To slide or not to slide
This sure looks like a failure to communicate.
If there was a buzz around Tiger Stadium Saturday — OK, there wasn’t — but if there had been, it would have been postgame of what counted as a victory when an LSU quarterback and his head coach were not seeing eye to eye.
Apparently it was an unexpected side of newcomer Joe Burrow’s game.
But on several occasions in the 31-0 victory over Southeastern Louisiana, the new quarterback, given ample space and opportunity to slide out of harm’s way, instead took a hard-headed approach and decided to just bull his way over much larger opposing beefstock in his path.
Even if the added risk had little chance of, say, picking up a first down, he was taking on all comers like it was a old western barroom brawl.
In one noteworthy case, near the sidelines, he got turned around and even went backwards, his back toward the action, insisting on crawfishing his way blindly into who knows what kind of mayhem with his body exposed.
Even in football’s softer, gentler age that we now live in, it’s a perfectly legal tactic.
Foolhardy, yes, but well within the rules.
And he appeared to be little worse for the wear of a 31-0 victory.
However, these plays caused the head coach, Ed Orgeron, to have his life pass before his eyes on several occasions, as Burrow has shown some promise with the more standard tools of the quarterbacking trade.
“We’re going to have to teach him how to slide,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to have to teach him how to avoid the rush and how to get down when he needs to. That’s not something we need to be doing every down when we have (only) two quarterbacks.”
Burrow, a twinkle in his eye, later said that he doesn’t play that game.
“I’m not a slider,” he said. “Definitely not a slider … there’s going to be a collision … I don’t think that quarterbacks should slide. It’s not in my DNA.”
To be fair, Burrow was unaware of the concerns that his coach had voiced moments earlier.
So he wasn’t necessarily being openly defiant. We shall see how he takes to coaching. Coaches tend to get their way in these delicate situations. Cooler, undamaged, heads could still prevail.
In the meantime, I might have another suggestion.
They might want to teach Burrow how to duck — before somebody breaks him in half with malice.
If Saturday night was any indication, there will be ample opportunities for him to take on hard contact without running around gleefully looking for it.
Watching him get harassed for most of the night, and with the SEC gauntlet looming, it was hard not to do the mental photoshop.
This was Southeastern Louisiana that was collapsing LSU’s protective pocket — collapsing it when they weren’t just running around it.
Give the Lions credit, OK. But that’s the same SLU that gave up 554 yards of offense to UL-Monroe the previous week.
LSU was happy to get 335, most of the problems stemming from not being able to handle the line of scrimmage.
Is it even possible to imagine the carnage when you substitute Auburn athletes this week for those feisty Lions?
LSU seemed to kind of work around the problems in the impressive season opener against Miami.
Burrow seems to be a real quarterback when not running for his life. Running back Nick Brossette has been a pleasant surprise. The wide receivers are making progress.
But right now this offensive line is holding back any hope of LSU having the kind of balanced offense that Orgeron envisions.
“Our offensive line was penetrated and we couldn’t protect Joe,” Orgeron said. “They were all over Joe and there were some missed assignments and a lot of times we got beat one-on-one.”
OK, LSU wasn’t at full strength up there. Not sure how much of a factor that was, particularly when you factor in that it was outmanned opponent.
But there were three offensive linemen who figured to be starters going into fall camp missing.
Guard Ed Ingram isn’t coming back for the foreseeable future, if ever — he’s suspended indefinitely. Right guard Adrian Magee won’t be back for at least two more weeks after going down early against Miami.
Only left tackle Saahdiq Charles, who was suspended for SLU, will rejoin his mates in Auburn.
Hard to believe one player will make that much difference.
Besides, if anything, most of the pressure seemed to come from the other side Saturday night.
But until things get straightened out up front, seeing LSU throw it around as much as Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger claim they want to is dicey at best.
So far no defenses seem to believe, or else they aren’t concerned, that Ensminger has promised four- and five-wide receiver sets while spreading the field for a passhappy attack.
Those defenses are stacking the line with all available hands just like in the Les Miles days.
They’ll take their chances.
Saturday LSU was reduced to keeping extra backs and the tight ends at home in the blocking scheme to keep Burrow vertical. Even when it works, it leaves him few options with only one or two receivers in the routes.
There better be a Plan B.
SEC defenses will be smacking their lips at that.