Scooter Hobbs column: Defense could be Heisman selling point

Published 1:43 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

You can always improve, and hopefully LSU is still hard at it. Nose to the grindstone. But at this stage of the season the Tigers’ defense, to coin a phrase, probably is what it is. Not going to change much.

Which is not very good. Bad, actually. Historically porous. At times, almost comically so.

But you already knew that.

Email newsletter signup

It can probably hold its own this week against Georgia State, a school in Atlanta best known — trivia alert — for graduating Julia Roberts.

It has changed. Give it that.

Earlier in the year this defense seemed to have a “Lost in Space” secondary. Now, though hardly reminiscent of DBU, it seems to be more of a front seven that couldn’t tackle — slight exaggeration alert — Julia Roberts.

It has made for interesting, entertaining football, generally the full 60 minutes worth.

What that LSU defense is best known for, of course, is being the ready-made excuse, wrapped in a bow, should Jayden Daniels not win the Heisman Trophy.

Surely, with just an average defense, LSU would be right in the mix for the College Football Playoff and Daniels would be the easy Heisman favorite.

So blame it on the defense …

Or not.

Hear me out here.

Instead, maybe the pro-Daniels crowd in the Heisman discussions should be embracing this defense, wrapping their arms around it (if nothing else just as a helpful example of how tackling is done).

Turn it around and use the big negative to Daniels’ advantage.

If the voters — full disclosure, I am one — go simply on statistics, then the race is over.

Daniels outguns and outruns them all on that front, leading the nation in just about everything worth doing.

While we’re at it, there’s no reason for Brian Kelly to leave Daniels in the Georgia State game past his bedtime just to pad those already-gaudy stats. The voters will see right through it.

Yes, that defense is the reason the best offense in America isn’t in the CFP discussion.

I’m not sure when being in that company became a prerequisite for Heisman Trophy consideration.

But it does seem to be the one sticking point with Daniels — he plays on a 7-3 team, albeit the most electrifying 7-3 team in recent memory.

You probably have heard that just this century alone, there have been three Heisman winners from three-loss teams — Florida’s Tim Tebow (2007), Baylor’s Robert Griffin III (2011) and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (2016) when LSU sacked him roughly 147 times in the bowl game for a fourth loss).

But apparently it’s the lone knock against Daniels, never mind that two of the three losses (Florida State and Alabama) are in the CFP top 10 and the other (Ole Miss) is No. 13. Or that Daniels averaged 435 yards total offense per game against that trio and was responsible for nine total touchdowns.

That 606 yards total offense in the win against Florida alone should have been the kind of tall tale to put him over the top.

But you need something more than numbers, like a good hook, a good theme.

And that’s where this pseudo defense comes in (probably jumping offside).

Forget stats.

Turn LSU’s negative into a Daniels selling point. That awful defense can be part of an enthralling story line.

Daniels is already being compared to a video game cheat code.

If LSU wants to promote a Heisman campaign, it needs to play up that kind of thing, beyond the numbers, the kind of thing people can relate to and get behind.

Think of that awful defense as the damsel in distress, the hopeless, helpless ne’er-do-well who is always in desperate trouble, waiting on Daniels to race in and untie her from the railroad tracks before the freight train comes around the bend.

Daniels is bigger than you think, 6-foot- 4, but at a slim 210 pounds, he always looks like the smallest guy on the field, desperately — but making it look so effortless — taking on the giants sprinting all around him.

David vs. Goliath, perhaps.

Or, more fitting, the Road Runner forever frustrating and evading Wile E. Coyote.

That’s basically what Daniels has been doing all season anyway.

Make it the TV promos leading up to the these final two regular-season games. Get some hawkers outside Tiger Stadium — come one, come all, witness the sleight of hand, the derring do, see Jayden Daniels locked in another mad-cap race to see if he can outscore his own defense and save the Golden Girls.

Which, well beyond the stats, is the kind of thing that is turning Jayden Daniels into a genuine folk hero.

Which, to my way of thinking, is what Heisman Trophy winners are supposed to be.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at