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SEC Headlines 5/24/2011

1. Make it a trifecta for Tennessee – changes in the football, basketball and now baseball programs.  Not good for AD Mike Hamilton.

2. John Adams: “How does Hamilton still have a job?”

3. The Sporting News has LSU as its preseason #1 in college football.

4. Georgia’s post-spring depth charts. Some reaction here and here.

5. Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn welcomes the challenge of three starting quarterbacks in three seasons.

6. Former Auburn player Mike McNeil – lawsuit and evictions to go along with allegations of attempted robbery.

7. Former LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis works out in Baton Rouge and waits for the lockout to end.

8. How Les Miles spends his summer vacation.

9. The busy life of Nick Saban – he’s been in movies, he’s got his own statue and now he’s introducing former NASCAR drivers at their Hall of Fame inductions.

10. Long before Jim Pyburn was an assistant at Georgia, he was a two-sport star at Auburn. Pyburn died over the weekend at the age of 78.

Extras – ESPN Edition

11. The secrets of bad behavior at ESPN are no longer so secret. A lot more here.

12. “College football teams play bowl games for the same reason they do almost everything schedule related. It serves ESPN’s purposes.”

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SEC Headlines – 4/27/11

With storms and power outages rolling across the South today — and probably coming soon to MrSEC.com Headquarters — we’re going to run through as many quicky headlines as possible for you.

Here goes…

1.  Alabama could have three juniors taken in the first round of tomorrow’s NFL draft.

2.  The Iron Bowl rivalry even extends to said Draft.

3.  Cam Newton’s lack of leadership skills will haunt him in the NFL…

4.  Or not.

5.  A pair of Arkansas O-linemen want to keep UA’s run of good fortune in the draft rolling.

6.  Hog QB candidates Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell sound off about their leadership skills.

7.  Due to a lack of size — he’s 6-1, 305 — former LSU D-tackle Drake Nevis is expected to be a third-round pick at best.

8.  Derek Sherrod could be MSU’s first first-round draft pick in 14 years.

9.  Receiver Chris Smith’s jaw surgery went well.

10.  Quarterback Barry Brunetti’s clearance by the NCAA is another win for Ole Miss.

11.  Here’s more on Will Muschamp’s decision to boot Janoris Jenkins from Florida’s team.

12.  Did Justin Houston fail a drug test while at Georgia?

13.  Peter King of SI.com says the Atlanta Falcons are trying to trade up for AJ Green.

14.  Joker Phillips has confidence that Kentucky will soon be competing for an SEC title.

15.  NC State point guard Ryan Harrow might have visited UK’s campus yesterday.  And maybe he didn’t.

16.  Ex-South Carolina O-lineman Jarriel King could go in the first round of tomorrow’s NFL draft.

17.  Former Tennessee offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw is just hoping to get drafted.

18.  SI.com’s Seth Davis says UT’s hire of Cuonzo Martin was the smartest basketball hire this offseason.

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A Visit With LSU’s Saturday Night Slant

Ole Miss
Content provided by The Ole Miss Blog – It’s not the official Ole Miss blog, but it should be.

 

Kris Brauner blogs about all things LSU at Saturday Night Slant and knows more about LSU and Les Miles than any of us know about what’s inside the tip of Houston Nutt’s pinky finger (bone, cartilage, blood, what else?). Anyway, in this crazy week we call LSU week, Kris was kind enough to stop by and answer a few probing questions that myself and everybody else want to know about these resilient Tigers. I hope you find it as informative as I do. Here goes:

