that game. Well, it’s never good to lose, but it appears something is brewing once again down on the bayou. All the LSU players look as if they’ve been shot out of a cannon.

 

Not sure what was said or done during the bye week, but things have changed, you hear? Frankly, it’s a bit disgraceful that the last two weeks have been swept under the rug by the general media. Maybe the opponents aren’t top level, but throw in the game tape. LSU’s team speed is hard to deny. There is no doubt that this is a top 10 team. Now it’s time to prove it at Alabama.

 

With the Crimson Tide on the horizon let’s take one last look at Tulane and see how the Tigers graded out.

 

Quarterback

 

Jordan Jefferson had another solid game. He threw the ball decisively once again, and after his early pick, he continued to throw with confidence and velocity. That’s a big time improvement. Besides the Georgia game, when Jefferson has thrown a pick, he’s gone into a mode where he sits in the pocket way too long and takes sacks.

 

He did not do that Saturday night. He did make some curious decisions, but allowing him to throw with a certain level of freedom will quicken the maturation process. There could’ve been a pick six on an out route to Brandon LaFell, but there wasn’t. He almost got Keiland Williams killed on a pass out in the flat, which Willliams dropped. Still, it was another good game.

 

He’s still running the option. The play doesn’t look right when LSU runs it. The running back and quarterback are basically side by side, but they did get Russell Shepard in the game, and he scored on an option play. If LSU is going to run their option, then they should run it with Shepard, Trindon Holliday, or Keiland Williams.

 

Jefferson finished the game with 11 completions on 17 attempts with 163 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He’ll have to play better against the Crimson Tide, but he has played well the last two weeks.

 

Jarrett Lee got in the game late and had two completions on three attempts for 25 yards.

 

Grade B

 

Running Backs

 

Six different players ran the ball for LSU for a total of 286 yards and four touchdowns. That’s more like it. That’s LSU football. Sure it was against a 2-5 Tulane team, but the Tigers haven’t run the football all year against anybody. Confidence is important in this game. Saturday night had to breathe some confidence into the LSU tailbacks, and offensive line.

 

Charles Scott is one of those Tigers that have been “called”. He finally looked to be in 2008 form as he ran with authority and explosiveness. Piles were being moved. Players were flying off the senior tailback. Scott carried the ball 18 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

 

Stevan Ridley entered the game late and promptly ran up a stat line of 74 yards on eight carries for a touchdown. I can’t remember seeing No. 34 much if at all before this game, but he ran with authority.



Chuck the Truck was in full effect on Saturday

Shepard had a decent game rushing five times for 48 yards and a touchdown. Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton is still struggling trying to find ways to fit Shepard into the game plan. Certainly LSU fans want to see him on the field, but he’s so diminutive. He runs with great speed and agility, but in my opinion needs more space to showcase his talent. Send him on an end around, or allow him to continue to play in the option package. One thing is certain, once an opposing defender gets his hands on Shepard, he is going down, and usually violently.

 

Williams had two carries for 20 yards. Not sure where he fits in at this point, but if LSU doesn’t want to let him run, maybe he should line up as a fourth or fifth option in the spread formation. He could run a short crossing route, or simply hang out in the flat as a fallback option for Jefferson. This guy is too talented to not be involved in the game more.

 

Grade A+

 

Wide Receivers

 

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that LSU has two dominant wide outs in Brandon LaFell and Terrance Tolliver. The bad news is that no one else really saw the ball on Saturday.

 

Against Alabama there will have to be other options to throw to as Nick Saban and the nations’ best defense will take measures to bottle up both guys. It’s time for someone else to truly emerge as that third option.

 

R.J. Jackson had a good game early in the season. Richard Dickson is clearly capable of becoming that third option. Rueben Randle is progressing nicely from game to game, but no one player has emerged to be that consistent threat.

 

LaFell led all receivers with four catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns. His long reception was on his first touchdown grab and it was for 39 yards. He was so wide open it was more like fielding a punt, but sometimes those are the hardest passes to catch. Tolliver chipped in with four receptions for 59 yards and a long of 23 yards.

 

Rueben Randle had two receptions for 22 yards. On his first catch he received a ball out in the flat and made some nifty moves to slip down the sideline. The talent is certainly there.

