No matter the level of tackle football, the offensive line never gets enough credit.
In team sports, there are number of moving parts that goes unnoticed. When fans watch a game, they usually focus on the player with the ball in his or her hands.
A person must rewatch the tape to truly respect and evaluate an offensive line's performance. After a review of the Florida game, LSU's big boys on offense proved to be the difference in the Tigers' 17-6 win.
The LSU offensive line allowed no sacks. This was critical as LSU star receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry faced the best cornerbacks they have seen in SEC play thus far in 2013. The extra time allowed quarterback Zach Mettenberger to wait for his receivers to break free.
But LSU beat the Gators on the ground. The big uglies not only beat up the Gators physically but technically and mentally as well.
LSU rushed for 175 yards on 39 carries, which equates to a 4.5 yards-per-carry average. The Florida defense had led the conference in every team statistical category heading into Saturday.
Miles singled out every offensive lineman's play in the postgame—and rightfully so. And the tape proved just how good the unit played as a whole.
LSU faced 3rd-and-inches against Florida, which, given the overall strength of the Gators defense, is like facing 3rd-and-3 against most teams. The Tigers normally sneak or go with a fullback dive in such short-and-inches situations. Instead, the offensive coordinator Cam Cameron sees that LSU's offensive line is off to a hot start and goes with a basic running play to Jeremy Hill behind left tackle La'el Collins.
The run looked similar an explosive 54-yard run Hill had earlier this season against Auburn. I broke down how that play developed in an earlier article.
LSU lines up in an "unbalanced" look, which basically means an extra offensive lineman to one side of the formation. On this play, the Tigers move Jerald Hawkins, who is normally at right tackle, to the left of Collins to add some extra beef.
The key to watching offensive-line play is to not only follow the play-side blockers, but back side as well. The left side gets the essential yardage, while the right side opens up a lane for a massive play.
Off the snap, the technique of every blocker at the line of scrimmage for LSU is spectacular. Collins (No. 70) and left guard Vadal Alexander (No. 78) drive their defenders backward. Right guard Trai Turner (No. 56) works his way toward the linebacker.
But the key block on this play is made by center Elliot Porter. Miles said after the game Porter did a super job playing one-on-one against the "zero nose," which is the nose guard, to open up major lanes. Against a 3-4, the nose guard is the most critical player to block.
Fullback and lead-blocker J.C. Copeland (No. 44) runs toward the C-gap as Mettenberger gets ready to hand the ball off to Hill.
This shot sums up the day for the LSU offensive line. The Tigers have the Gators on their heels. Every offensive lineman is doing his job to near perfection.
The left side of the offensive line is driving the Gators back. Turner uses his speed and strength to push his linebacker into the secondary. Porter and tight end Dillon Gordon (DG) are symmetrical in sealing their man away from the ball-carrier on the right side of the play.
Porter did this superbly against Auburn, allowing Hill a large angle to cut back through the heart of the defense.
Now it's up to Hill to turn this run into something special.
The play is beginning to resemble much like one I broke down earlier this year against Auburn, except with better blocking. Hill sees a cutback angle that he can take if he chooses.
The reason why cutback angles such as these open so wide is because of the blocking away from the play side. Porter and Gordon are manhandling their defensive respective linemen, which prevents quick back-side pursuit. This opens up massive gaps for Hill to challenge a safety in the open field.
Instead of taking the cutback angle, Hill plays it safe and tries to plow through or possibly split the blocks of Alexander and Turner. Florida finally shows some resistance and stacks up the play, but not until LSU has already picked up eight yards and a first down.
This shows how hard it is to break long runs against any SEC defense, which makes Hill's five career touchdown runs of at least 50 yards all the more amazing. Hill is one of the best running backs in the country against loaded boxes. The Gators had eight defenders in the box on this play and throughout the game they did a great job pursuing Hill after his initial burst.
Hill said after the game he missed some cuts and could have done better at avoiding tackles. Still, he ran hard, broke some tackles and got necessary yardage behind superb blocking. But for Hill's standards, it could have been a bigger day.
Nevertheless, the story of the day was the LSU offensive line.
The blocking started off with a bang on the first play from scrimmage, a 16-yard run to the right by Hill that was superbly executed.
The Tigers offensive line ended the game emphatically, as it pounded down the Gators in the fourth quarter, highlighted by a 26-yard run by Hill on LSU's final scoring drive.
Florida only allowed 17 points, which made it 13 straight games that the Gators have not allowed more than 20 points in SEC play. But a visibly upset Will Muschamp said he was displeased his defensive could not shed blocks and make tackles.
The LSU offensive line was quick, powerful and thorough. Tight ends Dillon Gordon and Logan Stokes deserve plenty of credit too. The unit did a great job finishing its blocks.
Offensive coordinator Cameron has been phenomenal for LSU, calling a wide variety of plays in a multidimensional offense. But on Saturday, the Tigers did not fool the Gators. They lined straight up and ran right at them.
It is tougher to run the ball on the road. Offensive line calls are difficult in loud environments. The Tigers' offensive line will need to remain cohesive if the Tigers are to beat Ole Miss and Alabama on the ground.
LSU's 17 points was its lowest output of the season. But through the eyes of offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, it was a masterpiece.
The Tigers showed emphatically they have what it takes in the trenches to win the SEC.
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