1) What type of drug would you have accused me of smoking/snorting/inhaling if I had told you the Sunday after the Tennessee game that you would be 9-1 and in the “conversation” for the BCS Championship Game on November 18?
Something REALLY strong.  That game sure looked like the beginning of the end for Miles.  To have ANOTHER late game blunder was, and is, inexcusable.   Miles endured a very tough week after that.  But wouldn’t you know, LSU went to the Swamp and played their best game of the year up to that point and earned a win.   LSU has played better as the season has progressed and even though it has not always been pretty, the Tigers have managed to take care of business for the most part.  Meanwhile, other teams continue to lose and LSU finds themselves fifth in the country.  Go figure.
2) Has Les Miles always had trouble speaking in complete sentences or did the phenomenon of his incompetent grammar only come to light following his inability to explain whatever that was at the end of the Tennessee game?
It’s nothing new really.  He has rarely been impressive in front of a microphone.  His interview with CBS’s Tracy Wolfson after the Ole Miss game in 2009 drew equal amounts of fire from fans as the on-field debacle.   However, in other settings Miles is totally different and he represents himself well.  His “on-air” persona is a total mystery.  Sometimes after certain things he says, you really wonder if he’s just screwing with everyone.
3) If LSU fans participated in a mandatory poll, what percentage of them would still want to fire Les Miles right now?
50%.  A ton of LSU fans are way too invested in their disdain for Miles.  His 8-8 conference record in 2008 and 2009, combined with the late game blunders against Ole Miss, Penn State, and Tennessee were more than enough for most fans to decide that they’d rather someone else lead the program.  That’s putting it nicely.  And despite winning nine of ten so far in 2010, many simply can’t give the man any credit.  They chalk it up to luck and often state, “LSU should have three or four losses right now.”    I tend to think that if LSU should have three or four losses, but instead they only have one, doesn’t the coach get some credit for that?   Short of retiring or leaving for Colorado or Michigan, Miles is not going anywhere this offseason.  Personally, I’m hopeful that a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback will stabilize the fanbase, and the program, a bit.
4) Are you excited about Jordan Jefferson being named SEC Offensive Player of the Week this coming Monday?
Ha.  To be blunt, that’s probably not going to happen.  But I will be ecstatic if Jefferson can throw for about 150 yards, rush for about 30, complete at least 55% of his passes, and not turn the ball over.  Ecstatic!   It will be interesting to see if LSU keeps trying to throw the ball down the field against Ole Miss, after having lots of success doing so against Alabama.   It’s more likely that Drake Nevis, Kelvin Sheppard, or Patrick Peterson is named defensive player of the week.
5) What’s it like to win all the time?
As mentioned before, LSU has gone 8-8 in the SEC in 2008 and 2009, so I’m really not qualified to answer that right now.  But in the five years prior to that, LSU’s conference mark was 32-8, and I can tell you it was a whole lot of fun.  So needless to say, the impression around the program was that LSU has slipped.  Was it because Les Miles is a goofball and not cut out to lead a program like LSU?  Or was it because of a unique set of circumstances surrounding the quarterback and offensive line positions?  Some of both?  I know what most people thought.  But now that LSU is staring down another 10-2 season, at a minimum, many are not quite sure what to think.

 

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An ATVS Salute to the 2010 LSU Senior Class

LSU
Content provided by And The Valley Shook.

Lest we not forget, 15 seniors will say goodbye to Tiger Stadium on Saturday. Ten scholarship players and five walk-ons. I can’t claim to know much about guys like Jonathan Nixon, Paul Felio, Zach Elkins, Jordan Newell and Richard Dugas (aside from Dugas’ brief time as the starting fullback), outside of the fact that they’ve basically paid to get their asses kicked by football players for the last few years (though they definitely deserve their props for that). But I know that the progress of a lot of the young talent on this roster is due, in part, to some outstanding senior leaders, and there are a few all-time great Tigers among this group as well.

And here’s a tribute to them.

Drake Nevis

Maybe I’m the only one who likes this meme, but that’s good enough for me.

What more can I say about our beloved Cookie Monster? From the second he stepped on campus we all knew Drake Nevis had a lot of talent. As a true freshman he cracked the defensive tackle rotation next to the legendary Glenn Dorsey (who later endorsed Nevis as a future star) and even earned a start late in that season. Short, stocky and hell for an offensive lineman, Nevis fits the prototype of an LSU defensive tackle (like Dorsey, Kyle Williams, Chad Lavalais and Henry Thomas before him).

