Thomas' Take: Grading Arkansas

LSU closed out the regular season with a 33-30 win over Arkansas and after reviewing the film Scouting Analyst Jason Thomas hands out his grades on the Tigers.

Strange things are afoot in Baton Rouge these days. LSU stole defeat from the jaws of victory last week against Ole Miss. On Saturday night against the Arkansas Razorbacks, they almost did the same thing.


It’s not all on the coaches though. A muffed punt by Trindon Holliday late in the first half gave the Razorbacks new life. However, the game plan on defense in the second half was extremely cautious.


Instead of continuing to send blitz packages and extra defenders, LSU laid back and allowed Ryan Mallet and Arkansas to get into a rhythm. The book on Mallet is that if you bring pressure, he will make some poor decisions. That was evident by the first half when Mallet completed just a third of his passes.


In the first half, LSU consistently sent pressure and completely bottled up the Arkansas attack. For the majority of the second half, LSU did not bring pressure, many times rushing only three down linemen and not sending any linebackers.


That strategy resulted in a late touchdown and a three point deficit for the Tigers and the LSU offense. It might’ve been a karmic debt being repaid to head coach Les Miles. It’s not too often that you get the opportunity in football to atone for the mistakes made the week before.


LSU and Miles had that opportunity Saturday night. On the first play of the final drive, Jordan Jefferson took a sack, and LSU fans everywhere had to catch their breath.


Miles used his last timeout after the sack and Jefferson was able to drive the Tigers down the field for the game tying field goal. In fact, with nine seconds left the Tigers went for the tie instead of trying to advance the ball any further, or taking a shot at the end zone. Is the LSU coaching staff learning from their mistakes?


Why John Chavis stopped sending pressure, and why when the lack of pressure led to successful drives by Arkansas, the defensive coordinator continued to instruct his charges to lay back in a soft zone?


LSU did overcome some second half mistakes and sent 24 seniors out on a winning note and after reviewing the film this is what I saw.



Not sure what some want from their quarterback, but that’s the second game-winning drive that Jordan Jefferson has led LSU on this season. For a true sophomore, Jefferson doesn’t seem to get rattled down the stretch with the game on the line, and embraces the responsibility that the position calls for.


Jefferson does not throw the deep ball well. It may be an issue with the timing of the routes and the formations, but either way, he really struggles when trying to press the ball down the field.


He does have a live arm and is able to make all the intermediate throws, and able to dump the ball off with a nice touch. It’s interesting that most of the final drive was orchestrated with short passes to Ridley out of the backfield. Where was that option the rest of the season?


Jefferson finished the game with 17 completions on 25 attempts for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw one interception.


Since the Florida game, Jefferson has progressed a great deal as a college quarterback. He’s making quick decisions and accurate throws. While he still holds the football too long sometimes, he’s getting better at throwing the ball away or scrambling away from pressure.


Although he still has some hiccups, there is still a big upside for the young signal caller.


Grade B


Running Backs

LSU did a better job of sticking with the running game against the Razorbacks. Trindon Holliday and Stevan Ridley did the lion’s share of work with a little help from Russell Shepard.

Jordan Jefferson pitches to Trindon Holliday

None of the backs individually are as effective as Charles Scott or Keiland Williams, but their talents combined are more than sufficient as a bridge between the two senior tailbacks.


Ridley had 14 carries for 50 yards and also caught four passes for 30 yards. He had two big catches on the final drive, and one carry.


Holliday rushed nine times for 59 yards and Shepard had four carries for 11 yards.


Grade B


Wide Receivers

Brandon LaFell bounced back and had a solid game with four catches for 70 yards and one touchdown.


Richard Dickson had his best game in a while. The way the offense used him last year, it seemed that Dickson was set to have a huge senior year, but it never materialized. Injuries and a lack of throws really kept the tight ends’ production down.


Still, Dickson finished the game with six receptions for 44 yards. He made some big catches down the stretch to help contribute to the win.


DeAngelo Peterson – Dickson’s backup – had one reception for 15 yards and it was a touchdown. Jefferson and Peterson seem to already have some chemistry. On the touchdown, Peterson was just running past the linebackers when the ball was delivered. It will be interesting to see how that relationship develops.


Terrance Toliver has had a great junior season, so it’s interesting to note that he didn’t catch any passes Saturday night.


Grade B


Offensive Line

Not to sound like a broken record but the offensive line had another lackluster performance. It really appeared that this line was coming together after the Alabama game, but it seems that they’ve regressed to early season form.


Jefferson was sacked twice and both sacks are the responsibility of the line. There just wasn’t a lot of time to throw the football. One wonders what the future holds for this unit. You’d expect it to be the strength of this football team. It is not.


The line did generate a decent enough push to run the football, and they did protect Jefferson long enough on the final drive. They played well when they had to, but missed assignments and a lack of consistency is the calling card for this unit.


Grade C


Defensive Line

Drake Nevis recorded a sack. Rahim Alem and Lavar Edwards split one as well. Two sacks is a high output for this unit.


However, those sacks were a result of added pass rushers overwhelming the Arkansas line. It’s not criticism of the defensive linemen. Give the opportunity, they were able to make some plays.


Unfortunately, for much of the second half, there were only three defensive linemen rushing the quarterback with no help from the blitz, and in those instances they were unable to generate any pressure.


Arkansas didn’t seem too interested in running the football, but when they did there was plenty of room.


Arkansas did throw it 39 times.


Drave Nevis did record four solo tackles with two for a loss and he has been the most consistent lineman in 2009.


This is another unit that needs a spark or a big time contributor. In the past, LSU has been known as a defensive lineman factory for the NFL. The LSU defensive line is currently lacking a dominant playmaker reminiscent of past LSU teams. Is there one in the group that redshirted this year?


Grade C+



The linebackers played a better game against Arkansas. In the first half, the entire LSU defense was attacking and the linebackers are best suited for that type of attack.


These guys are not comfortable dropping back into a soft zone and playing the pass. It’s the difference between reacting and attacking. They looked a bit lost in the second half.


A little surprising that LSU didn’t play more dime coverage in the second half based on the game plan but that’s just not Chavis’ style.


Grade B


Defensive Backs

Chad Jones had an interception, but will probably be remembered for his jarring hit at the goal line. Luckily for Jones, that hit didn’t cost the Tigers the game.

Chad Jones knocks the ball loose from Joe Adams

Here is another player and another unit that benefits from an aggressive, attacking style defense.


However, Mallet and the Arkansas Razorbacks brought one of the best passing games into Tiger stadium and they went home with a loss. It was strength against strength and at the final whistle, the Tigers were victorious.


Hate to beat a dead horse, but this unit is best at bump and run and man to man coverage. It doesn’t make sense to have arguably the best corner in the SEC playing in zone coverage.


Still, it’s hard to imagine that there’s any team in the country that can make a living just throwing the football against the LSU defense. The back line is too good.


Grade B+


Special Teams

Josh Jasper is the truth. When the season started a big question was how will LSU replace Colt David? Well, Jasper still has some room to grow on kickoffs, but clutch kicking so far is not a problem. Consistency and distance are not either at this point. Jasper is a stud.


Furthermore, punter Derek Helton played extremely well on the back end of the 2009 season. Were it not for a muffed punt by Holliday, it would be another slam dunk A+ for this unit.


LSU is in good hands in the kicking game heading into 2010.


Grade A-

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