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LSU versus Alabama Film Study -- The Rest of the First Drive for the Crimson Tide

This is another installment of my film study in preparation for the Alabama versus LSU rematch. Check out Part I & Part II for more coverage.

Play #2 
AJ McCarron pass completed to Trent Richardson (TR3) for 22 yards

This was one of many plays where LSU left TR3 unaccounted for in the passing game. LSU brought Stefoin Francois on a blitz from the outside and AJ intelligently threw to his best player into space Francois vacated. 

It was a blown assignment for the Tigers. If I were to guess, it would seem TR3's responsibilities should be on linebacker Kevin Minter. TR3 was able to turn it up field and then got in a moster collision with LSU safety Eric Reid. Reid ending up having one of the most important defensive performances in LSU history in this game. 

Safety Brandon Taylor stressed the night of the BCS bowl revealings that they must account for TR3 on every play in the title game.  

Play #3
TR3 tackled for loss by numerous Tigers for -5 yards. 

Remember in my first session when I exposed the importance of the play-side defensive end against the Alabama rushing attack? Well on this play, you see why Sam Montgomery (SM) is an exceptional run defender, especially when he is being blocked straight up by a tight end.

Before the play began, Alabama was lined up in the pistol. They then switched to a shotgun formation with TR3 in the backfield with AJ. You see Montgomery (SM) lined up against Michael Williams (MW) near the top of the screen. SM has feasted against tight ends all season long. He had a field day versus Florida tight end Jordan Reed

This is the first play Alabama ran inside the LSU 30-yard line. Read my first film study piece to see their monumental struggles inside the 30. This is the first of many questionable play calls by offensive coordinator Jim McElwain in these situations. The reason why is because Alabama runs a play that goes east and west instead of north and south. 

On the first play, I showed how LSU was gashed on a simliar play for 18 yards. But there are two things that makes this play different. The first is the play is run to the short side of the field against a fast defense. The second is the personnel and blocking scheme was different. 

The first play had mobile tight ends not having to worry about blocking a defensive lineman. But more importantly, the offensive line didn't have to perform a scheme called "downblocking." I will show what "downblocking" right here...

What "downblocking" means is that offensive lineman blocks a man down to the left or right of them, depending on which direction the play is heading. So this means Fluker, instead of blocking Barkevious Mingo (Kiki), who was his apparent assignment before the play began, attacks the next man down on the line of scrimmage, which on this play is defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Then the right guard Alfred McCollough goes and helps the center William Vlachos block down on defensive tackle Bennie Logan. The left guard, Chance Wormack, essentially becomes the lead blocker and takes on the outside linebacker on the play side.

The key for downblocking to work is the offensive lineman's first step. It must be quick or else the defensive lineman will shed the block and have a clear path to the runner. The problem for Alabama is the strength of this offensive line isn't their first step, especially against a quick defensive line.  

Because it's a run on the outside, the backside end in "downblocking", Kiki, is left unblocked. When opposing coaches intentionally left Kiki unblocked this year, his elite speed made them pay. Just watch what he did to the Oregon Ducks. Kiki can chase down any running back from behind. But McElwain does something smart to take him out of the play. 

As you see in the above picture, I highlighted wide receiver Marquis Maze (Maze). He started in motion before the snap began and Alabama ran a semi-fake to him before handing the ball to Richardson. While it seemed needless, the reason why the play is designed that play is to keep Kiki stationary and to prevent him from chasing down Richardson from the backside.

In the last study, I shared that defensive ends in 4-3 defenses have "contain responsibilities." Kiki does his job by staying stationary and making sure Maze didn't have the ball, because Kiki has to keep run contain on that side of the field. While it did take Kiki out of the play, it also took away an extra blocker to the play side.   

But where this play gets blown up is with the defensive tackles. 

