If you can ever say the game that featured the best receiving performance in the past decade for LSU was ho-hum, this was ever the game. I was anxious to put on the tape just to see some of the young guys and to see what ailed the defense, but neither were particularly enlightening. Despite yielding 296 yards and 17 points, this game was a massacre from start to finish and even UAB's mini run was more of a minor annoyance than an "uh oh."
To put it bluntly, LSU's schemes were bland. Show up, stay healthy, execute, dominate, win. That's basically the order of operations. The offense played along greatly. The defense looked lackluster at spots. Was it the byproduct of the massive lead? After all, through the 1st quarter, UAB was sitting on 10 total yards and 0 points on three drives. We did some slight tinkering early (trying Jordan Allen at DE and Beckwith at DE in a Nickel package), but they were all things we showed last week. We brought blitzes here and there, but nothing exotic or interesting... typically just the OLB or nickel back.
As Billy mentioned, we rarely strayed from 20 or 21 personnel (trying to recall any time we did, actually). This was about as flawlessly boring as an offense could be. We stuck to a basic array of leads, a couple of zone runs here and there, and some vanilla passing concepts that rendered UAB's secondary absolutely helpless. I know UAB is rebuilding, but it was a long, long night for both Lamarcus Farmer and Jimmy Jean, who were routinely burned or, when in good position, simply beaten by good throws and routes.
The biggest mistakes was Landry's fumble, which resulted in 7 of UAB's points on a short field. I'm not overly concerned with the fumble, as Landry doesn't have a history of ball protection issues. He got caught fighting for yards and not protecting the football. I'll assume lesson learned the hard way. Better to learn now than against UGA.
One concern may be the continued struggled of the offensive line to get a push up front. Elliot Porter won his fair share of battles simply by getting a hat on his defender and getting position, but he certainly wasn't clearing out huge running lanes. I did see progress from Jerald Hawkins as a run blocker. He looked more aggressive and stronger, but perhaps level of competition played into that. Vadal looks to be getting away from the sea legs. He looked tremendously more comfortable and showed the type of raw power that made us all believe he was a dominant run blocker in 2012. Turner looked like his usual self, though his pulling/trapping doesn't look nearly as dominant thus far in 2013 as it did in 2012. Collins was stellar, as usual.
What will Cameron do to start to generate more production in the run game? The simple answer might be a heavy dosage of Jeremy Hill. In Poseur's reaction piece, a few of you commented that Hill's good running may have been the byproduct of an exhausted UAB defense. I don't find that to be the case. His best runs came in the early and mid 3rd quarter, and UAB didn't look flat beat at this point.
Mett: Nearly flawless. His worst pass of the night may have been his first, a quick hitter attempt to Beckham that he simply threw at his feet. His second incomplete was a really nice comeback throw to Landry in the end zone that was just dropped. The announcers called him greedy, but it looked like a good decision to me. If any other pass challenges for worst, it's 1st and GL from the 3 at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. Landry runs a simple out route, the DB falls down and he's wide open. Mett airmails the pass. Should have been an easy 6. No matter as we scored the next play, but with that clean of a pocket and that open a WR, Mett needs to nail those throws. Otherwise, this was playing QB as good as can be played. Finished 16/19 for 282 yards and 5 TDs. 3 carries for 17 yards.
Jennings: He first showed up in the early 3rd, with LSU firmly in control 42-17. Miles mentioned last week needing to get him more work, but I'm fine with them not revealing any of his package until meaningful opponents. It's good to get Jennings snaps to get a game feel, but he can be an ace up our sleeve, so no need to play that hand early. His first play looked like a designed run, but I couldn't see the formation. The next snap looked like it had explosive potential, an option with he and Brazil, but he took his eyes from the snap and fumbled. Fortunately, Brazil recovered, but that earned Jennings a spot on the bench until the 4th. He returned mid 4th, played two more series which consisted mostly of running lead play after lead play to Hilliard while we salted away the clock. He did throw one pass to Quantavious Leslie, the first catch of his career. Finished 1/1 for 11 yards, 2 carries for -11 yards.
Hilliard: Finished as the team's leading rusher. But 32 of his 54 yards came on the final drive of the game against a gassed UAB defense. He looked okay. Almost punched one in from the 5. Scored the next play. Best run of the night came on a 2nd and 12 from the LSU 20. Collins whiffed on his reach block that Hilliard attempted to follow. He was able to bounce off the defender and spin through the hole to pick up six. Nice run that put LSU in a 3rd and more favorable. Finished 11 for 54 rushing with 1 TD.
