Georgia has more quality depth than LSU, but Orgeron warns that the Tigers can’t just rotate players to rotate players. The Dawgs are too good for that.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron has a tricky situation on his hands.
The No. 13-ranked Tigers play No. 2 Georgia on Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium.
That’s tricky enough.
But Orgeron’s team is coming off a physical battle in the heat and humidity in The Swamp, losing to Florida last Saturday 27-19.
Now comes another afternoon date. It won’t be quite as hot and humid in Baton Rouge as it was in Gainesville. In fact, a cool front could make things milder than they have been in Baton Rouge, but it’s still going to be warm – and physical.
Orgeron knows the Bulldogs (6-0 and 4-0 in the SEC) are one of the deepest teams in the country. He knows Georgia coach Kirby Smart will rotate players in and out and keep them fresh throughout.
He knows he needs to do something similar to prevent his players from wilting before the game ends, probably before the sun fully sets along the Mississippi River.
“We have to keep our guys fresh,” Orgeron said.
But it’s not that simple. The Tigers aren’t as deep as the Bulldogs.
Their depth wasn’t as good as Georgia’s when they reported to preseason camp in August. And injuries and suspensions have taken away several players, most notably on the offensive line and linebacker.
“We have to make sure that the guys that we rotate can handle the player that they’re playing against,” Orgeron said. “So I think that it’s a fine line there. We just can’t rotate to rotate. We have to look at the matchup, see if we put some guys in.”
LSU didn’t win its first five games and climb to No. 5 in the AP poll without having a lot of good players, including some quality depth. It just doesn’t have it across the board.
“We feel that we have three corners that can go in at any time,” Orgeron said. “That’s going to be important to us. We have some defensive linemen that have done a good job, not a great job, but they can go in.”
That’s the good news, depth wise.
“We are thin at linebacker, we’re thin at outside linebacker,” Orgeron said. “So it all depends on what position you’re talking about.”
The Tigers suffered a blow in the season opener against Miami when linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson suffered a season-ending injury. Andre Anthony has filled in adequately, but he’s not the playmaker Chaisson was.
Another linebacker, Jacob Phillips, who has emerged as a playmaker this season, missed the loss at Florida because of an undisclosed injury. He’s questionable for the game against Georgia.
Orgeron said Travez Moore, a junior college transfer, performed well with additional reps against the Gators and he’ll continue to get more work.
“He rushed the passer better than anybody,” Orgeron said. “You’re going to see more of him. I thought he did very well.”
Georgia obviously has taken note as it tries to protect QB Jake Fromm and allow the passing game to stay hot. Fromm passed for a season-high 276 yards and matched his season-high with 3 TD passes against Vanderbilt.
Freshman linebacker Micah Baskerville also seems ticketed for a bigger role.
“We’re going to have to mix and match the things that we do on defense to match their personnel the whole game,” Orgeron said. “It’s going to be another chess match.”
Speaking of mixing and matching, there has been a whole lot of that going on along LSU’s offensive line.
Starting left guard Garrett Brumfield will miss his third consecutive game this week, but might return for next week’s game against Mississippi State.
“Hopefully we can get Garrett Brumfield back next week,” Orgeron said. “That would give us some flexibility with Adrian Magee but right now we can’t do anything.”
This week’s depth chart shows the starting line from left to right as tackle Saahdiq Charles, one of the Tigers’ better linemen who struggled with some rust against Florida as he returned from a 2-game absence due to injury; Magee, who’s playing guard but is more comfortable at tackle; center Lloyd Cushenberry II and guard Damien Lewis, the mainstays of the line; and tackle Austin Deculus, who stepped in when Magee was moved to replace Brumfield.
The backups have little experience as junior college transfer Badara Traore is next in line at both tackle spots and one sophomore (Donavaughn Campbell) and two true freshmen (Chasen Hines and Cole Smith) provide the depth on the interior.
Beating Georgia has proven difficult under the best of circumstances. These clearly are less than that for the Tigers.