Various teams have prepared for the triple option differently. For instance, FSU attempted to defend our offense by practicing without a football trying to emphasize disciplined defense. How has LSU prepared for our attack?
As I mentioned in [this write-up], LSU's bowl preparations are a mystery on the order of Roswell, New Mexico or "Who Shot Mr. Burns?". But there is one piece of information that may be of some use. LSU hired former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Larry Lacewell to come in and consult on how to stop a triple option offense. I figure Lacewell should know, as he was at Oklahoma during the heyday of the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry, and later was a head coach of a triple option team. It's an interesting decision, and one that it is hard to find fault with.
Michael Johnson has an obvious presence on his side of the defensive line. How do you expect the Tigers to make him as little of a factor as possible?
Honestly, I can't say I'm knowledgeable about Georgia Tech football, and I have to confess that until reading your questions, I had never heard the name Michael Johnson in a non-sprinting capacity. Doing a little checking on him, it seems he's a pass rushing defensive end. Which side? If he's over the left tackle, I am fairly confident that our left tackle, Ciron Black, can hold his own. Our right tackle is a lot less experienced, but very talented. If we have a lot of trouble with him in passing situations, you can expect roll-out passes going away from him. The QB who will be starting this game is very mobile.
In the running game, look for a lot of misdirection and/or pound-it-right-at-the-defense. Jordan Jefferson can run some option from the quarterback position, and Charles Scott is a bruising tailback. I can't say I know what they would do, but my guess is that if he is the focal point of the defense, they will try to overwhelm him at the point of attack and/or try to make him spend his energy reading what the offense is doing rather than attacking.
Do you see the next Matt Mauck (or Flynn) coming out of this group of LSU QB's? Or is the QB of the future still playing HS ball?
The LSU quarterback situation has as many opinions as there are LSU fans, and probably even more than that, as non-LSU fans also have opinions on it. I think Jordan Jefferson is the quarterback for the moment, but what happens in Spring and beyond is anyone's guess. Jarrett Lee's problems were well-documented, but what seems to be forgotten is that he was doing very well thank you very much until the interceptions started going to his head and he started getting down on himself. Unlike most freshman QBs, you could see him become less and less comfortable as the season went on, rather than more and more comfortable.
Lee is a pure pocket passer, about as mobile as Bernie Kosar at this point in his career. That's fine, but you have to be accurate if you're going to play football that way. Unfortunately, Lee was really asked to come in and produce too early. He was just not ready yet, but you see the flashes of brilliance that you expect to see in a young player with potential. The problem for Lee is that Jordan Jefferson has potential too, and let's not even get started on the potential that Russell Shepard possesses. Have you seen his senior video out of Cy Ridge High School? Good God! I rarely gush over the abilities of a high school player, but this kid looks like Michael Vick without the character problems.
And everyone seems to forget Andrew Hatch. Hatch is no great talent, but I don't think it's a coincidence that Lee's season came off the rails when Hatch got hurt. Hatch was steady if unspectacular, and he was able to give Lee the breaks he needed to keep himself even-keeled.
As for the next Matt Mauck, well, keep in mind I am no Matt Mauck-worshipper. I think the guy was a solid college quarterback, but that 2003 team won with defense, effective running, and LOTS AND LOTS of screen passes. It didn't take a lot of skill to be the LSU quarterback that year. He had a very high completion percentage, but it's deceptive because he threw so many safe passes. It is my fervent hope that when the LSU quarterback situation is settled, whoever wins the job will be better than Matt Mauck.
Name a player who will have to step up (even up to the level of "average") in order for LSU to win.
I can't name one player, but I think the entire interior middle of our defense will have to step up to stop the option. The interior middle of our defense (the defensive tackles and starting middle linebacker Darry Beckwith) were supposed to be the strength of the defense this year, but an injury to Beckwith slowed him down all year, and Ricky Jean-Francois (who was supposed to be our stud DT) had a very ordinary 2008 campaign. If Beckwith can be the stud he'd been in the past, and if Jean-Francois can elevate to where he was supposed to be, that will make life very difficult for you inside.
For those who don't know enough, can you summarize LSU's offensive scheme?
It's hard to summarize. We can throw a lot of different looks at people. We run a lot of Power-I with Charles Scott behind fullback Quinn Johnson. We can also go 5-wide. We line up with two tight ends, one tight end, or no tight ends. We can do no-huddle. We run the pistol formation. We run shotgun. We run under center. We can throw a bruising back at you, or we can run a 5'6" sprinter who almost made the Olympics this year. You will rarely see a college team who runs as many TYPES of things as LSU does. When it works (see the 2008 BCSNCG against Oklahoma), it can be intimidating. When it doesn't (see most of this year), it seems to overwhelm our own players more than it overwhelms the opposition.
Over the course of the year, we were at our best when we could throw to set up the run. For all the fancy gadgets we ran, our most effective plays were play-action passes and I-formation runs between the tackles. For all of our 5-wide setups, we really only had one WR and one tight end who were consistent pass-catching threats.
Hypothetical situation: What do you think about GT replacing Arkansas in the SEC (or any other school in the SEC for that matter)?
I would be for it. GT is a natural in the SEC. Arkansas really isn't. Aren't you guys in the "Coastal" division or some such crap like that? How do you fit into the ACC? You're an original SEC team, and I'd be happy to see you return. The problem is that if you replaced Arkansas, the divisions would have to re-align. Would you guys come into the West? Or would Vandy move into the West?
Who is the biggest rival of LSU: Tulane, [SEC West Opponent], or Ole Miss? Any season, any sport.
LSU's biggest rivals are Ole Miss, Alabama, and Auburn. Tulane was our biggest rival at one time, but that time was before I was born, and I am now 34 years old. We don't even play Tulane every year anymore, and it's been a very long time since we were willing to do a home-and-home with them due to the big disparities in our fan bases. It would be like Georgia's biggest rival being Georgia State. Ole Miss is our other traditional rival, but this year notwithstanding Ole Miss has not really been on our level in football in a while. Sure, they beat us on occasion, but we are clearly overall the better program since Ole Miss declined in the '60s. Even in our 1990s down period we still were as good of a program as they were overall.
They beat us this year, but I think it's something of an aberration. Ole Miss has its most solid team in a long time, and it won't be that good much longer. Because of our problems with personnel at quarterback, and with coaching on defense (both of which will be corrected sooner rather than later) this year was an aberration for LSU. It may sound conceited, but I am firmly convinced that we will be back in the hunt for the SEC next year. Ole Miss may be there too next year, but I don't think their recruiting will keep up in the long run.
Alabama and Auburn on the other hand...