Most of the groups on this LSU football team looked to be rock solid entering the season. The defensive line looked even better. This group boasted three potential first round draft choices and the former No. 2 player in the country according to ESPN. The experience was there. The talent was there, and the losses of Kendrick Adams and Michael Brockers from the 2011 team didn’t look to be crippling. Expectations certainly seemed almost unattainable, but the prevailing thought was that this group would take over games.
MORE THAN I EXPECTED:
Here’s a guy who signed with LSU without a ton of hype and paid his dues. He’s been a cog in the machine up front for four seasons, and he saved his best for last. His 4.5 sacks were second best on the team, and he missed a couple of chances early on, too. Edwards is a phenomenal athlete. He carried the ball a good bit at Desire St. Academy as a prep star. That showed in a big way when he housed an interception against Idaho. This was a big season for Edwards who likely played himself into a nice draft selection. Guys with his size and speed have a place rushing the passer in the NFL, and he showed he could do that well. With Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo stealing headlines over the summer, it was Edwards who had the most unexpected impact.
Crimson Tide Running Lanes
LSU did a fabulous job on Trent Richardson for eight quarters last season. With only Brockers and Adams gone and playing in front of the home crowd, I thought LSU would have similar success this time around. Nope. In the biggest test of the season, the LSU defensive line was handled. Eddie Lacy ran for 7.5 yards per carry, and T.J. Yeldon ran for 6.9. The Tide finished the night with 166 rushing yards which I did not see coming. That Alabama offensive line is special, but so is the Tiger defensive front. Watching the Tide move the ball so easily on the ground surprised me.
LESS THAN I EXPECTED:
Barkevious in the Backfield
Vegas could have won a bunch of money putting the Mingo sack over/under at 4.5 in the regular season. Mingo finished with eight last season and figured to play more this year with Adams gone. He did show up in some big spots, namely the hit he put on Tyler Russell to choke off a late Mississippi State surge, but the consistency wasn’t quite there. The 15 TFL’s from last season shrunk to five, and there were times when you could have forgotten Mingo was out there. That frame and silly athleticism will earn him a pay day in April, but it won’t be because of his junior season. I expected more.
This isn’t a knock on Rasco. He made a couple of plays when he was in there. I just thought he would play more. It turned out that Lavar Edwards got those snaps, and that was a positive for the team. I really thought Rasco made strides at the end of last season, and I keep thinking of the play he made in the Georgia Dome beating Cordy Glenn and sacking Aaron Murray. I figured his talent would get him to the field more often. He made two tackles for loss and didn’t have a sack. His most memorable play was drilling Connor Shaw and forcing a bad throw in the South Carolina game. That really sparked the crowd. Rest assured, Rasco still receives great reviews from his teammates, and he’ll be heard from next season.
With the eye test, it appears Ego Ferguson could slide into Michael Brockers’ spot fairly easily. Both guys are converted ends with long arms and huge frames. Brockers’ position shift went more smoothly. Ferguson didn’t play a ton this season, and it looks like he’s struggling to use his pad level against guys that weigh as much as he does. Ferguson had one tackle for loss and swatted a pass. It looks like this is still a work in progress. There’s no one you’d rather have doing the teaching than Brick Haley, but this spring is going to be huge for Ferguson who could be pushed to starting duties in 2013. He’ll have to improve to maintain LSU’s solid line play.
JUST WHAT I EXPECTED:
After a stunning zero stat effort in the opener, Montgomery rebounded to have a really good season. He led the team with seven sacks, and his 12 tackles for loss were one short of Kevin Minter. The play of his season came when Montgomery discarded Auburn’s Greg Robinson and planted Tre Mason in the end zone for a safety. That was one of Montgomery’s 3.5 TFL’s on the Plains to go with a sack. Sam added some weight in the offseason, and Week 1 was a scare, but it all worked out. He’s been a model representative of the program, and he’ll be another guy with a swollen wallet this spring. You expected a big season from Montgomery, and he delivered.
LSU bottled up Kiehl Frazier, Jeff Driskel, Connor Shaw and Johnny Manziel. John Chavis and Brick Haley do a fantastic job scheming for mobile signal callers. Driskel ran for a yard. Frazier netted negative five. Manziel ran for 27 and Shaw negative one. That’s some really good, really disciplined work. None of last season’s runners got loose either. You’ve come to expect excellent play from the gang up front, but it’s a real chore to keep these SEC athletes corralled for four quarters. It deserves some mention.