The opening date provides a number of unique opportunities for this LSU team before it heads into its long 2022 season in November.
This is a group that is playing with confidence and hitting its stride in a lot of ways, with a matchup with No. 6 Alabama in many people’s minds. But the first step is to improve and know how to balance work and rest.
LSU’s plans on the field this week begin with practices Tuesday and Wednesday with the coach Brian Kelly a little insight into what they mean. There’s been a lot of individual drills and building for the future with younger players who maybe don’t play as much and getting to scrimmage.
“As a coach, they’re as good as they can be because you don’t have a game at the other end,” Kelly said.
Thursday will be a tough day for the players before Kelly gives them a three-day recovery before they get back to work next week and prepare for the Crimson Tide.
“When I say it’s really active recovery,” Kelly said. “A physical and mental reset, but we let them do things because you can’t take three days off, there’s no ‘suddenly I’m going to lie down and do nothing for three days’.” We will also use Monday as a bonus day.”
The coaching portion of this week’s review was devoted to really dissecting the slow starts this group has been on for two-thirds of the season. LSU has been a second-half team all year out of necessity, as slow starts against Florida State, Mississippi State, Auburn, Tennessee and Ole Miss really dug the team early holes that they mostly responded to well, but didn’t. I couldn’t always end it with a win.
No matter how late in the game this team is and no matter how much fight they put up, both ends have seen how those slow starts can turn out. It’s become the DNA of this team, and that can’t be the case if LSU hopes to have the kind of finish that really makes college football tick.
After evaluating the beginnings of these games, Kelly concluded that these were not physical, but rather mental errors that needed to be addressed.
“We looked at all the slow starts and most of them are not physical but mental. We felt like we were really ready to go physically, so I think we have to mentally lock our guys down early on,” Kelly said. “They play better when they get into the game, but we have to get through it. They have to figure it out from a different mindset, because it’s really a lot of mental mistakes.”
Looking at a Nick Saban On Nov. 5, mental lapses are the last thing these LSU players can afford. Discipline and focus must be there from kick-off and that starts with knowing the staff inside and out.
For the Crimson Tide, of course, starting quarterback Bryce Young, one of the most electric players in all of college football. The Heisman Trophy winner is off to another great start in 2022, most recently highlighted by that back-and-forth classic with Tennessee a few weeks ago.
LSU has faced plenty of mobile quarterbacks, but the combination of speed and accuracy with Young as a thrower makes him the toughest assignment the Tigers’ defense will face all season, according to Kelly.
“This is going to be the hardest, and I think the hardest part is improvising on it. His ability to improvise and play games. He gets the ball to his skill players,” Kelly said. “Huge challenge for our defense to somehow contain him. You have to look at slowing him down because he’s a good player.”
What Kelly likes about this LSU team is that they work hard every day to change their habits, which isn’t easy when so many of them were top football players growing up. This Alabama game will, like most years, be the ultimate test to see where LSU stands in the SEC pecking order.
Kelly steered this ship in the right direction. Now, it will take an elite game plan, focus and execution to put away the Crimson Tide.
“We create habits, we create a standard, but it takes time. We’re making great strides, these kids have done everything we’ve asked them to do, but we’re still building this thing,” Kelly said. “It’s still going to take some time to get to the point where we have the program where it needs to be.”