LSU was one of only teams to defeat the Texas A&M Aggies in 2012 and the only team to keep Johnny Manziel from either throwing or running for a touchdown in his college career, but can the Tiger’s defense replicate the success they had on the eventual Heisman Trophy winner in 2013?
Manziel threw for 276 yards vs. LSU last year, but it was on 29/56 passing and accompanied by three interceptions and two lost fumbles. Manziel, who led the SEC in rushing last season, was limited to only 27 yards on 17 carries as the athletic LSU front seven was able to contain him when he tried to get to the edge.
Related: Les Miles Press Conference Recap
Les Miles was asked how LSU will defend Manziel this year at Monday’s press conference, “Some of the things we used a year ago we’ll use, some we’ll not. … I think we have a nice scheme, a variety of ways to pressure him. Disguise some coverage. Get in the backfield. Move him when we can.”
That front seven last year was able to do that because it featured high NFL draft picks Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Kevin Minter and Bennie Logan who were instrumental in making Manziel uncomfortable and forcing him into errant throws. Plus, they took away running lanes with Minter spying him much of the afternoon.
The much-maligned 2013 LSU defense lacks the personnel on the edges compared to last year’s team, and the loss of the dependable tackling of Minter means John Chavis needs to find a new spy. That role could fall on Lamin Barrow, D.J. Welter or Kwon Alexander.
A surprising twist could be using undersized, but speedy linebacker Deion Jones, safety Micah Eugene or cornerback Dwayne Thomas in that role according to Gordy Rush who wondered if any of those three could shadow Manziel when LSU is in dime coverage on the Louisiana Daily Rush Report.
While LSU lacks the athleticism on the perimeter compared to a season ago, they are more talented in the middle of the line with Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson. Each has flashed their dominance this season, and each has flashed long stretches of inconsistency, so if they want to make a big statement for their NFL draft stock, Saturday is a prime opportunity for that.
LSU has to win the battle of the line of scrimmage on defense or they’re going to lose their fourth game of the season. When asked about the talents of Manziel at Monday’s press conference, Miles didn’t mince his words.
“If there’s a better player in college football, I’d like to know who he is,” Miles said Monday.
This certainly will be the toughest challenge LSU has faced this season and the No. 38 scoring defense (23.5) will have their hands full with the No. 5 scoring offense of A&M (49.2), but they have the blueprint to stop Manziel. The next step is executing that at Tiger Stadium Saturday afternoon.