Should LSU’s Leonard Fournette manage to do to South Carolina what he’s done to everyone else, what will almost assuredly frustrate Gamecock fans will be the sheer simplicity of it all.
This is not to say the Tigers running game is 100 percent simple on video. They’ll mix I-formation (where Fournette looks most natural) and shotgun (where quarterback Brandon Harris looks more comfortable). There are a smattering of plays where different pairs of linemen pull ahead of runners on sweeps to create a lane and a nifty play where Harris reads an unblocked defensive tackle (when he faked a handoff to Fournette against Eastern Michigan, almost all of the eight or nine in the box followed the back).
But the majority of Fournette’s work comes on plays that either employ power blocking, where a fullback kicks out an edge rusher and a pulling guard leads the way, or simple zone blocking. The way blocking on inside zone looks, linemen plow ahead, often negotiating double-teams before sliding to the next level, and Fournette follows his fullback.
Those zone runs were particularly devastating against Mississippi State and Eastern Michigan especially with the way defenses flow to the playside and Fournette excels at finding cutback lanes. Players compared that part of his game to Nick Chubb, and looking at a few LSU games compared plus South Carolina against Georgia, the comparison it apt.
-- The Tigers passing game isn’t particularly impressive, especially when not using run fakes. Harris throws one of the more effortless-looking balls you’ll see, but between drops and inaccuracy it’s not particularly effective.
-- This game could be an opportunity for the Gamecocks pass rush. Eastern Michigan, usually one of the least talented teams in the FBS, had LSU’s tackles turned around on several occasions, so the chances should be there.
-- The LSU offense has a few odd tweaks. On toss plays, the quarterback spins away from where the running back is headed, almost seems to reach back to toss the ball and then snaps back as if he’s walling off the back side. Also on some tosses, the playside guard is the one kicking out the edge player and the fullback leads into the hole.
-- It should be noted Eastern Michigan’s defense is more geared to focus on the run and often had eight men in the box with a safety close on LSU’s under-center plays. South Carolina’s defense usually has both safeties deep, so it will be interesting to see how much extra run support they can provide.
-- LSU’s defense remains in line with what former coordinator John Chavis built. It’s deep, usually plays five defensive backs for versatility and often finds ways to send fifth and sixth rushers.
-- On film, the group seems a bit less in sync than some of LSU’s better units. Even against a Mid-American Conference team, there were cracks, bubbles where Eastern Michigan found success. At times that came against blitzes, as mid-range opportunities opened up.
-- LSU plays a little less press coverage than one might expect from a talent-laden SEC unit.
-- LSU playing nickel basically full-time could open up things for two-tight end looks, but offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said that’s only effective with strong play from that second tight end.
-- That said, they still can hit hard like some of the classic Tigers teams. Early on that bears watching for tone-setting reasons, especially with South Carolina banged up at quarterback and running back.