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LSU running back Derrius Guice

Bayou Bengal Briefing: 5 offseason tasks LSU football must achieve to win the SEC in 2017

Nick Suss

BATON ROUGE, La. — The final edition of the SEC Country Power Poll came out Tuesday and in it voters from around the nation picked LSU as the second-best team in the conference. But as most LSU football fans will tell you, second place shouldn’t be good enough.

Being that Wednesday is the first day of LSU’s spring semester and thus the return from break for many of LSU’s football players, offseason preparation is officially upon us.

So, here are five tasks I think the LSU football team needs to achieve in order to win the SEC in 2017:

1. Emphasize turnovers

Coach Ed Orgeron loves to talk about turnovers. But that doesn’t change the fact that LSU ranked No. 88 nationally in turnovers forced in 2016 with 17. In the eight games Orgeron coached, LSU forced 11 turnovers, a rate that would’ve ranked in the bottom 40 in the country on a per game basis.

Which teams forced the most turnovers? Well, all four of the teams in the College Football Playoff ranked in the top 10 for starters. LSU needs to be more aggressive. Sure, it might give up more touchdowns (see later), but it also will give the offense more possessions.

2. Make up their minds on the offensive line

An offensive line needs an identity just like any other position group. LSU can’t keep rotating its offensive tackles. Pick a set and let Danny Etling, or whoever lines up at quarterback, get comfortable with it.

If an offensive tackle isn’t sure if he’s going to play next possession, how’s he going to have the confidence to slow down an Alabama pass rush?

3. Grow into Dave Aranda’s defense

Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has described his 2016 LSU defense as a simplistic version of what he eventually wants to achieve.

As LSU’s defense gets more exotic, its players are going to have to play that way as well. That means some guys lining up out of position, some bizarre blitz packages and unexpected formations and maybe even some innovation. Players can’t be resistant. Change is coming. And if its Aranda’s change, it’s probably best to listen to him.

4. Prepare for road games

LSU only has three major home games in 2017: Auburn, Arkansas and Texas A&M. The Tigers also host Chattanooga and Syracuse, but those shouldn’t be too competitive.

This means LSU has to go to five SEC stadiums next season: Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Not to mention a neutral site game against BYU.

Visiting fan bases aren’t going to be too kind to LSU. Best get used to the crowd noise in the spring and summer so it’s a nonfactor when fall rolls around.

5. Unplug Derrius Guice’s TV and Internet

Every prognosticator in the world is going to call Derrius Guice a Heisman Trophy contender heading into 2017. And for good reason. Guice is a stud. And Guice also likes to talk and use Twitter.

It’s probably best to keep him away from this sort of stuff. There’s no reason to set his sights that high this early in the process. Let his play do the talking. Not his Twitter account.

Wide receiver Wednesday

It’s Wednesday. On Wednesday, I talk about wide receivers.

Today’s topic: What D.J. Chark’s return means to LSU

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LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark is Danny Etling’s favorite deep threat. (Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country)

Junior wide receiver D.J. Chark announced on Monday that he plans to be called “senior wide receiver D.J. Chark” instead of “rookie wide receiver D.J. Chark” in 2017.

Yes, Chark is coming back for one last go-round. So, what should LSU football fans expect out of Etling’s go-to deep threat?

A lot has been made of the way new LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada used wide receiver Quadree Henderson at Pittsburgh. Like Chark, Henderson is a speedy wideout who thrives on the jet sweep.

Chark rushed 12 times for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns last year, while Henderson rushed 60 times for 631 yards and 5 touchdowns. If you adjust those marks to yards per carry, though, Chark’s mark (10.17) isn’t too far from Henderson’s (10.52).

That said, Chark is significantly less running back-sized than Henderson. Henderson is listed at 5-foot-8, while Chark measures in at 6-foot-3. Because of this, Chark is a better downfield receiving option than Henderson ever was. While Henderson averaged an impressive 11.0 yards per reception in 2016, Chark averaged 17.92 yards per catch on the exact same amount of touches.

Chark synthesizes Henderson’s best traits with the traits of Pitt’s leading receiver, Jester Weah, who averaged a Power 5 best 24.17 yards per catch and was one of 18 Power 5 players to catch 10 or more touchdowns.

If Canada uses Chark in that way, combining his instincts as a runner with his natural ability as a route runner, the rising senior could be a dangerous weapon in LSU’s arsenal next season.

Jamal Adams knows why Alabama lost

Former LSU safety Jamal Adams is really good. Like really, really good. Like Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft guru Matt Miller comparing him to Eric Berry and Sean Taylor good.

