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2017 Spring Game Thoughts and Observations

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Our last glimpse at the Tigers before they hop into the oven before the season.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State Spring Game Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll be a bit truncated here — I, like most, left Tiger Stadium when the spring game was called, but upon news that media could watch the remainder in the Indoor Practice Facility, chose to head home. My wife and daughter had been away for a few days, and, as should be repeated before and after every single observation and #taek you will read or hear over the next few days and weeks, IT. IS. JUST. A. SPRING. GAME.

For the most part, Adam hit the high points here and did a great job of giving a comprehensive overall look at things. Still, I’ll add a few notes of my own and expound on a few other things I noticed:

  • For starters, introducing the outgoing underclassmen was both a classy touch, and a nice way to keep the LSU link to the players that are going to be in the news this week for the NFL Draft. It highlights Ed Orgeron’s desire to link to the past. The special guest coaches is a nice touch as well. An event like this is a nice way to bring those players back for other events besides home games. It’s an important link for a number of reasons.
  • And it can’t hurt for recruits to have a chance to see players like Jamal Adams and Leonard Fournette right before they are first-round draft picks in a few days.
  • And how about those kicks Fournette was rocking?
  • On a personal note, it is definitely going to take some time to get used to a much smaller, albeit faster, player wearing No. 7.
  • Nice throw by Etling on the first long completion of the game, and he did a good job of holding the safety with his eyes for the step or two that he needed. Later, we’d find out that Kevin Toliver is a lot better than Greedy Williams.
  • As for the offense itself, a lot of the wrinkles and shifts are things we’ve discussed already, and we saw a lot of the base stuff, such as the jet/fly sweep from a number of positions.
  • One of interesting twists on the sweep package was the use of Darrel Williams in the sweep position out of a wing/H-back position, almost like a flex-bone play. That gives Canada some options out of two-back looks, which could also help when the offense wants to change tempo — the ability to use a two-back shotgun look or a one-back look under center with the other back flexed out.
  • And it didn’t take long for Canada to speed the offense up a bit on that first drive. Changing tempos is a difficult thing to do, but one of the benefits of the use of formation shifts and motions, is that even if the offense isn’t snapping the football quickly, the effect is the same. Just as a defense has to get aligned and assigned before a quick snap, they have to be ready as the offensive strength and receiver positioning changes.
  • Among the shifts that we saw, there were some unbalanced looks, including a tackle-over set, which is not completely unusual for LSU, but was almost exclusively a short-yardage look under Cam Cameron:

The right tackle shifts over to the outside of the left tackle, while a tight end shifts in his place. We’ll talk more about some of the benefits of unbalanced and other line shifts in a later post.

  • Also, in addition to having receivers motion across the formation and then back, there were a couple of back, forth, and back again movements as well. That’s likely to help make the defense tip something on a coverage or assignment.
  • Really wish the SEC Network had given us a second look at the one shovel-pass/RPO play attempted at the end of the first drive — it looked less like the “spot” version we’ve discussed in previous posts, and more of a staggered flood play with shovel-option, with a weak-side tight end running a crossing route and the two play-side receivers trying to clear out the flat for D.J. Chark:
  • Really, just a twist on the power-read RPO: the QB shovels if the defense attacks up the field, and if they play things tight at the line, he can either throw to the flat or to the tight end. Or keep himself, if there’s a gap.
  • To no surprise, play-calling with backup quarterbacks Justin McMillan and Lindsey Scott featured a lot more option plays to take advantage of their running ability as opposed to Danny Etling.
  • Speaking of Etling, he was definitely not on his game. Credit some of that to the defense, particularly Kevin Toliver — he batted down two well-thrown deep balls. In the post-game presser, Orgeron made it clear that the competition will continue, which makes sense. There’s still another quarterback coming in, plus at a position like quarterback you really want somebody to step up and take command. Etling does that in the classroom, but he has to do it on the field as well.
  • On the interception, it was a slant-flat combo, and credit Xavier Lewis for helping shorten Etling’s window. The QB is throwing one route or the other based on what the curl area defender — in this case, Lewis as the nickel corner — does. Lewis moves wide with the flat route, but does it at a decent depth so that when Etling starts to throw the slant he can’t really see how tight his window is. Lewis’ depth was just enough to slow up the slant and allow Toliver to break in front for the pick. Etling probably should have thrown to the flat, but it likely gets tackled for little or no gain on third-and-five.
  • Toliver is going to be very good this year.
  • Ditto Devin White, who was making some sideline-to-sideline plays in the running game.
  • Among the freshmen, Grant Delpit, obviously, stood out; particularly in his ability to get up the field very quickly in the running game. He also should have had an interception on the White offense’s second offensive series on a deep ball from Etling.
  • For the record, it would have been incredibly entertaining to make the kickers have to try and tackle the return men on those one-on-one kicks and punts.