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Film Review: LSU vs Southern

Shockingly, LSU is better than Southern, but we gotta talk about Nussmeier

NCAA Football: Southern at Louisiana State Scott Clause-USA TODAY Sports

Alright so LSU got right against Southern. That’s great! They needed it and were able to put together a pretty clean, dominant game. There is almost nothing from this game that is worth drawing any kind of analytical conclusions. There were no real exciting data points or developments. That is, save for the first significant snaps of Garrett Nussmeier’s Sophomore season. Much was made of Nussmeier’s push for the starting job, and nobody can deny the high-end physical gifts he possesses, but his season debut against the backups of SOUTHERN was frankly, troubling.

The unifying theme is that he really, really struggled to make his reads and process what was in front of him, even in fairly basic situations. I understand and have argued that LSU should be operating an offense that places less processing burden on the QB, but the fact of the matter is that mop-up duty against Southern’s backups provides an environment where the game probably shouldn’t look too fast for you.

Garrett Nussmeier is very far from a finished product, and nothing that happened in this game should dissuade you from being excited about his raw talent and potential, but it is something that I think should be broken down as an interesting new data point.

This play serves as a pretty thorough example of what the coaching staff really sees as a major weakness for Nussmeier. The concept is “All Go Special” (to borrow from Sean Payton’s language). Basically, it’s 4 verts from 3x1. The picture the defense presents him changes after the snap and he frankly panics. He’s slow to get off his primary, which looks to be the vert by the X receiver into the boundary. You can see by how much his eyes are darting around that he isn’t playing within any structure at that point. He bails on a fairly clean pocket, breaks to his left, and throws a very irresponsible YOLO ball directly to a defender. Not great.

While pre-snap assumptions are helpful, advanced QBs are able to quickly confirm them post-snap and react accordingly. Confirmations are critical for a quarterback to avoid putting the ball into dangerous situations. Pre-snap, it looks like they’re in a quarters look. Nussmeier assumes that the field corner will be run off by the number 1 receiver and open the window for the sail with the flat defender being held underneath by the swing route as roughly animated below:

He doesn’t get that look post-snap. Instead, the corner falls off of number 1 and stays in the sail window. Because Nussmeier relied too much on his pre-snap assumption and couldn’t react to the shift in picture, he leads the ball directly into the field corner and almost throws a pick. I will say, mechanically, he does a great job using hip rotation to generate torque and create natural, comfortable velocity, getting the ball to the far hash on a line. The delivery and arm strength are impressive here.

Errors in process aren’t just throwing to the wrong guy, they can include making the wrong TYPE of throw. Here, Nussmeier needs to make the decision to truncate his dropback and put this to the back-shoulder the instant he gets the snap. Upon his release, Lacy immediately has outside leverage and that ball needs to be out quick and to the back shoulder before the CB can make a play on it or the S can get there. Catch the snap and throw right at Lacy’s release to back-shoulder. Instead, he doesn’t adapt his placement to leverage and tries to drop it into the bucket like he would if Lacy were able to get vertical, and like he would if the safety weren’t barrelling down onto the route. If you throw it early and to the back shoulder, you don’t have to worry about the S and can allow the WR to make a play on it while the CB is out of phase. There’s just not a window here and while he throws it to the right guy, he makes the wrong kind of throw.

Even when the offense created easy, defined reads for him, he could still just miss the throw. I expected him to be a very accurate, big-armed, proficient THROWER of the football even if he struggled to process, but there were a handful of ugly misses in there for him. This is the exact kind of designer action play I’d want for a QB like Nussmeier too. It’s just a boot-action comeback/crosser combo. Gotta have these.

We will end with a positive, and the reason I really just cannot quit Garrett Nussmeier. This is such a high-end, superstar kind of play. Southern, on third and 10, is bringing a 0 pressure which means they are sending 6 with no high safety. 0 pressures are one of the hardest things for a QB to negotiate because, in my opinion, the best way to really beat them is to rip a slot fade (like so) or a vertical thru ball into the void where there is no safety. The problem is that it’s a really hard throw to make, and an incredibly hard throw to make when facing a 6 man pressure. Basically, you have to catch it, grip it, and rip it right into the bucket with bodies flying at you and not an instant to spare. This is how really talented NFL QBs like Matthew Stafford, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Derek Carr really like to attack 0 pressures. Nussmeier hits the top of his drop and bombs the slot fade to Nabers perfectly in stride for a huge play.

He may take some more time, and he may never even get there, but if you can bring him along mentally with the kind of pure arm talent he has, the ceiling is the Heisman. I just can’t quit that. I still think that with a more RPO/vertical play action-oriented offense you can ease the processing burden and maximize the throwing ability, but given where he’s at now against Southern reserves, even that may not be entirely viable for him yet. However, I cannot quit that arm talent, and LSU shouldn’t either. Looking forward to hopefully seeing him grow with some more potential garbage time reps.