We’ve gotten through September, and LSU has a bye week before taking on three tough October dates with Florida and Carolina on the road before returning home to face Georgia on the 25th. Let’s take a look at the one-month progress report grades for the Tigers...
This is still a question mark since the play of Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch has been consistently inconsistent. But the Tigers get a jump in letter from C to B- with a great second half at Auburn.
No doubt Lee has more physical talent than Hatch, especially in the arm strength department, but Hatch brings nice mobility and seniority for a change of pace.
Running Backs: A
Two words: Charles Scott. Scott is the answer to the question of who would replace Jacob Hester in the backfield as the guy who gets the tough yards. Actually, Scott not only gets the tough short conversions—he also gets the long highlight runs and all yards in between.
He’s a large part of the big discrepancy in rushing yards between LSU and their opponents. LSU has outgained its opponents 884-363 this season.
Scott is averaging 133 yards per game and 7.5 yards per carry. That’s useful.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C+
Maybe I’m a little too hard on the WRs. They’ve done their jobs and haven’t made too many mistakes, but at the same time they haven’t overwhelmed me either.
The guy carrying this group right now is Brandon LaFell. In most statistical categories, LaFell is doubling the stats of any other WR.
Other than doing the obvious of making the catch (which wasn’t a given for the guy nicknamed “JoJo” last year) LaFell is doing a great job of getting open, as well as blocking downfield when he doesn’t have the ball. LaFell turns this corps’ grade from a C- to a C+.
Richard Dickson has been great as a tight end both catching and blocking.
Offensive Line: A-
Once again, I’m probably too hard on this group, which probably deserves a solid A or A+. Ciron Black and Joseph Barksdale have been anchor bookends at the tackle position. Lyle Hitt and Hermann Johnson have been solid at the guards, and center Brett Helms is the captain of that line.
My one knock on Helms is he is sometimes overpowered by bigger linemen, and he’s probably a better run blocker than a pass blocker. But with a crew this good, I’m just being nit-picky. LSU has been an excellent run blocking team and pretty decent at pass blocking as well.
I’ll add fullback Quinn Johnson to this crew. Johnson is an offensive lineman with a running start on every down. He’s a wrecking ball disguised as a football player.
Defensive Line: B+
This is kind of an unfair grade when you take into account that LSU basically rushes these four guys during pass plays and drops their linebackers into coverage. The line has done a superb job against the run and holds its own in the pass rush. Tyson Jackson is doing plenty to disrupt opposing offenses, and LSU has the best depth in the country on the line.
Ricky Jean-Francois hasn’t been making as much noise as the experts wanted him to with just two solo tackles and a sack in four games, but guys like Rahim Alem, Kirston Pittman, and Marlon Favorite have stepped up in his place.
This is probably one of the spots that is up in the air. On the run, they are an A. Against the pass, they are a C. They average out to a B.
Perry Riley has been great so far and Jacob Cutrera actually had a pretty decent game against State filling in for injured MLB Darry Beckwith, but this crew won’t be the same until Beckwith returns. They need to improve against the pass since most don’t spend time pass rushing.
Defensive Backs: C
If I was grading on a curve this group would be higher. The reason they are not a C- is because of safeties Curtis Taylor and Harry Coleman.
The corners have been doing as well as expected for being new starters, but there’s a blown assignment every once in a while from either the corner or the nickel back. Both Chad Jones and Danny McCray have struggled in pass coverage at the nickel back position this year.
This squad is saved by the safeties, but they’re in danger of having the worst grades in the class.
Special Teams: B-
I have to break this down into units. The return game has been OK, but there is no one that can field a punt apparently on this team for like the third straight year.
Coverage teams are doing OK as well, but there have been some decent gains this season by opposing returners.
Punting started off horrible but made hay in the Auburn game when it mattered, so they get good marks.
Finally, kicking has been solid, as Colt David seems like he’s ready to have a great year.
Let’s face it, grades aren’t going to be very low when you haven’t lost a game. The Tigers need to tweak some things but have all the tools in place to make an SEC title run this season.