Well, people have been calling for it for a long time, and on Saturday, LSU certainly showed a revamped offense, spending the entire spring game in the shotgun with a no-huddle, spread attack.
I have to admit, it was a bit surprising to me. I would have expected to still see some under-center work (and I’m told that there will be, but that was part of what Ed Orgeron wanted to keep under wraps) particularly in short-yardage situations.
The full results weren’t super impressive — all of 31 points were scored by the Purple and White teams combined — although the Tiger defense gets some credit there. But in general, things flowed well. Both Joe Burrow and Myles Brennan (who was given a chance to shine against the backup defense, and came through by and large) looked comfortable in the attack, and for the most part, were able to keep things moving, especially early on. A ton of receivers were targeted, including a ton of throws to the backs as well.
Anyways, here are a few thoughts I came up with after sitting through things live and then a little rewatch.
- Scheme first; right out of the gate, one thing I really liked was that LSU stayed with some basic personnel groupings in spread sets — including some 21 personnel with Stephen Sullivan as a tight end and Tory Carter split out wide. Being able to stay multiple with the same personnel is a key part of any offense that wants to use tempo. Being able to both spread the field but still bring in two backs and run power is something that not a lot of no-huddle offenses can consistently pull off.
- Ultimately, things weren’t as radically different as they seemed. The offense didn’t show any new RPO looks by design, and the major pass concepts mostly consisted of stuff we’ve seen before: a lot of Y-stick, Shallow Cross, some Four Verts and a solid amount of slant/arrow combinations as well.
- Pretty basic quick throw with a flat route undercutting a quick slant, with the quarterback reading the inside defender and throwing whichever lane opens up. But it’s a combo that I think has a lot of use with tempo because of it’s versatility by formation and personnel, whether it’s with backs, tight ends or receivers. So an offense that’s moving quickly can find mismatches and get the ball into space quickly, especially if a linebacker is a little too slow to get wide, or if a corner is playing off and thinks he has help inside. It could also have a lot of use for backs like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Lanard Fournette and, once he arrives, John Emery.
- Also saw a lot of back flipping, something Seth discussed previously as a way the New Orleans Saints would mess with a defense’s assignments in their running QB package.
- There wasn’t much to tell from Burrow. I’m pretty sure he was told to hand off on every read play — why risk injury to him or have defenders waste their time with a runner they can’t tackle — but he got the ball out well, and did a nice job throwing on the move as well. That’s definitely a strength to his game and don’t be surprised if we see some option-bubble plays that take advantage of that in the fall. He did run himself into a sack or two on some of the deeper progression plays.
- For Brennan, it’s very clear that he excels at the actual throwing portion of playing quarterback. He has a clean release and throws an accurate ball. He also looked relatively poised under the limited pressure that he saw here. The question remains how that will translate to live games, but we should see more of that this fall.
- Speaking of pressure, the offensive line got off to a strong start, but by the second quarter we started to see linemen start to win more off the snap, particularly at tackle. I did think that a few of the “sack” calls were a little generous. Particularly a couple where Brennan appeared to step up in the pocket out of the rush lane.
- It was certainly hard not to be impressed by Siaki “Apu” Ika at the nose spot. He gets off the ball quick and uses his hands well. Gave backup center Cole Smith a lot of trouble, which eventually bled into some bad snaps. And for a player listed in the 350-pound range, he appears to carry his weight very well. Doesn’t look like a sloppy player that will need a major body transformation.
- Tyler Shelvin also held his own at the nose spot as well, albeit as more of a two-gap space eater than an up-field rusher.
- As for the other freshman, Derek Stingley, well, he was as advertised, and pulled in an impressive jump-ball interception over Terrace Marshall, Jr. Throw was a little too far inside, but honestly, I thought Marshall did a solid job of trying to get to the ball as well, but it was too far inside and Stingley had perfect position.
- I like the idea of making Sullivan more of a matchup player as a flex tight end, but we may have to differentiate between Steve and Stephen, given his propensity for making more difficult catches and duffing some easier ones.
- One player who definitely stood out in more of an eye-popping way was Michael Divinity. He worked at both inside and outside linebacker with Jacob Phillips sitting out, and looked not only comfortable, but confident in both roles. Pass-rushing, strafing in the running game or dropping into coverage. He really looks like a player ready to make a nice step forward after an already solid junior year.