The LSU Tigers provided the Purple & Gold faithful with some reasons for cautious optimism Saturday night, against Vanderbilt, however their play at certain positions remain a cause for concern.
Overall, the Tigers improved over last week in their understanding that the game is played for 60 minutes, as evident by their hard and heads-up play for the duration. They also developed some semblance of a consistent running game, spreading the rushing wealth over a number of running backs with Stephan Ridley leading the way.
On the negative side of the ball, the quarterback position remains more of a liability than an asset, especially with the wealth of talent at wide receiver. Ball security improved somewhat, but also needs to get better.
Here are six thoughts for consideration, based on observations from the Vandy game, as the Tigers move on to their first home game against Mississippi State at 2 – 0:
Quarterback Dilemma – I am becoming more and more convinced with each passing game that Jordan Jefferson is not the answer at quarterback. He has all of the physical tools to excel at the SEC level, but this junior remains uncomfortable behind center and it shows. He is often off target with his passes and seems unable to develop any kind of rhythm, which is required to be productive.
It was only one pass, but Jarrett Lee delivered it with authority and conviction in that 4th quarter. I think it may be time for another look at Mr Lee under center.
Depth at Running Back – Against Vanderbilt, the running game finally came alive. Stephan Ridley is certainly not all-world, but he runs hard and appears durable throughout an entire game.
The encouraging point I took away from this game is the great depth the Tigers have at running back, especially with the young backs. Freshmen Alfred Blue, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford give reason for strong optimism at this position.
Offensive Line needs Gelling – The offensive line took a big hit last week with the ankle injury to guard Will Blackwell. That hurt and it showed Saturday night. This is a unit in dire need of gelling and creating cohesiveness. The first half was inundated with passing plays where Commodore defenders were in the LSU backfield seemingly as soon as the ball was snapped. That has to be shored up.
In their defense, the O-line did appear to improve protection as the game went on and they did provide some nice rushing lanes.
Be More Creative with Shepard – Russell Shepard is such a talented athlete with speed and moves that will often result in six points, when he is in space with the ball. The key is getting him the ball while in space. I am still not convinced he is a receiver at this point, although time may change my mind. He still appears to be feeling his way through the position.
However when the ball is handed to him and he is able to get free, especially turning a corner, its all taillights at that point. LSU coaching needs to continue to be creative in finding new ways to exploit that wonderful talent.
Defense showing Athleticism – The defense as a whole played a heck of a game vs. the Commodores. For the front seven, what they may lack in overall size and bulk they more than make up in quickness and speed. They will have to continue to perfect their techniques to exploit these qualities as they move on against more physical offensive lines in the SEC.
Drake Nevis and Kelvin Sheppard are pros-in-waiting in anchoring the two initial levels of defense. Surrounding them are a bunch of young and impressive players. Very encouraging!
Secondary Much Improved in One Week – What a difference a week makes. The Tiger secondary, scorched in the second half against UNC last week, played a much better game this week. The starters are good and will continue to improve, but I am becoming more and more impressed with freshman Tryann Matheiu, who is getting considerable playing time.
And I have to mention the hit of the night. Freshman safety Eric Reed delivered a clean and solid hit on a receiver coming up the middle that hurt me. Wow!!!!