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Looking ahead to the season opener for the LSU Tigers, there are some areas of concern with the UCLA Bruins. They knocked off Hawaii in the season opener, 44-10.
Watching that came felt like watching the varsity scrimmage the junior varsity team. The Rainbow Warriors were never really in that game. On the opening drive, the punter kneeled the ball when going for a low snap, it was all downhill from there. The Bruins were in scoring position on the very first snap. Hawaii was down 17-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game.
UCLA would let off the gas a bit in the second half, as they led 31-3 at the half. Facing LSU won’t be near as easy but the Bruins still pose issues for a team getting into their first action of the year.
Looking at the biggest areas of concern for LSU in the opener:
Stopping The Two-Headed Rushing Attack
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In the season opener in week zero, the UCLA Bruins got off to a fast start with their top two running backs. Former Michigan Wolverine Zach Charbonnet was the lead dog on Saturday. He rushed for over 100 yards on limited carries. His yards per attempt come in with a blistering 17.7, Charbonnet added one reception for another 14 yards. His yards from scrimmage averaged out to 17.1 yards per touch.
The other back being former Duke Blue Devil, Brittain Brown. Against Hawaii, he added 99 yards from scrimmage. This is his second season with the Bruins after three seasons at Duke. He carried the ball 13 times for an average of 6.0 yards per carry with one touchdown. Brown also hauled in two passes for 21 yards.
The LSU defense needs to be ready to slow down this attack. Especially Charbonnet who was able to bounce off would-be tacklers with ease. The Tigers defense is a little more fundamentally sound than Hawaii showed in week one. If the front four can cause penetration at a consistent clip, they should be able to limit the big plays in the running game.
The defense needs to force UCLA to take to the air in this game. Dorian Thompson-Robinson complete 50% of his passes against the Rainbow Warriors secondary. The idea is to make DTR prove that last year’s season where he completed 65.2% of his attempts was a fluke.
The LSU Tigers Rushing Attack Need To Show Up
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
To say the LSU rush attack was inconsistent a season ago would be an understatement. They just weren’t able to be relied on in the mediocre 2020 campaign. Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery Jr had their games where they would step up, and others where you wondered if the backs made the trip to the game.
This year heading into the season opener, the duo has missed a big chunk of camp with injury issues. Both are needing solid campaigns to help out a young quarterback in Max Johnson. Part of the problem last year could have been the office with no Joe Brady, his offense does return this season with new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz.
Under Brady, their star back Clyde Edwards-Helaire carried the ball 215 times for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was also active in the passing game with 453 yards receiving. If the duo could combine to get anywhere near that level of production, it would be a positive for the offense.
The offensive line returns almost every starter so hopefully, the experience and new offensive line coach Brad Davis will pay dividends in 2021. Going into this season, the duo can’t produce the 824 combined rushing yards they did a season ago. If healthy, they need to be a big part of the offense.
Protect The Young Quarterback, Max Johnson
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When it comes to the offense, priority No. 1 must be keeping sophomore quarterback Max Johnson upright. Outside of him, freshman Garrett Nussmeier is the only other quarterback on scholarship. Having two passers on scholarship will put a strain on any roster. Keeping Johnson off the turf and healthy is going to be key to success in 2021.
The offensive line returns every starter from a season ago, outside of left tackle. Dare Rosenthal left for Kentucky where he will start at left tackle for the Wildcats. LSU will have to attack their former teammate when the two teams meet in Lexington on Oct. 9. The Tigers will instead have Cam Wire at left tackle this year.
Normally your left tackle is the most important offensive lineman but with a southpaw at QB, Austin Deculus is tasked as the blindside protector. PFF graded him as the No. 4 best protector on the team with a grade of 68.9 in pass blocking. He will need to be better in 2021, as will the entire unit.
The offensive line will be tested right off the bat this season, going into the UCLA front seven. They totaled 28 pressures against the Hawaii offensive line in the season opener. The Bruins finished with seven quarterback hits and 17 quarterback hurries.
Last season the offensive line allowed a total of 111 pressures, which breaks down to 11.1 per game. Any number north of 10 pressures could spell trouble for the Tigers. Finding No. 40 Caleb Johnson should be the No. 1 job of the offensive line.