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Much like Ed Orgeron, who met with the media on Monday, Bryan Harsin of Auburn held his media session just an hour later. He tackled a bevy of topics including the quarterback situation for Auburn. Harsin was noncommital as to who would start against LSU. Obviously, it would be an interesting topic if TJ Finley got the start against his old team.
When asked about Finley, Orgeron discussed him quite a bit. He discussed when Finley came into his office to let the coach know that he was leaving. Oregon mentioned how difficult a decision it was for the quarterback. On Saturday he led Auburn to the win with a 98-yard drive late in the game.
As far as Harsin, he discussed the LSU Tigers during his media availability.
LSU is very good. I got a chance to watch them a little bit even prior to this game because they’re on TV and so you see LSU playing. Coach Orgeron has done a very good job, very successful with that program, obviously has won a national championship.
One of the players that Harsin spoke about was the quarterback Max Johnson. He currently leads the SEC in touchdown passes along with Alabama’s Bryce Young. Both have thrown 15 touchdowns in four games. Johnson is also the FBS leader in consecutive games with 3+ touchdowns with six, each one of his starts dating back to the Florida game last year.
“Offensively, I think the quarterback is playing well,” Harsin said. “Max Johnson is a very good player. You can see that he’s getting better and has done some very good things. They’ve got some wide receivers — they all are very good and very talented, and they play hard.”
Harsin also was very complimentary of the offensive line, it felt a lot like coach speak. We hear that often when coaches discuss opposing teams not looking to give any bulletin board material.
Their offensive line is very good, so all around on the offensive side you see a lot of very good players. You see a system that these guys are doing a very good job in. We have to be ready for that on the defensive side.
Next, what Harsin said about the LSU defense
“Their defense, they’re No. 1 in the SEC in sacks. These guys have done a very good job upfront. They’ve got returning starters, they’ve got guys in the front seven that have played that are very good and have shown up to the games they’ve played.”
The team did get Ali Gaye back against Mississippi State, which was huge for the defensive line after the loss of Andre Anthony. Gaye led the defense with four quarterback pressures with BJ Ojulari right behind him with three. The team has to find a way to get to the quarterback, Bo Nix or TJ Finley.
Harsin continued, “and so that’s going to be a challenge for us. You know, we’ve got to find a way to run it, we’ve got to find a way to protect the passer, we’ve got to find a way that we can do things on the offensive side so that we can move the ball, we can be explosive at times when we need to be, we can get ourselves in the red zone again and then put the ball in the end zone.”
This year teams are having some success scoring on the LSU defense, they average 22.8 points per game allowed. That is in the bottom five among teams in the SEC. Against Power Five teams, that number balloons to 31.5. LSU has allowed seven scores on nine red zone attempts this year.
Next, the Auburn coach on the special teams
One area that could be a strength for LSU in almost every game this year is the special teams. Cade York is the best kicker in the country and Avery Atkins has shown his ability to flip the field on his punts. Trey Palmer had a 23-yard punt return against the Bulldogs, the team needs more of that. It is an area of hidden yardage that Orgeron wants an emphasis on.
“Special teams have been solid all the way around for LSU. That’s an area there that’s going to be a good challenge for us as we prepare ourselves on special teams.” – Harsin on special teams
Harsin continued, “I do feel like this team and Coach Watts and all the coaches that are involved on special teams are doing a really good job of getting ourselves in a position to be successful on special teams, to try to make plays, to try to do things in the game where we can hopefully have an impact and make a difference.”
The Auburn head coach also mentioned that he expects a physical game in Death Valley. It will be a different atmosphere for the first-year head coach.