After a wet and wild week in South Louisiana, the Tigers are certain to breath a breathe of fresh air into an injured state. The Tigers have question marks on both sides of the ball, but perhaps more on the defensive side than we may have anticipated a few months ago. North Texas isn’t an offensive juggernaut, but should be a nice tune up for Washington who will come into Baton Rouge guns blazing next week.
LSU Defensive Line vs. North Texas Offensive Line
Michael Brockers and Ken Adams are gone, but LSU, as expected, is still loaded up front. There is a nice blend of experience and talent here that should shine through Saturday night. It all starts with junior Bennie Logan who will don the No. 18 for the first time under the lights. Logan exploded last season with 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last year. Those are impressive numbers for a guy racing Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery into the backfield. Those two will be you ends, and get a good look because they’ll be playing on Sundays next year. Look for senior Josh Downs to start at the second tackle spot, but sophomores Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson won’t be far behind. Neither will senior end Lavar Edwards and sophomore end Jermauria Rasco. Both of those guys are bona fide SEC ends who are only reserves because of the dynamic duo in front of them.
North Texas does return four starters up front, but three of those four are sophomores who were forced into duty a season ago. The only non-returner, Cam Felt, is also a sophomore meaning four second-year men will line up against the Tiger front right out of the gate. Aaron Fortenberry is the senior center. He’s better than 300 lbs., and anchors the unit. Left tackle Antonio Johnson is a bit light at 6-feet-5-inches and 285 lbs., but he can move a little bit. The other three sophomores average 308 lbs. to form a big, not huge, wall up front.
There isn’t a team in America that matches up “well” against LSU, so obviously North Texas will have it’s hands full here. The good news for the Mean Green is that LSU isn’t massive up front. It’s speed the Tigers win with. This North Texas group did a nice job last year of keeping quarterbacks upright. In fact, Alabama failed to register a sack in the two teams’ meeting last season. It’s a spread offense, so the power eye won’t be used. That also helps the Mean Green who would struggle to get a push on the Tiger front. LSU would dominate this matchup four-on-five. That is magnified by the fact that it’s going to be eight on five as the Tigers shuffle bodies in and out. I think the ends get some serious pressure and the Mean Green really struggles to move forward on the ground. LSU is just too tough up front.
LSU Linebackers vs. North Texas Running Backs
Ryan Baker was the rock last season. He’s gone. Stefoin Francois helped the unit in presnap audibles. He’s gone. Now junior Tahj Jones is very questionable for the game as eligibility issues swirl about. No doubt about it, LSU is thin on experience here. The good news is that junior middle linebacker Kevin Minter is about to explode. The last three or four games last year was Minter’s coming of age, and the SEC will find out about that this year. He’s got the body for the position, and now he’s got the confidence. Now who plays around him? Well, juniors Lamin Barrow and Luke Muncie appear to be the first guys up on the outside. It’s tough to get too excited about those two. Barrow made 17 tackles last season, most of which were on special teams. The same can be said for Muncie who had just 13, and he’s never started a game. Barrow runs very well, but he’s been known to miss an assignment. Muncie isn’t the surest tackler on the team. Those spots are question marks. Look out for Deion Jones and Kwon Alexander on those outside spots. Those two will get in the ballgame as it gets out of hand. Jones is a bit light at 205 lbs., but he’s a speedster. Alexander already checks in at 220. He’s healthy and super talented.
Lance Dunbar and James Hamilton led the Mean Green in rushing last season. Dunbar cracked the 1,000 yard mark. Neither is back this year, leaving a massive hole at running back. Brandon Byrd is a junior, and he’s the leading returner at running back. He amassed all of 83 yards last season. Look for redshirt freshman Antoinee Jimmerson to carry the mail Saturday night. For reference, he’s similar in stature to LSU’s Terrence Magee at 5-feet-9-inches and 207 lbs. That’s plenty bulky enough to take on some punishment. Dunbar was a polished pass catcher who hauled in 29 balls last year. It remains to be seen whether or not Jimmerson has that in his repertoire.
