UCLA Football Preview: LSU Defense Does Not Lack Talent
Dorian Thompson-Robinson will need to step up against a very good LSU secondary.
Welcome to Gameday, Bruin fans! UCLA is welcoming the LSU Tigers to the Rose Bowl, and I will be completely honest when I say that I am absolutely worried about how the offense will do against an LSU defense that is absolutely loaded with talent. Let’s take a look at the Tiger defense.
The Tigers usually role out with some kind of 4-2-5 alignment, which puts a good amount on the defensive line to play well. Unfortunately, the Tigers have a solid amount of talent up front, with five separate players that have starting experience. The Bruins dodged a rather large bullet when it was announced that Glen Logan would not play in this game due to an injury, but they still have plenty of talent to go around. On the outside, the Tigers should trot out seniors Ali Gaye and Andre Anthony, while on the interior senior Neil Farrell will likely be complemented by freshman Maason Smith. The interior of the LSU line was their weak spot last year. So, I imagine the Bruins will attack that interior early and often to try and soften them up.
Here is the weak spot of the LSU defense, especially in comparison to the other two position groups. Last year’s leading tackler among the linebackers, senior Damone Clark, should have one of the starting spots locked up, but the other one appears to be all over the place. Senior Micah Baskerville could pick up where he left off last season, but academic issues kept him out of spring ball this year and it’s hard to know if he’s fully ready to go. They could turn to one of their new JUCO transfers in Bugg Strong or Navonteque Strong at this spot, but they’re relative unknowns at the Power Five level.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson is going to have his work cut out for him, because LSU trots out two of the best cornerbacks in the nation. Junior Derek Stingley, Jr. will likely be an early 1st round pick this year, while his teammate, sophomore Eli Ricks, looks like he will be a top pick in 2023. These two are ridiculously good and it would not shock me to see UCLA avoid challenging them whenever possible.
The Tigers are a bit weaker on the back end. Junior Jay Ward was moved from cornerback to safety and was able to win the starting job, but the strong safety spot was up for grabs as of this writing. I would not be surprised to see Major Burns, a transfer from Georgia, get the nod to start at this other spot.
This is going to be difficult for UCLA. The Bruin run game was borderline elite last season, but LSU presents a challenge that the Bruins did not have to face to this point with all the large talented players on the defensive line. On top of that, the LSU cornerbacks could turn life into hell for Thompson-Robinson.
If UCLA is going to win, they’re going to need to attack up the middle. The interior of the defensive line was the relative weak spot, the linebacker play is the weakest of the groups, and the safeties are a solid step down from the cornerbacks. The Bruins will, of course, try to ride the combination of Brittain Brown and Zach Charbonnet, but Dorian Thompson-Robinson will need to play extremely well and protect the ball to keep UCLA in this game.