Q&A: LSU Style

Dawgman.com's Chris Fetters and TigerSportsDigest.com Publisher Sonny Shipp – the LSU site on the Scout.com Network, participated in a question and answer session where each responded to some burning questions that the opposing fans have heading into the big matchup on Saturday.

Here are the answers that the Dawgman subscribers are looking for with kickoff to the 2009 season less than six days away.

UW Fans: Roughly how many snaps (and where will they line up for those snaps) should we expect for Trindon Holliday and Russell Shepard?

LSU Publisher: You can expect to see Holliday returning kicks and punts, and he will also line up in the backfield. You could possibly see him flank out wide to create some mismatches in space, but he has never been a big threat in the receiving game. Fielding punts has also been a problem for him and if he bobbles one, do not be surprised to see someone else get a chance such as Chad Jones.

As for Russell Shepard, I expect that you will see him get some snaps at quarterback and also flanked out at receiver. It will be interesting to see how much offensive coordinator Gary Crowton shows with Shepard and if they will put him in the backfield with Jordan Jefferson. The closer the game then the more they will show, but the ideal situation is to be able to go to Georgia on Oct. 3 without giving the Bulldogs too many different personnel packages to study on film.

UW Fans: No one will replace Colt David, but what does the kicking game look like with a new punter and kicker?

LSU Publisher: Derek Helton is a junior college transfer from Fort Scott Community College and will handle the punting chores. He's a left-footed punter that is known for getting good hang time rather than booming punts. Being a lefty does make it tougher to field the ball as it tends to tail away, but the jury is still out on Helton since this will be his first test on the college level.

Josh Jasper will handle the kicking duties, but you could see Drew Alleman on some kickoffs as he's had a good summer and fall camp. Replacing Colt David is no easy task, but Les Miles seems to be very high on Jasper and is confident that he can get the job done.

UW Fans: How are they being motivated to play a 0-12 team that they should seemingly handle quite easily (I don't think they will if they don't get motivated)?

LSU Publisher: If LSU would have had another banner season then being motivated could be of some concern. However, finishing 8-5 and getting embarrassed by Florida and Ole Miss last year, combined with the three new coaches on the defensive side of the ball – John Chavis (defensive coordinator), Brick Haley (defensive line) and Ron Cooper (secondary) – has brought back that fire and intensity that was missing last season. Of course, being motivated and intense at practice in your own back yard is nothing compared to traveling to Seattle to face a Washington team that will likely be as motivated and pumped up as it has been in some time. If you talk to the players and coaches, they don't talk about a 0-12 team. They talk about a team that has a very talented quarterback and a new head coach that comes from one of the country's elite programs. Sure, some of it is probably coach-speak. But there is more respect for Washington than a lot of Husky fans probably think.

UW Fans: Does the late start or playing in Husky Stadium provide any kind of concern for them and a young quarterback?

LSU Publisher: Jordan Jefferson started at Arkansas last year and also started against Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A bowl, in a game that was basically a home contest for the Yellow Jackets. He showed good composure in each outing and I don't think that just playing on the road is going to be that big of a deal for him. However, starting the season with high expectations and feeling like he has to do too much to make fans forget about last season could be a problem, but I think he will handle everything well.

The late start is something that could come into play, but LSU did travel out to Tempe in 2005 to open the season against Arizona State with a 6:15 p.m. kickoff local time – 8:15 p.m. Baton Rouge time. The team was not sharp in that contest, but that was also two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, so the late start may or may not have been a factor. Les Miles has also gotten some advice from what he calls "sleep specialists" on how to handle the time difference.

UW Fans: How much "special" attention will the defense provide to Locker (i.e. spying, containment in the rush, etc.)?

LSU Publisher: There's no denying that Jake Locker provides some potential problems for the defense with his ability to throw and run. Keeping him in the pocket is going to be something that the starting defensive ends – Rahim Alem and Pep Levingston – will have to be cognizant of. LSU will play several backup defensive ends, who have never taken a snap at the college level, so that's where breakdowns are more likely to occur and Locker could make the defense pay for those mistakes. One thing is that LSU will have more speed in the linebacker corps and if they decide to use a spy then No. 24 – Harry Coleman – would be a good candidate because he can play linebacker or drop back to safety.

UW Fans: Discuss the strengths/weaknesses of the LSU defense.

LSU Publisher: There are so many questions with the defense right now due to all of the changes that have occurred, and the fact that this will be the first time the defense will be thrown into the fire in a setting that actually means something and where something is on the line. Potential strengths could be the linebackers and the defensive ends, provided the ends can play run support. The cornerbacks have to play better than they did last year and until that happens you could say that's a weakness. The two starting safeties will both have limited starting experience at their positions in Chad Jones at free safety, along with Danny McCray, Brandon Taylor or Karnell Hatcher at strong safety.

UW Fans: Discuss the strengths/weaknesses of the LSU offense.

LSU Publisher: The strength of this offense lies in the running game that features a loaded and deep backfield of Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, Trindon Holliday, Richard Murphy, Stevan Ridley, and possibly Russell Shepard. Scott would be playing on Sundays had he not returned for his senior year, and Williams probably has better physical tools than Scott, but he isn't a better runner. Jordan Jefferson has been very good since he's taken over at quarterback, but can he do it for a full season? Brandon LaFell is a future potential first round NFL draft pick, but will Terrance Toliver step up and take some of the heat off of him when opposing defenses double LaFell and roll their coverage? The offensive line will be strong on both sides but what about up the middle where the center has never started a game in college – T-Bob Hebert or Patrick Lonergan?

UW Fans: How is the LSU defense preparing for Jake Locker and UW's new, pro-style offense, given that it is entirely different than what was run the past two years?

LSU Publisher: One thing the defense has done is study a lot of film of what Steve Sarkisian did with Mark Sanchez at USC. The coaches feel that the headman will be able to do a lot of the same things with Locker. They've also studied a lot of Washington film to get an idea of the personnel that Locker will have to work with. Locker should make some plays and keep it close in the first half, and it will be interesting to see what kind of halftime adjustments LSU makes, because that was not a strength last year.

UW Fans: What type of changes is the new defensive coordinator making?

LSU Publisher: The biggest changes that the new staff made on that side of the ball was cranking up the intensity and changing the mindset that the defense developed last year. John Chavis is trying to get more speed on the field and he's going to play a lot of players to keep them fresh. You should also see more aggressive and physical play.

UW Fans: Will the LSU fans help us turn E1 into a Mardi Gras celebration?

LSU Publisher: LSU fans are notorious for traveling well and there will be a large contingent in Seattle. They're also known for bringing their Mardi Gras beads on the road and the big question is did the local restaurants and bars stock up enough for the party that LSU fans and Washington fans are about to throw.
To read Fetters' takes on questions posed by LSU fans, click on the link below.

Q&A: UW Style

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