Hill: If there's a secret ingredient missing to the LSU power running game, it's Jeremy Hill. Discuss the morals of keeping him on the roster all you'd like, but the fact is, he's LSU's best runner by a wide margin. It's really his vision and decisiveness that sets him apart. His TD run showed his talented footwork, as he danced through trash to punch in a short one. His best run came in the early 3rd from our own 45. The OL actually created a pretty nice hole on a lead play, with Porter driving his man off, Turner getting to the 2nd level, Neighbors picking up the crashing LB. Hilliard/Blue would likely hit that hole and pick up 5-6, a nice gain. Hill is more elusive and creative and cuts to the outside, which initially frustrates me. Except it's truly a display of his vision. The left side of the line won their battles and Dillon Gordon got an exceptional block on the edge. Run goes for 14. Then again later in the 3rd, same play. Play is solidly blocked on the front side by Porter, Turner and Neighbors, but Hill sees a huge cutback lane, is able to change directions mid-stride and hit the hole at full speed, which puts him into open field. From there he shutter steps a safety and picks up a couple extra yards for a total of 15. Finished 6 for 50 with 1 TD.
Blue: Quiet night. Nothing stood out. Finished 3 for 8, no TDs.
Magee: Go-to back in the Shotgun, Singleback sets. Missed by Mett on potential 3rd down conversion early on. Was wide open underneath while LBs tracked Dural. Mett pulled the ball down and scrambled, stopped short. One play I loved was the PA pass where Landry eventually fumbled. Copeland completely whiffed on pass pro on his side of the pocket (back side). Magee sprinted from the front side and dove at the oncoming DL to try and get the block. That'll earn him extra snaps. Tripped and fell on a zone play, but was trying to hit cutback lane. Promising vision. Completely destroyed a UAB defender after catching a pass on a 3rd and long. Runs with a low center of gravity. Finished 4 carries for 7 yards, 1 catch for 15.
Brazil: Saw his first action. We ran a little read play with he and Mett. Showed that electric speed. Could have been a huge gainer except Landry so dominated a DB that he blocked him into Brazil's legs, so it only went for 10. Lined up in the pistol behind Jennings in what looked like an option play, but Jennings fumbled the snap. Brazil recovered. Finished 2 carries for 10 yards.
Copeland: I haven't been nearly as impressed with JC as last year. Neighbors actually stole a lot of snaps this game, but that may just be a byproduct of the staff saving JC for the long season. Caught a PA pass for 12. Overall, blocks just don't seem as emphatic thus far. Finished 1 catch for 12 yards, 1 carry for 3 yards.
Neighbors: Played a lot. He's a little bowling ball out there. He's not a guy that blasts people off the ball; his blocks are typically uninspiring but effective. Fun watching him run through arm tackles on his catch. Finished 1 catch for 16 yards.
Beckham: There aren't enough superlatives for how tremendously Beckham played. I've always been a huge fan of his potential. Beckham runs phenomenal routes, possesses exceptional speed and really can pluck the ball out of the sky. What's plagued him historically is the occasional lapse of focus that lead to careless drops. Not so on Saturday. His plays have been celebrated enough. Finished 1 carry for 15 yards, 5 catches for 136 yards, 3 receiving TDs, 1 missed FG return TD, 1 60-yard punt return
Landry: Some uncharacteristic mistakes from Landry including the aforementioned drop and fumble. Still played with bulldog tenacity as a receiver and blocker. Finished 5 catches for 71 yards, 2 TDs.
Dural: Remained primary 3rd WR in 3WR sets. Found a soft spot in the zone on an early 3rd and 5, which turned into a conversion. Out there for one punt return, but the ball wasn't returnable. Quiet otherwise. Finished 1 catch for 13 yards.
Boone: Played a handful of snaps; no targets.
Leslie: Caught the first ball of his young LSU career, from Anthony Jennings. Quick hitter that he turned into 11-yard gain.
Gordon: Remained primary TE. Did run a few routes, but let's be honest, he's the Keith ZInger/Mitch Joseph Tiger TE Blocker of 2013. Big body that can move well. His blocks aren't always dominant, but you can see the potential. I think he's growing as a player before our eyes. Better from week 1 to week 2. Finished 1 catch for 5 yards.