The sophomore and junior years were sporadic with some conditioning issues, but Nevis has made his final one in Baton Rouge count. He was a midseason All-American and seems a lock for the same honor at the end of the year. Nick Fairley probably has conference defensive player of the year locked up, but you can bet LSU’s four-time SEC Defensive Linemen of the Week will get a few votes.  He’s really blossomed under the teaching of defensive line coach Brick Haley, and has learned to combine his explosive strength (a school-record 374-pound power clean!) with excellent technique and hands. Size will be a negative against him come draft-time, but teams that are looking for a true 3-technique DT (think teams that use the Tampa-2 type of defense) will have their eyes on him, and he won’t last long.

Kelvin Sheppard

Here’s a guy I’m personally going to miss. He’s the emotional leader of this football team, his development the last two seasons has just been plain fun to watch.

KShepp came to LSU in 2006 with high school teammate (and current Washington Redskin) Perry Riley, with both cracking the starting lineup in the ill-fated 2008 Maleveto year. Like most of the LSU defense he looked totally lost at times, but all that changed once LSU hired John Chavis as defensive coordinator. And the Chief’s earned his paycheck with his work with Sheppard. He’s blossomed into one of the top middle linebackers in the conference, a classic run stuffer with the size to shed blocks and the speed to run backs down in the flats. He turned in 110 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss last year and will surpass those totals in 2010 (he already has 9.5 tackles for loss). He’s saved his best performances for the biggest games this season, with at least a half a TFL in every conference game, plus an interception and a fumble recovery against Alabama.

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But more importantly, the thing I’ll always remember about Kelvin Sheppard is his emotion, and the way he pours it into this team before every game. This guy loves being a Tiger. And that means something.

 Joseph Barksdale

He was a surprise recruit in the 2007 class out of Detroit, but Barksdale didn’t take long to crack the o-line two deep and never left. He’s in this third year starting, and handled the transition from right to left tackle well. Outside of a few penalty problems, Barksdale has consistently graded out high and solidified the left side of the Tiger o-line with Josh Dworaczyk.

Jai Eugene

He’ll always have Urban Meyer’s hair!

Richard Murphy

Some will remember the what-could-have-been with Murphy, who lost two seasons to knee surgeries at LSU, but always managed to show some flashes of talent. Even in a limited role this season, Murphy’s been an outstanding pass-blocker at times, and deserves a lot of credit for helping get younger backs like Michael Ford and Spencer Ware ready to contribute.

Josh Jasper

Jasper may very well be the greatest kicker in LSU history. His career percentage of 84.8 ranks first in LSU and second in SEC history, and he also set a school record for field goals in a single game this season with five. He’s 10-13 from beyond 40 yards, including 4-6 beyond 50. And if nothing else, few kickers can match this for a memorable moment.

Terrance Toliver

I’ve been rough at times on this former five-star recruit, but we’ll never know if his issues had as much to do with the quarterbacking problems of the last two seasons or just his own inconsistency. Still, Terrance Toliver has had his moments this season, like the two huge touchdowns versus Florida, and deserves credit for never letting the offense’s struggles get him too down (he’s also been a diligent run blocker). He’ll have a better chance at impressing scouts once the season ends, and perhaps the NFL will provide him with a better canvas (and a better quarterback) to work with.

Lazarius Levingston

“Pep” won’t go down on any all-time lists, but he’s been a consistent contributor for three seasons now.

Daniel Graff

Ah, the walk-on made good. Graff earned a scholarship last year with seven special teams tackles and a blocked punt. He’s actually one of the faster players on the team (and the cream in the Oreo of Explosion) — and like I said earlier this season — some NFL special teams coach is going to watch his tape and really want him.

Derek Helton

Helton’s been knocked at times for not always having great averages, but he’s consistently been a strong directional punter, and is a big reason LSU has had just 23 of 109 punts (75 from Helton) returned for a total of 108 yards the last two seasons (75 from Helton).


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Peterson, Nevis Named Bednarik Semifinalists

BATON ROUGE – LSU defenders Drake Nevis and Patrick Peterson have been named two of the 16 semifinalists for the 2010 Bednarik Award, the Maxwell Football Club Advisory Committee announced on Monday.
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Nevis Named Walter Camp Player of the Week

BATON ROUGE – A day after LSU's 24-21 win over Alabama, Tiger defensive tackle Drake Nevis was recognized by the Walter Camp Foundation as the National Defensive Player of the Week.
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LSU – Alabama: A Viewers Guide to the HELLLLZ YEEEAHHH!!!

