The Tiger defense was exceptional for three quarters last week. The second quarter was a bit of a concern. With a group of younger Tigers on the field, UAB was able to move the ball and put points on the board. It was obvious in talking to the players this week that John Chavis had a little something to say at halftime that really fired the group up. LSU is rotating a ton of new faces out there, and it’s taking some time to gel. The speed and athleticism is obvious, but so is the youth at times. This week a Kent St. squad comes to town without much of an offensive punch. This is a final chance for the staff to get a good look at the defense as a whole before a pair of quality offenses appear on the SEC schedule later this month. For that reason, it’s a big game for a number of the guys on this team.
LSU Defensive Line vs. Kent St. Offensive Line
The rotation here has been fairly consistent for two games. Jermauria Rasco leads the team in tackles, and he’s finally making his presence felt out there. Jordan Allen mixed in a sack last week by dodging a cut block and harassing the quarterback. Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson have plugged the middle well. Danielle Hunter rotates in early and often, and Kendell Beckwith has been used in a pass rushing role. He entered the game on third and long in the first half, but he never really created much of a rush. Quentin Thomas is the third defensive tackle, but he hasn’t really made many plays. Those seven guys take the big snaps. We haven’t seen much of Christian LaCouture, Tashawn Bower, Justin Maclin or any of the others. That’s a work in progress. Still, this group has been pretty good.
Kent St. has some decent size up front, and the left side is a veteran group. Terrell Johnson is a solid left tackle, and Pat McShane is the guard next to him. McShane is a senior with long arms and plenty of experience. Phil Huff, another senior, is the center. Those two have started the last 16 Kent St. football games. Sophomore Anthony Pruitt is the right guard, and he’s built like one. He’s 6-foot-2 and 315 lbs. He’s more of a run blocker than anything. Fellow sophomore Jason Bitsko is the right tackle, and he’s a little light in the pants at just 280 lbs. This crew has only allowed two sacks through two games.
This is a game for the LSU defensive line to totally take over the line of scrimmage. With the first four guys playing the way they are, that’s easy to envision. Bowling Green was able to put the clamps on Kent St. in the second half. LSU should be able to do that from the start. That’s where focus and motivation come in to play. LSU has to be fired up to play its best football. That’s not always the easiest thing in the world against a bad team. I think you’ll see the same rotation we saw last week until the game gets out of hand. That’s when you’ll see LaCouture, Bower, Lewis Neal and the rest of the gang. I don’t anticipate Kent St. rushing the ball with too much success. You’d really like to see a dominant effort from this Tiger defensive line.
LSU Linebackers vs. Kent St. Running Backs
I thought the LSU linebackers were a little bit better last week. D.J. Welter stuck his facemask in a hole early in the game and made a tackle. Lamin Barrow showed off his speed on a couple of boundary plays. Lamar Louis came on and played pretty well. It’s still not quite the level we expected prior to the season. Now that Tahj Jones is healthy, the seniors are the first guys out there. Louis and Kwon Alexander are quickly in thereafter. Alexander blew a play up last week. I think the staff is still tinkering, and it showed when they put Beckwith in at outside linebacker for the second half last week. They just don’t know where he fits in. Don’t be shocked if he sees a little time in the middle this weekend. Maybe, maybe not. I think Louis is the eventual winner there, but that remains to be seen. I wish we could see more of Deion Jones, but we haven’t thus far.
Dri Archer is not listed as the starter at running back for Kent St. He’s the best player on the roster, but he’s hurt. Archer has legitimate track speed and led the NCAA in kick return yardage last year, but he hurt his ankle in the opener and has played just three plays this year. There is no word yet on whether or not he’ll play, but if he does he’ll be easy to spot. He can absolutely fly. The next man up is Trayion Durham, a 250 lb. bruiser of a back. Talk about a change of pace. Durham is averaging 3.6 yards per carry this year and isn’t a threat to break a big play. Junior Anthony Meray also sees some carries, and he’s built more like Archer at 5-foot-8 and 186 lbs. The Golden Flashes run a little read-option as well as some traditional under center running. With Archer in the game, the rushing attack can be lethal. Without him it’s rather pedestrian.
