Donovan Tennimon

Can LSU Slow Down Manziel?

Created on Nov. 19, 2013 6:48 PM EST

The Tigers defense will attempt to do something unheard of in nearly two years — slow down Johnny Manziel. LSU did a fair job last year at College Station, handing the Aggies one of two losses during their record-setting 2012 season.

Conventional wisdom says to contain Johnny Manziel in the pocket by keeping the defensive ends even with the quarterback during designed pass plays. Typically, the ends rush up the field while attempting to out-maneuver the offensive tackles so they can sack or disrupt the quarterback. If the defender coming off the end rushes up the field and past Manziel, then the quarterback will simply scramble through the spot vacated by the defender. LSU’s defensive line must play with containment in mind and subdue the natural urge to play too aggressive.

The same is true for linebackers and defensive backs. They have to keep track of their assignments and not peek into the backfield expecting Manziel to take off. The talented quarterback may look chaotic when he’s scrambling, but his ability to buy time allows his receivers to come open. Most defensive backs and linebackers in coverage will drop their assigned offensive player and head toward the quarterback once the play appears to have broken down. This is when Manziel is most dangerous. He finds the open receiver and quickly gets him the ball with plenty of open space.

Defensive coordinator John Chavis has dealt with a young defense all season. LSU struggled in the second half against Alabama’s offense, was out of place against Aaron Murray and Georgia, and still is trying to figure out what the hell happened at Ole Miss. LSU is going to need all hands on deck for this contest, and that means effectively communicating on the field and sticking to their assignments.

Hopefully the defense has matured, and seniors like Craig Loston and Lamin Barrow can provide leadership in this pivotal SEC showdown. The more experienced upperclassmen must help their coaches ensure that their teammates are in the proper place at the right moment. If LSU is to have any shot at a 10-win season and a decent bowl game, they must defeat the Aggies on Saturday in Baton Rouge.

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