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In da Film Room: Special Players and Special Teams

Presenting Our First Ever Special Teams Clips

LSU v Arkansas
The Duke of Baton Rouge
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

As someone who has only ever coached offense (lol one time I coached defensive backs for like six games and the joke here is that I know nothing about defensive backs) one of my favorite things in the world is being able to relax on the sideline and watch a great defenses swarm around and do it’s thing. I become my teams biggest cheerleader. In fact, the other week we returned an interception for a touchdown and I got so hyped up that I became dizzy and lost my balance. Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that I would love to be on the sideline watching LSU’s defense play ball this season. They are so damn good.

Not knowing much about Dave Aranda, I thought he was coming here with all these exotic fronts and blitzes and that he was going to out-scheme the whole conference. That’s not really what’s happened. He hasn’t blitzed a lot. He stays in his base defense and allows the techniques that he’s coaching to get the job done. It’s beautiful. What you’ll notice this week is more uses of a classic 3-4 front because of Arkansas’ tight end and fullback formations.

Just like last week, I could have cut up a ton of clips showing how great they are but I had to limit myself or I would have made myself too hyper to contain my bowels. I’m not sure my roommates would have appreciated that. What are we talking about again?

Special Teams Personnel

This isn’t groundbreaking analysis but when you have the depth that LSU does, you end up with some great athletes on your special teams. Derrius Guice plays all the special teams and oh by the way he also rushed for like a million yards. Against Arkansas, on kick coverage, Devin White made a bunch of big plays. I’ve been impressed with him on special teams and when he’s spelled Riley or Beckwith at linebacker.

And as we know, LSU’s special teams demons of today are their superstars of tomorrow.

Mug Front

After his base alignment, Aranda likes to go in 2 distinct fronts: his mug front and a sort of weakside line shift alignment (don’t know what else to call it). The MUG front and it’s variations is something that you see a lot at the university level in Canada. Some teams here even base out of it. LSU uses it as a change up front to send some interesting blitzes.

In this first clip, he gets Beckwith to engage with the center while Lewis Neal loops around. The center does a good job and gets off in time to pick up Neal.

The thing about this blitz package is that the role of the linebacker who isn’t in the blitz call is to read the running back and then come on a delayed blitz if that player stays in to block. You can see Duke Riley come late and almost get to the quarterback. The next time LSU ran this blitz, Duke was right on time:

Of course, if you show something you ought to have a progression off it. Late in the half, LSU shows the alignment again but only rushes four. Arkansas half-slides their protection to the left to deal with the mess of bodies they think are going to stunt and play games. It’s a good decision protection for that blitz. Unfortunately for the Hogs, LSU is only rushing 4 and Greg Gilmore gets matched up against a back. Yum.

Weakside Shift

As noted, the other alignment is this very weakside heavy alignment that I don’t really understand. There are just a lot of bubbles available to the field side. If anyone knows Aranda’s reasoning for this front, please drop me a line. I would love to understand what’s going on.

If I was on offense, I’d be calling my Power play to the field like Alabama did:

Alternatively, I’d just run Inside Zone weak because that cutback lane is going to be huge.

The Interceptions

Donnie Alexander makes a great play to redirect himself and intercept Austin Allen in Arkansas territory. I don’t want to blame Allen too much for this because it really is a good play by Donnie but I think the read should take him to the first in route. Once the route goes behind Donnie Alexander, he loses the receiver and there’s a window for the completion.

My problem is that LSU has five defenders covering three receivers. You don’t really want to have to throw into coverage like that. You have to live with the consequences if you’re only going to put three out of the five eligible receivers into the concept.

The Dwayne Thomas pick was more on Austin Allen. The Razorbacks are trying to run a smash concept with a whip-out by the outside receiver and a sail route from the slot. Allen is going to read the cornerback, Donte Jackson, who stays low to fire the sail route. The issue is that Dwayne Thomas is sitting outside of the slot back by alignment. How are you supposed to throw an out route against an outside shade? A corner route, sure, but not a sail route. Austin, homie, get off the sail route and hit that shallow route by your tight end.

Spills and Forces

I can’t write an article without showing Arden Key understanding his responsibilities when a trapper comes at him. Here, he darts inside the offensive lineman and if the ball would have bounced, he’s gonna make the play. LSU plays this perfectly.

One of the techniques, we haven’t talked about a lot is the technique of the force player. We’ve spent a lot of time explaining how to defeat the Power play by spilling blocks and forcing the running back to bounce outside. The defensive linemen and the linebackers have this inside-out responsibility. The outside defensive backs usually have “force” responsibility. This is the opposite of “spill”. They are playing everything outside-in to force the runner back into the arms Beckwith, Riley or defensive linemen in pursuit

Even though the play above was a big play for Arkansas, we can see Tre’ White darting to the outside once he reads the down blocks and staying outside of the block. The running back busts free because Beckwith overruns the play allowing himself and John Battle to get blocked.

Below, it’s Thomas forcing the runner back inside to a welcome posse of Tigers.


I wanted to explain a little bit about that cutback opportunity that Arkansas had a on a couple of their power runs. The Hogs ran their power (and a few other schemes) to the nub tight end side, an LSU defensive back was an extra player coming from depth to fit into the box. Because of this, Riley doesn’t have to fly over the top at the speed of light. He does, and LSU has almost too many guys at the point of attack, creating a cut back lane. It doesn’t help that on both clips below, the d-line does nothing (including Arden Key getting easily trapped both times) but Riley just needs to chill, slow-play and be the cutback player.

When you reffin da game but you gotta be home before midnight