I really didn’t want to write this. I wanted to write about the offense. I wanted to write about how well the OL was playing, how well the TEs are blocking (#1 in the entire country in EPA/Rush), and how Jayden Daniels’ has answered his accuracy concern more emphatically than I could ever have dreamed. LSU should be the number 1 team in the nation right now. All they had to do on Defense was be...okay.
Instead, they’re 3-2, having lost a 2nd game somehow on the slimmest of margins despite giving up 700 total yards and 317 on the ground.
We’ve talked about how bad the back-end is, and it’s bad, but up front is just a mess. It’s not devoid of talent, there are no personnel concerns like the DB room. Everything is structurally and technically incoherent, people don’t really know what to do, and explosive DL are miscast as space-eaters. This is not the first time I’ve written about these issues, one can simply remember last year’s Texas A&M game. I can talk about it but you guys really just gotta see it.
How to Stop the Run
Defending the run is all about structural soundness and proper leverage. To be structurally sound, a DC must play their fronts to account for every gap created by the offense in a practical way. To have proper leverage, defenders must understand where their help lies, and where it is more optimal for the ballcarrier to go to stop him.
Take a look at Utah, a well-coached defense that is sound against the run. Your run fit has to fit together like a puzzle.
How NOT To Stop The Run
Just look at it.
So LSU’s biggest issue is that they don’t structure or tech their run fits well. Far too often it’s pretty unclear who is responsible for what gap and things get unaccounted for. Here, LSU is in their base tite front (pictured above). In this front, a lot of the time the nose (head up on the C) will “lag,” which means that his primary gap is the A gap TO THE SIDE OF THE RB. In this case, they lag him to the weak side because Ole Miss is in the pistol. This is done because the normal path on inside zone is for the back to cut back to the A gap to the side of his alignment or in this case, the weakside. The problem here is that, because the DE to the TE is bumped outside of the tackle, you end up with a situation where 30 is responsible not for the A gap the nose DOESN’T occupy, as is normal, but both the B gap and that A gap. To the side of the lag, you have both the nickel and the nose in the same A gap. The result is an easy run through the unoccupied frontside A gap. Either they bust this assignment somewhere or the fit structure makes absolutely no sense.
Here, the DE and NT both crash into the same A gap. Wingo smartly realizes the B gap will thus be uncovered, but this is not a play anybody can be asked to make. I think the fit here was supposed to have Wingo in the weakside A, Andre Sam come down into the strongside A, and Jones in the B gap, but I’m not sure. Jones and Sam could just as easily have opposite jobs from that. EITHER WAY, they aren’t supposed to have 3 people fit the same A gap.
We also had alignments that made no sense. In single high, the S is over the number 3 receiver, in 2-high, the Mike walks out over the number 3 receiver. In no situation would they BOTH do it. This results in the Mike being out of position to play the weakside counter.
Now we have a classic case of bad leverage. Weeks takes the wrong shoulder of the blocker and bounces the ball to no help. Had he taken the outside shoulder, it would have forced the ball to the unblocked safety to the backside. You have to know where your free hitters and secondary support are gonna be.
One thing I will give Ole Miss credit for is their use of this counter-bash toss from 4-wide. It gave LSU legitimate issues all night. As long as your blocks hold up on the perimeter, the WILL LB and Backside DE are wrong no matter what they do. Ole Miss mostly was able to just run their normal, day-1 stuff into unsound fronts but this was well designed.
In addition to poor gap-integrity and technique, LSU got plain embarrassed at the point of attack. Ole Miss is running duo, which is a very downhill, in your face run play that relies on TEs and WRs winning their 1 v 1 blocks in the bunch. The front and perimeter defenders get absolutely washed here. This is where you see how miscast LSU’s DL is. It’s not a group that should be playing fronts, like tite (mentioned earlier) that are designed to eat space and hold ground. They should be lining up in gaps and penetrating downhill. They’re explosive, fast, and fairly small, with nobody above 320. Their largest starter, Maason Smith, is 6’6, 315, which is a long and slender build for an interior DL. They are, however, talented rushers and explosive athletes. When put in these positions, however, they can really get moved.
Lastly, we get to tackling. In a press conference, Kelly reported that LSU missed 34 tackles for 288 extra yards which checks out. This play is actually fitted up pretty perfectly, with 30 doing a great job getting over the top on counter to play the ball. He misses the tackle, the S takes a poor angle, and a perfect run fit ends up in the endzone.
The good news is that LSU turns next week to another offense that does a great job presenting different things in the run game and one that has an elite WR that they move around and get the ball in creative ways. Surely that will solve our problems.