What has become clear is that this is an LSU team that is flawed and needs work to be competitive in this conference over the next two months, which begs the question if there are any short-term fixes to some of the issues that have plagued this team in recent weeks.
It’s first important to note that any changes that need to come from this group can’t be banked on getting healthier at some key positions. As much as LSU has celebrated the conditioning of this team through six weeks, the fact is that injuries are starting to catch up to them at critical spots.
The secondary has been without safety Major Burns for several weeks now, and Sevyn Banks is also out of the cornerback rotation as both try to work their way back carefully from neck injuries.
LSU’s back half of the defense has shown some cracks in its coverage during that time, and the depth isn’t quite there to make many changes in personnel. The Tigers have had to play Jarrick Bernard-Converse at safety to help with some of those issues, but the team simply needs more from a veteran group that has good moments but has been hit like a ton of bricks the last few weeks.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of schematic changes come out of this week in practice for a Florida team with a capable but often mistake-prone offense.
As for the other side of the ball, the injuries to guard Garrett Dellinger and left tackle Will Campbell are just as severe from an impact standpoint. While it’s still vague at the moment regarding the amount of time Campbell could miss, Dellinger is now dealing with a broken hand and a knee injury so it’s hard to imagine when he could next be available.
Kelly talked about bringing more seven-man protection shortly to help with some of the blocking issues upfront. Ideally, the Tigers would like to spread the field a little more, but that just hasn’t worked out as consistently as the team hoped. This concept makes a lot of sense, particularly if quarterback Jayden Daniels is going to continue looking for his first one or two options.
Having that extra protection there will only help in extending plays, whether it results in a Daniels scramble, a handoff or quick read in the short and intermediate areas.
Continuing on the offensive side of the ball, it also feels like it’s about time to just lean into what quarterback Jayden Daniels does best. With back-to-back weeks where the offense couldn’t come together the way LSU needed to begin the game, there were common themes of penalties, shots downfield not taken and a run game that was just stuck in the mud.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine deviating Daniels into more of a comfortable, pure pocket passer. The best version we saw of that came against New Mexico in week three and since then the passing game has crumbled in key situations. He was confident in his decisions and delivering accurate, on time balls for the most efficient game of the season.
As Tennessee built out its lead, LSU really needed to find ways to get in the endzone but a number of failed fourth down attempts, drive killing penalties and missed opportunities really hampered the Tigers offense. If LSU truly wants the best out of this group, leaning in to more of Daniels running ability might be the way to go.
When LSU calls designed runs for Daniels, it rarely fails for positive yardage so some more balance in giving him those kinds of plays might help the offense move the chains more consistently. It’s also becoming clear that the short and intermediate routes are where Daniels feels most comfortable.
While there was more aggression in taking a few shots downfield, the execution wasn’t there on Saturday. Those quick screens and short route combinations are where he likes the ball to go. There’s arm talent to work with but there comes the point where Daniels is who he is, and if it’s not going to change, you have to lean into what your best option does best.
LSU simply must execute better on offense because Kelly said it best, nobody else is walking through the door to help this team.
“We want to attack, we want to get points on the board. But we started really slow, which is something we have a trend of,” running back Josh Williams said. “Coach Kelly said we’re going to face adversity but what we need to focus on is the little details.”