The next level: Fullbacks, tight ends put the 'wide' in wide receiver
If you thought you saw 240-pound fullback J.D. Moore lined up at wide receiver against Missouri on Oct. 1, that’s because you saw 240-pound fullback J.D. Moore lined up at wide receiver against Missouri on Oct 1.
“I hadn’t been out there since high school,” Moore said. “At first, Mizzou really didn’t know who to put out there.”
That’s the whole point.
Among the tweaks in LSU’s offense, that one might have been the most startling. New offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger fanned out his fullbacks (like Moore and Bry’Kiethon Mouton) and tight ends (like Colin Jeter and Foster Moreau) across the field.
Moore lined up at wide receiver on seven plays in the first half alone of the win against Missouri. Jeter aligned at wide receiver twice in the first half; both times, a fullback — once Mouton, once Moore — were also lined up out wide.
The point is to draw mismatches, Jeter said. It’s done to force a defense to cover such an unusually large, physical player on the outside with its base defense.
Here’s a better explanation: LSU uses its I-formation personnel (two tight ends and a fullback) to run a three- or four-wide formation. The defense is thinking the Tigers will line up in the I, so on the field it has personnel to match up with that kind of a formation.
“It’s cool. You get to run a route,” Jeter said about splitting out wide. “If we get the right mismatch, I have a high chance to get the ball.”
That didn't happen in the two instances Jeter aligned at receiver in the opening half, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see it happen again. Moore spent much of his time out wide blocking.
Moore splitting out signaled another new tweak to LSU’s offense: the run-pass option. In six of Moore’s seven snaps out wide, the Tigers executed the run-pass option. Depending on his read of the defense, quarterback Danny Etling handed to his running back or threw a short slant pass.
Moore’s job never changed: He run-blocked each time, even when Etling threw the ball. Running back Derrius Guice’s 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter came on the last of those plays.
From his receiver spot, Moore made a key block to spring Guice.
“It’s a wrinkle in the offense,” Moore said, “to make them have to cover us out of the regular personnel.”
Matchups to watch
LSU linebackers vs. Southern Miss' running backs
This is about more than just stopping Southern Miss’ rushing attack: LSU linebackers Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith also need to slow the Golden Eagles’ running backs in the receiving game. Interim coach Ed Orgeron said USM likes to run wheel routes, normally reserved for backfield players. Running back Ito Smith has 19 catches in six games.
LSU rushing attack vs. Southern Miss' front seven
The Golden Eagles allowed a whopping 339 rushing yards last week in a loss at Texas-San Antonio, coached by former LSU assistant Frank Wilson. Wilson’s team ran for nearly 10 yards per carry in its 55-32 victory. Derrius Guice, backup to the injured Leonard Fournette, is averaging 8.7 yards a carry for LSU.
LSU: Keep an eye on No. 77, Ethan Pocic
Pocic is expected to shift from center to right tackle, potentially his first start on the outside. Pocic practiced at right tackle all week, with reserve Andy Dodd at center. Injuries forced the shuffling on the line, with Maea Teuhema moving from right tackle to left guard.
Southern Miss: Keep an eye on No. 9, Nick Mullens
Mullens directs the Golden Eagles’ up-tempo, spread attack. The Hoover, Alabama, native was Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year, and he’s averaging 312 passing yards per game, with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Scott Rabalais' Four Downs
1. BACK ON THE HORSE
Everyone needs some time off now and then, but the Tigers were breaking new ground in their 42-7 romp over Missouri two weeks ago. They really didn’t need the momentum breaker of last week’s postponement with Florida. Now LSU is back in action, and the Tigers need to quickly re-establish what worked against Mizzou.
2. RUN THAT BABY
LSU needs to continue to improve its vertical passing game, but this is a time for running the ball. LSU shredded Mizzou for 418 rushing yards, with Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams going over 100 each. Meanwhile, USM surrendered 339 rushing yards to UTSA last week with two 100-yard rushers. Even without Leonard Fournette, LSU should run wild.
3. DRESS REHEARSAL
LSU’s schedule is stocked with quality quarterbacks, and USM’s Nick Mullens is another one. He threw for 370 yards and three touchdowns against UTSA. LSU has a stout secondary, allowing just three passing TDs this season. But Mullens will be good practice for the QBs on the rest of LSU’s schedule, starting with Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly next week.
4. TRANSITION GAME
USM always seems to roll into Tiger Stadium when LSU is changing coaches. In 1994, a USM upset prompted the firing of Curley Hallman. Now, Ed Orgeron is trying to remove the interim tag from his title as head coach. Orgeron may need to virtually run the table, so another USM upset must be avoided at all costs if he's to keep the job.
Numbers worth knowing
Touchdowns allowed by LSU through five games
Consecutive LSU games with a 100-yard rusher
LSU’s nonconference home winning streak
Seasons of Southern Miss football (with the first in 1912)
Five memorable games: October nonconference matchups
LSU and Southern Miss have only met twice, so here are five memorable nonconference games the Tigers have played in the year's 10th month:
Oct. 3, 1936: LSU 6, Texas 6
LSU goes to Austin in the season's second week and suffers six first-half fumbles in a frustrating deadlock. The Tigers repeat as SEC champions and finish No. 2 in the first AP poll, but a win at Texas could have made LSU No. 1 and put the Tigers in the Rose Bowl.
Oct. 7, 1939: LSU 26, Holy Cross 7
LSU becomes the first southern team to travel by air when its 37-man team and coaching staff flies to take on the Crusaders in Worcester, Massachusetts. All-American Ken Kavanaugh is the show, catching three TD passes and scoring a fourth on an intercepted lateral.
Oct. 4, 1958: LSU 20, Hardin-Simmons 6
In the Tigers’ home opener, LSU weathers a scoreless second half to turn back a pass-happy Cowboys team coached by Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh, TCU’s winning quarterback against LSU in the 1936 Sugar Bowl. It would be the closest nonconference win for the eventual national champs.
Oct. 27, 1979: Florida State 24, LSU 19
This may rank as the biggest loss ever for LSU. Coach Charles McClendon is on his way out. LSU has quietly offered FSU’s Bobby Bowden a contract, but this win convinces him “Florida State might have the potential to be a major player in the south.”
Oct. 27, 1984: Notre Dame 30, LSU 22
First-year coach Bill Arnsparger has 5-0-1 LSU up to No. 7 in the polls, but the Fighting Irish own Tiger Stadium in their second visit to Baton Rouge. Notre Dame runs 82 plays to LSU’s 50 and allows the Dalton Hilliard-led Tigers only 118 rushing yards.
LSU's Week 7 bowl projections
Bill Bender, The Sporting News
Texas vs. Oklahoma State
Music City vs. Michigan State
Jason Kirk, SBNation.com
Liberty vs. Oklahoma State
Brett McMurphy, ESPN.com
Citrus vs. Iowa
Dave Miller, CampusInsiders.com
TaxSlayer vs. Florida State
Greg Ostendorf and Jake Trotter, ESPN.com
Liberty vs. Kansas State
Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com
Belk vs. Wake Forest
Brant Parsons, Orlando Sentinel
Music City vs. Iowa
Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com
Outback vs. Nebraska
Alex Shirkey, SECCountry.com
Liberty vs. Oklahoma State
Dec. 28 in Houston
Dec. 29 in Charlotte, North Carolina