If you blinked or were in line at the concession stands and think you didn’t miss much when LSU’s season-opening game against McNeese State was delayed by lightning and eventually canceled Saturday night, think again.
After months of wondering if the LSU offense will be improved and what the defense will look like under new coordinator Kevin Steele, not to mention the debuts of another crop of talented freshmen, fans were naturally disappointed when the game was called off.
Yet, they saw a lot in just eight snaps for the Tigers — five on offense and a three-and-out on defense — to whet their appetite for the rest of the season, starting with Saturday night’s key Southeastern Conference matchup against Mississippi State in Starkville, Mississippi.
A quick glimpse of the LSU offense showed sophomore Brandon Harris at quarterback with a variety of weapons and formations — including a rarely-used four-receiver set — at his disposal.
Steele’s defense, in its brief time on the field, blitzed on two of McNeese’s three snaps and produced two negative-yardage plays before forcing a punt.
While they may have looked like plays they could use successfully against an FCS opponent, the Tigers were quick to point out that they weren’t just window-dressing and is a sign of things to come.
“Yeah, it was really, really fun,” Harris said of the diversity and aggressiveness the offense showed on its only drive of the evening. “We’ve got a lot of talent on offense this year, and you can kind of see that.”
After starting off with two running plays for Leonard Fournette that produced a quick first down, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron called an end-around for speedy freshman Donte Jackson, then had Harris swing a pass out to freshman Derrius Guice after he lined up in the backfield with fellow freshman Nick Brossette.
Having Jackson on the field and the two freshman in the backfield at the same time so early in the game may have caught some by surprise, but not Harris.
“We practice a lot of different things,” he said with a smile. “This offense is going to be explosive this year.”
And, if all goes well, unpredictable.
On defense, the Tigers, who recorded only 19 sacks in 13 games last season, showed lots of pressure in a cameo appearance.
Steele didn’t waste any time calling a blitz on second-and-11, bringing free safety Rickey Jefferson from the left side.
Jefferson, who’s playing for injured safety Jalen Mills, got to McNeese State quarterback Daniel Sams and shared the sack with defensive end Tashawn Bower.
Bower and strong safety Jamal Adams said more pressure can be expected in the future.
“I believe so. I think we have a lot of returning guys who understand what it takes to be a great defense and understand the mentality,” Bower said of a front seven that includes three seniors and three juniors.
Adams said he wasn’t surprised Steele called the blitz so early and said it’s a big part of what the Tigers want to do this season.
“Oh yeah, you know, from safeties, to linebackers, to corners … just the whole defense,” Adams said. “We’re going to be coming, bringing pressure and just causing mistakes and getting turnovers.”
On third-and-17, weakside linebacker Deion Jones blitzed and pressured Sams again even though the pass was completed.
“That definitely helps us a lot, and, aside from the blitzing, we need the secondary guys and our linebackers to cover (well) to give us more time to bring pressure and get more sacks,” Bower said. “We all kind of bounce off each other.”
Jefferson, who will get a lot of playing time while Mills is sidelined after having ankle surgery, said he is excited about the opportunities the defense should get under Steele if the first brief outing is any indication.
“Coach Steele, he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve,” Jefferson said. “We’re looking forward to playing for him and seeing what he does the rest of the year. We practice a lot of good things every day, and we’re just ready to show you guys this season.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.