Smith: Smith played a healthy dose of snaps again, even with Dickson back in the lineup. I think it's safe to say he's passed him in the hierarchy. Layed a nasty crack back on Brazil's read option run. Wide open on a simple out route that went for 14. Similar to Jennings, I don't think we need to unveil all the plans for Smith just yet. He can be an ultra-valuable weapon in our passing game. He's got dynamic ability that we haven't had there in a while. Finished 1 catch for 14 yards.
Dickson: Missed a block on Brazil's second carry that caused the play to get blown up. Didn't see much from him.
Stokes: Primary 2nd TE for blocking. Did run a couple of routes, but no targets. Seemed to do a fine job, but nothing stood out, good or bad.
Collins: Usual sound game. Missed a block or two, but no major issues.
Vadal: Looks to be getting his legs. Made a faux pas in pass protection. They came on a twist stunt. Vadal stuck with inside DT, but needed to turn him loose to Collins. Looping DE got around. Vadal was able to make contact, but Mett did take a hit. Better in the run game than last week. One play that impressed: got stood straight up and beat initially. Raw powered the guy inside and just muscled him out of the way. Brute force.
Porter: Doesn't dominate blocks. He "wins" by getting his hat on the opposition and getting in the way. Isn't going to blow anyone off the line. No major missed assignments.
Trai: Still gets to the 2nd level exceptionally, but blocks don't seem as dominant. No major misses.
Hawkins: Making progress as a run blocker. Had an ugly early block where he got pushed around, but rebounded later. Looked, bigger, stronger and more aggressive.
Pocic: Saw snaps late. On one play, popped the DT till RG engaged, then slid off onto LB. Impressive. Moved their DT around with ease.
Boutte: Played LT, which surprised. Figured him to be a G at this level. Showed his same aggression and buried a guy.
Washington: Played RT. Got one good block, nothing else of note.
Fanaika: Big boy. Nothing of note.
Austin: PLayed with aggression. Clearly a level above the rest of the young guys. Got to the 2nd level with ease. Pushed people around.
I mentioned in the intro, but really a tough game to get a feel for. At points it sure seemed like Chavis was hosting open auditions for all three LB spots, yes, even Barrow's. Is Lamin Barrow suffering from the "Strong MLB made me look good syndrome?" Other cases include Ryan Baker. Barrow doesn't look abjectly terrible, but he's not been as strong as we hoped.
I know Billy hates singling out Welter for his poor play (amongst a landmass of poor play by all the LBs), but Welter really is just a heart beat out there. Tough to watch him play. When he reads the play right and gets to the ball carrier, he misses. Most of the rest of the time he's just washed out in the trash. Can't get off blocks, etc. We need more from the MLB. The other backer is somewhat of a revolving door, but I do think Kwon Alexander started to come into his own by the 2nd half. More on that later.
The secondary seems on no stronger footing. Jalen Collins got outright benched after a remarkably shitty effort on a run play headed his way. Mills got torched and whined about it. Loston doesn't look like the player we saw at the end of 2012. Ronald Martin can't tackle and may not be able to cover either. I anticipate a lot of shuffling here, and not because of any reporter posting rumors, either.
One particular sore spot that isn't regularly discussed is the lackluster DL play. We see flashes, but no down-in-down-out consistency. Freak Johnson hasn't looked like nearly the explosive playmaker from last year. Ego Ferguson has been, somewhat surprisingly, not just our best DT, but our best all-around DL this year. Allen's play comes and goes. Rasco is solid, but unspectacular. Hunter shows flashes but still growing. Tough for LBs to operate when DL isn't commanding attention.
Overall this unit has a lot of growing to do.
Allen: Gets his sack this week after being TCU's baby boy all last weekend. Easy sack as he was turned loose and then whiffed on by the FB. Got another good pressure which forced Brown up in pocket; incomplete, but could have been sack with better pressure inside. Batted down another pass when unblocked. Strong inside move to put runner down. Overall, love the effort he gives, though he can be one dimensional.
Rasco: Got effective pressure on a 3rd and 14 by beating TE, then driving both TE/RB into backfield. Should have resulted in INT. Another pressure when they give him one-on-one with RB, forces throw away. Got a sack on a mush rush after Kwon blitzed and forced QB into his waiting arms. Played with good effort level, a little shaken up.
