On Thursday I gave you the detailed breakdown of exactly what unfolded between the hedges last Saturday. Long story short, the defense was bad, the offense was awesome and the special teams, while mostly positive, grade out at neutral due to a timely lost fumble. As with any game, we can only hope LSU will keep the good, throw out the bad and make the necessary adjustments moving forward as they continue to pursue an SEC and National Championship. Here's 5 Big Things we can look for from LSU in the coming weeks.
1) This Ain't the Titantic
You've all heard the cliche about shuffling deck chairs. After Saturday, I think many are desperate for wholesale defensive changes. BENCH WELTER! BENCH LOSTON! BENCH COLLINS! BENCH MILLS! BENCH 'EM ALL! It's important to note that I'm not sure that strategy has or will ever work. The bad news is that the LSU defense is not very good. The good news is, this isn't the 2008 defense. I don't think we're so bad that we're incapable of stopping anyone with a pulse. We clamped down on TCU well enough. We yielded some big yardage to Auburn, but they were hardly a threat. Georgia put it on us good, but let's remember this is one of the best offenses, not just in the conference, but in the country.
We may see some defensive changes come Saturday. But don't expect eleven new starters. Don't even expect half that. The LSU defense needs to grow into itself.
2) Find Your Voice
No coach... anywhere... is going to be in a hurry to completely blow up depth chart decisions they spent months analyzing and making. This isn't "Miles and Chavis being stubborn." Putting together a defense is a tall task. You are building a unit, even moreso than you are on the offensive side. More than loading up every position with super talent, it's about finding pieces that mesh, finding players who understand their roles and play within them and building from there.
Nick Saban has proven to be a master at this. Think about his defenses. Are they loaded with superstars? Absolutely. But there's also, quite often, a lesser talented, "brains of the operation" type. You all remember the 2003 National Championship team. LaRon Landry, Marquise Hill, Chad Lavalais, Corey Webster, Marcus Spears and company were absolutely stellar. But the other starting safety that year was Jack Hunt. Jack Hunt was small and slow, but he was smart and crafty. The one team that 2003 squad lost to was to a young Florida team. Jack Hunt missed that game, and LSU lost, in no small part, because of a defensive bust.
Chavis must find this team's Jack Hunt. Think about it. Who on the defense is the vocal, mental leader? We had high hopes for Barrow, and while I think he inspires with his work ethic and hustle, I don't think he's the guy who gets everyone in the right spot. Kevin Minter handled those duties admirably last season. The Tigers are still looking for that voice to emerge in 2013.
3) Move On
Last week sucked. Georgia beat us. They were better that day. There's no use in shoulder-slumping and dwelling on it. This season is far from done. LSU is plenty talented enough to win out, even on the road against a strong Alabama and a better-than-lately Ole Miss. If this LSU team allows the loss to permeate their attitude and confidence, this season could be a slippery slope.
The only play that matters is the next one. The only game that matters is the next one. This week we are gifted an SEC cupcake. Don't let them hang around and make this interesting because you are still sad we enter the game with a loss. LSU needs to show up in Starkville, chokeslam the Bulldogs, get the 1-2-3 and get the hell out of there.
4) Keep Shining, Zach Mettenberger
I have no deep, insightful advice for Zach Mettenberger and the LSU offense. Just keep doing what you guys are doing. You hate to throw out the word so early, but Mettenberger is working on a Heisman-campaign season right now. Frankly, any team with a QB playing that well is going to be dangerous, bad defense or no. He's accompanied by two absolute stud WRs. There are zero signs this LSU passing offense will hit any snags. There is chemistry and trust. There is strong play calling. There is strong execution. It's not out of the question that Mettenberger and the passing game could have an off night, but we're not going to see a multi-game slump that we did last season. This is for real, folks.
5) Youth Movement
I said it weeks ago, but on the heels of a poor defensive performance, it's probably time to start figuring out what some of the young guys can bring to the fold. As I mentioned above, it's not time to re-write the depth chart. But what's a series here and a series there hurt? Against Mississippi State, a team with some serious offensive question marks, LSU shouldn't be afraid to give guys like Kendell Beckwith, Tashawn Bower, and Rickey Jefferson a shot. Even others, with a bit more tenure, such as Lamar Louis, Debo Jones, and Dwayne Thomas, should get an opportunity for expanded roles.
Again, this isn't about overhauling your depth chart. These guys may be able to contribute more than we've seen thus far. Practice is often the denominator when it comes to picking your best 11, but some guys truly do excel when the lights go on. Rohan Davey was famously known for looking like a bit of slouch in practice, then showing up on a Saturday and dropping 400 yards on an opponent. I'd like to see Chavis rotate some more youth in for a series here and a series there, which is something we saw in the first few games, but not hardly against Auburn and Georgia.