LSU football: What to expect in Week 1 vs. McNeese State


The LSU football season gets underway this Saturday with a showdown against McNeese State. Here is what to expect from the Tigers’ season opener. 

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The long wait is finally over, and we can finally quench our thirst on Saturday when the Tigers welcome McNeese State into Death Valley to open the 2015 season.

Since it’s the first game of the season, and McNeese State is not exactly a national powerhouse, LSU will not be pulling out all the tricks for the season opener.

But there are some areas of the game where the Bayou Bengals need to focus on Saturday evening.

Here is what to expect:

Related: McNeese State vs LSU preview, predictions and live stream

1. Improved quarterback play

LSU’s passing attack was not pretty in 2014, and most Tiger fans were left shaking their heads at the worst passing offense in the SEC.

But now that sophomore Brandon Harris has emerged as the starter, LSU’s passing game has a chance to have a heartbeat.

What we should look for tomorrow is whether or not Harris is truly ready. Head coach Les Miles and his staff have praised Harris all offseason, and have been pretty open about him taking the majority of the first team reps over 2014 starter Anthony Jennings.

The question is whether Harris earned the spot because he has improved vastly since his freshman season, or if he is first string by default due to Jennings’ legal troubles during the offseason.

Do not expect LSU to open up the playbook too much against McNeese St., so Harris might not have many flashy plays or put up big numbers.

But what we need to look for is whether he goes through his progressions and gets his passes delivered on time and on target.

2. An improved pass rush

LSU struggled mightily in 2014 at rushing the quarterback. They recorded only 19 sacks last season, the second-worst in the SEC.

Both veteran defensive ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter have left for the NFL, leaving holes at the position.

Junior defensive ends Lewis Neal and Tashawn Bower will take over the starting duties to begin the season, but expect to see sophomore Sione Teuhema and freshman Arden Key rotating in.

Key is a 6-foot-6 true freshman who already looks the part. The Atlanta product is expected to do big things for the Tigers throughout his college career, starting this season.

LSU is experienced in the middle of the line with junior defensive tackle Christian LaCouture and sophomore tackle Davon Godchaux, both returning starters, leading the way.

Because of the poor pass rush last season, new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron have made it a point during the offseason for the Tigers to get after the quarterback.

What we should look for tomorrow is LSU defenders pushing into the backfield and pressuring the quarterback on a consistent basis. The Bayou Bengals should record at least a couple sacks and a few tackles for loss.

3. How the LSU secondary plays without Jalen Mills

The Tigers took a hit when senior safety Jalen Mills went down with a leg injury during the offseason. Mills is expected to miss at least two or three games, and with the preseason first team All-SEC safety on the sideline, junior Rickey Jefferson will be replacing Mills at free safety.

Jefferson is plenty experienced, and against McNeese State, there should not be a noticeable difference in the secondary.

The LSU secondary is elite.

Despite not having a great pass rush, the Tigers led the SEC in 2014 with the fewest passing yards allowed per game.

If LSU is going to keep playing at that high of a level this season, they are going to have to compensate for Mills’ absence.

Expect Jefferson to play well alongside sophomore safety Jamal Adams during the opener. Both Jefferson and Adams should be able to keep up with the Cowboys’ receivers, while laying the wood on any running backs that make it into the secondary.

4. Expect to see an array of freshman playing for the Tigers

Miles is known for playing freshman early at LSU, and against a team like McNeese State is the perfect opportunity for young players to gain in-game experience.

Some of the freshman we should expect to see on the offensive side of the ball tomorrow are fullbacks David Ducre and Bry’Kiethon Mouton, running backs Nick Brossette and Derrius Guice, wide receiver Tyron Johnson and offensive linemen William Clapp and Maea Teuhema.

There may not be as many freshman appearing on the defensive side of the ball, though. We should expect to see cornerbacks Kevin Toliver II and Donte Jackson and, as previously mentioned, Key at the defensive end position.

What we should look for is how well the freshman can play at the college level. Even though McNeese State is far from a top-tier college football program, the experience should come as great value for these freshmen. Miles and his coaching staff will get an idea of who needs more time to develop, and who can step up and play significant snaps during meaningful games.

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