September 12, 2017 12:58:28 PM
Ross Dellenger is the LSU beat writer for The Advocate (Baton Rouge) and unquestionably one of the best in the business among us college football beat writers. Here's some insight from him on the Tigers coming to Starkville Saturday night.
1) It seemed coming into the year that the LSU defense was going to need to lean on young guys in several spots. Who are the ones that have stepped in to keep the machine going?
The Tigers are certainly young on the defensive side. They'll start as many as three true freshmen and rotate three to four more. Safety Grant Delpit beat out a senior for his spot, and Kary Vincent surpassed a third-year sophomore as LSU's nickel cornerback. Those two are talented players who have already made splashy plays through the first two games.
Edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson, also a true freshman, recorded two sacks against UT-Chattanooga last week. Cornerback Greedy Williams, a first-year player as a reshirt freshman, has two interceptions and leads the league in passes defended.
2) The bombs LSU dropped on UT Chattanooga, who gets credit: Danny Etling, LSU's wideouts or blame the UTC defensive backs?
There's enough credit and blame to go around. Etling placed a few of those passes in great places, but at least two of them were underthrown. Receivers DJ Chark and Stephen Sullivan made excellent plays on the ball. Coach Ed Orgeron says the receivers are the most improved position in the program.
That said, Chattanooga's safeties often bit on Etling's play-action, creeping up toward the line of scrimmage to leave no one back deep - a real problem for the fast, rangy receivers like LSU has.
3) The offensive line was a hot topic as the depth took a serious hit in August. How has that unit fared through 2 weeks?
Probably better than most would have predicted. Etling has been sacked just once (plus an intentional grounding), and the Tigers ran for 296 and 222 yards against BYU and Chattanooga, respectively.
Everything isn't wonderful, though. LSU's line is responsible for six of the whopping 21 penalties the Tigers have been flagged for the first two weeks. And they're still trying to find a right guard. Two true freshman, Saahdiq Charles and Ed Ingram, continue rotating at that position.
4) What do you expect out of Arden Key Saturday night?
Don't expect him to be on the field every play - or, even, every other play. Key isn't in complete game shape, Orgeron said. He gained about 30 pounds during the offseason (about 10 over what coaches wanted).
Still, he's a monster on third downs, and I expect LSU to use him on the field at the same time with Chaisson, the talented, edge-rushing rookie from Houston.
5) How does the fan base view this game? I ask because given the offensive struggles of Florida and Auburn, two non-conference games at home and an unproven Ole Miss in there, it's possible this is LSU's toughest test before Alabama.
I think many here do realize how significant of a challenge this will be for LSU. The Tigers are taking their new offense on the road for the first time and rely on as many as eight true freshmen. This won't be easy.
The timing of Key's return is not coincidental, if you know what I mean.