Hunter: Saw some snaps in 2-point stance. Coaches like to use him in Nickel/Dime looks. Dominated by TE on one play, must get stronger. Gets collapsed inside too often in the run game. Did beat his block once, which shows progress. Most impressive play comes on a 3rd and 13 late in the game, when he blasts the OT back into the hole, which trips up the back for no gain.
Maclin: Saw him take some snaps at DT and then garbage time at DE. Nothing of note.
Neal: Came off snap really slow on first play. Rebounded nicely, though. Strong recognition and technique. Multiple times the OT downblocked and Neal shuffled down the line, ripped underneath the pulling guard and awaited RB. Effort and technique should earn him additional snaps in the future.
Bower: Showed flashes of athleticism and recognition. Made a bit stop on 4th and 1 at the LSU 7, late.
Freak: Up and down game. At times, showed the dazzling explosiveness and playmaking ability; other times seemed to be going through the motions. Just missed on sack and nailed Brown on another just missed sack. Sometime in the 2nd half he looked like Freak of old on a few snaps: explosiveness, power. Later made a diving tackle attempt and seemed to be in pain.
Ego: Flashed power throughout, holding point of attack against double teams and in one-on-one's. Made a nice play late in the 2nd. Slanted left, but able to use his hands to disengage blocker and jump back into hole, stopping Reaves for a modest gain. Beat a double team to make a tackle. Blown off ball by one double team, but recovers and holds ground nicely just a couple yards beyond LoS. Looks stronger and more athletic than last year.
QT: Got his cookie, this week, after letting it slip away last week. Served as spy a couple of plays - looked out of place and slow to recognize. Knocked down a pass on a long 3rd, performing a mush rush. Making progress, but a capable 3rd DT in our rotation.
LaCouture: First play in he blew the OG up, displaying outstanding power and base. Flashes a lot of raw power. Did get a hands to the face penalty... he'll learn.
Mickey: Looked strong at the point of attack. Nothing dynamic.
A'Trey-U: Played late.
Barrrow: Lead the team in tackles, though not particularly inspiring play. A lot of downfield tackles. He looked good in spots but doesn't seem to be near the playmaker this year. Did a nice job in coverage on a 3rd and 6... ball probably should have been caught, but it was thrown behind Nelson. Still, positioning was good for a LB on a WR1. Made another nice adjustment to the ball in flight for a pass breakup. Got half a sack on a terribly blocked play. Just seems to get caught in the trash and blocked up too easily.
Welter: Woof. Did make one nice read and hit on our 2nd defensive series. Laid out Reaves, a tough runner. He does seem to have better read/react skills than any other LB, but he rarely makes the play after seeing it. He gets washed out of too many plays. We need an upgrade here.
Kwon: If there was any LB that gave me hope, it was Kwon Alexander. Here's my contention with Kwon: when the guy knows what he sees, he's an absolute playmaker. He flashes great speed, can beat blocks and deliver big hits. He's also athletic in coverage. The trouble is... he doesn't always know what he's seeing. It seemed like he seemed to gain confidence as the game wore on. Made a ST tackle. Shows ability as a blitzer, though no rewards this week. Did force Brown to step into Rasco for a sack. Punished the RB on our 3rd defensive series. Blew a blocker into the backfield and nearly got a TFL for it. Made a nice read and attacked the RB in the backfield on another play. Didn't get him down, but held on until he was cleaned up for a short gain. Took on the FB on another play, but no one trailing to clean up RB. Strong blitz in the 2nd half to beat the TE inside and get into Brown's feet and force an early throw.
Louis: May be the future answer at MLB, but play wasn't terribly inspiring. Over ran the ball carrier on UAB's trick play attempt. Cross pattern passed right underneath him and he stared it down but did nothing. Not a great sign. Read a draw nicely and made a sound tackle. Beat a block and made another nice tackle later. Held point of attack on a 3rd and 2 to limit to a 1-yard gain.
Tahj: Yuck. Poor blitzer. Once over ran the play. Another time he was easily picked up and didn't put up much fight. Easily blocked in run game. I don't have a single good note about him.
