The result was certainly not surprising as LSU is clearly the better team on paper against Grambling, but the only question would be how the LSU Tigers would look like and by how much the end result would be. Heading into the game, especially after a blowout loss the week before, a big performance would not impress Tiger fans until the team gets another opportunity to prove themselves during SEC play. However, the Tigers did what they needed to do against a team they are supposed to handle, and even though a lot of people may treat this game as a glorified scrimmage, there are still some things to take away from LSU’s 72-10 win over Grambling as the team heads into their preparation for the start of conference play. Here are five of those takeaways.
1. LSU’s passing game showed what it is capable of:
Seeing the Tigers in fall camp, there was no doubt that the potential and talent was there for the passing game to make a drastic improvement from the year before with the skill level at the receiver position and another year in the same offensive system for quarterback Jayden Daniels Although Daniels threw for 346 passing yards in the loss to Florida State, the passing game was not consistent or efficient with a couple overthrows and some dropped passes. Even though it is against an opponent that is overmatched, it is still hard to put up the numbers LSU’s offense did on Saturday night. Jayden Daniels joined Joe Burrow as the only quarterbacks to throw for five touchdown passes in one half and only threw six incompletions for that 30-minute period. Not only did Jayden put big numbers up and was efficient, but he used all his weapons in the passing game. He threw touchdown passes to Brian Thomas Jr., Malik Nabers, Kyren Lacy, and finally, Chris Hilton Jr. , who caught a 47 yard deep shot touchdown pass from Daniels. If anything, this type of performance shows what is capable in the passing game, and that there is even more potential to be better.
“It’s hard to take issue with five touchdown passes tonight, but when I say the huddle, Jayden, myself, Mike Denbrock, Joe Sloan, he left some throws out there that we need to get better at. I am pleased. We are not going to walk away and be ungrateful for the things that he accomplished, but we have some work to do.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Jayden Daniels’ performance
2. Logan Diggs and Kaleb Jackson emerge as the top two options in the running game:
In a loaded and crowded backfield filled with plenty of talented running backs, perhaps, the two most talented players at the running back position are newcomers in Notre Dame transfer Logan Diggs and freshman Kaleb Jackson. After not getting any carries in the loss against Florida State, both Diggs and Jackson shined in their debuts. Diggs especially was great, and he certainly looks like he’s got the inside track on being the team’s RB1 with his performance as he finished with 15 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown. Diggs is the most complete running back as he is not only a big, physical ball carrier, but he also has some wiggle and some speed as a big back too. Not to mention, he is a reliable receiver out of the backfield and can pass protect. There is a big reason why Brian Kelly got him twice, once from Notre Dame and once from LSU in the transfer portal.
“As a running back, it was evident that he had the skills necessary to play at the highest level and he was a pretty good student. Those were pre-requisites in terms of the recruiting process, and there was a connection there for former players from that area that did well. That was a good hook to start, and it was a matter of getting him away from Louisiana, which was hard to do.Brian Kelly on Logan Diggs
While Diggs had an excellent showing in the game, Kaleb Jackson was just as impressive as the 6’0, 225 pound powerful back also has a perfect blend of size and speed. He was especially good at getting more yards after contact. The Liberty Magnet running back finished with 11 carries for 62 yards and 2 TDs.
The running back room is definitely trending upward as Josh Williams also looked good running the ball and Noah Cain received the game ball from Coach Kelly. Add in John Emery, who will return back practicing with the team and the depth is starting to show at the running back position.
3. The secondary remains even more unclear after Grambling.
It is one thing to get beat on 50/50 balls from Florida State’s elite receivers, but it is another thing to give up those plays against Grambling State. The problems in the backend of the defense were most evident on the first drive as Grambling drove down the field and scored on a 83-yard opening drive. Denver Harris was getting starting reps at corner and got beat man on man when giving up Grambling’s only score of the night. Harris was also flagged two drives later on a pass interference penalty. It isn’t just Harris as Grambling quarterback Myles Crawley and their offense put up 259 total first half yards including over 160 on the first two drives against LSU’s defense. However, the Tigers defense did adjust and pitched a shutout after giving up 10 early points, but there are still a lot of question marks on who will be the players that the coaching staff feels most comfortable in putting out there. A bright spot in the backend at cornerback has to be Ashton Stamps, who made a couple of nice plays in the second half, but it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff will have enough faith in the freshman to start against SEC competition.
The defensive front, which returns Harold Perkins Jr. rushing off the edge, will have to step up their play and get more constant pressure on the quarterback in order to help out their secondary, which has struggled mightily through two games.
4. Chris Hilton Jr. needs to have more reps with the first team offense:
As indicated with the first point about the potential of the passing game, this offense is at its most explosive when Chris Hilton Jr. is on the field. The passing game does have three talented starting wide receivers in Malik Nabers, Brian Thomas Jr., and Kyren Lacy, but Chris Hilton Jr. is the team’s best option when it comes to the deep ball. Knowing that it was a problem last season of trying to get more explosive plays in the passing game, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and Jayden Daniels have worked on trying to get the receivers in the best position possible to make plays. Having a player with elite speed in Hilton can help open up the passing lanes even more while giving Daniels the confidence to throw the deep shot every once in a while, to a guy that can make the big plays in Hilton. As far as fall camps go, besides Malik Nabers, I don’t think anybody had a better fall camp than Chris Hilton Jr. There are a lot of playmakers including the three receivers and tight end Mason Taylor, but Hilton certainly deserves his shot of being in that mix.
5. The LSU coaches are not afraid to mix things up when it comes to player personnel:
What I appreciate the most about this coaching staff so far is that when something doesn’t work, they try to find another solution. As college coaches at the highest level, it can be easy for them to keep things the way they are and try to make them work, but from what I’ve seen after the Florida State loss, the coaches continue to go back to the drawing board if they realize something does not work.
The biggest example of this is Harold Perkins Jr. All offseason, Matt House has been trying to teach the LSU star defender about being a complete linebacker, but Perkins just does not feel comfortable dropping back in coverage and playing on the inside. What worked for Perkins last year and what made him so dynamic was that he just focused on rushing the passer and being a great athlete. It was all about see ball, get ball then and that’s the type of athlete and player he is. Those are his strengths so instead of forcing Perkins to do something he can’t do, they moved him back to rushing on the edge and had a couple of quarterback hurries doing that. Knowing the struggles in the secondary, they are going to need the freshman version of Harold Perkins to put pressure on the quarterback and the coaching staff realizes that.
Another example is on the offensive line where the coaches are putting Zalance Heard in the starting rotation. As a five-star freshman, Heard is physical enough and good enough to be in the starting rotation at tackle, but at the same time, they are not throwing him out there to take all the first team reps at right tackle. They are easing him out there to be a part of the two deep because of his size and physicality as a run blocker, but they are also keeping Miles Frazier at guard and Emery Jones at tackle because of their experience at those positions so that unit gets the best of both worlds.
The coaches also gave starting reps to Logan Diggs and Kaleb Jackson at running back after they both did not see the field last week against Florida State. Finally, Brian Kelly gave Denver Harris a chance to be in the starting lineup after being with the third team majority of the offseason.
If there is one thing you can take away from this game, it is the fact that this staff will always be adjusting with their personnel to see what best works on the field for them.
Still early in the season heading into Mississippi State, expect more of the same when it comes to making changes in the lineup on both sides of the football.