No. 12 LSU aims to get young players work vs. Chattanooga
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU coach Ed Orgeron didn’t have to wait long to see what a number of his new recruits could do.
He may very well see a lot more of his youngest players on Saturday, when the 12th-ranked Tigers (1-0) open their home slate against Chattanooga (0-1) of the NCAA’s second-tier Football Championship Subdivision.
By necessity, LSU had four true freshmen — outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, linebacker Tyler Taylor, safety Grant Delpit and offensive guard Saahdiq Charles — starting last weekend against BYU.
“They are exactly what we thought about in recruiting,” Orgeron said this week. “The thing that I was really impressed with the most was their mental outlook on the game. The game was not too big for them at all. ... They didn’t have a deer-in-the-headlights look at all. They were ready to go. They played like vets.”
Other true or redshirt freshmen also made their LSU debuts in a 27-0 triumph over the Cougars, including cornerback Andraez Williams, who had an interception. Freshman backup quarterback Myles Brennan even got some snaps in the second half.
This week, LSU looks to improve upon its 12-0 record against FCS teams, several of which the Tigers have beaten by more than 50 points.
But the Mocs are generally one of the stronger FCS-level programs, and Orgeron doesn’t sound inclined to leave much to chance in his first home opener as LSU coach.
“Obviously, if things go the way we want them to, and in any game, just like you saw last week, we put in the freshmen,” Orgeron said. “We will play the freshmen, but only when it’s time. We are not going into the game saying, ‘We are not playing this guy,’ ... We are going in guns loaded to win the football game.”
Chattanooga is coming off a 27-13 loss to Jacksonville State that might have turned out better for the Mocs if not for three turnovers, including two interceptions thrown by spot starter Nick Tiano. The Mocs see their trip to Death Valley as a chance to compete with an elite team and improve in advance of their entire Southern Conference schedule.
“We’re looking to go out there and show that we belong,” senior linebacker Tae Davis said. “You definitely get an extra juice playing in an environment like that. ... We’re excited to go out there and compete.”
Some other subplots heading into Chattanooga-LSU:
ART OF DECEPTION: LSU’s offensive players seem to be enjoying an overhauled scheme under new coordinator Matt Canada. It features various alignments and pre-snap shifts meant to confuse defenses and create mismatches. It’s a far cry from the traditional power-I LSU ran before. Offensive tackle Toby Weathersby sounded amused by the fan response to last week’s opening play. “It was like, ‘Oooh,’ like a magic trick. It was so funny to hear the whole stadium have the same response.” The Tigers finished with 479 yards of offense.
DUAL THREAT: Tiano is starting for the Mocks because Alejandro Bennifield is serving a four-game suspension related to academics. He accounted for 286 total yards in his first start, with 218 passing and 68 rushing.
LIGHTS OUT: LSU’s defense picked up where it left off at the end of last season, despite losing several leaders to the NFL. The Tigers held BYU to less than 100 yards last weekend, not allowing the Cougars across the 50-yard line. That makes eight straight quarters without an opponent TD, having held Louisville out of the end zone in last season’s Citrus Bowl.
GROUNDED: Chattanooga running backs combined for 22 yards rushing on 14 carries. Improving upon that is one of the Mocs’ goals, but it won’t be easy against an LSU defense that allowed BYU’s running backs 14 yards on eight carries. “LSU has some great players up front and it’ll be a good test,” senior offensive lineman Josh Cardiello said.
MYLES AHEAD: Orgeron is seeking opportunities to see more of Brennan, a top QB recruit this year. He completed his only pass last week for 12 yards.
“He’s smart. He knows his read. He can throw the football,” Orgeron said. “Hopefully we can get him a lot of experience this year. But we have to see how the game goes.”
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