Jamal Adams didn't want to be selfish about it, but he lightheartedly acknowledged that there’s something he dislikes about Dave Aranda’s dime package.
Under his two previous defensive coordinators — John Chavis and Kevin Steele — the LSU junior safety would often play dimeback. Adams would roll down near the line of scrimmage, sometimes giving him an opportunity to blitz. When Chavis was in Baton Rouge, that 3-2-6 alignment was known as the Mustang package.
In Aranda’s system, that role usually goes to Dwayne Thomas.
“I joke with coach Aranda and (defensive backs coach Corey Raymond),” Adams said. “They won’t let me get any dime because I want to blitz.”
“I beg (Aranda), and he laughs at me,” Adams added.
LSU has used the dime package at different points this year, usually against spread offenses with potent passing attacks. Often employed on passing downs, the dime package counters the offense’s attempt to create a mismatch against a linebacker by bringing in a sixth defensive back. In a recent practice, freshman cornerback Saivion Smith was that extra defensive back.
That package was critical against a high-powered Texas A&M offense in the No. 19 Tigers' regular-season finale, a 54-39 victory that turned into a shootout in the second half. LSU will need the dime package again in the Citrus Bowl at 10 a.m. on New Year’s Eve in Orlando, Florida — this time in an attempt to slow the Heisman Trophy winner, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“Let’s just put it like this: You can’t stop him,” Adams said. “You can control him, and that’s what we’re after.”
Just a 19-year-old sophomore and the youngest Heisman winner ever, Jackson has been compared to Michael Vick by LSU coach Ed Orgeron, and his list of accomplishments is a mile long.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound passer from Pompano Beach, Florida, has accounted for 51 touchdowns (30 passing, 21 rushing). Totaling 3,390 passing yards and 1,538 rushing yards, he’s the only Football Bowl Subdivision player to reach 3,300 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards. Some of the ACC records he holds include touchdowns in a season, touchdowns in a game (eight), total yards in a game (610), total yards per game (410.7) and rushing yards by a quarterback.
“He’s an exciting player," LSU cornerback Donte Jackson said. "We look at ourselves as an exciting defense that can make plays and fly around. It should be a good one. Dynamic offensive player going against a great defense. It should be fun.”
Jackson had 25 touchdowns through the first four games, including a five-TD performance in a 63-20 shellacking of then-No. 2 Florida State. The No. 15 Cardinals (9-3) finished the regular season as the nation's top-ranked scoring offense (45.3 points per game) and the No. 2 total offense (566.6 yards per game).
“Any time you get a (matchup) like that, it’s exciting,” LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White said. “It’s why you play football. You want to go against the best and, right now, he’s the best.”
Jackson had the Cardinals on the verge of a College Football Playoff spot entering the final two weeks of the season. But that chance evaporated when Louisville dropped its final two games: 36-10 to Houston and 41-38 to Kentucky.
In the Houston loss, Jackson was sacked 11 times. In the fourth quarter of the Kentucky defeat, he coughed up the ball in the red zone with the score tied at 38 and less than two minutes remaining
Nevertheless, members of the LSU secondary are keenly aware of the threat Jackson and the rest of the Louisville offense poses. Coach Bobby Petrino’s spread attack highlights Jackson’s ability as a runner by using the zone read but is also willing to take chances downfield. Of Jackson's 220 completions, 86 resulted in gains of at least 15 yards, and 34 resulted in gains of at least 25.
On top of that, Jackson is effective outside of the pocket, creating plays with his feet once the pocket collapses.
Adams and White emphasized the importance of staying locked on their man even when Jackson escapes. White said tracking down Jackson mostly will fall to the front seven — which will be playing without linebacker Kendell Beckwith, the Tigers' leading tackler, for the second straight game.
“Oh, they go deep, man,” White said. “They’ll spread you out in empty formations and go deep on you. We’re going have to be ready to run.”
Jackson’s top target is tight end Cole Hikutini, who has a team-leading 49 receptions for 656 yards. Hikutini is often targeted in the red zone, with six of his team-high eight touchdowns coming inside the 20-yard line.
White said Hikuniti is one of two tight ends Louisville will use in a stacked formation. The Tigers senior has been studying film of Louisville’s games against opponents like Florida State and Clemson because both of those teams use similar schemes to LSU's, he said.
“I wanted to see how their receivers respond to press coverage,” White said. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
By the numbers
How Heisman Trophy winners (after claiming college football's top award) fared against LSU:
RB John Cappelletti, Penn State, 1973 (Orange Bowl)
26 carries, 50 yards, 1 TD; long run of 10 (W, 16-9)
QB Jason White, Oklahoma, 2004 Sugar Bowl (BCS title game)
13 of 37, 102 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs (L, 21-14)
QB Tim Tebow, Florida, 2008 (regular season)
14 of 21, 201 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs (W, 51-21)
QB Tim Tebow, Florida, 2009 (regular season)
11 of 16, 134 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (W, 13-3)
RB Mark Ingram, Alabama, 2010 (regular season)
21 carries, 97 yards, 1 TD; long run of 13 (L, 24-21)
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, 2013 (regular season)
16 of 41, 224 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs (L, 34-10)