As you see, Fluker and Vlachos have a tough time getting around Brockers (MB) and Logan (BL). Notice on this play, the defensive line is pushing their men behind the line of scrimmage represented by the blue line. The play looks to be designed to go through the "C-Gap" (between the tight end and tackle), but Brockers and Logan create too much traffic for TR3 to run through. He then tries to bounce it outside, but as you can see SM kept his outside shoulder free and kept contain on his side of the field. He then is able to break away from his block and force TR3 even further back...

When all four defensive lineman dominate their assignments, this is your result...

This is the first of many failures of the Alabama coaching staff. While this play is well designed, this is not their identity. The main problem with this play isn't TR3 going east and west, it's that his lineman had to go east and west as well by "downblocking" instead of running a play where the blocking is straight ahead. 

The fleet-footed LSU defensive line blew this play up from the start and much credit needs to be given to them. Both defensive ends kept their contain responsibilities and the defensive tackles read the blocks and created chaos. Can't be executed any better than that.    

Play #4
AJ to H-Back Brad Smelley for 8 yards

Solid "Out-Route" by Smelley, knocked out of bounds by Tyrann Mathieu. He gets up and talks smack to Smelley. 

Play #5
TR3 completion for no gain

Great coverage on the back end by LSU. Alabama decided to run mainly deep routes on third and eight and LSU played Cover-4 against it, which essentially doesn't allow any receivers to get behind them. The problem, even though LSU got a stop, was with the pass rush. 

I've noted this on Twitter all season long and I will say it again here. LSU has horrendous one-on-one rushing capabilities. Vlachos told me after the game that he, and his unit, felt comfortable blocking them in pass rushing situations. There is no reason for this to be this case with the speed LSU has up front.  Let's hit the tape and see where the problems lie...

On a a clear pass rushing situation, the Tiger should pin their ears back and get after the quarterback. While I don't know exactly how the Tigers have been taught to rush the quarterback, it seems rather strange how they go about doing it. 

SM and Kiki, the defensive ends, seem to get a decent rush off the football, but they are a little high and neither one of them brings their hands. Brockers (MB) and Logan (BL), seem to not even attack the line of scrimmage whatsoever. Like I said, I don't know if they were told to spy TR3, but it doesn't look like that at all. It seems as if BL took a step back off the snap. Either way, both of them stood straight up while they are supposed to be low. 

As you see, the pass protection by Alabama here is excellent. The left and right tackles, Jones and Fluker, both have their respected rusher stood straight up and in a defenseless position. MB and BL seem to still be playing patticake no where near the quarterback.

SM actually does a decent job of continuing his fight with Jones and actually puts himself in a good position if AJ steps up. He also gets lucky as BL takes a desperate outside path to AJ. Brockers decides his rush chances are over and stays with TR3 and Mingo is on his own island. 

But as the play goes on, Jones is able to put SM on the ground for the second time on this drive. What AJ needs to do on this play is step up in the pocket instead of stepping sideways. AJ hasn't been below average at stepping up in the pocket all year for the Crimson Tide versus SEC opponents. Because Logan provides some late pressure and the coverage in the secondary was spectacular, AJ is forced to check down to TR3.

And then Brockers almost commits a stupid penalty right in front of the Alabama bench. But this picture is awesome nonetheless. 

Play #6
Kade Foster Sucks

The kick is just awful. Not even worth typing this sentence. 


AJ is going to be a more prepared quarterback for this next versus LSU. He will see in film he has more time to throw than what is perceived. The LSU secondary smothered the Crimson Tide receivers earlier this year. But all it takes is an extra split second and more comfort in the pocket for these plays to open up. 

We also see the good and bad of the LSU defensive line. They are athletic and fast, but they are not the most sound fundamentally. If AJ has developed any form of pocket presence, a more conventional pass rush, with push up the middle, will be needed to be successful. If not, Chavis will have to bring plenty of pressure throughout the game, which provides more one-on-one opportunities for the Crimson Tide.

Later in the film study, I will show how Morris Claiborne had as dominant of a corner performance you will find. But next time, we will see where things went wrong for Jarrett Lee.  


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