If I’m Kent St., I hold Archer this week and save him for conference play. Going out there against LSU with a bad wheel doesn’t make much sense. But maybe he wants to showcase his talent against elite competition to get ready for the NFL where he’ll have a shot to play for some money. With Archer in the game you’ll see a ton of read-option and lateral stuff. Durham will run between the tackles. In any event, the LSU linebackers will be tested around the line of scrimmage. I love the sideline-to-sideline speed LSU can put out there, and I think they can neutralize Archer that way. If Durham is the guy, it’ll be a chance for Welter and Louis to show up and fill some gaps. Along the same lines as the defensive line, a dominant effort from the linebackers would go a long way in preparing for the SEC.
LSU Secondary vs. Kent St. Quarterback and Receivers
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. There are some issues in the secondary. The staff just yanked Jalen Collins last week after he gave up a 33 yard completion, and you’re seeing a flood of young players on the field to see if they can get the job done. Jalen Mills took a bad angle on the first UAB touchdown and got cooked on the second. Craig Loston was gimpy and didn’t play the second half. He didn’t practice early in the week. Corey Thompson took his place. I thought Ronald Martin made a really nice play on a crossing route. You expect those types of plays from him. In the nickel and dime spot it continues to be Micah Eugene and Dwayne Thomas. Eugene is playing exceptionally well, and Thomas has been in the right spot more often than not. He did drop an easy pick last week. Tre’Davious White looks ready to play, and they’re throwing Rashard Robinson into the fire. Hard to believe he’s already out there.
The Golden Flashes start a redshirt freshman quarterback, and he hasn’t turned the ball over in two games. Colin Reardon is a well-built, heady quarterback with a good arm and decent feet. He’ll throw the ball down the field, and he can also run with it a little bit. You’ll see some read-option from him. Reardon has completed 36 of 56 for 358 and four scores. When he sets his feet and throws he can be very accurate with the ball. Senior Tyshawn Goode (6’0”, 183) and junior Chris Humphrey (6’1”, 194) do most of the receiving. They’ve accounted for 271 of Reardon’s 358 yards. Both guys have good speed and really good hands. They’re just not huge targets. Humphrey is the big play threat. He averages 17 yards per catch to Goode’s 8. The one to watch in the red zone is tight end Casey Pierce. He’s got three catches and two are for scores. He’ll slip into the seam and find open space.
I think White is the starter opposite Mills on Saturday. I think he got that job last week. Collins may have played himself into a backup role with Eugene and Thomas staying in their roles. That’s just an educated guess. We’ll have to see. I think White is going to really help the team as he grows up. But, as is the case with any freshman, he’ll make some mistakes. Better they come against Kent St. Loston is questionable for this one. If he can’t go, you’ll see a bunch of Thompson. I think Loston plays. The Golden Flashes’ receivers aren’t overly impressive in pads. If LSU allows some yardage through the air, that’s a little bit of a disappointment. Auburn and Georgia are much better offensively and will pose serious problems. The defensive backs need to take better angles and finish tackles. That’s been emphasized all week long. I think Mills bounces back and has a big game. I also think White stamps his role as a starter on this team. The younger players will come on late, and watch for Robinson. The staff is giving him a good, hard look. If he shows he can do it, they’ll let him play in some conference games.
On paper this is a total mismatch, but I can’t factor emotion in to this piece. I can’t promise that LSU will come out fired up. If so, it’ll be a bloodbath. Kent St. isn’t very good. I mean they edged Liberty by 7. Liberty is FCS. Bowling Green almost doubled them up last week. Look for Kent St. to spread LSU out and try to find some space. The problem is that LSU is faster at every spot unless Archer is out there. I think Kent St. scores a little bit, but LSU should have its way much of the game. The keys to watch are pass rush, Beckwith’s whereabouts and contributions, and the youth in the secondary. Those guys are playing for jobs. This is the last tune up before it gets real next week.
Prediction: LSU 45, Kent St. 10