I think LSU’s linebacking situation will be much better in November than it is today. Right now, I don’t think it’s great. I also don’t think North Texas has the tools to exploit it. Look for Minter to make his fair share of plays around the line of scrimmage. The guys on the outside will be covering a number of slot receivers and running backs in the North Texas spread. Barrow can do that fairly well. We’ll see about Muncie. If there were a reason to hang around for the second half of this one, it’ll be to see if Jones and Alexander can make a mark on this game. I think they get that chance.
LSU Defensive Backs vs. North Texas Quarterback and Wide Receivers
DBU better prove itself. Brandon Taylor. Out. Morris Claiborne. Out. Tyrann Mathieu. Out. Ron Brooks. Out. Get the picture? Junior Eric Reid and Tharold Simon are early round draft picks waiting to happen. The rest is up in the air. Craig Loston IS healthy. Don’t go get your glasses, you read that right. He’ll be in there. I actually think he’ll play well. Count me as a guy who is pulling for him. If he were to go down, I think Ronald Martin is your next man up. Martin has put on good weight and is very fluid in space. Opposite Simon will be true freshman Jalen Mills. He’s won the job, and Les Miles won’t stop talking about him. Simon told me Mills is a physical corner with a great attitude. He beat redshirt freshman Jalen Collins out this camp, and Collins may be the best athlete on the team. Both guys figure to play a lot with Mills shifting to Nickel and Collins coming in on the outside in those situations. The Micah Eugene buzz has cooled a bit, but I like him at the Dime. He’s an aggressive tackler who can play that gunner role in the mustang. Corey Thompson won’t get a redshirt this year. Find No. 12 in warmups. You won’t be disappointed. He’ll replace Reid late in the game, probably late in the fourth quarter, but he’ll also play some special teams. Derrick Raymond (CB) and Jerqwinick Sandolph (S) may see the field, may not. Don’t expect Kavahra Holmes.
Brelan Chancellor is the best player on the North Texas roster. He’s a junior wide receiver with good speed and quickness. He’ll need them because he’s only 5-feet-9-inches. Chancellor catches a good amount of outs and screens in hopes that he can break them for big plays. At 177 lbs., he’s not built to take a beating, but that where those quicks come in. On the other side, senior Chris Bynes led the Mean Green in touchdown receptions a year ago with five. He’s bigger at 6-feet-1-inch and 220 lbs., and he’s more of a chain mover. Look for him on third downs. Fellow senior Ivan Delgado is the tallest of the bunch at 6-feet-2-inches. That trio caught 100 balls last year. The trigger man is Derek Thompson, and he’s pretty good. He’s a pocket style, but he got loose for a few runs a season ago. He completed just about 60 percent of his throws last year for 1,759 yards and 11 touchdowns. He threw for more than 300 yards twice last season in wins over Troy and ULM.
The ball will be in the air plenty on Saturday night. Thompson doesn’t figure to have a ton of time to throw the ball against the Tiger rush, so screens and short passes will be a must for North Texas. I think the Mean Green will hit on some of these, because I think LSU will let them to some degree. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t West Virginia, but the gameplan may look the same. “Don’t get beat over the top, and these guys won’t sustain a drive” will likely be John Chavis’ attitude, especially with young defensive backs all over the field. Simon may fall asleep out there, because North Texas will go at Mills and Collins all night long. Mills and Collins are plenty talented enough to deal with that. I’m actually very excited to watch those two take on the challenge. I think the LSU secondary makes more big plays than North Texas, but expect some completions. This is the most intriguing matchup on the field.
Clearly LSU’s defense is good. I don’t know for sure that it’s great until I see those defensive backs makes some plays. They will on Saturday, and they have to because I don’t expect North Texas to hand the ball off or sit in the pocket much at all. The ball is going to be coming out quickly. LSU is far too talented for North Texas, and I think this unit comes out fired up. Sam Montgomery should be wildly entertaining. Since the matchup won’t be, here are a few guys to watch: Anthony Johnson, Jermauria Rasco, Deion Jones, Jalen Mills, Jalen Collins. Those guys should make an impact this year. Give them a look.
Prediction: LSU 52, UNT 7