PodKATT - Everybody welcome to the blog Carter Bryant. Carter's been around LSU for quite some time doing work as a student for KLSU and TigerTV, and can currently be heard on WUBR 910AM in Baton Rouge and read in DIG Baton Rouge magazine. He'll be contributing occasional film studies such as this.
When it comes to SEC tackle football, usually the team that wins the battle up front wins the game. It sounds cliche, but more often than not it's true. There is no exact science to proving this, but it was evident on Saturday Florida won the battle in the trenches on both sides of the football, thus winning the game. It was clear the LSU offensive line was overwhelmed by Florida's front seven. It wasn't until the second half where we saw the LSU defensive line begin to break down versus Mike Gillislee and the Gators rushing attack.
As far as defensive tackle is concerned, LSU's best returnee at the position this season was Bennie Logan. There were rather high expectations surrounding the junior defensive tackle coming into this season. The biggest of which was him taking on the tradition of the No. 18 uniform. There were many who thought his production would plummet because his teammate Michael Brockers bolted to the NFL. On the other hand, SEC reporter Barrett Sallee called Logan the best DT in the conference.
Through five games this season, Logan has tallied what seems to be a pedestrian 17 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. Through five games and fewer snaps last season, Logan had 19 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. This season he has been faced with a few more hardships. He is battling more double teams, where last year Brockers shared more of the brunt work. He also is getting used to playing more snaps. Because of the exit of Tyrann Mathieu, LSU has been forced to play more four-men fronts instead of three-man fronts aka the "Mustang" package.
It is important to point out Logan isn't a defensive tackle that's going to make flashy plays or put up big numbers. Former All-SEC defensive tackle Drake Nevis was a gap-shooter, who often made plays in the backfield because of his quick reflexes and stunt assignments. Nevis never liked to engage arms with an offensive lineman. Logan is quite the opposite. He likes to hold the point-of-attack on an offensive lineman without over-penetrating, then shedding the block and making a tackle.
From all of the film I've watched on Logan this year, I would give him a B+ on defending the run and a C- on defending the pass. But against Florida, I gave him the exact opposite on grading. Let's run the tape:
Play #1: Florida gains seven yards
Right before the half, Florida was backed up deep in their own territory. It was obvious what they were going to do: run it a few times with Gillislee and see if they could get something going. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis knew this and called his defenses accordingly.
On this play, we see a basic 4-3 front from LSU. As the Tigers often do against an overload of tight ends on one side, they bring their linebacker to the line of scrimmage.
Logan on this play is lined up in the "A-Gap". As in most defenses, gap responsibility is key. This holds true even more so versus Florida because they run a lot of tricks with their interior offensive lineman in their power running game. It is also important because Gillislee is very good at reading gaps and changing directions.
(NOTE: The "A-Gap" is the Gap located between the center and guard on both sides of the ball. "B-Gap" is between guard and tackle, etc.)
As the ball is snapped, we see Florida trying to run the football to the right with the left guard and the H-back pulling.
LSU is holding the point of attack well at all positions. Logan on this play is taking on a "down-block" from the center and doing a great job of maintaining gap responsibility in the "A-Gap".
The Tigers do a heck of a job blowing up the play to the side the Gators tried to run the ball. But notice Logan's positioning. He gave up ground and lost gap responsibility. This was because he was trying to help make the tackle to the play side but gave up a gaping hole for Gillislee to cut back.
This is horrendous technique from Logan. LSU had the play defended easily. Eric Reid and Kevin Minter would have made the tackle and the play go for no gain. An argument could be made that Logan is trying to prevent the guard from a free run at a linebacker, but it wouldn't have mattered.
In this slide, you see Gillislee race past where Logan was supposed to be. This was amazing vision by Gillislee. Craig Loston bails out LSU with a nice open field tackle.
Here is a better angle. The key to maintaining gap responsibility is to keep your outside shoulder free in the gap. As you can see, Logan does this to start off with pretty good form.
All Logan has to do is to let the Florida offensive lineman go and stay in his gap. If he does, it prevents a cut back from Gillislee. Notice how well the play side was crushed by the Tigers.
And in this final slide, you see the point where Gillislee sees the opening and gains a nice seven yards on first down.
On the broadcast, Gary Danielson said the play was "well blocked." It actually wasn't. This was just a case where Logan was trying too hard to make a play. There is no reason for him to try and make that tackle on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Instead, the Gators get a nice chunk of yardage.
But Logan redeems himself nicely a few plays later on a beautiful pass rush.
Play #2: Logan strip sack and forced fumble.
On first and 10, Florida comes out in shotgun formation. LSU, still in 4-3 personnel, lines up accordingly. Logan is lined up in the "B-Gap" in a 3-technique (which is the outside shoulder of the guard).
As LSU defensive lineman tend to do, they fire off high. They stand straight up instead of firing off low and hard to create push in the pocket. It's fine to do that if they are trying to do a finesse pass rushing move.
Logan completes the most unstoppable pass rushing move a defensive tackle can do versus a single team, which is a "swim move." The best defensive lineman in the NFL, JJ Watt of the Houston Texans, does it better than anybody out of a 3-technique. The move is nearly unblockable for an offensive guard without committing a holding penalty. Here is Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints demonstrating how to do a "swim move".
