LSU vs. Ole Miss: Rebels Won't Be Able to Handle LSU's Rapidly Improving Defense

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterOctober 16, 2013

Oct 12, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers defensive tackle Ego Ferguson (9) and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (90) celebrate a defensive play against the Florida Gators during the second quarter of their game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off the 44-41 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, LSU's defense was in shambles. The unit added to the issues by surrendering 23 first-half points to Mississippi State the following week. Then halftime happened in Starkville, and John Chavis fixed that Bayou Bengal defense. This week, on the road at Ole Miss, Chavis' defense is again set to show it has solved its problems.

Against Georgia and Mississippi State, LSU showed clear signs that the defense had one remarkable yet curable issue: missed assignments. Poor run fits in stopping the run and confusion in the secondary against the pass. This was made quite clear against Georgia by cornerback Jalen Mills' reaction to the Justin Scott-Wesley touchdown.

When a corner has his arms outstretched, looking at the safety, someone messed up. Confusion created an opportunity, and Georgia's Aaron Murray found the lapse in defense and capitalized on it. In the run game, LSU missed run fits. Here, LaDarius Perkins does not have to do much as he gets loose against the Tigers.

Missed run fits do not loom as large on the scale of confusion, visually, but missed fits still speak to players not doing their job. Lamin Barrow, No. 18, has outside leverage on Perkins and should hammer this play, turning it back inside to the pursuing, and filling, DJ Welter, No. 31.

Instead, what Barrow does, as the blue line shows, is bite on Perkins' inside move, surrendering outside leverage and giving Perkins an easy sideline lane to pick up big yards. That is not a talent problem or schematic issue, it is purely an execution shortcoming for LSU. The type of miscue that showed itself time and again against Georgia and in the first half versus Mississippi State.

Following these lapses, LSU is back to being LSU on the defensive side of the ball. The squad smothered the Bulldogs in the second half. LSU gave up two early drives totaling 117 yards and two field-goal attempts, one made, before squashing MSU's hopes with stifling defense.

Against Florida, the defense surrendered just 240 total yards, harassing quarterback Tyler Murphy all day, not allowing him to be a factor on the ground, or through the air, and consistently winning the line-of-scrimmage battle. LSU bottled up Florida's strong rushing attack with not just physical play, but defensive football that was sound in gap integrity.

Chavis' players have answered the bell, and that is not good news for Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace and the rest of the Rebels offense. This LSU unit has not surrendered a touchdown in six quarters, and while Ole Miss has weapons, LSU has a defense that can limit the Rebels' playmakers.

LSU's defense is back to where it belongs, and that starts with the defensive line, led by Anthony Johnson. Both Johnson and Ego Ferguson are monsters in the middle, and Wallace's offensive line will have its hands full with the interior defensive linemen.

Ole Miss, a team that sees its top rusher Jeff Scott listed as "extremely questionable" according to Parrish Alford of the Tupelo Daily Journal. As B/R's Barrett Sallee pointed out at the SEC Blog, Wallace has had to run for his life in recent weeks and that trend will likely continue against LSU—especially without much of a rushing attack to slow down the defensive line.

White (left) & Mills (right) are playing good football in the back-end
White (left) & Mills (right) are playing good football in the back-endChuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

In the secondary, getting on the same page has worked wonders for the Bayou Bengals. The older players, Ronald Martin and Craig Loston, plus experienced sophomores Mills, Jalen Collins and Micah Eugene have worked out the kinks in coverage. True freshman Tre'Davious White has come on strong, and the back end is shaping up the way Chavis' defenses are expected to look.

Stopping Donte Moncrief and Laquon Treadwell will be another challenge for this secondary, but with pressure coming on Wallace, the talents in the back end should be capable.

After getting embarrassed for six quarters, spanning the entire Georgia game and half of the contest at Mississippi State, LSU's defense has pulled itself up by its bootstraps. The unit is returning to its old form, and this weekend against Ole Miss expect the smothering squad that's been on display the last six quarters, to show up, again.