LSU
Content provided by And The Valley Shook.

You know, the best thing I can think to say about that game is that it was damn satisfying. On to the good stuff…

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Lesticles. I has it.

  • For starters, allow me to lead us all in a salute of Jordan Jefferson, who played his best game in a Tiger uniform. He wasn’t always as decisive as he could have been, but he was when he had to be. The throw on Rueben Randle’s 75-yard TD was a laser that was just out in front of the receiver, and Randle snatched it in stride. The two-point conversion in the fourth quarter was also a strike. It was great to see Randle shrug off that early drop.
  • This game was almost the reverse of the Florida game in terms of showing why LSU has to use two quarterbacks. Jarrett Lee threw one of the three or four worst passes of the season (and this season’s had a lot of bad passes) on the first-half interception (yeah, Bama dropped it, but for all intents and purposes, it was an interception). But to his credit, he came back in and made a strong play on the last third-down pass, stepping up through pressure and finding Randle for the big play. In the end, as good as one played, LSU ultimately needed both. I expect that to continue to be the case the rest of this season.
  • I loved the idea of the first-series play calling, even if the execution wasn’t there. Bama had been vulnerable to outside runs, and it established just what LSU needed to do on the day. The halfback pass maybe should have come from Spencer Ware, but the thought was probably that playing him at that spot would be too obvious. The hurry-up was an excellent wrinkle as well, especially with a defense that requires as many checks as Alabama’s. It was good seeing Russell Shepard involved in the run game as well – and that’s something that should continue to happen.
  • Kudos to Josh Williford and Greg Shaw for doing great jobs as fill-ins for T-Bob Hebert and the injured Alex Hurst. Shaw coming in was a surprise – I would have guessed Chris Faulk would have been the next tackle off the bench – but he did an excellent job against Bama’s defensive left side. The type of commitment to the run LSU had on Saturday was just what we’ve been calling for here. It didn’t spring anything early, but it paid off in the fourth quarter.
  • Les. Fucking. Miles. I can think of two other tight-end reverses (a message to all television announcers, it’s only a reverse if there are two handoffs) that I’ve ever seen before. Both were in the NFL and one was, coincidentally, run by the Saints earlier this year with athletic rookie Jimmy Graham. It was a perfectly called trick play, given this offense’s tendencies and Bama had no idea what was going on. Having a converted receiver like DeAngelo Peterson to run it helps too. People will say it’s a crazy play call because it was unorthodox, but I’d call it a well-calculated gamble.
  • I believe William Vlachos can pick up his manhood at the LSU Football Operations Center whenever Drake Nevis decides to let him have it back. The Cookie Monster was encamped in the offensive backfield, and when he wasn’t it usually took two men and a hand a hand in his facemask.
  • Mark Ingram finished with a respectable 92 yards, but it felt like he was still somewhat contained. Bama never seemed committed to really pounding him or Trent Richardson (though Richardson was obviously hurt), especially if the first-down run didn’t get more than six yards. And honestly, running those two, regardless of how Greg McElroy plays, remains the best part of the Bama attack. Every time McElroy dropped back to pass, I breathed a small sigh of relief.
  • General Zod won the war, but Julio Jones won the battle. I can’t be sure of how accurately I scored things, but I had it at 4-2 for Jones over Peterson, including a huge touchdown. Peterson struggled with the jam a few times, and I think it may have affected his concentration on punt returns, where he looked pensive at times.
  • I thought Bama looked a little flat from an intensity standpoint. That isn’t to say the effort level was lacking, just the defense looked like it was checked-out mentally. When your head coach and defensive coordinator spend most of the game on the field shouting and you still have coverage busts, clearly some players aren’t listening.
  • On a personal note, to the two assholes gentlemen guys sitting next to me in section 213, if a football game is such a miserable experience for you, save all of us the trouble and skip the next couple. These two spent most of the game complaining about every step Jefferson made, screaming for more passes (when I pointed out Lee’s interception was the reason he wasn’t playing more, I was told to shut the fuck up) and generally acting like miserable pricks.


