LSU Football: Midseason Report Card for the Tigers
LSU began this season as one of the favorites to win the SEC and compete for a National Championship. Eight weeks into the season, the Tigers have not disappointed.
Combining an already stout defense with a drastically improved offense, LSU has easily established itself as the top team in the nation.
Just how good have the individual units on this team performed?
The Tigers are just over halfway through the 2011 season, which means there's no better time than the present for report card grades.
Jarrett Lee might have won the quarterback job by default following Jordan Jefferson's off-field issues, but Lee has kept the job because he's been nothing short of incredible for the Tigers.
Lee has thrown 10 touchdowns against one interception.
Once Jefferson was reinstated to the team, he has provided a nice change of pace, running the option as part of a true two-quarterback, throw/run system.
LSU has three running backs with over 200 yards rushing. Between Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Alfred Blue, LSU's running game has been just as strong as ever.
The Tigers' top four running backs have accounted for 1,153 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.
LSU was dealt a slight blow when top receiver Russell Shepard was suspended for the first three games of the season. With the emergence of freshman Odell Beckham and the steady hand of Rueben Randle, the Tigers didn't miss Shepard at all.
Tight end Deangelo Peterson has been consistent target as well.
Jarrett Lee has plenty of time to make his passes. LSU's stable of running backs are stepping into gigantic holes.
That can only mean one thing: LSU's offensive line is incredible. Anchored by Will Blackwell, Chris Faulk and PJ Lonergan, among others, this line is easily one of the best in the SEC, if not the nation.
LSU's defense has 13 sacks so far this season. The Tigers defensive line has accounted for 10.5 of those sacks.
This front line unit provides constant pressure on opposing offenses and is a huge reason for LSU's gaudy secondary numbers.
They're giving up just 75 yards per game on the ground as well.
The linebackers group is a bit overshadowed by the d-line and secondary, but led by senior Ryan Baker, this unit has been stellar this season as well.
Baker and sophomore Kevin Minter have 54 tackles combined, six of those for a loss. Karnell Hatcher and Tahj Jones are contributing at the position as well.
Led by Heisman candidate Tyrann Mathieu, this secondary unit is one of the tops in the country. It doesn't matter if you don't throw in Mathieu's direction, because Morris Claiborne, Tharold Simon and Co. are going to make you pay no matter where the ball is thrown.
Safeties Brandon Taylor, Eric Reid have been nothing short of spectacular as well.
This unit has 27 pass breakups, 10 interceptions and five forced fumbles on the season.
LSU has a dynamic kick return man in Morris Claiborne. The cornerback has one touchdown return this season (99 yards), and he's averaging 29.5 yards per return.
Place kicker Drew Alleman is 9-for-11 this season, and punter Brad Wing is averaging 43.4 yards per punt. Nearly half of Wing's 27 punts have landed inside the 20-yard line.
Punt return Tyrann Mathieu hasn't gotten loose on a return yet, but he's a constant threat that forces opposing punters to think long and hard about kicking to him.
Les Miles hasn't really had to opportunity to mess anything up yet, and the longer this season goes without a typical Miles-second guess, the better for LSU.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis is utilizing one of his best defenses perfectly, and new offensive coordinating tandem Steve Kragthorpe and Greg Studrawa have taken this offense to places Gary Crowton only dreamed of last season.
LSU is the No. 1 team in the nation for many reasons.
Beginning with incredible talent, depth and quickness, this LSU team might be one of the best Tiger squads ever.
The Tigers are playing disciplined on offense and ferocious on defense right now. The level of talented depth of both sides of the ball is staggering, and this team is destined for something big this season.
That showdown with Alabama on Nov. 5 can't get here soon enough.