What we think we learned from Saturday’s proceedings
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
- Nose Job
What little buzz existed around LSU’s 2016 spring football “game” focused around an unveiling of sorts for Dave Aranda’s new-look defense.
No one batted an eye when the Tigers employed a 3-4 front as a base package. Its implementation had been well chronicled throughout the 15 proceeding spring practices. Seeing it in Tiger Stadium Saturday qualified as expected, to say the least.
A surprising development, however, was the man now anchoring the teeth of said defense.
Davon Godchaux worked as LSU’s first team nose tackle Saturday, a position he’s occupied since flip-flopping with Christian LaCouture from defensive tackle in practice a couple weeks ago.
“I think Godchaux is a tremendous nose tackle and I think LaCouture has given us a real pressure at the tackle spot,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I think (LaCouture) understands that technique very well — inside technique on the tackle — and I think he’s built to play it. Both movements, both changes are going to help them.”
Godchaux had a field day bullying an offensive line missing starters Ethan Pocic, Will Clapp and Toby Weathersby. He finished credited with four tackles and a pair of sacks. LaCouture recorded three solo stops of his own.
Neither player possess the lateral girth of a traditional nose tackle, and per LSU’s official roster, Godchaux actually cedes one inch and 14 pounds to his fellow interior defender.
The man nicknamed ‘The Professor’ explained why Godchaux playing the nose works for his defense.
“I think he’s explosive,” Aranda said. “I think he’s tough to beat one-on-one. I think, when you’re in the 3-4 alignment, the offense can choose to block their five on your three, and that means the back side guard has to go lateral to reach the nose. If you do that, you get linebackers that are involved.”
He elaborated on the strategic value: “If they feel good about the one-on-one matchup with the nose, then the guards can work up to the linebackers. Once you have a dominant nose with quickness that can win side to side as well as explosiveness coming out of his hips, then you’re forcing them to block one way.”
Expanding a bit on the defensive line, Lewis Neal played with his hand on the ground at defensive end while Arden Key and Tashawn Bower stood up and played as hybrid linebackers.
Neal says the three of them and Isaiah Washington — who dropped into coverage from the linebacker spot and picked a bobbled screen pass — could all play at either spot.
- Rookie Report
Mid-year enrollees hauled in a memorable pair of deep heaves from second-string quarterback Danny Etling.
The first was a high-arching rainbow caught by a streaking Dee Anderson running a deep post pattern. He torched a walk-on cornerback and raced into the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown.
The second was also intended for Anderson, but this one sailed way overthrown. Cornerback Saivion Smith galloped back and made the interception in stride to cap an impressive spring game showing.
“Saivion Smith came in so ready to play,” Miles said of his rookie defensive back.
Smith played the biggest role of LSU’s five mid-year enrollees in Saturday’s proceedings. He ran with the first team defense in its nickel package, manning an outside spot when Tre’Davious White slid inside to the slot.
He finished his active afternoon with four tackles and held his own physically against first teamers Malachi Dupre and D.J. Chark, though the former did draw a pass interference flag against Smith while going up for a fade in the end zone.
“He came out of high school with a lot of confidence, and that’s going to be great for him once the fall comes,” Dupre said. “Some guys might be intimidated, but he came right to the fire with it in his head that he wanted to be physical.”
Here’s a breakdown of where all five mid-year enrollees played in terms of personnel grouping:
CB Saivion Smith: First unit (nickel package)
ILB Devin White: Second unit
WR Dee Anderson: Second unit
OLB Michael Divinity: Third unit
WR Stephen Sullivan: Third unit
- Parting Shots
– With Donnie Alexander sitting out, Duke Riley filled in at the first team inside linebacker spot alongside Kendell Beckwith. He made eight tackles, tied for a game-high. Devin White manned the middle on the second team and was credited with seven total stops. Between those three and the ability to deploy defensive ends as hybrid linebackers, LSU is quietly building some depth around Beckwith within the linebacking corps.
– Don’t lend too much credence to the alarmingly high sack total (8) yielded by LSU’s various offensive lines. Remember that 3/5 of the starting offensive line took in the proceedings from the sidelines for a variety of ailments.
– Leonard Fournette update: He gained 54 total yards and scored a touchdown on nine total touches, dashing the pregame under/over on touches set at 5.5. He remains good at the tackle football.
– Tre’Davious White continued to slide inside and cover the slot when LSU goes to its five and six defensive back packages, a wrinkle that began late last season. He’s looked fluid and comfortable inside considering he’s spent most of his career playing outside on an island.
– One play to serve as a reminder as to why everything that happens in a spring game should be kept in proper context: At one point a walk-on quarterback, mid scramble, threw the ball underhanded to a patch of grass occupied by nobody in particular. Moral of the story: Don’t overreact, the real thing will be back before you know it.