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Mike Detillier on Areas of Concern for the 2019 LSU Football Team
On offense, it’s the play of the offensive tackles. Saahdiq Charles struggled at times last season at left tackle. I think he’s a better right tackle than left, but he’s the best the Tigers have at left tackle today and the coaches – and in particular, Ed Orgeron – spoke about his improvement in the spring drills. Watching him at practice, he looked better with his footwork and his body balance skills. His improvement would be huge for the Tigers’ offense because he’s guarding the blindside for Joe Burrow and Myles Brennan. He seemed to be off-balance at times last season and got beat off the snap. Saahdiq has talent, no question, so it’s a technique upgrade, and I am interested to see his development this season. Charles is a really good run blocker.
On the right side, Austin Deculus had his moments last season, especially as a run blocker, but he struggled at times with the speed coming off the edge and his adjustments to moves and countermoves by a defensive end. He’s got to get off the snap quicker, get his hands on those linemen quicker, and steer those ends off to the edge better.
The tackle spots are the ones to watch and also the development of the younger players at the tackle spot in Cameron Wire, Dare Rosenthal, and the first look at guys like Anthony Bradford, Thomas Perry, and Ray Parker – all potential tackles at the college level who are freshmen. It’s a real tough spot to land because everyone wants those guys in this “pitch and catch” world of football. Hopefully, with the good health of Badara Traore, we can see him emerge also.
So, on offense, it would be watching what happens at the tackle spot for 2019 and in the future. LSU looks good inside at both guard and center.
On defense, it’s all about good health. The healthy return of players like K’Lavon Chaisson – who is one of the most dominant edge guys in college football when healthy, Rashard Lawrence had knee surgery and he’s really a good football player, Breiden Fehoko at defensive end. Jacob Phillips is a monster player at inside linebacker, and Kristian Fulton really developed into one of the better cover guys in the SEC last season. All of them are returning from injuries. That’s some key elements on defense for LSU. But having a healthy Chaisson back is the real key here. His presence as an edge pass rusher changes how teams block and scheme against you. He’s a tremendous young player.
On special teams, certainly replacing Cole Tracy is the key. It’s Cade York’s spot and we will see how the freshman responds. He is very talented as a kicker, but how consistent he is and how mentally tough he is, we will find out quick. It’s like that with every freshman kicker. But close games are decided on special teams.
The other factor on special teams is the punt return game. Derek Stingley, Jr., could well be the guy there to fix that issue. We saw what type of difference having someone like Tyrann Mathieu back there meant to the Tigers and Greg McMahon lavished praised on Stingley and the type of impact he could have to turn field position around for the Tigers. It’s amazing how many close games are won on special teams play, field position, the ability to cover kicks and punts, and the return game. We saw last season the impact of Cole as a consistent field goal kicker and for extra points and also Avery Atkins as a kickoff guy. That’s where a freshman or redshirt freshman can make a difference and catch the coaches’ eyes, on special teams.
To be continued...
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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