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DandyDon.com Q&A with Mike Detillier on LSU Spring Football 2019, Part 1
Scott: First, I’d like to get your thoughts on what you saw from LSU’s offense. It seems like every year we head into the new season expecting, or hoping, that LSU’s offense will be new and improved. Expectations are exceptionally high this year with the addition of Joe Brady as Passing Game Coordinator. Tell me what you saw in Saturday’s scrimmage that would lead you to believe this year’s offense will indeed be different?
Mike: Well, they didn’t show very much in the scrimmage, but you saw what Coach O has wanted and that is the addition of the short/quick passing attack. And use of the running backs more coming out of the backfield, like an extended handoff.
I’ve spoken about this in the past and it is something he certainly saw in his days at Miami (Fla.), USC and with the Saints. Get the ball to the playmakers and then let them beat that defender one-on-one downfield.
We didn’t see much of the RPO stuff, but it’s certainly something you will see a lot of and when teams start to cheat up to stop the short passing attack, then you go deep on them. That’s something he has preached about since he worked on Sean Payton’s staff and Joe Brady understands that part too.
Now, Coach O still wants that physical brand of football in the running game and they will pound it at times, but this is about spreading the field and getting the ball out quick to the wide receivers and halfbacks. What’s interesting is we saw little to the tight ends, but I expect that part to increase also. It’s going to look different and LSU has a host of talented WR’s, but the quarterback is the big difference. He has someone in Joe Burrow that will get the ball out quick and let those playmakers do something after the catch. It’s going to be different, but that “hammer” part of rushing the ball will always be there as long as Coach O is there.
The big difference is that there are new elements offensively, but you now have the quarterback, or I should say quarterbacks, to make it work.
Scott: Yes, indeed. LSU seems to be in better shape at quarterback than in many years. Both quarterbacks looked good to me. And really, where I expect Burrow to shine is in the RPO where his ability to read a defense pre-snap and utilize his mobility will be a plus. Talk a little more about your expectations for LSU’s quarterback play this year?
Mike: The difference is the quarterback. You can’t make that offense work without the skill set of Joe Burrow and his ability to know where to go with the ball. That’s the difference and he’s a good runner too. In putting in that quick/short/fast throw it puts teams on their heels a little and again- Steve Ensminger/Joe Brady, along with Coach O, want to throw the deep ball too. But Joe makes the difference and he has a year under his belt in working with the receivers and gaining that rapport you want in what a player does best and what he doesn’t as a receiver.
The team believes in Burrow at the most critical position on the field.
And Myles Brennan has made a sharp turn in his development at quarterback.
Scott: Of course, we’ve said many times that success starts in the trenches. Honestly, that remains my biggest concern at this time. Talk about what LSU needs to do to prevent pass protection from being the huge issue that it was last season.
Mike: It’s the biggest concern at offensive tackles, plural. Those players have to get better.
Just too much leakage off the edges from both Saahdiq Charles and Austin Deculus. No team is perfect, but those spots need to get better. When they got beat, it was a technique mistake. They were off balance. The short/quick passing game helps to not get that hard edge pressure, but you saw when it was an extended play, at times there was strong edge pressure. You saw Coach O’s reaction.
But Charles looked more comfortable with his footwork this year at left tackle than a year ago. That spot is the one everyone needs to watch in the fall during drills to see the progress as pass protectors from both Charles and Deculus.
Scott: There’s a lot of hope for guys like Cameron Wire and Dare Rosenthal. Do you expect them to be impact players on the O-line this season?
Mike: Impact players? I don’t know about impact, but with both, you saw good athleticism, but they were thrown off balance at times. You got to play this game on balance and not be reaching out as much. Bend at the knees, not so much at the waist. That spot is the one to watch in the fall to improve for all four offensive tackles. They need to continue to physically get stronger, but also improve the technical part of the game in pass protection. They can run-block well, but you have to watch their improvement as pass protectors.
Scott: And what about incoming freshmen Kardell Thomas, Anthony Bradford, and Thomas Perry?
