We've already established some of the framing issues of the season for LSU: the qb play, our depth at spots (lb, o line), and our defense against the spread. In the spirit of this feature, here's another characteristic of the 2008 Tigers that I think will doom them to defeat or elevate them to victory. I say that because I think the offense will be conservative while the defense is stiffling. That spells low scoring games involving small margins of vicory/leads with the opportunities for crucial plays to determine the outcome, plays that would otherwise be inconsequential.
Everyone has been worried about the green quarterbacks and won't shut up about it. Barely anyone is talking about the existence of our brand new deep snapper, shaky place kicking and just plain scary punting. Foul ups in the special teams portion of the game can bring about a quick end, no matter the effort elsewhere.
I've never been a fan of the wide split punt formation LSU employs. Hell, even Ohio State made it look bad (sans penalty where the kid somehow, someway missed the ball). Add to the fact that this year, the Tigers will be featuring a new deep snapper and punting that is far from impressive. Basically, all of these have to click just right every time in order for us to punt. Blocks must be made, the new snapper MUST deliver the ball accurately since you just know there's gonna be a rush because of those damned splits. Finally the punter has to get it out of there. I'm not sold on the idea of all of these happening as required. Hell, we could be fine. But this is an area that makes me nervous. Any foul up, a missed block obviously, a high snap, a bobbled hold before the punt could spell trouble. Two of them together is almost guaranteed to be disastrous. I'm talking a blocked kick and a short field, or worse, a score for the other team.
Add to that the place kicking being abysmal and the punting looking like a downright joke in the Spring Game. I know the Spring Game was April, but there needs to be massive improvement in these areas. If we punt, we need yardage. And what we saw in April was just bad. More than that, if we kick a field goal, we gotta have those points. Again, nothing has been seen to exhibit confidence in this. These are all elements of the game, they matter every game, every year. But they are areas where inexperience can lead to losing a game the team was winning in every other phase. And LSU is definitely inexperienced.
What's the upside to all of this inexperience and possible danger? Other true freshman. Now, this is something of an apples to oranges since I am fixing to bolster the negatives listed above with positives in similar or different area altogether. But we are discussing true freshman and inexperience.
Every once in a while, a true freshman shows up with so much talent, not much experience is needed. I speak primarily of Patrick Peterson. He's currently second behind Jai Eugene at corner. That position might be his soon, he's that good. He not only immediately brings depth to the position but he may well soon be the starter by the end of the year. It won't be easy, but this guy is a phenom who is so far living up to the hype.
Another true freshman you've probably heard about is Jordan Jefferson, quarterback. Those in the know say this kid was a steal on the recruiting trail. That's because many schools laid off because of an injury in high school. The upside they say is this guy is special, has all the tools, whatever. He should be earning a ton of snaps very quickly. Some long speculation even has him winning the job later in the year. That's a bit far fetched, but who knows.
Now, those guys may not help immediately. Indeed, it may be 2009 before they really make an impact. But they serve the point that sometimes youth and inexperience isn't so bad. In the meantime, that inexperience will loom over our specials teams from the very start. But that's not to say it can't improve as the season goes.