In a welcome back to the season, we have our first Q&A session with the other team’s blogger! Zachary Junda of LSU’s SB Nation blog And the Valley Shook agreed to answer some of my questions, and his answers are below. Surprisingly, Zach chose not to answer all of the questions in Ed Orgeron speak.
1. LSU’s defense gave up 44 points in its season opener against Mississippi State. Was this a reflection of Mike Leach’s offense, or was there anything in there that Vanderbilt might be able to exploit?
You can credit some of Mississippi State’s success to Mike Leach’s offense, but LSU was doomed before the game even started. Orgeron mentioned in his presser leading up to the game that LSU was thin at cornerback, and the night before All-American corner Derek Stingley was hospitalized due to an allergic reaction. So a shorthanded secondary lost the one person it could not afford to lose and the Tigers had nothing but sophomores and freshmen trying to cover State’s group of junior and senior wide receivers. It went about as well as it sounds.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Orgeron said Tuesday that sophomore corner Jay Ward was playing after recently getting surgery to repair a torn meniscus. So if we’re keeping count, LSU’s best cover guy was hospitalized, its second best corner— true freshman Elias Ricks—made his college debut, its third best corner was playing on a surgically repaired knee and its fourth corner, Darren Evans, transferred to LSU earlier in September after spending three years at Nichols State in the Southland Conference. LSU walked into a buzzsaw Saturday, they just didn’t know it until it was too late.
But I can forgive all of that. What I can’t forgive is old/new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini absolutely refusing to adjust coverages, play more zone and get out of the man-to-man coverage that clearly wasn’t working. Mississippi State had more yards after the catch, 386, than Brennan did passing. It was a very Les Miles kind of loss, reminiscent of how LSU would insist on trying to run into Alabama’s brick wall of a defense. And that’s really concerning, those days were supposed to be over.
2. Myles Brennan had a rough debut as LSU’s starting quarterback. Is Ed Orgeron committed to him as the starter or could we see a quarterback change at some point?
Orgeron has to be committed to Myles Brennan because he’s got no other option. Behind Brennan are a pair of true freshmen and if either of Max Johnson or TJ Finley take any meaningful snaps for LSU in 2020, something terrible has happened. LSU didn’t try to recreate the Joe Burrow magic and go after a D’Eriq King, JT Daniels or KJ Costello, the man who just torched LSU to the tune of 623 passing yards. Brennan is Orgeron’s guy for better or worse.
3. Star cornerback Derek Stingley missed the season opener. Is he expected to be back this week?
Yes, both Orgeron and his father expect Stingley will play Saturday against Vanderbilt. Stingley practiced in a no-contact jersey on Tuesday.
4. LSU almost always seems to have an endless supply of running backs, and yet the Tigers rushed for just 80 yards on Saturday. What’s going on there?
Well some of that is sack yardage. Brennan was sacked an alarming seven times last weekend. The running backs-Chris Curry, Tyrion Davis-Price, and John Emery-combined for 117 yards on 27 carries, for 4.3 yards a pop. So good, but not great. Orgeron has said repeatedly that those three guys are all starters in his eyes and he tries to rotate them accordingly. But I think it’s actually a detriment to LSU to play it like that. Now on the one hand, those three all backed up Clyde Edwards-Helaire last year so I can understand rotating to try and find out who emerges. But there’s a real lack of identity with the LSU offense, I don’t think they know who they are yet (can you blame them they’re replacing their quarterback, running back, top two wide receivers, tight end and three starting offensive linemen from last season) and they need to figure out who their go-to back is starting this week. Personally I hope Emery emerges and seizes the job, he was the No. 2 running back in America coming out of high school and his skillset most closely resembles Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s.
5. Finally, predict the final score of Saturday’s game.
LSU had better win this game by at least 17 points or I will be seriously concerned about this team. Having Stingley back in the secondary will help, and I feel like it’s safe to say freshman Ken Seals won’t throw for 600 yards. What concerns me is Vanderbilt might have a good defensive line and LSU’s offensive line might be bad, remember they gave up seven sacks last week. But I still feel confident LSU walks out of Nashville with its first win of the 2020 season, let’s say...38-17.