We spent a lot of time leading up to LSU’s season opener talking about their "new and improved” offense, but the real star of the show was the Tigers' relentless defense.
“When you're in that defensive staff room with Dave Aranda, you come in, and he has this little notebook, and he has about 30 pages of notes every day,” said head coach Ed Orgeron. “You see the type of athletes we have. It just looks like it's all coming together.”
LSU’s scrimmages during fall camp, labeled “preseason games,” were said to be the most thorough that the players have had in years in terms preparation for the real thing. It worked to perfection.
“For those guys, I was just so proud of them, the way the practice and the way they prepared,” says Orgeron. “Obviously, we've got some things we need to be better at, but to hold them under 100 yards of total offense is fantastic.”
Most impressive about the defense was how well they played without several key starters. That's thanks to some big plays from their freshmen that never really looked like freshman at all. Tyler Taylor stepped up in place of Donnie Alexander at linebacker and was all over the field. Greedy Williams, meanwhile, started for the suspended Kevin Toliver at corner and made a huge interception down the sideline on the only deep shot that BYU dared to take. They may be new names to some fans, but to their teammates that saw them all summer, it's what's expected.
“There are a lot of guys that stepped up,” says senior defensive tackle Christian LaCouture. “They understand their role, and they want to do great things. When you go in there and do it day in and day out in camp, spring ball, summer, whatever it might be, and you do it consistently, you have the confidence to do it. Then when you go to a game, you're ready to go.”
Who would have thought that after losing Tre White, Jamal Adams, Kendell Beckwith and other contributors to the NFL, the Tigers wouldn’t take a single step back?
“We pride ourselves on being a top tier defense every year,” says junior safety John Battle. “We want to send a message to the rest of the country that we believe that we are the best defense. We pride ourselves on making big plays and gap assignments and playing hard-nosed, tough football.”
Pride being the key word there. Because sure, the Tigers could have eased up late, but the chance to hold BYU to negative five yards on the ground and less than 100 yards total was too good to let slip away.
“We saw it,” says sophomore defensive end Rashard Lawrence. “We kept looking at the scoreboard, and it was like negative one rushing yards, zero rushing yards. We were like, hey, it doesn't matter who you play. If you can do that, that's special.”
Obviously, LSU will face much more athletic and much tougher opponents than BYU in the meat of their schedule. But outside of a few penalties and some issues to work out in the red zone offensively, it’s a very sound start to the Coach O era.
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