 

The receivers didn’t play as much of a role as they did against Auburn. It’s curious that LSU went from being a wide open passing attack one week to a running attack the next. LSU fans are hoping that come Saturday the offense is balanced.

 

Grade A

 

Offensive Line

 

Best game of the year without question for this group. The offensive line was moving people around. While Scott was running well, there were many plays where he didn’t even get hit until he was three or four yards down the field.

 

If that continues, LSU will be able to run the ball against anybody. The pass protection was good, but on both sacks the pocket just collapsed. Jefferson was not holding the ball as he did earlier in the year. For one reason or another, the protection just broke down.

 

Still, this is not a line that suddenly is going to play flawlessly. The improvement in the last two weeks has been dramatic, and maybe we’re starting to see why Les Miles was so high on this line before the season began. The light is shining everywhere in Baton Rouge on the offensive side of the ball after the last two weeks.

 

Grade A-

 

Defensive Line

 

This is another group that seems to be gelling at the right time. Looking at the defensive stat line, the numbers aren’t nearly as impressive as the tape. The LSU linemen were in the Tulane backfield constantly forcing quick throws and disrupting the Green Wave offense.

 

Rahim Alem recorded a sack and was credited with two tackles one solo and one assist. Again watching the game, Alem was a disruptive force most of the night.

 

Al Woods was only credited with two tackles and they were both assists, but again Woods was clearly getting a good push up the middle of the line.

 

Pep Levingston had the best stat sheet of any defensive linemen with four tackles, all of them assists. Two of the tackles were for loss.

 

The entire line played extremely well. It’s not showing up in the box score, but the line looked healthy and fresh.

 

Grade A

 

Linebackers

 

What can you say that hasn’t already been said about this group? The difference between 2008 and 2009 is incredible. Perry Riley and Kelvin Sheppard appear to be everywhere at once, not only making tackles, but making big hits.



Kelvin Sheppard and the LSU defense pitched a shutout against the Greenies

In fairness, the linebackers did get fooled a bit in this game though. Tulane did a good job of taking advantage of this group’s natural aggressiveness. Those plays are going to happen against an aggressive, attacking unit, but the linebackers settled down later in the game and those plays weren’t nearly as effective.

 

Kelvin Sheppard had 13 tackles with 3 tackles for a loss and one sack. Five tackles were solo and eight were assists.

 

Riley, Jacob Cutrera and Harry Coleman combined for another 19 tackles between them. It was a solid effort by the most improved group on the defense.

 

Grade B+

 

Defensive Backs

 

Something interesting happened Saturday night. A freshman quarterback from Tulane didn’t shy away from throwing at Patrick Peterson. It’s been a while since anyone has tested the sophomore corner, and it may have shaken some rust off his game.

 

This isn’t to say that Peterson was exposed or played poorly only that he was targeted and did get beat a couple of times. He also had an interception, so throw at No. 7 all you want. Sooner or later he’s going to get you.

 

Chad Jones had the best game from where I was sitting recording six tackles with four solos and two assists. He made big hit after big hit when given the opportunity.

 

The stat line is pretty innocuous for the defensive backs. This is a unit that doesn’t need to “see the light”. The light has been shining on them all season. The back four of LSU is as good as anyone in the SEC, and that includes Florida and Alabama.

 

The name recognition may not be there yet, but the players are.

 

Grade A

 

Special Teams

 

I can’t give this squad an A because the punting at LSU this year has been lousy. Saturday night may have been the worst night to date.

 

LSU had three punts for a total of 92 yards and a 30.7 yard average. That’s obscene. It will have to be better this coming weekend. Derek Henton was hurt, so we’ll give the backup punter – Drew Alleman – a break. By Saturday, someone needs to learn how to put their foot into a ball.

 

On the flip side, Trindon Holliday finally emerged as a punt returner, something he had done extremely well in high school. In the past, Holliday has struggled with ball security when fielding punts, but he looked comfortable on Saturday night.

 

Holliday finished the game with three punt returns for a total of 105 yards and a long of 50.

 

Josh Jasper was competent in his kickoff duties, and has yet to miss an extra point.

 

Grade B+


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