Logan is able to get his arm over the guard's and begin to get push to the quarterback. Notice how Logan turned the offensive lineman to where he has no leverage. Logan is lower than his opponent who is now in an awkward position.
We now pick up the play from a different angle. Logan has an inside track to Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who holds on the the football too long because of great coverage down field. The only way for Logan to be stopped now is for him to be pulled down to the ground, which would result in a penalty for the Gators.
In these two slides, Logan eventually breaks free from the block and grabs a hold of Driskel. But what's next is where the play by Logan is special.
Logan makes a great adjustment while bringing Driskel down. At first, Logan was just driving the Driskel backwards. But then, Logan works his way to Driskel's throwing shoulder and is able to get a strip of the ball. Eventually, the ball is recovered by Keke Mingo and the Tigers get points before the half.
Play #3: Florida scores go-ahead touchdown.
On the final play of this study on Logan, we will look into Florida's first touchdown run that was gorgeously called by UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease. On this play, Logan actually does a solid job of maintaining gap responsibility. He had the opportunity to make a special play, but barely misses out.
In the above slide, Florida comes out in what some coaches like to call a "Heavy" set. This means an offense sends out extra offensive lineman to come help block on a running play. In this formation, two more offensive lineman come out to help on this play (one of which is circled).
LSU does a great job of matching personnel. Notice on this play the Tigers counter the "Heavy" set with five defensive lineman on the field. What makes this play so rare and special for Florida is with the receiver in motion, the Gators have all 11 offensive players (basically) in the box when the ball is snapped but still is able to open up a lane for a touchdown.
I took this time to give a better representation of gaps. The orange "A" represents "A-Gap", "B" means "B-Gap" etc. Logan on this play is in a 3-technique (outside shoulder of the guard) like he was on his sack. His responsibility is the B-gap.
Early in the snap, we see Florida running a very complex misdirection play. Driskel goes right behind the receiver in motion and the Gators are running a counter to the right. They pull their left guard and tackle on the play to the right and leave the backside defensive end, Jermauria Rascoe, unblocked.
We see Logan confuse the Gators offensive lineman to the right trying to double team him. He doesn't fire off into them but instead stands straight up to read where they are going. Because of the complex motion, all the double team is trying to do is to prevent Logan from making this play because of the numbers advantage Pease makes to the right.
The reason why I am gushing over this play call from Pease is because he added the reverse motion to the play. Notice all to the left side of the screen, there are three LSU players that are unblocked but are being stopped in their tracks because of the threat of the reverse. The reason why Rascoe was unblocked was because his job is to keep contain on that side, so Pease knew he would stay at home.
Now to the right of the screen, Florida has huge (literally and figuratively) advantage running to to the right. Pease trusts his offensive linemen's athleticism and Gillislee's ability to find a crease to make this into a touchdown.
But notice Logan doing a great job holding the point of attack well despite all of the traffic surrounding him. This is forcing the play to not open up as fast as Pease would like it.
We now see on this slide Florida has numbers to their advantage. All No. 66 and 73 have to do is block their man on the second level and pave the way for an easy touchdown. Logan continues to cause this play though to clog.
As this photo shows, the pulling guard and tackle for Florida gets to the second level and blocks their man. This leaves the hole wide open for Gillislee. But Logan continues to do a great job to fight against his block, keeping his outside shoulder free.
But he can't quite escape the lineman quick enough to make the tackle, which is his specialty. This is an extremely difficult play for Logan to make. But if he makes the tackle, the Gators don't score an easy touchdown.
Because Logan couldn't make the special play, Gillislee runs into the end zone to eventually give the Gators a lead they would never give back. Once again, Logan did his job just fine. The play was designed to run through the C-Gap, which wasn't his responsibility. But still, if he sheds the block and makes the tackle the game could have ended differently.
The No. 18 jersey means a lot to the LSU Football program. One of the smartest football players I've ever gotten to know, Brandon Taylor, wore it with pride and honor. That number signifies a player who has given it all to the program.
Logan certainly has done that. For he to play the style he plays at his size is special. He has played well over the first part of the season, but it's now time for him to take it to the next level.
He's hasn't looked as nimble as he was last year. Even when he lost gap responsibility in the first play I broke down, Logan still could have made that tackle. But he was sluggish reacting and getting off the block. The same holds true on the touchdown run. It was a long drive by the Gators, but Logan had the opportunity to come out a few plays on that drive.
The strip sack is far and away Logan's best play of the year. But that was Logan's first sack of the season. On some passing downs, Logan doesn't even attempt to rush the quarterback. The verdict is still out on if he can produce similar results on pass rushes the upcoming weeks.
Versus Florida, LSU did their job on defense. At a program such as LSU, 14 points should be enough to win football games. Still, all defensive players must get better, not just Logan. Barkevious Mingo has not had spectacular season and neither has Eric Reid. Both are projected first round picks in next year's NFL draft as juniors.
There is hope this weekend versus South Carolina. Their running game is more straight ahead, which provides a simpler X's & O's match up versus LSU. Running back Marcus Lattimore is better than Gillislee, but not by much. It's pretty clear that, as a cutback runner, Gillislee is at least even with Lattimore.
For LSU to have a chance against the Gamecocks who runs between the tackles and pulls their offensive lineman with plays like the "Power O", they will need Logan to step up and play big.
Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.