Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting LSU

Dec 10, 2020 | 0 comments

he LSU Tigers look like a shell of the team that rewrote the national record books and won the national championship in 2019. That’s because they literally are just a shell of that team. They lost their passing game coordinator, defensive coordinator, quarterback, running back, tight end, top wide receiver and several of their defensive stars from that team. Their top returning receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, the Biletnikoff Award winner last season, opted out prior to the season.

The hits have kept coming during the season. Quarterback Myles Brennan was lost for the season to an abdominal injury in their third game, top receiver Terrace Marshall opted out a few weeks ago and reports surfaced Monday that five-star freshman tight end Arik Gilbert is considering a transfer. With all of the roster turmoil, the Tigers are just 3-5 this season, with all but one of the losses by double digits.

Still, LSU recruits as well as anybody in the country, so they probably won’t stay down for long. The No. 6 Gators hope they stay down for at least another week.

Here are three positions of strength, three positions of weakness, and three players to watch for from the Tigers.

Three Positions of Strength

Defensive Line

While it’s been a down season for the usually stingy Tigers defense, they still rank fourth in the SEC in tackles-for-loss and tied for fifth in sacks, and have plenty of size and skill upfront. Andre Anthony and top-100 freshman BJ Ojulari split time at the weakside end spot and have combined for eight sacks and a forced fumble. Ali Gaye starts on the strongside and has made two sacks and defended six passes. The tackle spots are filled by 319-pound Neil Farrell and 339-pound Glen Logan. Interior depth is provided by a pair of freshman 300-pounders. LSU has no chance of being able to cover Florida’s receivers, so their best bet to slow down UF’s offense is to dominate the line of scrimmage and force the Gators into some unfavorable down-and-distances like Tennessee did last week.


The Tigers are experienced and physical at this position. Junior middle linebacker Damone Clark is a hard-hitting player who has the athleticism to run sideline to sideline. He’s tied for the team lead with 50 tackles. Junior Micah Baskerville and senior Jabril Cox start on the outside and have combined for 89 stops. Cox, a North Dakota State transfer, is a special talent. He was a two-time FCS All-American with the Bison, and he’s expected to be drafted in the first couple of rounds. At 6-foot-4 and 231 pounds, he has ideal size for the position and the athleticism to be effective in coverage. He’s intercepted two passes this season and returned one of them for a touchdown.

Wide Receiver

Even though Chase opted out prior to the season and Marshall opted out a couple of weeks ago, they still have a ton of talent at wideout. Five-star freshman Kayshon Boutte has elite speed and has caught 26 passes for 319 yards and a touchdown. Jaray Jenkins provides the Tigers with a 6-foot-4 outside target. He’s caught 18 passes for 321 yards (17.8 yards per reception) and a score. Racey McMath, Jontre Kirklin and Koy Moore have all caught at least 12 passes. Kirklin is second on the team with three touchdowns. This isn’t the record-shattering receiving corps they had last season, but they’re still good enough to do some damage against UF’s secondary.

Three Positions of Weakness

Defensive Back

It feels weird listing LSU’s defensive backs as a weakness, but should anyone really be surprised in 2020? The Tigers are last in the conference in passing defense, surrendering 313.1 yards per game. The defensive backs have only made four interceptions. Mississippi State’s K.J. Costello broke the league record by throwing for 623 yards against them. Missouri freshman Connor Bazelak threw for more than 400 yards in his first start. Auburn’s Bo Nix threw for 300 yards. Most recently, Alabama’s Mac Jones threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns. Five-star freshman Eli Ricks has been solid, with three interceptions, including a pick-six. However, freshman phenom Derek Stingley has experienced a sophomore slump. You’d rather throw his way than Ricks’. Safety JaCoby Stevens has been a solid run-stopper and pass-rusher but has struggled in coverage. Kyle Trask could be able to throw for 400 yards again this week and still exit the game early in the fourth quarter.

Offensive Line

With the Tigers rotating a pair of freshmen at quarterback, they’ve tried to lean more heavily on their massive offensive line. The line has let them down. They’re averaging just 110 rushing yards per game, which is 13th in the league, and just 3.2 yards per carry, which is 12th. They’ve given up 22 sacks, which is the fourth most in the league and the second-most of any team that’s only played eight games. With two seniors in the starting lineup and all five starters weighing at least 305 pounds, they should be a lot better than they are. Florida’s defensive line should feast again this week.


Freshman TJ Finley has started the last five games and is expected to start again this week. He’s completed just 57.1 percent of his passes for 941 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s struggled mightily the past two weeks against the only top-25 teams he’s faced. Against Texas A&M and Alabama, he combined to go 23-for-53 for 262 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Classmate Max Johnson, a lefty, has spelled Finley in the last four games and thrown for 395 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He’s also considered more of a dual-threat than Finley. LSU will likely play both of them against the Gators, and they’ll probably continue to struggle.

Three Players to Watch

Running Back John Emery

While he’s listed second on their depth chart, the former five-star prospect is probably the most dangerous offensive weapon that the Tigers have left. He has elite speed, acceleration, and agility. He’s carried the ball 71 times for 371 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and three touchdowns and caught 13 passes for 67 yards. With Gilbert possibly no longer with the team and the continuing struggles at quarterback, he should be a big part of LSU’s game plan this week.

Defensive End BJ Ojulari

Ojulari has great length and was considered one of the top speed-rushers in his class. He’s done nothing to prove those evaluations wrong. He’s tied for the team lead with four sacks and has forced a fumble. He’ll probably line up across from UF right tackle Jean Delance plenty of times. Delance has basically been a turnstile that escorts defenders to Trask over the past few weeks. This will be a key matchup to watch.

Cornerback Derek Stingley

You don’t intercept six passes, defend 21 passes and earn First Team All-American accolades as a true freshman by accident. Though he hasn’t lived up to the enormous external expectations this season, he’s still one of the most physically gifted defensive backs in the nation. Last year, UF’s Van Jefferson was the only player who got the best of Stingley, catching a pair of touchdown passes. It’ll be interesting to see if Trevon Grimes can do something similar on Saturday.

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