Scooter Hobbs column: No risk, no reward in pass game
Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Was minding my own business listening to LSU head coach Brian Kelly’s Monday news conference when …
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding …
Kelly gets it. Voilá. He understands.
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Maybe it’s not the final solution.
But we have the winning response.
Maybe Kelly was still trying to find a logical reason LSU beat Auburn last week with only 85 yards passing (5 yards in the second half while completing the comeback) and his head was still cloudy.
Perhaps his well-staffed analytics crew was running the odds of pulling off a similar high-wire act with No. 8 Tennessee with its hurry-up, high-octane foolishness due in Tiger Stadium Saturday morning.
He or that staff determined, “That’s not going to get you a sustainable offense that wins games at the highest level in the SEC.”
But his solution certainly was thinking outside the box.
If I heard him right, he’d like to see — are you sitting down? — more interceptions.
At first glance, he might as well have called for more cowbell.
But hear him out.
I used to lobby for the same thing in the pre-Joe Burrow days when even then LSU was cranking out NFL wide receivers like so many widgets with little to show for it in their own passing game.
Kelly isn’t a big fan of turnovers.
He doesn’t despise them the way Les Miles used to, which was maybe why the Tigers struggled to join the offensive revolution.
With Kelly it’s more like part of doing business in the new age. A trade-off.
And, to be clear, he did not come out and flatly call for more interceptions from quarterback Jayden Daniels, who right now has exactly zero through five games.
You have to read between the lines a little here.
“I don’t want to throw interceptions,” he said. “That’s not what I want to do. We haven’t thrown any (backup Garrett Nussmeier does have two). And that’s not necessarily a bad thing in one respect.”
Then in his next breath:
“But if you’re looking to be aggressive, you’re going to throw an interception or two, because somebody (on defense) made a great play.”
Exactly. Not optimal, but in the end maybe you’ll be better off for it.
“We’re way too conservative right now,” Kelly admitted. Not so much in the play-calling, although it could use some touch-up work, too, but in the decision-making from the trigger.
“We’ve got to get Jayden to be a little bit more on the edge and be a little bit more aggressive,” Kelly said. “We will get there with him.”
Maybe in non-Power Five games you can wait on receivers to break free enough to send up signal flares announcing their availability.
“But they’re not always going going to be wide open,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to get it into some tight windows sometimes.”
Sometimes you won’t.
But I interpret that to mean Daniels now has a green light. Go it one better. Let him — no, instruct him — to occasionally run a yellow light, maybe even get caught on red in the intersection.
Then it’s up to the receivers — and thus far they haven’t held up their end of the deal either.
They came advertised as the strongest position group on the team, certainly the most talented, with as much potential as any in the country.
They haven’t been getting wide open, and maybe they won’t. But they haven’t exactly been human vacuum cleaners with the ball in the air either.
“This past weekend was not good enough,” Kelly said, while not letting the coaching staff off the hook either.
“Are we doing too much? Are we doing the things that highlight all of our players? In turn, the players have to look at themselves. Are they preparing the right way? Is their attention to detail there?
“This is all of us together, recognizing that 85 yards is not going to get it done … With the skill players that we’ve got, we can’t throw for 85 yards and expect to be one of the top 10 teams in the country.”
Or, he might have added, beat a top-10 team.
But you have to love the mandate he’s given to his passing game.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org