LSU – 2018 SEC Preview
Question marks, once again, surround the quarterbacks and special team units for the LSU Tigers. Former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow is expected to be the starter when the Tigers tee it up in Game No. 1 versus Miami (Fla.), but he has had little time to build rapport with a talented wide receiver unit.
LSU, for the first time in my memory, does not have a “star” halfback, and Steve Ensminger’s offense will feature a lot of 3 and 4 wide receiver sets.
The Tigers are big, strong and athletic upfront, but losing Will Clapp early to the NFL hurts LSU’s offensive line at center. Lloyd Cushenberry is expected to be his replacement.
The Tigers’ front-seven has as much talent and as much quality depth as I have seen in the past seven to eight years at LSU. They are loaded along the defensive line and also at linebacker.
But you can’t stay on the field forever.
The secondary is talented, but the Tigers are very young at cornerback. Kary Vincent better have some cement in the backbone as opponents won’t test All-SEC/All-American candidate Greedy Williams manning the other side. LSU boasts a talented group of players at the safety positions.
For the athletes LSU recruits every year, they should be an elite special teams unit, but they have not been the past few seasons. They need a playmaker—hopefully former Texas Tech standout wide receiver Jonathan Giles can fill the bill as a punt returner. Cole Tracy is expected to be the placekicker for LSU, and the Tigers need a top flight one.
The schedule is brutal with Miami (Fla.) and Auburn in the first three weeks of the season. LSU hosts Ole Miss at home and then goes on the road versus Florida. The Tigers then have three straight home games vs. Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama, before finishing up with Arkansas in Fayetteville, Rice in Baton Rouge and a road game to College Station to finish the regular against Texas A&M.
Ed Orgeron is feeling the heat to win and win big, and he found out last season nine wins isn’t good enough in Baton Rouge for LSU fans. There are a lot of question marks on the LSU team—quarterback, no superstar back, an inexperienced center and very little experienced depth at cornerback, as well as a new offensive coordinator.
This should be an interesting “watch” team in 2018!
Wide receiver Justin Jefferson: He followed his brothers Jordan (quarterback) and Rickey (safety) to LSU. Justin is not the biggest, fastest nor the most explosive of the Tiger WR’s, but he knows how to set up a defensive back to gain separation downfield. He is sure-handed and has gotten rave reviews for his route running skills.
Left tackle Saahdiq Charles: The massive 6-5, 330-pound left tackle has flashed big time skills as a run blocker and pass protector. Protecting the blind side of a new quarterback is paramount in Steve Ensminger’s new offensive scheme.
Tight end Foster Moreau: The 6-6, 245-pound senior tight end is a noted inside blocker and a sure handed target downfield. While he won’t run anchor on the 4×400 meter relay team, Foster is the security blanket target for quarterback Joe Burrow.
Halfback Clyde Edwards-Helaire: This is the first season I can remember in my lifetime that LSU does not return an established back to be the bell-cow runner. The 5-7, 205 pound sophomore is super quick. He has excellent field vision, is a tough inside runner for his size, and can catch the ball well coming out of the backfield.
Defensive end Rashard Lawrence: Former LSU defensive line coach Pete Jenkins told me that Lawrence is the toughest player he has ever coached during his storied career. And Lawrence is talented, too. He is super quick off the mark, an excellent technician, and causes havoc in run defense and off the edge as a pass rusher.
Outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson: Tiger offensive players have told me CHaisson has been virtually unblockable coming off the edge. The 6-4, 240-pound sophomore has the looks of a future star pass rusher in the SEC.
Inside linebacker Devin White: White is the tone-setter on defense for LSU. In 2017, he tied a Tiger school record with 8 games where he recorded double-digit tackles. He is super fast, instinctive toward the ballcarrier, and drops back smoothly into his coverage spots. He’s an All-American football player.
Cornerback Greedy Williams: At this time last season, most people, even people covering the Tigers, thought he would be a reserve cornerback. Williams, however, is now looked at as one of the premier cover cornerbacks in the nation. Greedy has excellent ball-reaction skills and first-rate anticipation ability.
LSU Newcomers to Watch
Quarterback Joe Burrow: The former Ohio State Buckeye didn’t sign on with LSU in the summer to be a back-up. Burrow is smart, a very hard worker off the field, and has excellent touch on his short to intermediate throws. He’s also a leader. How quickly this will all piece together for Burrow is the question.
Defensive end/Nosetackle Breiden Fehoko: The former Texas Tech transfer has made quite an impression with his versatility, his great strength, and his all-out play in practice. He is a perfect fit in Dave Aranda’s attack defense.
Offensive guard Damien Lewis: While the JUCO transfer has not always looked good, Lewis has been dominant at times in the practice sessions. The 6-3, 330-pound road-grader is quite a run-blocker and a much improved pass protector.
Placekicker Cole Tracy: The placekicking spot has been every bit as inconsistent as the quarterback spot for LSU. The strong-legged Tracy from Assumption College (MA) should be the missing piece of the kicking puzzle for LSU in 2018. LSU coaches have raved about his consistent nature as a kicker inside 45 yards.
Nosetackle Tyler Shelvin: Shelvin was a very highly recruited defensive lineman who sat out the 2017 season due to academic issues. He was the “WOW” factor in the spring. The 6-3, 358-pound nosetackle is quick for his size, massive to move off his base, and is very instinctive in tracking down the ballcarrier.
Wide receiver JaMarr Chase: Chase’s recruitment was something to watch throughout the process. The former Rummel High School (Louisiana) standout has good size, is smooth to get into and out of his cuts and breaks, and is elusive in space.
Halfback Chris Curry: With no star back he has to defeat to win the starting spot, Curry — the former Florida prep standout — may be the guy to eventually see a whole lot of touches as a runner for the Tigers. Physically and his running style are reminiscent of Seahawks/Raiders halfback Marshawn Lynch.
Mike Detillier has been the college and pro football analyst for WWL-Radio in New Orleans for the past 26 years. Detillier has been the publisher and editor of the Mike Detillier NFL Draft Report for the past 32 years. He is a regular contributor for ESPN Radio and television and also for WWL TV Channel 4 in New Orleans.
Detillier is a part of the New Orleans Saints and LSU Radio Networks, working pre and post game coverage. He is also a contributor to the Tennessee Titans Radio Network.
Mike is the host of WWL Radio’s 2nd Guess Monday Night Show with Bobby Hebert at the Silver Slipper Casino in Mississippi, and he also hosts Sports on the Bayou with former Saints Bobby Hebert and Rich Mauti.
Mike also writes for the Houma Courier, http://SaintsReport.com and for LSU’s Dandy Don’s Tiger Report.