OLT Joeckel rises to big challenge vs. LSU

Nolan Nawrocki
OLT Joeckel rises to big challenge vs. LSU

In one of the best trench matchups of the season, Texas A&M junior OLT Luke Joeckel had the opportunity to square off against an LSU squad that boasts the deepest and most talented defensive line in college football, featuring a front four that is better than a handful of NFL D-lines right now.

With the Tigers able to bring pressure inside and outside and having an aggressive package of blitzes to challenge the Aggies, the odds were against Joeckel and junior ORT Jake Matthews to hold up to the challenge.

In what will serve as a signature performance for NFL evaluators, Joeckel (pronounced JOKE-el) handled the edge like a seasoned veteran, showing outstanding technique keeping his shoulders squared, and anchoring very well against the bullstrong, power-rushing Sam Montgomery.

“I think he is better than Joe Thomas and Matt Kalil,” one NFL GM said of Joeckel, comparing him to a pair of top-five picks who immediately started at left tackle in the NFL. “I have not seen all the tackles yet, but I would be shocked if there were a better tackle than (Joeckel). Just watch his bend, movement and athleticism ­— he’s fun to watch.”

The truly great tackles make the game look easy, and Joeckel did just that against the best competition he will face this season, not allowing a sack, consistently winning leverage battles and only once seeing a flag called for a high-low block he helped deliver on FS Eric Reid. Starting with the Aggies’ opening scoring drive, Joeckel was very quick to get positioning in the run game, was effective cut-blocking and helped the Aggies jump out to a 12-0 lead.

A pair of interceptions by red-hot, crazy-legged freshman QB Johnny Manziel, who leads the SEC in total offense, led to momentum-changing scores for LSU.

Tigers junior CB Tharold Simon, who was too often out of position, made the type of opportunistic play that has created a bigger profile than he consistently plays, snagging an errant pass with the Tigers clinging to a 17-12 lead and LSU scored on the next play to open a double-digit edge.

Tigers junior MLB Kevin Minter and junior WLB Lamin Barrow, who had to leave the game temporarily with an injury early on, sparked the defense in the second half making plays all over the field, for LSU to squeak out a 24-19 win.

• The production of Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert is down considerably from a year ago in part because he has been used too much split wide and in part because young QB Everett Golson does not have the same rapport with Eifert as Tommy Rees does.

• Texas junior DE Jackson Jeffcoat will miss the rest of the season after rupturing a right pectoral muscle against Oklahoma. The son of NFL veteran DL Jim Jeffcoat, Jackson relied more on his power than speed to create pressure. In addition, Arkansas lost senior MLB Alonzo Highsmith to ligament damage in his foot, which required surgery. Highsmith, the son of the former NFL runner and current Packers scout by the same name, was the Razorbacks’ leading tackler, but his 6-0, 230-pound frame is not well-suited for the NFL game and newfound durability issues could leave him undrafted.

• Trailing Purdue 22-14 late in the fourth quarter, Ohio State was able to rally back under the direction of backup junior QB Kenny Guiton and pull off a 29-22 overtime victory to move to 8-0. Playmaking sophomore QB Braxton Miller left the game in the third quarter to be examined for a potential concussion after being slammed to the turf following a 37-yard scamper.

• For the second consecutive week, West Virginia senior QB Geno Smith struggled mightily, unable to move the ball downfield against a Kansas State defense that took away the short passing game and forced him to beat them deep. The result — Smith threw his first two interceptions of the ’12 and was noticeably frustrated in a 55-14 loss.

• Special teams have been a plus for South Carolina this season. However, in a 44-11 loss to the Gators, Gamecocks junior Ace Sanders and sophomore Damiere Byrd, the fastest player on the team, both lost fumbles (Sanders on a punt return and Byrd on a kickoff return) within four minutes late in the second quarter, setting up two touchdowns and a 21-3 deficit from which South Carolina never recovered. Also, Florida junior DT Sharrif Floyd blocked a field goal for the second consecutive week.

• Virginia Tech junior QB Logan Thomas possesses “wow” type of arm strength and physical talent. His inconsistent mechanics and footwork have detracted from his accuracy and his tendency to birddog his primary target has allowed opponents to prey on his passes, a big reason for his struggles this season. He had another forgettable performance against Clemson and has looked lost without the strong supporting cast he had a year ago.