LSU Film Study: What the Tigers Defense Needs to Fix After Ole Miss
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The LSU defense is awful.
The LSU Tigers do not make enough game-breaking tackle-football plays on defense.
LSU currently has a turnover margin of zero, which ranks ninth in SEC. The LSU defense also cannot get off the field on third down, as only Arkansas and Texas A&M have allowed more third-down conversions.
The defensive line, linebackers and secondary have all been equally bad. The three units together form a defense eviscerated by SEC offenses not named Florida.
Ole Miss was an embarrassment. Defensive coordinator John Chavis saw his defense give up 525 yards. "Third & Chavis" was in full effect, as the Rebels went 11-of-18 on third downs. Then it could not make the critical stop when it mattered the most.
Unfortunately for the defense, the LSU offense hit an uncharacteristic lull and did not carry the team as it had for most of 2013.
Middle linebacker Kevin Minter has been missed severely, as Minter bolted for the NFL in the offseason. His replacement, D.J. Welter, has, for the most part, played below-average tackle football.
A perfect example of Welter's struggles was Ole Miss' last touchdown run against LSU.
Ole Miss lines up in shotgun formation, with two receivers to the left and a stacked tight end to the right. The Rebels call a late audible on the line of scrimmage when they see they have numbers in the box for an inside run. Offensive coordinator Dan Werner knows if his six guys can block the six LSU defenders, this run could be a huge gain.
Ole Miss also notices how wide the defensive ends are lined up, which makes it easier for offensive lineman to pull and release to the second level. Werner also knows LSU lacks athleticism at linebacker, trusting running back Jaylen Walton to burn by them if given the opportunity.
Off the snap, there is a lot of movement on both lines. The LSU defensive line has a miscommunication or gets caught guessing that the play would be a Bo Wallace rollout to the left. Danielle Hunter plays basic technique, but defensive tackles Christian LaCouture and Anthony Johnson both shoot the gap to the right while the run goes to their left.
The Ole Miss offensive line gets a clean release off the line of scrimmage because no one on the LSU defensive line engages them. The left guard pulls to block Lamin Barrow (LB), and the right tackle attacks linebacker D.J. Welter. The play is designed for the running back to run between Barrow and Welter.
Barrow does an excellent job of attacking the pulling guard, looking to shrink the gap for Walton to run through. Welter initially does a great job as well attacking the play downhill. It is the job of safety Craig Loston to make an open-field tackle.
Barrow does a great job of closing the gap. Welter decides to give ground and engage with the right tackle, instead of staying inside of the right tackle blocking him. By doing this, he gives away his initial gap and loses his leverage as the blocker has him fully extended going backward.
Because Anthony "The Freak" Johnson was stunting to the inside off the snap, he gets flushed down the line of scrimmage by the offensive linemen. This increases the size of the gap Walton can run through. Johnson tries as hard as possible to dive backward to make a desperation tackle of Walton.
Welter continues to get blown backward as he begins to shed the block. His idea was to give initial ground in order to make a tackle later on the play. He should have played his technique, allowed Walton to run through and trusted Loston to eventually make an open-field tackle.
Welter finally breaks free but is too slow to catch the speedy Walton. Because Welter, ultimately, allowed Walton to run through his gap, it essentially takes Loston out of the play.
The LSU defense does not even touch Walton, as he creases the middle of the LSU defense and scores a touchdown untouched.
There have been far too many easy touchdowns allowed by LSU this season in critical situations. There should be some eventual signs of improvement.
Players are trying to do too much. Chavis must tell his defenders to follow their assignments and trust their teammates.
Welter has been destroyed by many for his play this season—and rightfully so. He has struggled mightily. But he is not the only one playing below expectations.
Barrow, who is a returning starter from last season, has taken a step back. Kwon Alexander's production has not matched his talented skill set. Lamar Louis showed promise against Ole Miss, but can Louis continue that success going forward?
The best medicine for a struggling linebacking corps is to instruct the players to play aggressively and attack the line of scrimmage—call run blitzes and tell them to play loose and not think too hard.
How many turnovers will LSU force against Furman?
With that said, the rest of the defense has not looked great at all. There is still no consistent pass rush. Teams run the ball at will. The secondary gets picked apart weekly.
Chavis will simplify his pass defense going forward. If coverages continue to be blown, expect LSU to run more man-to-man.
The LSU defensive line had another lousy performance rushing the quarterback against the Rebels. Expect freshman Kendell Beckwith to get more snaps to help spark the pass rush.
LSU needs to play like it did against Florida. The Tigers were aided by being at home against a young quarterback, but the defense played with energy and cohesiveness. Chavis needs to produce that mojo again if his defense is to return to dominance.
Saturday's game, against Furman, will be a blowout. But Chavis will need to make some critical evaluations before LSU has its bye en route to their early-November showdown against Alabama.
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