The package isn’t called “Mustang.”
Don’t call it that. If you do, you might get a cold glance from a squinty-eye Les Miles or a shake of the head from a smirking Deion Jones.
“It’s like ‘Mustang,’” said Jones, LSU’s starting outside linebacker, “but it’s not the same as Chief’s.”
Said Miles, the Tigers’ 11th-year coach: “It’s not ‘Mustang.’”
Message delivered. The Mustang, ex-defensive coordinator John Chavis’ speedy, third-down defense, is out. The “Don’t-Call-It-Mustang” 3-2-6 is in.
LSU somewhat lifted the shroud on new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s scheme during the season-opening win last week at Mississippi State.
So what’d we learn ahead of No. 13 LSU’s clash with No. 18 Auburn on Saturday?
The Tigers ran a 3-2-6 defense on passing downs that resembles the “Mustang” package. They mostly played in the five-defensive back nickel set. Speedy linebacker Deion Jones was heavily used as a pass rusher, and middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith, at times, lined up as a pass-rushing defensive end.
Defensive linemen, led by new coach Ed Orgeron, flashed moves that they’d never seen themselves before acquiring them in preseason camp. Their spacing was odd, too, and their rotation was limited.
This is the Tigers new defense – at least what was gathered from one game.
“It was definitely fun, changing things up, different schemes, different personnel, running some different stunts that I’ve never seen before,” defensive tackle Christian LaCouture said. “Coach O … he’s always got something up his sleeve.”
Orgeron’s influence – all of that shifting, spacing, blitzing and stunting from linemen – was the most noticeable. LSU defenders pressured State quarterback Dak Prescott on about one-third of his dropbacks
He was sacked three times. LSU never had more than two sacks in an SEC game last season.
Freshman end Arden Key and sophomore tackle Davon Godchaux accounted for more than half of those pressures. Coaches have made it even more obvious whom their top pass-rushers are based on the D-line personnel used in the Tigers’ new 3-2-6 third-down defense.
Godchaux, LaCouture and Key were the three down linemen all 12 times LSU ran the “Don’t-Call-It-Mustang” defense, which includes three defensive linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs. Eight of those 12 came on the Bulldogs’ final drive – the 55-yard march that resulted in a missed field goal as time expired.
The new Mustang produced a sack and four pressures on Prescott, but yielded a whopping five first downs and five completions on that final march, when LSU linemen admitted that they were at least a bit gassed.
That new third-down defense resulted in a position change of sorts for three players. LaCouture played nose tackle, Godchaux moved to end and Beckwith walked to the line of scrimmage and rushed as a third end.
“Love it,” Beckwith said of the new role in the third-down package.
“He’s a great D-end,” a smiling Miles said.
LaCouture is used to playing nosetackle, nearly head up on the center. He served in that role for the first half of last season in Chavis’ Mustang package - also a 3-2-6 formation.
“You’ve got to make sure you push the pocket,” he said of playing nose. “You’re probably going to have two or three guys on you in the inside. It’s rough.”
So what’s this new defense called?
“That’s our Mustang,” Beckwith said before quickly adding, “our Dime.”
Defensive end Tashawn Bower actually called the package a “3-4” – a term normally used to describe a three-lineman and four-linbacker set. Defensive backs Jamal Adams and Dwayne Thomas aligned next to linebackers Beckwith and Jones in the defense.
Are they linebackers? No, but they sure blitzed like them. LSU brought at least seven pass-rushers twice out of the 3-2-6 look, leaving four defensive backs to cover four receivers.
“I’m looking forward to sending a lot of pressure,” Thomas said. “We’ve got a lot of great corners, great guys in the secondary that can play one-on-one coverage with anybody. We’re looking forward to bringing some pressure.”
Beckwith says the third-down defense isn’t “too much different” than the Mustang that LSU played under Chavis the previous six seasons. Thomas said “it’s similar.”
“It’s kind of like Mustang,” LaCouture said, “but I feel like it brings a lot more to it, more multiple.”
“Some things we have adjusted,” Beckwith said.
What are these things? Jones smiles and shakes his head.
“Naaaah,” he said, “can’t tell you that!”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.