Everyone knows the cliche that football games are won in the trenches. Well, “trenches” are pretty much a thing of the past now that coaches realized that lining up a bunch of big guys super close to each other made it easier on the defense. Now that offensive line splits are much wider and misdirection is the name of the game on offense, line play has been a little less important to success. LSU challenges that theory with their pro-style offense and stingy run defense.
The offensive line for the Tigers is similar to a couple of other position groups as it features an all-american as well as all-conference performers. Ethan Pocic has made a few AA lists this postseason as one of the best centers in the country. Pocic is one of the more impressive centers I’ve watched in college because he can be used to pull on outside run plays. Not a lot of centers have the athleticism to make the snap and get out of their stance quick enough to make this work, but Pocic does it very well. It really adds a different dimension to an offense when you can have your best blocker leading the way.
Josh Boutte (pronounced how you dad would say it if he were trying to sound cool) is an all-sec level guard for the Tigers. He is joined in that honor by the opposite guard, Will Clapp. So, LSU’s interior offensive line is obviously one of the best in the nation and they use that to their advantage a lot. LSU averages 6.27 yards per carry which puts them right behind UofL, statistically. For a team to pull that off with a traditional running attack it needs great offensive line play. The Tigers line up and do exactly what you expect them to do and these three guys make that possible.
LSU runs a 3-4 that is similar to Louisville’s defense. Their 3 down linemen are meant to eat up blocks and to disrupt as much as possible. However, in my opinion, LSU has a better system because they go a lot lighter up front. Dave Aranda has some big bodies down the depth chart, but his defensive line is a little smaller and a lot quicker than what you normally see in a 3 man front. Greg Gilmore occupies the middle for the Tigers and he does a great job of eating up blocks and allowing the guys behind him to make plays. Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley are great but they owe Gilmore a steak or two.
The most impressive stat to me with the Tiger defense is the fact that their two defensive ends are 4th and 5th on the team in tackles. That shows just how active and effective these guys are. Devin Godchaux does a good job of getting after the quarterback for a guy his size. On the other side, Lewis Neal uses his quickness to cause disruption as well as making plays in the backfield. These two guys play such a big factor against a quarterback like Lamar Jackson, because they’re good enough to penetrate quickly and get to Lamar before he gets going or rush his passes. When you can do that with your defensive line, it frees up everyone else to cover and spy.