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LSU – Alabama: What to Watch For

LSU
Content provided by And The Valley Shook.

We’re going to start off this game preview with a word from Uncle Billy and Col. Jessup.

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“You ever watched a game in Tiger Stadium, son? Ever stood there in the middle of a tight game? Put your hopes in the hands of a bunch of college football players?”

**Note: I strongly considered not posting this. This debate is old, both sides are entrenched and I’m not looking to reignite it. But before the biggest home game of the year it needs to be said, and I’m going to say it once. Only once, and I won’t engage anybody in comments on this topic. Hence the quotebox, to set it off from the rest of the game preview. There’s more than enough to talk about regarding this game anyway.**

Cheer the team. You want to call yourself an LSU fan, act like one. I don’t care what you think about the offensive coordinator. I don’t care if you hate the starting quarterback. And this isn’t about the head coach. This isn’t about your civil rights, what you pay for your tickets, daytime kickoffs or your ability to “voice your displeasure.” (God knows there are plenty of outlets for it.) When those 60 minutes are up and all the dust settles, we’ll have plenty of time to bitch, complain and second-guess.

“But Billy, I’m entitled to complain when I think the coaches are letting me/the university/the players down!”

We support a football team. A 7-1 football team that’s playing a top five opponent. An opponent we’ve all been aching to watch them beat each of the last two seasons. I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

This is about the players. You remember them, right? Those college kids in the gold pants and white jerseys? The players you claim to support? They’re going to be in a pretty tough spot on Saturday. Yards will be fought for, and they won’t come easy. Chances are, there’s going to be a time when things aren’t going the Tigers’ way. Those struggles may even come by their own hands.

LSU will need a lot of things to happen to win this game, but confidence would damn sure help. And you know what can help that confidence? 93,000 people cheering them on through thick and thin. Letting them know that regardless of all of those aforementioned feelings, you support them. That when things get tough for them, you’re going keep cheering.

This summer I wrote a column about the 2003 LSU-Georgia game. I remember when the visiting team inexplicably tied the game and seized all momentum. I remember momentary silence. And then I remember the cheering. The way the shouts of “L-S-U! L-S-U!” rose through the air. Then, I remember the way the Tigers immediately took the momentum back and held on to win. That crowd refused to die. And so did that Tiger team. Do I think those cheers are the reason LSU came back? Not really. But I know it didn’t hurt. And when I think about those same circumstances revisited in 2010, all I hear are boos.

Are you an LSU fan? Are you interested in seeing the Tigers do well? Do you love it when you hear about the amazing atmosphere in Tiger Stadium? Then support the team. Do something to contribute to that one-of-a-kind atmosphere. Cheer them on. Do it standing on your feet. Do it sitting on your ass. The “how” is irrelevant. But the “what” isn’t. Cheer. Don’t boo. If that’s all your frustration reduces you to, and you can’t sit there quietly, get up and get the fuck out of the stadium. You’re not helping. You’re not expressing yourself. You’re just bitching and complaining at the worst possible time. There will be plenty of time for that later. The game is on TV and nobody can hear you at home. Talk radio will be glad to field your call after the game, and the various LSU message boards will be glad for the traffic. But for the couple of hours you’re in Tiger Stadium this Saturday, help make it that special place we know and love. Don’t boo.

What to watch for on Saturday

A Heavyweight Fight

In Les Miles’ first three years at LSU, the team’s November record was 11-1. Finishing strong was something the Tigers hung their hats on. But the last two years has seen 3-5 records in the season’s final month. What game leads off that month? Alabama.

LSU is 7-1 (4-1). They were 7-1 last year and 6-2 the year before. So is this team different? Well, that’s what we’re all going to find out.

