LSU at Mississippi State: Ross Dellenger goes Next Level with LSU’s new defensive change and plays Four Downs _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU safety Rickey Jefferson celebrates a sack against McNeese State last Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

Next Level: Even in a small glimpse, LSU defense showed a big change

Rickey Jefferson raced in from his position at safety. He pedaled his feet when he arrived at the line of scrimmage and then blasted into the backfield for the first sack of the 2015 season.

It didn’t last long. The sack was wiped off the record books after LSU’s game against McNeese State was canceled because of lightning. All of the recorded stats — including that sack during the Tigers’ one defensive series — were erased.

Still, that series sent a message from new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele: We’re bringin’ the heat. Jefferson blitzed on that second defensive play, and then Steele brought the heat a play later from OLB Deion Jones on a third-and-long.

We got a window into Steele’s brand of D. He didn’t shift into the six-defensive back “Mustang” set on third-and-17, remaining in the five-defensive back nickel. That, likely, wouldn’t have happened with the Mustang-heavy John Chavis.

On two of three plays, he sent a blitz. On that third down — when Jones blitzed off the edge — Steele and D-line coach Ed Orgeron had the Tigers defensive linemen cross each other during the play, swapping roles to confuse the defense.

Trickeration, indeed.

Four Downs

1. September surprise

They say a team improves most from its first game to the second. That’s Mississippi State’s edge. LSU’s edge has to be surprise. The Tigers had only five snaps on offense, three on defense vs. McNeese. Throw in a new starting quarterback and defensive coordinator, and LSU may have State guessing.

2. Defending Dak

Dak Prescott is the power plant of the Bulldogs’ attack. He had 309 yards total offense against Southern Miss last week and 373 yards total offense against LSU last year. The Tigers won’t stop Prescott but they do need to keep him in the pocket while limiting passes to De’Runnya Wilson.

3. No cowbell fever

Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium seats about 40,000 less than Tiger Stadium, but it can still be a loud, raucous place for an invading team. State’s trademark cowbells add to the ear-splitting din. LSU players practiced indoors this week with music cranked to 11 to help them prepare.

4. Act possessive

Everyone is eager to see if LSU has improved its passing game, but it can’t abandon the run. The best defense for Prescott is playing keep away. That means, yes, the power running game. LSU was tops in time of possession last year (33:08), a number that would serve the Tigers well here.