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LSU’s Defense Against the Rebel Offense.

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Saturday should present an interesting match-up.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

For those who haven’t been following, this is a really big game. We know Ole Miss is not very good, especially on defense (104 in S&P+), but we still don’t know how good LSU is. I’m not sold yet after this team eked out wins the last two weeks. Exciting games for sure and much needed W’s but there are still some things that need to be fixed.

Beating Ole Miss rights the ship (until November 4th) but if we lose to the Rebels you start looking at those two recent wins a little differently. It took an improbable comeback against Auburn and a missed extra point against Florida to make us look like an actual SEC team. I’m just not sure I’m sold on this team yet but at the end of the day I think I just want to get through this season with as many wins as possible.

When I look at the defense, as we pass the midway point of the season, I see so many young players having to contribute on this unit. They’re good players but they make some boneheaded mistakes sometimes. One of the problems is that there is no star power on this defense. No one is out here going above and beyond. Jamal Adams isn’t there to clean up everything.

Where is that going to come from as we head down the stretch? Ideally, Arden Key finds his game and starts making plays again but that remains to be seen. The front seven is not as stout as it was. Devin White is having a pretty good year however his partner Donnie Alexander is not. We get LaCouture back, but he’s been below average. Rashard Lawrence is one of the few guys making an impact up front right now. I also find we’re having a tough time replacing Dwayne Thomas, the unsung hero of LSU’s 2016 defense. Corey Thompson comes back for his 19th year and he kinda plays the Dwayne Thomas role (I’d say he’s kinda in between Tashawn Bower and Thomas in terms of his role) but he just hasn’t been as good. Against two backs, he’ll remind you of Bower, but against one back, he’s outside the box like Thomas. Like most players in the front seven, he’s just been okay. LSU’s defensive rushing S&P+ is 54th overall.

Where LSU has been very good is at cornerback. Donte Jackson and Greedy Williams have been lockdown dudes the whole year. Someone tweeted during the Auburn game, “yo where the hell is Donte Jackson is he even playing???” Uhh yeah, he’s busy shutting down any guy they put in front of him.

What LSU has done this year on defense is switched their base coverage to press quarters coverage. This puts the corners in man to man and pressed up against the outside receivers on most plays. The corners have handled this assignment without problems. Of course, it does put more stress on the safeties and outside linebackers (Thompson) who have to deal with anything inside. Grant Delpit is going to be good but he’s not there yet. John Battle has always just been okay, although Eric Monroe played well in his first start last week.

Someone needs to emerge — and quick.

I watched the Ole Miss offense against Cal and Alabama because those two defenses do similar things to what LSU does. Ole Miss is an “RPO” team. This means that quarterback Shea Patterson has a multitude of options of where to go with the football on most plays. All of Ole Miss’ running plays have a quick pass concept tagged alongside of them. Patterson can either make a pre-snap read to throw it out there if he likes the cushions he gets on his receivers or he can ride the running back and then make his decision on whether to give it or throw the pass.

A good example of the options that they give Patterson is this play against Alabama:

Patterson likes the cushion he gets outside on a quick hitch route so he throws. If not, he can throw the bubble to his running back.

You can see Patterson looking at the window to throw the backside slant here. The weak safety comes down and so he gives the ball:

When Ole Miss gets one-on-one coverage on their receivers, like they did against Bama and Cal, and will have against LSU, they don’t have a problem testing the corners out. Against Cal, they had success:

Against Alabama, take a guess what happened:

Still, Ole Miss has a really good group of receivers and were able to get over the top a couple times against Alabama.

Are LSU’s corners closer to Cal’s or Alabama’s? Surely, it’s Alabama but this is still a great matchup to watch.

One of the places where Alabama was able to have success was on their zone blitzes. Patterson might not be ready yet to deal with these kinda things.

LSU could have success when Ole Miss goes empty, they’re not really able to pick it up.

One of the things I noticed is that Ole Miss likes to go “full slide” in their protection schemes. This means the whole offensive line is sliding to one side and the running back(s) are picking up the edge on the opposite side. This allows Ole Miss to pick up any most stunts because everyone just has their nearest gap. It’s not man to man.

Alabama, of course, found an answer.

Alabama two-gaps their tackle here meaning he’s putting his hands on the center and essentially going to flow to wherever the ball is going. By doing this he occupies the center long enough for his backer friend to come clean. In a one-gap system, he would have that weak-side A gap an the center would be able to pass him off to the guard a lot earlier.

The Rebel offense is really good and Patterson is a great athlete with a superb arm. His receiving corps is elite also. For LSU to have success, they are going to need to shut down the wide outs with Jackson and Williams and then have success getting to Patterson. Finding ways to pressure Patterson will still dropping guys into coverage will aid LSU also.