Wherever the season goes from here, the most important game is the next one. If I may regurgitate the standard ESPN line, Alabama controls its own destiny. Win out, win the SEC title game, they’ll play for the national title. But I can guarantee Nick Saban is selling the same line I am. Only the next game matters. The outside noise may be talking big picture, but he’ll be grinding the “one game at a time” message into those players. LSU doesn’t have a clear postseason path. But based on player interviews, the Tigers have a clear focus. They are pointing towards this for the game it is, the most important one of the season.

That’s going to be reflected on the field in a game that will live up to the above title simply because it’s going to come down to the biggest guys on the field. Line play, perhaps more than anything else, will determine the winner. Auburn handed LSU its first loss of the season by doing just that. Winning the line of scrimmage.

And in this game, the weight metaphor carries itself. Bama brings big offensive and defensive fronts. All but one starting defensive lineman weighs more than than 300 pounds, their linebackers average over 240 pounds and the starting defensive backs average over 6-1 and 200 pounds. Add in a pair of powerful running backs and a big, physical star receiver and you have a football team built for out-muscling opponents.

I don’t think I have to say much about the other “heavyweight fight” in this game.

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via media.nola.com

Hopefully, Julio isn’t packing any “Cramptonite” this time around (copyright:SouthernMan).

Perception vs. Reality

Nick Saban’s career at LSU generally gets a whitewash these days in Baton Rouge (and at large). Talk radio in this town tends to stoke those misperceptions among the Humanoids. “DERP! Tough, man-to-man, attacking, blitzing, aggressive, angry defense! DERP! None of that pussy ‘read and react’ bullshit!

Those perceptions follow him at Alabama, but they’re not accurate in general and they really don’t apply to this year’s team. For all the aggression of Saban’s past defenses, his real gift is for teaching and disguising zone coverage. His last two Bama teams thrived on stuffing the run, creating unfavorable passing situations and then confusing the hell out of a quarterback. Showing overload blitzes, then bailing out or coming from an unexpected angle and watching as the opposing passer throws a hurried pass into a gang of defenders with their eyes on the football.

 This year’s Tide plays a much more straight-up style of football. As Spencer Hall noted (in much finer prose than I) after the Florida-Bama clash:

Everything was designed around making you screw up first, a simple but effective wager that your opponent would jab, and then you countered, and then your opponent was on the mat spitting up teeth and talking long distance to imaginary interlocutors in Shanghai without the use of a phone or other wireless communications device.

Bama’s defense in 2010 has been much more methodical and less focused on forcing the action. Stop the run early, force third downs, extend drives and wait for the other team to screw up. The average scoring drive against them has taken nine plays, and of the 19 total they’ve allowed, nine took at least 10 plays. Add an efficient offense that avoids those same mistakes and the snowball just gets bigger as it rolls downhill.

But that style sort of matches LSU’s hodge-podge offense, which doesn’t rely on big plays and struggles to make them. The Tigers 35 offensive scoring drives have run for an average of seven plays, and 18 of them had more than that. That grinding, ball-control style may not play well with the Humanoids, but it’s the style LSU is best suited for as long as the passing game remains a mess. And, as Todd of Roll Bama Roll explained in this week’s Geaux Show podcast, the Tide have had issues at times with teams that committed to running the ball between the tackles, like South Carolina and Tennessee. In fact, with games tied or within seven points either way, Alabama is currently allowing teams to run for 5 yards per carry (74 rushes in those situations for 376 yards).

Establishing the run and diversifying it will be a huge key. The Tide has lost speed in the front seven this year, partly due to personnel and partly due to injury. That’s been reflected in an anemic pass rush (10 sacks for the team, ranked 98th in the country), and in the fact that teams have had success running laterally. Now, six of the top 10 tacklers on the Bama defense are defensive backs, and the Tiger receivers will have to step up their game blocking. But running outside is.

The lack of a pass rush is also likely the reason for some issues with third downs. While the Tide has only allowed opponents to convert 32 percent of their third downs, the percentage increases to 44 in distances of four yards or greater.

That lack of speed is also evident in underneath coverage, where freshman LB C.J. Mosley is the Tide’s best. Both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee will need to be on point with their slant and quick screen throws, and it would be wise to get the running backs and tight ends involved when possible. Alabama’s defensive backfield practically starts four safeties – so attacking underneath early will be the best way to open up the seams later on. Besides, until LSU finds a capable passing game, minimizing risk will be the best path to success.

