John Chavis is amazing. No really, he is. Let us recap the personnel losses for LSU since the BCS National Championship Game.
Starting CB Morris Claiborne
Starting S Brandon Taylor
Starting CB Tyrann Mathieu
Starting CB Ron Brooks
Starting LB Ryan Baker
Starting LB Karnell Hatcher
Starting LB Tahj Jones
Starting DT Michael Brockers
Rotating DE Ken Adams
Starting LB Kwon Alexander
That's 10 major contributors gone, and only one of them played at all this season. So surely, LSU has regressed on defense? Well, in the strictest sense, yes. But they are still among the elite defenses in nation and a suffocating drain to productive offenses across the country (A&M, I'm looking at you).
Last Saturday proved to be no exception. South Carolina does not field a particularly potent offense, but Connor Shaw is emerging as a play maker. He's made defenses pay with his arm and more so with his feet. Corralling a mobile QB is a task in itself, particularly for an aggressive defense like LSU who likes to bring pressure. Saturday, the gameplan varied. Remember that "mush rush" Alabama employed in the BCSNCG? We used that same tactic. Hold the point of attack, keep your head in the back field, then shed your block at the last second and make the tackle.
It produced outstanding results. South Carolina managed nothing on the ground. Lattimore finished with just 35 yards on 13 carries. Shaw finished with -1 rushing yards. They accumulated 177 through the air, but on 35 attempts. South Carolina never got in a rhythm all night. 2 of their 3 TD drives were aided by a turnover and a terrible PF call. Their longest drive was 12 plays and resulted in a punt. LSU played smothering, dominant football.
Mingo: Mostly quiet night. He did get a late sack when Chavis turned him loose. Showed his burst and athleticism. Next play, he brought the heat again. I can imagine him playing where he strictly pass rushed would be terrifying. We stunted him in quite a bit. Overall, we ran more stunts than I can remember us doing in a while. Forced a throw with a nice pass rush that resulted in an incomplete. Forced Shaw out of the pocket on one play, splitting a double team with RT/RB. So athletic.
Sam: Sonic made a couple of huge plays. Early on, really athletic play when Shaw broke the pocket. Ran him to the sideline and gets the sack and the ball comes free and goes out of bounds. Impressive change of direction and speed. His second sack we brought a really interesting look. We had 3 down lineman (Sam, Logan, Mingo) on the field. We walked up Eugene and Mills outside of the ends. Barrow and Minter walked up to fill the A-gaps. The look causes confusion. Barrow, Minter and Mills all bail into coverage at the snap. Eugene comes off the edge. The OT is confused and Sam is left completely alone with a free path to Shaw. Lattimore completely whiffs as well. Big sack, 11 yard loss. He lined up way wide and in a two-point stance once. Thought that was odd/interesting. Even wider than a "wide 9" (far outside shoulder of TE).
18: Nice day for him. South Carolina's LG has seen better days, I'm sure. Logan toyed with him all night. He consistently got across his face. Too quick for him. Disruptive in the run game with his penetration. SC ran some midline veer stuff keying off him. Shaw made the right read once (Logan pinched inside so Shaw kept). However, Logan blew it up inside and got into the backfield, Shaw kept at last second and Logan immediately gets arm on Lattimore. Latt looks confused and thinks he may have fumbled, but Shaw kept all along. Lavar Edwards was dominant on the play and it goes for nothing. Controlled his gaps well. They ran some draws to try and counteract his pressure and snuck at least one underneath him. I love the way he works. Logan doesn't give up on plays and he's rewarded for it a lot.
Downs: Played a lot. Picked up a sack on a great coverage play. Barrow gets great pressure off the edge and does a nice job not over running. Logan gets free inside and cuts off Shaw's ability to step up in the pocket. Shaw dances into the arms of Downs. Solid in the run game maintaining gaps.
Freak: Didn't see him a ton. Downs took a lot of snaps this game. Got a sack/TFL on a QB draw. High effort play where both he and Bennie got a big push. Not much else.
Edwards: Continues to play a ton and in large spells for Sam. Think we wanted to keep Sam's legs fresh for late pass rush. Completely destroyed the LT on one midline veer that resulted in no gain. Latt broke a tackle attempt of his to score his TD.
Rasco: Beat the RT early, but tripped so no reward for him. They ran a zone read off him, but we also brought Mills on the outside, which confused Shaw. He should have kept (Rasco collapsed), but he gave it and the play goes for nothing. Showed a pretty good pass rush. On the late drive when they scored, we employed a look that surprised me a bit. We went nickel, but the personnel was interesting. Aghayere, 18 and Rasco were on the field. Wound up being a big gain on that play.
Aghayere: The play I described above is the only one I can remember him being on the field.
Ego: Saw him out there a few times. Didn't do much of note.
