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DandyDon.com Questions Mike Detillier on USM, LSU O, the O-line & What’s Needed to Make 2016 Special
Scott: Ok, looking ahead to the next two weeks, LSU will get Southern Miss and Ole Miss at home. Right now LSU has an advantage in that there’s only one game of film on the team since Coach O and Steve Ensminger took over the offense. Do you think the fact that they didn’t play Florida this week will change the game plan against Southern Miss? Maybe they can keep a few things under wraps until the Ole Miss game and maintain as much of that advantage as possible? I’m trying to see the silver lining here.
Mike: You work on what works best for you. This team has speed, talent and matchup advantages. You take full notice of those features and work on getting better on what you think will work best for you and then add a wrinkle or two.
Other than getting healthy, especially along the offensive line and Fournette, and getting some extra time in recruiting, there is no advantage to not playing the Florida game. I would assume both Ole Miss and USM are taking a long look at what USC did when Coach O was there under Pete Carroll and what the Saints have done offensively. It’s no secret that he picked up a lot of what he likes in those two places. I know how bad Coach O wants that Ole Miss game. And you are playing the gunslinger quarterback – the best QB. you will face all regular season in Chad Kelly. Trevor Knight is a good player at A&M, but Kelly is even better than Trevor.
Scott: Let’s step back and talk about the Tigers’ great success against Missouri. What did you like best about the game plan Coach O and Steve Ensminger put together on offense?
Mike: You can’t change an offense in a week. Again, a lot of this was running the same plays, but running them out of different sets or formations. Take advantage of the size and speed of your receivers. I know Coach O believes in some games you will have to set up the running game by passing first. He also likes to rotate his backs. He did it at Ole Miss and he came from USC where they did it a whole lot also and got them involved in the passing game. And a little bit of an element of surprise. Use the short pass like an extended handoff. USC did a lot of that with Reggie Bush and Bush was in New Orleans when Coach O was there. He used Dexter McCluster a lot of the same way at Ole Miss.
He threw Missouri off a little with the sets and then they executed very well. They looked like a fresh team due to the practice schedule pull-back and they spent more time with the little details on certain plays. “Focus Friday” and more attention to the mental part of the game, and that is what the pros do.
Getting more people involved like we saw with DJ Chark, Jazz Ferguson, Nick Brossette and Darrel Williams and the tight ends.
What I liked best was that the team seemed to mentally believe what they were doing would work. This game is a lot about believing and understanding what to do. In any job, if you have confidence in what you are doing that’s the best thing and when you fully understand it, you do a better job. I think what Coach O and Steve will do more is ripped from the Sean Payton playbook on stretching the field, using the size and speed of the wide outs and getting teams out of the box against the run. Even if it doesn’t work, it is in the back of your mind they will come back to it and could beat you with the middle to deep range throws.
The key down the stretch is getting much better in the short passing game.
Scott: And to think, LSU had so much success against Mizzou without Leonard Fournette playing in the game. Assuming Fournette is completely healthy from here on out (which is far from a safe assumption), how do you see Derrius Guice, Darrel Williams, and Nick Brosette being utilized?
Mike: Remember that Coach O recruited Reggie Bush and Lendale White to USC. At Ole Miss, he had Dexter McCluster and Brandon Bolden. He likes the two-back sets and likes to use the short pass like a long handoff. When Fournette gets healthy he will again be the main guy, but you are going see him use Derrius Guice a lot and also Darrel Williams. All three are different style runners and receivers. This team has to get better in utilizing the backs coming out of the backfield and put those two “special” guys out one-on-one in the open field. I also suspect you will see sets with both Leonard and Guice in the backfield. There is a lot of imagination you can use with those guys on the field at the same time as runners and receivers.
LSU will always be a run-first offense, but the difference is they will try to stretch the field more vertically. That lies in the hands of Danny Etling. And I am sure he has been told more than once to slide and not try and take on defenders in the open field. You are the starting QB so there is no reason to put yourself in a bad spot to get injured. This game is physical enough without trying to play like you are a fullback downfield. Take what you can get and get up for the next play.
