Jamal Adams does not play offense for the LSU football team.
If you’ve followed the Tigers since the junior strong safety has been in Baton Rouge, or you’ve just glanced at the Week 1 depth chart, you knew that fact. And he is as prideful of the “DBU” tradition as any defensive back who plays or has played at LSU.
In high school, though, he played offense too, so the longing to be a ball carrier or a pass catcher remains. And quarterback? He wouldn’t mind doing that either, even if his first start came against the Tigers’ experienced and talent-laden secondary.
“I might get my Mike Vick on, on them,” Adams said confidently. “If I was quarterback, they wouldn’t stop me. Most definitely, they would not stop me. If I was the quarterback going against LSU’s defense, they would not stop me.”
Fellow LSU defensive back Tre’Davious White, a former high school quarterback, thought the notion of seeing purple and gold across the line of scrimmage for his first collegiate start at quarterback was crazy.
“Is that a trick question?” White asked. “No, man. Not at all. The swagger we play with, effort we come to the field with, ball-hawking skills we have.”
Enter Wisconsin fifth-year senior Bart Houston, who will be making his first career start Saturday against the Tigers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Aside from the Badgers' spring game, there’s not much film for LSU to watch on Houston. Backing up Joel Stave for the past two years, he’s appeared in 15 games overall but played extensively in only one. He also served as a punter in his redshirt sophomore season.
The majority of Houston’s 51 career pass attempts came against Illinois last year as Stave’s injury replacement, when he completed 22 of 33 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
There’s no doubt Houston is somewhat green, and Adams acknowledges opportunities may present themselves against an inexperienced quarterback.
“You're definitely grinning on the back end a little bit, but everybody has a scholarship so whoever they put out there is going to be a beast,” Adams said. “It’s going to challenge us.”
Matchup-wise, the advantages appear to be in favor of LSU defense, a unit that will suit up eight of its nine returning starters. Many of those defenders’ names, such as Adams and White, can be found on a handful preseason award watch lists. Not only that, the LSU defense charges into the opener with a defensive coordinator familiar with Houston and the Badgers offense, former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
Houston leads an offense trying to re-establish its typical run-first identity. On top of injuries and instability along the offensive line last season, Badgers starting running back Corey Clement, the heir apparent to 2014 Doak Walker Award winner Melvin Gordon, missed the majority of last season with a sports hernia injury. Wisconsin finished the 2015 season 95th in the FBS in rushing yards per game.
The current offensive line has already seen one veteran player, fifth-year senior Dan Voltz, retire in preseason camp because of a plethora of injuries.
Even winning the quarterback job wasn’t easy for Houston, outperformed by redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook early in preseason practices.
LSU coach Les Miles isn’t putting it past Wisconsin second-year coach Paul Chryst to use two quarterbacks Saturday.
“Tall, strong arm, has the ability to extend plays with his feet, very accurate,” the LSU coach said of Houston on his weekly radio show Wednesday. “Really, (Houston) took on what was a newcomer (redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook). He’s had a great camp, certainly won the job. But we might expect to see both quarterbacks at the same time.”
While the film on Houston is lacking, White’s focus hasn’t been on the new quarterback when scouting Wisconsin. At this point in his career, the senior pays more attention to formations, and studying route concepts to blanket a quarterback’s target.
When it comes to film study, White and Adams are also used to preparing for rookies under center by now. Over the past two years, the Tigers have faced three first-year starting quarterbacks, including Syracuse’s Zach Mahoney last year. Out of those three quarterbacks, none has passed for more than 154 yards.
“It’s not so much of the guy that’s in,” White said. “It’s so much of the formations that they’re going to be in. So if they’re in a certain formation and I realize that, I’m going to eliminate some things that receivers can do right off that bat. So, say if the receiver’s split is wide or he’s close, I’m going to eliminate certain routes that he can run from there. That just makes my job so much easier. So it doesn’t have anything to do with the guy in the back.”
Despite the question marks at quarterback and offensive line, the Tigers defense is expecting a balanced attack from Wisconsin. With Alex Erickson — the Badgers' leading receiver the two previous season — graduated, White identifies 6-foot-3 junior Rob Wheelwright as the biggest threat on the outside.
And if LSU nose tackle Greg Gilmore, who could make his second career start Saturday, is lucky, Houston will be dropping back to pass often.
“Hopefully, they pass so we can rush the passer,” Gilmore said. “But if they do run, that’ll be a good showcase for me and my ability to stop the run, being the nose tackle.”
LSU’s defense will face on Saturday a first-time starting quarterback in Bart Houston. It will be the seventh time in the last five years that the Tigers will play a first-time starting QB.
Sep. 25, 2015
Dec. 30, 2014
Oct. 22, 2011
Oct. 8, 2011
Sep. 10, 2011