This would be a great game for involving Russell Shepard more in the rushing attack – both as a primary ball-carrier and on fakes and misdirection.

M.A.D.

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via selfishseamstress.files.wordpress.com

I would expect Jim McElwain’s offensive game plan to mirror LSU’s somewhat. The Tide are much more balanced this season, with a 56/44-percent run/pass ratio compared to 63/37 a year ago. Greg McElroy will come out throwing, targeting the Tiger linebackers in coverage. Look for tight ends Preston Dial and Michael Williams, slot receiver Darius Hanks and running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to be on the receiving end early. Alabama likes to get a lead first and then lean heavy on their running/play-action passing game (70 percent of McElroy’s passing has been in the first half). Don’t expect a lot of throws deep unless the issue becomes pressed or play-action gets something wide open.

As for Bama’s gruesome backfield twosome, don’t be surprised if the Tide try to copy some of Auburn’s game-plan. The offensive line isn’t quite as strong as last year’s group, but they’ve been much better using the classic zone/cutback runs (the outside zone/stretch fits Alabama’s favored two-TE sets perfectly) and creating lanes out of the Pistol and Wildcat formations. It’s another way of letting a great penetrator like Drake Nevis come up the field, only to wall him off and run behind him.

The Tigers have to shed blocks and tackle, tackle, tackle (TACKLE!) much better than they did against Auburn. It’s not even necessarily about giving up the long runs. Giving up a four-yarder that should have gone two will come back to haunt you in the second half against big, powerful runners like Ingram and Richardson. And both have fresh legs for this game.

Do NOT Expect

A Final Solution

I feel like a lot of people are still waiting for the offense to wake up. That all the offense needs is to “open things up” and “start throwing deep more.” Denial is a powerful thing.

This offense is what it is. A ball-control attack that needs to stay centered on the run (even more so than it already is, to tell you the truth) in order to minimize the risks it has at quarterback. Jordan Jefferson will still start and likely get his two series. Whether Jarrett Lee and him split things from there on will likely depend on how they play – which means it will likely continue. Neither player has stepped up enough to take the job. Does that mean that the two can’t combine to be effective? Not if they’re managed well.

Jefferson continues to progress as a runner, and he’s proven he can move this offense (while most dwell on the two interceptions he’s thrown early in the Florida and Auburn games, he also managed eight- and nine-play field goal drives as well). Give him a run-heavy script that allows him to get outside of the pocket and throw on the run and you can keep him out of unfavorable situations that will play towards his weaknesses.

Lee gives you a much better and more accurate passing arm, but almost no mobility (behind an offensive line that, while solid, is not a great wall of protection) and, as Paul has noted, still has a tendency to get very skittish in the face of pressure. Give him a run heavy script and throws that will get the ball out of his hands quickly and you can keep him out of similarly unfavorable circumstance. Remember what I said about the Bama secondary looking like a gang of safeties? The last thing LSU needs to do is put passes up for grabs.

A ball-control attack doesn’t have to mean one that doesn’t throw the ball, or doesn’t throw it down the field. It means one that is smart about how it goes about doing those things. If the offense manages itself and doesn’t get greedy, the big play and scoring opportunities will eventually present themselves. But if you’re waiting to see a Tiger quarterback tee it high and let it fly, you’re going to be waiting until next year.

The Special Man

General Zod is definitely going to have his hands full with Julio Jones, who is rebounding well from last year’s sophomore slump. There are few superlatives I could add to the discussion of that competition, though one has to wonder how often McElroy will push the issue.

But on punt returns, the sledding will be tough. On 24 punts this season, Bama’s allowed just four returns. The chances of him getting any pitches to hit are slim.


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Nevis One of 10 Lombardi Award Semifinalists

BATON ROUGE – LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis is one of 12 players nationwide who have been named to the list of semifinalists for the Lombardi Award, the Rotary Lombardi Award announced on Friday.
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