Minter: Didn't follow up his performance against UF with another dominant one, but he was, by no means, bad. Finished with 9 tackles. A lot of group tackling on Saturday night. Wasn't as effective shucking blockers as last week. Missed a tackle where he looked to have Latt dead to rights. Barrow bailed him out beat the FB and stopping for a punt. Missed a tackle on the slot receiver when they dragged him across the middle. They ran a speed option and he narrowly missed making the tackle in the backfield. Play instead went for 17. Next play they ran it to the left, but this time he does a great job keeping the blocker off his legs and winds up making the tackle. Blitzed on a late PA pass play. Herbie says wide open WR down field (can't see on tape) but effective pressure leads to throw away.
Barrow: Really nice game. Tackled Latt man-up once where he scraped off the edge really effectively. Great job by him. Great job by him. Took on blockers really well. Got a key pressure that resulted in Downs' sack. Really liked that he didn't overpursue and run himself out of the play. Got upfield and then pushed the pocket. Got another good pressure later when they tried to take a deep shot to Ace Sanders. Wound up being overthrown due to hurry. Collided with Simon on the throw back play to Justice Cunninghm that wound up putting SC in position for 2nd TD. They isolated Andre Ellington on him at the GL and he got beat. Losing matchup for him.
Louis: Got his first start. Didn't show up much on tape. On an early draw he read it right, and got in line to make the tackle but he makes a freshman mistake letting the WR get inside of him and block him out. Play ended up going for 8. Blocked up by the FB on a dive play. Play went for 7. Would really like to see him be more physical and aggressive. Brought him on a blitz but he's too indecisive and thinking. Not playing fast and loose. Had a close call that was nearly a late hit. Be careful, young'n. He'll need to keep improving (obviously). He's probably the most athletic LB from this signing class, but he needs to put those tools to work.
Mills: Long night for him. His worst game so far. A bit worrisome considering we're facing a much better passing offense this week. Spurrier went after him. Beat badly, early, on a PA pass. Fortunately, Byrd dropped it. Nice job by Shaw to look off Reid to make the play happen. This was the 1st of four straight passes after him. Next play he's beaten badly again. Not sure the route, but Mills is 5 yards away when he catches. Beat again by Sanders, and not close. Last play he's beat again but this time Sanders ran out of bounds, so illegal touching. Hard to know what happens if he was legal. Used a blitzer some. Looked better in that regard. Got some good pressures to force early throws and flush Shaw. Ultimately, it's time for Chief to challenge him. Collins has been playing well. Push Mills with Collins' play.
Simon: Not a ton here. He collided with Barrow on the big throwback to Justice Cunningham. SC took advantage of our aggressive D. On one 3rd and 6 Simon offered a 10 yard cushion, which they turned into an easy pitch and catch for a 1st down. Why? Got the tip on the last pass that wound up picked by Loston.
Collins: Got a ST tackle on opening kick. Really nice coverage on a deep ball. Collins is stride for stride, tracking ball, goes up and bats away. Looked really good on the play. Long and athletic.
Eugene: Used as a blitzer some. On their late 4th and 13 he got stuck in no man's land and beat by the TE. Bad coverage.
Reid: Best game of the season. Effective tackler. Laid a big hit on Latt early. Sets the tone. Tackled him a bit later man up on a play where they had a seam. Latt ran into the center, which halted his progress. Reid cleaned up. One thing I liked and expect to see this weekend is that he more or less played a "deep spy" on Shaw. Dropped into coverage but reading Shaw's eyes all the way. Once he tucks, Reid collapses, charges hard and makes tackle. Over ran Sanders on the 61-yard return. Got a gift pick on a terrible throw by Shaw.
Loston: Solid effort. Came down the field like a bat out of hell on the 2nde kickoff and got the first lick. Made a nice open-field tackle on Lattimore early. Got matched up with Sanders at the GL and got beat. Losing matchup for him. Got the phantom "intention" personal foul late. Stupid penalty. Late pick showed his good hands, though Simon is the reason for the pick.
Wing: Terrible night. First punt he shanked 10 yards. Second punt he may have outkicked the coverage. Third punt he shanked for 24 yards. 4th punt, with a chance to bury SC deep, he kicked into the end zone. I'm not sure if he's still hurt or what, but LSU needs to be careful here. Wing was a major weapon last season. Right now, he's a liability.
Alleman: Missed a 32-yard FG from the right hash. Very frustrating. What has happened to our kicking game?
Hairston: Maybe the only great part of our kicking game all night. Boomed his first kickoff for a touchback. 2nd kickoff he dropped on the 5 with good hang time. 3rd kickoff a touchback. 4th he booted to the 2 with good hang time and Jarvis Landry got tackle on the 18. 5th kickoff he got into the endzone, Ellington returned to the 23. Also, maybe kickers aren't worthless. Maybe.
Ford: Natural kick returner. 2 returns, 59 total yards. 30 yards a pop is doing it right. Looks aggressive and decisive as a returner. Runs with speed and power. Love him back there.