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Film Room: Fit it and Quit it

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How LSU can slow down Oklahoma’s base play.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

I hate to be that guy but it’s time to revisit the Ole Miss game again. You know, the game where an LSU defense gave up 402 rushing yards on 9.1 yards per clip? The game where the opposing quarterback had 4 rushing touchdowns and over 200 yards himself on the ground? Ya, that one.

It’s time to look back so we can look forward. On Saturday, Oklahoma will bring it’s imposing quarterback rushing attack to Atlanta to try to move the LSU defensive front like the Sooners have done for most of the season.

What Ole Miss had success with against LSU was with a GT Counter run scheme that they could run with either the quarterback or the running back and could window dress with motions and backfield actions to get the defense stepping in the wrong direction. Ole Miss ran the concept about 13-15 times (my count might be off) against LSU and had a lot of success. Now comes Oklahoma who has been the GT counter king of the schoolyard since Lincoln Riley took over as the head man in Norman.

Let’s figure out what LSU is up against schematically.

Like the play name eludes to, the guard (G) and the tackle (T) pull from one side of the offensive line to the opposite to create extra gaps/holes on that side. It’s a scheme that really took off in popularity in the 80’s with Joe Gibbs’ Washington teams. It has since made a big comeback in the latter half of this decade and Oklahoma has been at the forefront of the resurgence. With that said, while they are still a heavy GT team, they have diversified the running game a bit more with Jalen Hurts so expect some different schemes. However, no one has run this scheme and had the kind of success against LSU that Ole Miss had, so figuring out what LSU did wrong against Ole Miss and how they can fix it is paramount in stopping the entire OU offense.

After LSU played Ole Miss I wrote about how bad/injured Grant Delpit was in that game and how he was not able to limit the Ole Miss explosive plays from his safety position. Most of that game saw LSU play with two deep safeties which meant they had less players available to stop the initial level of the rushing attack. Yes, a healthy Delpit would have made the box score numbers look more respectable, but LSU still leaked plenty when playing with two high (and even single high sometimes).

This is how LSU is going to line up against Oklahoma for a big portion of the game:

The first question you ask yourself on defense is how to do deal with the pulling linemen. The first guy coming, the guard, is trying to knock the defensive outside edge player back to create a big enough alley for the second guy, the tackle, to work upfield and eventually block the first linebacker he sees.

LSU has responded to these type of blocks by “boxing” them. This means guys like K’Lavon Chaisson will hit the blocker with his inside shoulder, try to knock him back, all the while staying free enough to catch a runner who tries to bounce outside of him. The first linebacker, will also “box” the play by trying to stay outside of the puller who is trying to come up to block him. The idea is to force the running back inside to the free linebacker.

Here Jacoby Stevens (3) and Jacob Phillips (6) take on both blocks and stay outside to force the runner back inside.

One of the issues with playing this way is the offensive players’ ability to still run outside even with the defense set up to funnel the play inside. Sometimes runners just beat guys to the outside. It can’t happen for LSU.

Watch Patrick Queen (8) not take on the block full enough on the outside shoulder and let the ball carrier spill to the outside for a big play.

The same thing can happen to the edge player who takes on the first block. Either way, the box players have to force the ball back inside of them or they are screwed.

Offenses know that a boxing team wants to get the ball back to it’s free linebacker so they’ll mess with him.

Watch what Ole Miss does to get Phillips (6) out of position and force a one-on-one with a deeper safety:

Again, maybe a healthy Delpit makes the tackle but the ball still got to him which isn’t great.

After the box is set, the next moving piece in fitting up a counter run is getting the nose tackle to “cross face” of the center. Because the two new gaps are being created to the playside of the run, the nose tackle can’t just willingly be blocked down to the backside of the play. Even though he is still technically in a gap, the world needs him to fight through the centers block and reestablish himself on the frontside.

Crossing face of the center (or any offensive linemen) also helps against double teams. The offense wants to throw you out of the way so one of their lineman can cleanly work up to the linebacker. By crossing face to the playside of the run and plopping your big butt down, you can effectively take 2 blockers out at once.

In the first diagram you can see the nose taking both guys by crossing face and working into the playside gap while in the second diagram he gets washed and allows the guard to climb up to the linebacker.

Boxing the pulling linemen and crossing the face of the center is how LSU wants to play the GT counter. Staying disciplined and getting off blocks is the next step. When you box the play and the ball comes back to the teeth of your defense, eventually someone has to get off a block and make a play. There isn’t always going to be a free hitter. Oklahoma is going to have enough plays to mess with you like this pseudo triple option. If the free hitter wants to stay in the box and play the run they flip the ball out and have your defense chase.

LSU’s two options against Oklahoma will be to let Hurts test them through the air and roll a safety down and cover all their gaps, this will allow them to deal with all the bullshit motions, fakes and things of that nature because they will have even numbers in the box. The trade off is that LSU plays man coverage when they do this and OU does have good receivers. Against Ole Miss, LSU stayed two-high, which meant that the guys up front had to show out and make plays. No one really did that. Dave Aranda remedied the situation the next week by playing Cover-1 against Arkansas knowing that the Hogs would try the same stuff that Ole Miss tried. The Sooners are much better than Arkansas.

If LSU can fit up the Sooners’ GT Counter play properly and not allow explosive plays off it like they did in Oxford in November, they could force a non-profilic passer in Jalen Hurts to beat them through the air. That’s what type of game this team wants but they need to shore up the box first. If LSU can fit GT counter, Oklahoma will quit it and LSU can move on to New Orleans.