And apparently, he knows what went wrong on Alabama’s last play against Clemson. You know the one. OK, you can watch it again.

At first, that play looks like it’s uncoverable. Clemson ran a proper rub route, drawing the outside corner in and trapping the inside corner with him. And given that Hunter Renfrow was lined up three yards behind the line of scrimmage, pressing him would’ve been next to impossible.

But Adams can explain it better than I can.

What Adams means here is that the top corner, the one who inadvertently created the pick, didn’t press his man off the line of scrimmage. Since Clemson was allowed to set the line, Renfrow was given a free release. Had Alabama’s sideline corner engaged Clemson’s receiver at the snap, Renfrow would’ve had a much harder time escaping into the flat.

Adams has a solution. But hey, he’s not the one calling plays. Yet.

A mini LSU football rant

The official LSU football website celebrated a misleading stat Tuesday.

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LSU defenders swarm an Arkansas ball-carrier (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a misleading stat. But this one is a bit egregious in my book because it’s actually selling LSU short.

The stat in question? LSU allowed the fewest touchdowns of any team in college football in 2016. This is true. LSU allowed 16 touchdowns, which is five fewer than the second-best squad.

But LSU also played between one and three fewer games than most of the teams with the best defenses in college football. This leaves the “Of course, Alabama allowed more touchdowns; it played three more games argument.” Which would be fair, if it weren’t also false.

LSU also allowed the fewest touchdowns per game (1.33) of any team in college football. That should be your headline. The average is always more important than the aggregate. Don’t sell yourself short, LSU. Adjust for context and give yourself the credit you deserve. You were better than everyone in two ways. List the more impressive one.

Something has to give Wednesday night

I’m calling Wednesday night “something has to give night” for the LSU men’s basketball team. Sitting at 1-2 in SEC play and having lost two games at home to teams it could have beaten, LSU visits College Station to play Texas A&M.

The Aggies have started out slow in SEC play, losing three straight to open conference play, albeit two of which to quality Kentucky and South Carolina teams.

LSU needs to win this game. Texas A&M is reeling and the Tigers need to capitalize on A&M’s early season rough patch to avoid a midseason one in Baton Rouge.

Starting in two weeks, LSU goes through a brutal patch where it plays six straight SEC games against Kentucky, Arkansas (twice), Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M. LSU needs to rack up wins now, because they’ll be tough to come by in early February. If the Tigers can’t do that Wednesday night, it’s probably going to be a long season for the players and a short offseason for Johnny Jones.

Arden Key has a vision board

That sub-headline says pretty much all it needs to.

Here’s a picture of star defensive end Arden Key’s 2017 vision board:

I’m as surprised as you are to learn that Key has a literal, tangible vision board that he built with scissors and tape. That’s sort of incredible. Here’s what I learned:

  1. There’s pretty much no chance Key is going to be coming back for a senior year in 2018. That was already predestined, but that NFL Draft picture might just settle it. Arden thinks of himself as a first-round pick and he wants to play like it.
  2. Arden seems to want to play at 260 pounds. His most recent LSU depth chart measurement is 238 pounds.
  3. Arden’s life idols seem to be Ray Lewis and Steve Harvey. My guess is that he respects Lewis’ tenacity and Harvey’s fashion sense.
  4. Key believes you can simultaneously be humble and think you’re the best. This is not possible.
  5. Key wants to make money. He cannot do this by playing football in 2017. This goal will be hard to achieve.

Am I missing anything? What are your observations? Do you have vision boards of your own? I’m fascinated by the chance that I’m the weird one for not doing this.

Today in made-up holidays

According to the eccentric weirdos over at NationalDayCalendar.com, Wednesday is “National Step In a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day.”

It’s official. There is a day for everything.

Usually, I like to take this segment and apply it to LSU sports in some way. But today, given that I apparently have to address this topic, I feel it’s necessary to do a PSA on politeness.

Dear Internet,

Even if a website tells you that it’s “National Step In a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day,” please do not step in a puddle in order to splash your friends. It’s rather inconsiderate of you. Your friends won’t be amused. And you’ll immediately regret it because you’ll spend the rest of the day with soggy shoes.

Again, I can’t believe I have to address this. But, if you see a puddle, go around it. Or step over it. Or lay down a cloth or something. Just don’t jump in it. Unless there’s no one around and you’re wearing rubber boots, it’s probably not wise. 

Sincerely,

Nick Suss

You’ve gone too far this time, NationalDayCalendar.com. Too far indeed. No one’s getting splashed on my watch today.