LSU faces perhaps its most well balanced opponent to date in No. 16 Kentucky. The Wildcats are stout defensively, an offense that has been prone to turn the ball over though there are enough playmakers to be a dangerous group.
All week the focus has been on what LSU must do to walk away with a win in Lexington. There are a few players who will need to step up for the Tigers to have a chance.
Max Johnson (QB)
Johnson is a name that people follow closely every Saturday night but it feels even more important against Kentucky for a very different reason. We know the strength of this offense will ultimately come down to the passing game.
The Tigers currently rank 128th in rushing in the country, the third worst mark in college football which has certainly made life difficult on Johnson and his arm. But even that’s not the reason he’s on this list.
Johnson needs to be that extension of offensive coordinator Jake Peetz on the field and that starts at the top with Peetz feeding a play to Johnson and the offense sticking to it and executing. That was the No. 1 takeaway from the Auburn game as too often LSU came dangerously close to delay of game calls and timeouts because of indecision with playcalling.
Finding that rhythm and tempo that worked well in wins over Central Michigan and Mississippi State would go a long way in getting the offense back on track.
“There are some things that are very fixable and we just need to settle down,” Orgeron said. “Mostly just call the play and let it go. Not try to change the play. I think that’s where we’re getting into most of our problems. I think that it’s not that the guys are not working, it’s not that they’re not trying. I think they’re trying a little too hard so we need to simplify what we’re doing on offense and let our players play.”
Damone Clark (LB)
The senior linebacker is playing the best ball of his career and is really stepping up on all fronts to get this defense in large part back on track. He’s been outstanding in making the tackles in the open field and understanding where he needs to be on the field to have the most success.
Clark’s 54 tackles is double of the next leader on the team and his three tackles for a loss are proof he’s able to get into the backfield and make game altering plays when necessary. Facing a Kentucky team that has the leading rusher in the conference in Chris Rodriguez, Clark will be an integral piece in shutting down the Wildcats rushing attack.
While making an appearance on Off the Bench, Orgeron talked about the leadership Clark has shown this season and why he’s so impressed with the development he’s shown as an inside linebacker.
“Yeah, I’ll give you an example, Damone Clark,” Orgeron said. “I praised him yesterday, and he said, ‘Yeah, you know coach, there’s still some things I need to get better at.’ But one of the things with Damone Clark, I wanted to move him to outside linebacker. He said, ‘Coach I want to play stack linebacker.’ That was two years ago, I had a meeting with him and his parents, he said, ‘What do I need to improve on?’ I said you need to improve on your open-field tackling, and you need to improve on your pass coverage, and he’s done that. If you look at that film, he’s made some tremendous plays. He’s running the ball down, playing with great effort.”
Cordale Flott (CB)
Flott has been one of the breakout stars on this defense, particularly over the last two weeks as the Tigers reach the heart of their SEC schedule. Acting as the team’s nickel corner for much of the season, Flott has been a real difference maker, racking up 14 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and two passes defended.
His play has been integral to the success of the secondary that has been without Derek Stingley over the last two weeks. With Stingley now out indefinitely, Flott’s ascension along with Dwight McGlothern and Jay Ward has been needed.
“I know he’s hungry,” edge rusher Ali Gaye said. “He has a lot to prove and I feel like he’s somebody that has to step up in the next few games. I’m really happy he’s playing the way he’s playing and I can’t wait to see how much better he gets.”