With two of the last three regular season games remaining, the message and the preparation don’t change for this LSU group.
“I’ve been around it with the ‘19 team and I feel like I’ve seen how focused we were in ‘19 and me being there, I try to relay to the offensive guys that we can’t let anything get too big or too small,” Jenkins said. “We’ve gotta stay in the middle like we’ve been doing as of late, not worrying about who we play or what game it is. We stay in the middle, we’re gonna be great.”
“The job’s not done. A lot of people think we might get fooled but we don’t feel like we’ve accomplished that much until the job is done,” Baskerville said. “We’re still locked in with a chip on our shoulder and we’re coming ready to play.”
“A few weeks ago we weren’t really looked as one of these teams that could do it,” safety Major Burns said. “We all had to buy in and that just made us closer. Now that we’re getting the notoriety, we just have to keep pushing and stay focused and listen to coach because he ain’t let us down yet.”
This is an LSU team that, for lack of a better term, will have a bullseye on its back the rest of the season but the consistencies that have been there all year with this group are ones that can carry over.
For example, the adjustments at halftime have particularly garnered attention as the Tigers have been a second half team all season on offense and defense. In terms of adjustments made during the break, Baskerville did say the players really have a pretty good understanding of what needs to be fixed before defensive coordinator Matt House even approaches them with the changes.
Part of the preparation during the practice week is about having a backup gameplan in their back pocket in case the opposing team is having success in a specific area. Burns said the way that House communicates the subtle difference to the scheme for the second half is unlike any other coach he’s played for and is why LSU has, for example, shut teams like Ole Miss out in the second half in recent weeks.
“He’s never gonna put you in a situation you’re not ready for,” Burns said. “That goes along with everybody on the team, he knows how to get his best players on the field in the best situations.
“We already have those adjustments throughout the week in our mind. When it gets to halftime, it’s nothing we haven’t heard of,” Baskerville said. “If this is hurting us, then we’re gonna do this with the coverage. You’ve always gotta have a backup plan for whatever could happen.”
As for the offense, Williams and the run game have played an integral role in the consistency of moving the ball downfield. While he and John Emery in particular are hitting the holes, it all starts up front and Williams has seen this offensive line take huge steps together in recent weeks.
“The way they’ve been practicing and the chemistry they built, it’s profound. Their mentality when they go on the field is different than I’ve ever seen,” Williams said. You can just feel the energy they have together. You know they’re gonna be successful.”
The two true freshmen Will Campbell and Emery Jones have attracted a lot of the attention for their maturity, advanced level technique and mindset. But where this group has really thrived, and where Brad Davis’ impact has been felt most, is the development of veterans Charles Turner and Anthony Bradford.
“Those guys are hungry, those are two of the older guys on the line,” Williams said. “They’re the engine, especially Charles. He gets all of us fired up. They’re mentally there and giving us energy.”
Getting ready for a unique Arkansas team with a big, strong quarterback like KJ Jefferson, this is a little bit of a different task the Tigers have yet to face. It’s expected to be cold and the conditions not necessarily great, which is why the phrase “trap game” has been attached to the latest matchup in this historic rivalry.
“They’re physical, they got some grinders and love to run the ball,” Baskerville said of Arkansas. “They got a good quarterback and good running back who can get the job done. Just how big he is, he’s like a tight end playing quarterback so we gotta tackle him and making him move east and west.”
The offense wants to get out and establish the run early, Williams says, something the team has done pretty consistently in its recent three game win streak. Opening up the field and getting those backs and Daniels involved on the ground early has proven to be a successful model.
The Tigers are in a position of great confidence and momentum as they enter this final three game stretch run. This is a group that now believes in the standard and what it takes to win on Saturday’s and if they stick to it, there isn’t a team in the country they don’t believe they can beat.
“We control our destiny. No matter who we play, it’s all up to us. If we play the standard we’re supposed to, I feel like we’re going to be good no matter who we play or where we play at,” Jenkins said.