With three out-of-conference games to start the season, the toughest of which is the first against Appalachian State, the Tigers have some time to figure out their depth chart before heading to the all-important Auburn game.
While the kinks are getting worked out, don’t be surprised if...
1) Keiland Williams is No. 3 on the depth chart.
Running back Keiland Williams has enjoyed some great games as a Tiger and may be more known for his highlight reel runs than anything else.
The fact remains, however, that when Les Miles speaks about the performance of his tailbacks after practice, Williams’ name is rarely mentioned. Instead, Les usually lauds Charles Scott’s and Richard Murphy’s efforts.
This leads me to believe that you’ll see more of No. 32 and No. 26 than you will see of No. 5.
Jacob Hester garnered the majority of playing time in the backfield under Miles by being a “complete back.” In spite of his ability with the football, Williams has been rumored to be inept at picking up blitzes and running pass routes. Also, he has a touch of fumblitis at the present time. Those things drive Miles and backfield coach Larry Porter absolutely crazy.
Murphy had the best spring and continues to show his brilliance in practice, while Scott shows the all-around abilities of Hester by being possibly the most complete back, doing whatever it takes to be on the field...even playing fullback.
Take nothing away from fullback Quinn Johnson, but seeing Scott and Murphy in the same backfield will be right up Gary Crowton’s alley. Look for more of a situational use of that set, much like when spark plug Trindon Holliday is utilized.
While Williams was more highly recruited, and it’s in our nature to want to see the heralded recruit play, it’s the other two guys that will be showcased this year.
2) Patrick Peterson is starting by midseason.
Peterson, or the “artist formerly known as Patrick Johnson,” has had a brilliant summer at cornerback. The true freshman is pushing fellow DBs like Jai Eugene, Ron Brooks, Phelon Jones, and Chris Hawkins for playing time.
LSU fans are quite familiar with true freshman safety Chad Jones’ play last season, and Peterson has the same opportunity (if not better) to see the field as a true freshman this year.
Peterson’s nickname is “Primetime,” just like his idol, Deion Sanders. Very few players come in with a body that’s ready for SEC battles right from the start. But at 6’1”, 200 pounds, Peterson may be ready for “primetime” right from the outset.
When watching LSU games, keep an eye out for No. 7—he will be hard to keep off the field.
3) Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee split time under center.
Hatch is in his junior year at LSU after he transferred from Harvard, but don’t let that totally fool you about his skill level. Hatch was recruited by Gary Crowton while “the Wizard” was still at BYU. Crowton bolting for the Ducks caused Hatch to leave the Cougars.
While Hatch’s arm may have some question marks, he might have all the intangibles in order to hold off Jarrett Lee as the primary starter. Hatch is mobile, similar to Matt Flynn. Despite an non-NFL caliber arm, Hatch can fit into Crowton’s system, which didn’t throw deep many times last year but remained one of the most prolific offenses in LSU history.
Lee has a bigger arm and is just a step behind Hatch in the mobility department. Neither quarterback has distanced himself from the other, and both have taken turns battling injuries in camp.
Since Miles is known to be overly cautious, holding both QBs out of practice at times, opportunity has been knocking for true freshman Jordan Jefferson to get some playing time.
If the injury bug continues to bite, Jefferson may see playing time over redshirting. That might not be a bad thing, as Jefferson, at age 17 (he turns 18 later this month), seems to have the best arm and mobility of the three. But one would think he’s hardly ready to handle the mental rigors of being an SEC-level quarterback.
Also, if the injuries continue, Miles may alternate field generals in order to keep each guy from getting too banged up. Barring injuries, look for Hatch to get the most playing time in the opener this weekend.
4) Terrance Toliver has a breakout season.
While Demetrius Byrd and Brandon LaFell have cemented their spots as the first and second receiving options for the Tigers, Toliver has a chance to make a big splash in ’08.
The wiry WR hit the weight room with S&C coach Tommy Moffit in the offseason, and it shows. Toliver has gotten his 6’4” frame up to almost 200 pounds and will become a big threat in the slot for LSU. If opposing DBs focus too much on Byrd and LaFell, Terrance Toliver will have the ability to make them pay.
5) Depth at linebacker affects the defensive formations.
I’ve said this before. I think LSU morphs to a 4-2-5 this year.
When you have great depth at safety with a guy like Harry Coleman, who could moonlight as a linebacker, and have a rover like Chad Jones alongside Curtis Taylor, who was solid all last season, you should put your best guys on the field.
Pelini toyed with a 3-3-5 to combat the spread offense last season, but when you realize the talent LSU has on its D-line and at safety, then it becomes a no-brainer.
Darry Beckwith is an all-conference type of linebacker. If he can avoid injuries, he should solidify the middle quite nicely, but the purple and gold are thinner at backer than any other position on the field.
I feel a 4-2-5 is a nice fit, especially with guys as versatile as Coleman and Jones, and it can be tailored to fit any situation.
6) Your keys to the Appalachian State game are wrong.
Everyone and their mama is focusing on Mountaineer QB Armanti Edwards and the 34 points scored on Michigan last year, pinpointing it as a major factor in this game. Add in the fact that LSU has two new starting corners and outside linebackers, and it draws everyone in even more.
That's not the key to the game: The Mountaineer defense is. Most notably, can the defensive front seven get the push they need to stop the run and get pressure on third downs?
I think this game is won and lost by the ASU defense. If their D can limit output in the running game, especially by forcing LSU into unfavorable down and distance situations, then they have a chance for lightning to strike again.
I don’t think it will go down that way. LSU will mix in its offensive weapons quite nicely, including a couple of “let me see that again in real time” plays by Trindon Holliday, to give the Tigers the edge. As long as Tiger quarterbacks don’t implode, LSU wins the line of scrimmage on offense and defense.
Special teams may also be a factor because LSU is still employing the “close your eyes and pray” punt formation that brashly begs the other team to block their punt. If LSU makes mistakes on special teams, especially in the return game, then ASU will have a chance. But that might not be enough to turn the tide if the purple and gold dominate the lines on offense and defense.
I think this game remains close until the Tigers settle down and play their game. While Armanti Edwards will prove to be the real deal, the Bayou Bengals prove to be too much for the little school that could from Boone, NC.
LSU 41, ASU 24