Christian LaCouture slid just 3 feet to his left. He looked up and saw in front of him a tackle — not a guard or center, but a tackle.
It felt weird.
“Bringing back the old-school days,” a chuckling LaCouture said earlier this week.
LSU’s defensive line appears to be attempting to ramp up pressure with some unusual tactics.
All sorts of crazy things are happening.
LaCouture, a 300-pound defensive tackle, has played at defensive end, setting up over the tackle for the first time in a game since his high school days.
Defensive ends have played over the center — but only when they’re not bouncing around before the snap in areas normally occupied by linebackers.
What the heck is going on?
“It’s all about giving people different looks and switching things up,” defensive end Tashawn Bower said.
No. 24 LSU (6-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) hosts quarterback Bo Wallace and No. 3 Ole Miss (7-0, 4-0) on Saturday night. The Tigers are, no doubt, hoping their jazzed-up defensive line can pressure the error-prone Rebels quarterback.
Wallace has thrown 33 interceptions in his 33 starts as Ole Miss’ quarterback dating to 2012. But his interception-heavy ways — at least in SEC play — have plummeted this season.
He has yet to throw a pick in any of the Rebels’ four conference games.
Isn’t he due for a rough outing? That might depend on LSU’s front, a unit that’s struggled to create pressure in 2014.
Before that 41-3 win over Kentucky last week, LSU had 11 sacks through its first seven games — the fewest in that span since having nine in 2009.
Without pressure, comes big plays. The Tigers allowed 18 runs of 15 yards or more and 17 passes of 20 or more yards in the first seven games — three of which were lower-level nonconference opponents.
“I know that at the beginning of the year we weren’t getting as much as we wanted to,” LaCouture said. “We’re fighters.”
Things began to change against Kentucky, a two-sack effort that included at least 10 QB pressures — in the first half — from LSU’s front.
What changed? A host of things.
LSU implemented a few new looks over the past few games. They were most obvious and effective in the win over the Wildcats.
So what exactly were they — outside of LaCouture tinkering at end?
Freshman defensive end Sione Teuhema entered the game in LSU’s Mustang, a pass-rushing package that includes three linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs.
That’s not surprising. Teuhema, a 6-foot-4, 230-pounder from Texas, has played sporadically this season. What’s surprising is where he lined up — at nose tackle in the three-man front.
He did this at least five times, and defensive end Danielle Hunter replaced him inside on the Mustang at least once.
“Coach Brick (Haley) started that last week,” defensive end Jermauria Rasco said. “Wanted to put more speed on the field.”
Teuhema, a top-25 defensive end out of high school, “did exceptionally well,” Bower said. “When we have great speed on the field, especially in the middle, I don’t think guards and centers are really used to such quick speed.”
The second change: Rasco has taken on the role of LSU’s “Bronco.” It’s a scheme implemented this season, Rasco said. The senior defensive end becomes LSU’s roving lineman — a guy who bounces around before the snap.
He does anything to confuse the defense. That includes slipping inside at tackle, then jumping back outside at end and, finally, dropping back to the row of linebackers.
“It’s kind of hard to kind of block that, especially when we always got a lot of stuff going on,” Rasco said. “Everybody is starting to catch up on our base defense. (Coach Haley) just wanted to add a new defense. We’ve been trying to roll with it.”
They roll into Saturday’s game to face a guy in Wallace who scorched them in a 27-24 loss last season in Oxford. He completed 30 of 39 attempts for 346 yards, and he ran for a combined 16 yards and converted to key third downs on Ole Miss’ 80-yard game-winning drive.
“Last year,” Rasco said, “I underestimated his speed.”
The line is also well aware of Ole Miss’ beefy Wildcat quarterback: Jeremy Liggins, a 6-foot-3, 300-pounder who signed with LSU out of a Mississippi high school but never enrolled. He now plays tight end — and sometimes enters at QB.
Will he affect this week’s game plan on the defensive line? Will we see “Bronco,” Teuhema in the Mustang and LaCouture at defensive end?
Maybe. Maybe not.
“We try to get the best edge against each different opponent,” Bower said. “If we see something in the offense, we might tweak something on our defense.”
“Things change every week,” a smiling LaCouture said.