Scott: Of course, for any of LSU’s talented running backs to have great success, the Tigers need solid play from the O-line. How concerned are you with the injuries piling up there?
Mike: Now, that concerns me. No team likes to get injuries in the sort of midway point of the season to offensive linemen. No one in college football has great depth, from an experience and talent standpoint, when multiple injuries occur to offensive linemen. You’ve got to work five men as a unit of one. That is a lot easier said than done. One breakdown and the play is shot. There is some versatility with some of the linemen and that helps, but I think right now that is the biggest immediate worry for LSU with injuries to Will Clapp and Toby Weathersby.
Normally this is the point in the season that the offensive line jells. You have worked together for five games and in practice, so surely it is a concern.
Let me say this. I firmly believe that the Missouri game was offensive guard Josh Boutte’s best game he ever played for LSU and that is encouraging.
Scott: Ok, we’ll close this Q&A out with general questions about each unit of the team. What do you think is the single most important thing LSU most needs to do on offense, on defense, and on special teams to make this a very special season?
Mike: On offense, this team will go as far as Danny Etling will take them and Steve Ensminger will do a good job utilizing what Etling does best. LSU will always be a run-first offensive team, that will not change, but you have to take full advantage of the size, speed and athletic skills on the perimeter. Short passing game efficiency will be key down the stretch. You know that the running game with Fournette and Guice will be there.
On defense, stopping the run is always the key. But I know Coach O has stressed to the team, along with Dave Aranda, about sure-tackling and worked a little more with them on this. Dave Aranda is a terrific defensive coach and he knows the key to winning is stopping the run and getting off the field on third down. I think Aranda has found the right matchups to go with his nickel and dime sets and on this defense you better play hard and play all out or the guy behind you will step into those shoes. I certainly liked the play of the secondary vs. Missouri and they were glued to those receivers and when they made the catch they made the tackle immediately.
Because of the attention being thrown in the direction of Arden Key for obvious reasons, this will open up things on the other side of the field more for Lewis Neal and also for blitz packages to affect the timing of throws. Quietly both Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley have really played well at linebacker for LSU and that is an Aranda trademark.
On special teams, more consistency in the punting game with better kicks. My Lord, that is all over the board with Josh Growden. Tré White has done a superb job returning punts, but I think you will see a little bit of a wrinkle or two done differently on kickoff returns. Every top LSU team has been not good but excellent on special teams. Improving the punting game and getting more out of the kickoff units is a key down the stretch.
One thing to watch is that really good staffs find a way to develop players during the season. You admire and respect Nick Saban for doing that at Alabama. Like him or not, that is a huge part of his success, along with Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Getting to develop Danny Etling better at quarterback, D.J. Chark more at wide receiver, you see how well both Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley have played at linebacker, Donté Jackson at cornerback and in the nickel, Josh Boutte really played his best game ever at LSU at guard and Trevonté Valentine and Greg Gilmore at the noseguard spot. For some players, it is all about getting game-time reps. That is a huge key for this team down the stretch.
But this game is all about efficiency and attitude. There are a lot of very talented guys on the LSU team and getting them focused and ready to play for a very tough stretch is vital. That is the one element that really is missing in not playing Florida. A win there would have really put even more confidence in this football team. You can’t carry momentum. Momentum lasts until you get hit in the chops the first time after a win, but you can carry confidence in what you are doing and that is the best thing for the team. Getting more people involved and having them feel they are a part of this, too. Coach O and the staff have them believing in the coaching staff and one another, and the game seems to be fun again for them
Scott: Thanks, Mike. I appreciate your input and know the DandyDon readers do too.
Mike: No problem, Scott. My pleasure.
Mike Detillier, based in southern Louisiana, is editor and publisher of Mike Detillier’s NFL Draft Report. He’s also the college and pro football analyst for WWL 870 AM Radio in New Orleans, a sports columnist for several newspapers and Web sites, and a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country. Visit Mike’s website at mikedetillier.com and follow @MikeDetillier on Twitter.
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