Debo: Yuck x2. Over ran the ball carrier on a trick play. Completely collapsed inside on UAB's first TD. False start penalty on punt. Did make one nice read and showed aggression taking on FB, but again, no one else behind to clean up. Next play he looked completely lost. Two plays later he makes a good read on a 4th and 1, but over runs the ball carrier. The speed is there, but the rest of the game is not. Later gets a personal foul for a late hit on the QB. Dumb.
Beckwith: Continues to be a rush DE in Dime looks, but played a lot more LB this week than last. Didn't stand out. Did beat the LT on an early pass rush, but a step late getting to the QB. Later in the game had a nice blitz that flushed Brown from the pocket. Flashed his explosiveness. Got crushed by a TE late in the game. Did rebound by fighting through a block and making a tackle later. Still learning.
Zo: Got a really strong jam on the back out of the backfield on his first series. Really nice coverage technique. Got caught flat footed and picked up by OG on second level. Later just stared down a play and did nothing. Showed good speed tracking down ball carrier... 14 yards down field. Looked unnatural blitzing... trying too many moves. Not much else.
Ultimately, I'm thinking Louis/Barrow/Kwon may be the best LB mix going forward.
Mills: Burned deep by Nelson. Getting beat happens, but it annoyed me he whined about it to the officials the next several plays. Nelson beat him cleanly. He does direct a lot of traffic on defense, which shows knowledge and leadership. Does a pretty good job in run support... funneled one play back inside and took on FB. Later made a weak ankle-diving tackle attempt. Probably got chewed on for that, because played more physical the rest o the way. Later showed good coverage on Staples.
Collins: Got benched. Nearly whiffed on first play of the game, but got just enough for Mills to come and clean up. Looked confused on one play, with Martin. Not in good position. Dove at a blocker's feet, clearly just getting out of the way. A few plays later timidly played the run and allowed himself to get blocked up. Not aggressive at all. Pulled the next play.
Tre: Played basically every snap from mid 2nd quarter on. Immediately more aggressive and impressive vs. run, despite small stature. Willing tackler. Got better as the game went on. DId get blown off the ball early. Then slow to read a play, but did give chase and make tackle after 13 yard gain. Showed some blitzing ability.. blew by TE and got held, but still made valiant diving attempt. Got burned early, but Brown missed it, so no harm. Didn't get many throws his way, which is likely a good sign.
Dwayne: Primary dime back, then nickel, once Eugene shifted to primary S. Dropped an easy pick. Nothing of note, good or bad.
Rashard: Impressive alone that he's seeing snaps after 2 weeks on campus. No plays of note, but if he's good enough to see the field now... then we may have something special on our hands.
Poppa: Only note I have is a play he dissected and attacked quickly, but took a poor angle and let the runner get outside for a big gain. Got hurt and pulled.
Martin: Ugly game. Looked confused at times. Did try to direct traffic pre-snap, but then would stand and watch. Blocked up too easily. Not a good tackler. Did make a nice play in coverage, breaking on a route and nearly picking it off. Poor decision by Brown, though. Didn't impress me at all. Wouldn't be surprised to see Chavis try other bodies out here.
Eugene: Primary nickel and then later plugged in at S. Continued strong blitzing. Physical, aggressive player. Made a really nice play in his first play at S. Read and attacked quickly... made tackle. On the long TD pass to Nelson, Eugene nearly blew it up with a strong blitz. Lost track of a WR in coverage, but hard to tell what happened. Made a nice tackle on ST.
Thompson: Played some. Got a tackle, but nothing of note really.
Jefferson: Saw some snaps late. Made a really nice read and physical tackle for no gain.
Hairston: A lot of strong kicks. 8 touchbacks. Only one non-touchback, but short return.
Delahoussaye: Perfect night. No FG attempts.
Overall, a good outing. Defense needs to grow, but I expect some shuffling. Martin vs. Eugene is one to watch. Eugene gives you run support, but may struggle in coverage. Martin seems to be better in coverage, but lacks in tackling. What's the lesser of two evils? What do we do at LB? Expect changes. I think Tre White may have (for now) taken the starting job from Jalen Collins. Rashard Robinson seeing snaps is fascinating. The staff must believe, because he's lean and could use a RS to add bulk, but has loads of talent.
Offensively, we steam rolled them. It will be interesting to see Jennings' role evolve. Run blocking is still a work in progress, but I think Hill can help that. Pocic was mighty impressive on his few plays. Could he push Porter for the starting C job?