Mike: That’s a tough spot for a freshman, but Kardell Thomas is a man up front. He’s a big man who can move his feet and he plays a tough, physical brand of football. Of the three, I think he has the best chance to play as a freshman. I’m a big fan of Kardell.
It will be interesting to see if the issue with Ed Ingram gets resolved. Two years ago, he was the best offensive lineman on this team. That would help out tremendously if his issues with the law get resolved. He would step in and be an instant starter at guard. He’s a difference maker up front if he gets his issues resolved.
Scott: One position group I was impressed with was the receiving corps. You know that I have been saying I’d like to see LSU take better advantage of the extreme height they have at the position, especially in the red zone. I was happy to see that Stephen Sullivan and Dee Anderson were the most targeted receivers in the scrimmage. With those two, plus guys like Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall, and others, LSU should have plenty of receivers to run the 4- and 5-receiver sets Orgeron has said he'd like to utilize. Your thoughts on this position group.
Mike: Ja’Marr Chase is a star player. A star player and they will move him all across the football board. You want the ball in his hands a lot as a receiver and a runner. He’s special.
Stephen Sullivan is a nightmare to cover due to his size and athleticism. No one can match up with him downfield due to his size. He has become much better as a route runner. Now, he will occasionally drop an easy pass, but he’s a huge weapon in the slot as a tight end/wide receiver. The coaching staff thinks very highly of him and they want the ball in his hands more.
Justin Jefferson just knows how to get open, he has sure hands, and he makes the tough catch look routine. Jefferson is a player and a reliable route runner and you can see Joe Burrow trusts he will be in the right spot to make a play.
Terrace Marshall is physically getting back from the injury he had as a prep senior and I like his size, his ability to go up and get the ball and he runs with the ball so well after the catch. I see he has become a more reliable route runner and he has improved as a wide receiver to set up a DB and gain separation quicker downfield.
Dee Anderson has become a much more focused player and has excellent size and length to reach out and catch the football. He works those sideline routes real well. Dee is a big man receiver and he has a chance to be very, very good as that big target short/intermediate receiver.
Racey McMath is another impressive wide receiver. He’s thickly built, he has good size and he’s tremendously athletic. Coaches have talked highly about him and how they can use him in different sets.
No question the most talented and deepest area the team has on offense is at wide receiver and with this new setup offensively, it plays right into the hands of a team loaded at wide receiver.
Scott: I’d like to think LSU tight ends will be used more in the passing game this year. Last year, LSU talked about wanting to get them more involved but were thin at the position and needed them to help with blocking and protection schemes. You see more of the same this year?
Mike: Well, last season because of the lack of real good protection off the edges at times they had to keep Foster Moreau in to help aid in pass protection. It’s an area Steve Ensminger wants to get more involved in the passing game and it’s interesting we saw little of that in the spring game. Joe Brady with the Saints used a lot of the TE’s in the passing game and I expect they will use that more this season and how they use Stephen Sullivan and also the development of Jamal Pettigrew. That spot can be huge in the red zone and that was an area the coaching staff talked about getting better at after the season.
Scott: The one group we haven’t talked about on offense is the running backs. That unit should be considerably better with the arrival of John Emery and Tyrion Davis this fall, but what do you think of the guys that are on campus now?
Mike: Clyde Edwards-Helaire is just a really good college player. He’s one tough dude running the ball inside and he has that scoot element off the edge. But where you will see him used more is as a receiver coming out of the backfield. Clyde is a good player.
Chris Curry got nicked up a little in the spring and he’s had some rollercoaster moments, but he played strong in the Spring Game. He ran real hard between the tackles and he showed some real strong battle skills after initial contact. He needed that type of game. He brings that “power” element Coach O wants in a runner. Now, he has to show more consistency, but I liked what I saw from his vision as a runner and his ability to use that power skill to get extra yardage.
Lanard Fournette is a speed/edge runner and he can catch the ball well. Lanard is a scat-back and he’s a good edge back and he can catch the ball. There’s a niche for him in this offense.
But those two freshmen will see a lot of playing time in 2019.
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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