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The Saturday Film Review: Week 1

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LSU enters modernity.

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

Coach O finally released the hounds on Saturday night in Death Valley after months of speculation about how the offense would look and the results were stunning. What we all saw on the field was not how LSU offenses have ever looked. It was refreshing. It doesn’t mean the Tigers will score 50 points every game but it does mean that LSU is going to give this way of thinking the ‘ol college try.

Even with the influence of the New Orleans Saints on Joe Brady, the offense he and Steve Ensminger produced is still truly a college offense. The run game is, at this point, not very much an NFL run game. The passing game does have some NFL ideas, however.

Tempo

LSU played at warp speed. This was unexpected for me. There’s one thing to not huddle but the offense went as fast as they could for a large portion of the game. I don’t know exactly how LSU is signalling in the plays but it felt as though Ensminger had his formation ready to go right when the last play was whistled dead. This way it’s gonna take away some of the second guessing that goes on for OCs. Most play calls these days are built to have answers for whatever problems a defense can present to you. Trying to find the perfect play call for every situation is going to paralyze yourself. Ensminger can eliminate some unnecessary thinking by having a ton of base plays that can hit anywhere on the field regardless of context and situation.

LSU had two ways of snapping the ball:

  • Either they would call the formation and a play and run it without even a cadence. Usually you’ll see this on early downs where you feel comfortable with a few of your base calls.
  • Or they would call the formation and play and then line up and check with the sideline to determine whether they would run the play or check to another. It’s possible in this situation they just call the formation and not the play and then call the play after lining up but I kinda felt that they were calling a play too but just putting the yellow light on before the snap.

LSU has run tempo in the past but not this extensively.

RPOs

A big part of LSU’s early down offense will be them tagging pass concepts to their run schemes. I saw them run mostly “iso” run plays when they wanted to RPO. With “iso” the line blocks all the defensive line and a linebacker or two (depending on the defensive front) and the fullback/tight end/h-back leads up to another linebacker. Since the defensive line is blocked, the QB can read the last remaining linebacker or down safety to see if he should throw the ball.

LSU ran a handful of pass tags to compliment the runs and they all worked to stress the defense in different ways.

From a two receiver split alignment, in the open field where defenses are more apt to play zone coverage, LSU ran their hitch concept.

With so many defenses basing out of two safeties, there is room for the slot receiver to operate. With the safety off and not being a threat to cover a 5-6 yard hitch route, the quarterback will read the defender inside of the slot to see if he opens up the window for the hitch. Easy completion if the “apex” defender plays the run but not a lot of YAC opportunity because it’s long for the receiver to catch the ball facing the QB and then turn and square up on the safety to make a move.

Their other two receiver RPO were run for man coverage situations. It’s a slant from the outside receiver and a slot fade from the slot receiver. With man coverage being usually run from a single-high look, the safety/nickel is going to be down over top of the slot receiver so you want the slots route to run by the nickel. If the quarterback keeps the ball but then doesn’t feel like his receiver is winning the route, he can then throw the slant into the vacated space.

The Tigers first touchdown was on a single receiver glance route rpo. The glance route is an inward breaking route between a slant and a post. If LSU is going to go in a trips formation, it’s going to stress the defense in certain ways. One of the ways defenses are dealing with trips is to push their linebackers out to the three receiver side and have their backside safety fill in as a pseudo linebacker but from depth. The LSU QBs are reading that defender. If he comes down like he did on the touchdown, the receiver has to win inside against the corner and you have a window to throw the ball.

LSU has run RPOs in the past but not this extensively.

Saintly Passing Attack

Four Verts is a staple play of every offense in football but Brady brought to Baton Rouge a couple adjustments to how the offense would run them this year. We saw in the spring game LSU run the play from trips with a shallow route by the backside receiver but I don’t believe from 2x2. Against GSU, they showed it from 2x2. At the heart of it, it’s still 4 receivers running straight downfield but Sean Payton allows both seam routes to bend inside if a safety plays over top of the route. One of the common ways to run the play is to have only 1 route be allowed to bend. Brady brought the bend from both routes. Unfortunately, Burrow checked it down to his back whenever LSU called the play.

This “swirl” route on one of the Marshall touchdowns was nice. Michael Thomas has definitely run it before and it’s becoming common in the NFL. Here it is from Kyle Shanahan’s playbook.

Nice to see it show up in Death Valley. A nice changeup if you are running a lot of corner routes.

In the spring game, LSU ran the Saints weakside option route (some people call it “choice”) and we saw a similar concept against GSU on Saturday. I mistakenly called it a choice concept during the game but after review it’s similar but not an option route by the running back.

It’s a corner route by the single receiver and the running back is going to the flat no matter what, I believe. Hopefully we’ll see the actual option route next week because it’s a cheap way to pick up some yards.

They did show a nice progression off that action (that they did run in the spring game) to free up Marshall for another touchdown.

Very similar looking play except the X receiver breaks inside instead of out.

Other Passing Game Stuff

I really liked this deep switch concept that got Thaddeus Moss a catch. Both receivers start up the field but once the slot gains vertical leverage on the cornerback, he wheels up the sideline while the outside receiver runs a post. Now the only defender who can play the routes is the safety so the QB throws to whoever he doesn’t match. In this case, it’s the deep wheel.

A quick game concept they showed frequently was this Trips into Quads look where they had the running back motion fast and stretch the defense horizontally to open up a quick hitch route underneath.

Odds and Ends

When Myles Brennan came into the game, LSU didn’t want to run their RPOs as much because the score was already lopsided and they didn’t wanna throw it if they didn’t have to. This meant Brennan was stuck with some zone reads where the read defender chased the dive so Myles had to pull and run the ball. Not a great situation for him but kinda funny.

Other than a few zone reads there wasn’t that much emphasis put on the QB run game that I imagine will be more prevalent against Texas. There was, however, this nice little QB-RB shift that Brady took from his days at PSU.

Since LSU is going to be in so many true 5 man protections this season, their “hot route” game needs to be pristine. Justin Jefferson here probably needs to read that his man is blitzing and not get caught up in his route on this one. Dare Rosenthal doesn’t do a great job but either way one of those two outside GSU players will be free. If JJ quickly cuts out, Myles has the time to get him the ball.

A Sun Belt defense was probably the best way to slowly get the gears turning for the new LSU offense. This is a game that LSU would win 35-7 in the past with both teams limited in possessions and LSU winning comfortably but not pouring it on. Everything finally felt different on Saturday night and it was fun to watch.