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Previewing Alabama vs. LSU: The Tigers Offense

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The LSU offense has seen a drastic turnaround since Purdue transfer Danny Etling took over at quarterback, but can that trend continue against Alabama’s impressive defense?

NCAA Football: Lambeau Field College Classic-Louisiana State vs Wisconsin Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

16 Danny Etling (Jr.) - Etling has been a revolutionary addition to the Tigers offense since he was inserted into the lineup during the Jacksonville State game back on September 10th. The former Purdue quarterback has helped open things up for an offense that has struggled in the passing game with Brandon Harris under center. So far this season, Etling hasn’t been asked to do too much, but it is possible that could change come Saturday night. LSU is going to need Etling to continue his efficient style — currently fifth in the SEC in passing efficiency — if the Tigers want to be able to field a balanced offense. How he handles Alabama’s pressure up front will be critical to LSU’s success.

2016 Season Stats: 89/147 (60.5%), 1,129 pass yards, seven touchdowns, three interceptions

Running Back

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

07 Leonard Fournette (Jr.) - It has been blatantly clear for some time now that the Tigers’ offense is run through Fournette. It’s also been clear for some time now that Fournette’s been blessed with the ability to literally run through defenses at will — or most of the time at least. Fournette struggled with an ankle injury earlier in the season, but he was a force in his return against Ole Miss — rushing for 287 yards and three touchdowns on only 16 carries. After holding the Heisman hopeful to only 31 yards rushing in Tuscaloosa last year, the Alabama defense will yet again look to shut down the 6’1” 235 pound former five-star from New Orleans.

2016 Season Stats: 83 carries, 683 rushing yards, five touchdowns

12 receptions, 94 receiving yards

44 J.D. Moore (Jr.) - Moore has been an underrated player for the Tigers since he joined the program as a walk-on leading up to 2014 season. Since then, the 6’4” 241 pound fullback from Ruston, Louisiana has been a force opening up running lanes for both Fournette and Derrius Guice. He was just recently nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy which is given to the best football player in the country who began his career as a walk-on. Moore should be back to full strength following a strained neck injury against Ole Miss, and it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up against Alabama linebackers Reuben Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton.

2016 Season Stats: Three receptions, 18 receiving yards

Names to Know:

05 Derrius Guice (So.) - Guice’s emergence has given the LSU Tigers one of the most effective 1-2 punches at running back in the entire country. When Fournette went down with an ankle injury earlier in the season, Guice stepped up in his absence and the offense didn’t seem to miss a beat. During the three games that Fournette was forced to miss this season, Guice has managed to go for 486 rushing yards — 162 yards per game average with a 9.35 yards per carry average — while also punching it in six times. At 5’11” 212 pounds, the local Baton Rouge product is well-built and runs with a chip on his shoulder.

2016 Season Stats: 78 carries, 637 yards, seven touchdowns

Five receptions, 66 receiving yards

28 Darrel Williams (Jr.) - With Fournette out versus Missouri a couple weeks ago, Williams was given the opportunity to come in and show that he can be a big part of the rotation at running back. Fellow running mate Guice finished with 17 carries for 163 yards and three touchdowns, but that didn’t stop Williams from throwing up his own impressive stats. He finished the game with 131 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns of his own. Williams has shown that he can provide the run game with another option if called upon.

2016 Season Stats: 31 carries, 172 yards, three touchdowns

Four receptions, 35 receiving yards

Wide Receiver

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

15 Malachi Dupre (Jr.) - To put it simply, Malachi Dupre is a match-up nightmare for opposing cornerbacks. At 6’4 195 pounds, the junior from New Orleans can take over football games when his quarterback can consistently get him the football. That connection with the quarterback has been the issue thus far. The most receptions that Dupre has managed to put up in a single game this season has been a mere five against Ole Miss two weeks ago. If it weren’t for his game against Southern Miss — where he tallied three receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns, Dupre’s numbers would look even uglier. Alabama’s secondary will have to stay on their toes against Dupre, but I think his numbers will look similar to that of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s against the Tide back on opening day.

2016 Season Stats: 23 receptions, 288 receiving yards, two touchdowns

83 Travin Dural (Sr.) - Dural has been blessed with NFL talent, but he has been stuck in the same sub-par situation that has plagued Dupre’s production. The 6’2” 207 pound senior has the ability to stretch defenses vertically with his combination of size and speed, but the LSU offense hasn’t found a way to exploit that ability up to this point. Similarly to last year’s game, I expect the LSU offense to take a few shots downfield to try to loosen things up for Fournette, so don’t be surprised to see Dural as the prime target on one of those shots.

2016 Season Stats: 24 receptions, 246 receiving yards, one touchdown

Names to Know:

83 D.J. Chark (Jr.) - Chark has seen an uptick in usage over the course of season, and he has turned that into receiving touchdowns in each of his last two games. One of those receptions was a 13-yard catch turned into an 80-yard touchdown after Chark used his blazing speed to outrun multiple defenders to the endzone against Southern Miss. That’s the kind of playmaking ability that Chark has added to the offense. Much like LSU’s other two starting receivers, Chark has the size (6’3” 187) and speed to make plays on Saturday if given the chance.

2016 Season Stats: 16 receptions, 269 receiving yards, three touchdowns

Tight End

NCAA Football: Texas Bowl-Louisiana State vs Texas Tech Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

81 Colin Jeter (Sr.) - Like with Chark and Moore, Jeter should be a full-go against the Tide this Saturday. He had suffered a wrist injury against Ole Miss two weeks ago, and there was questions as to whether or not he would be able to suit up. The massive tight end (6’7” 254 pounds) from Longview, Texas isn’t going to put up mind-blowing statistics, but he is a balanced player who has shown the ability to block and catch when given the opportunity.

2016 Season Stats: Four receptions, 71 receiving yards

Names to Know:

89 DeSean Smith (Sr.) - The Tigers’ offense has been known to spread the ball around through the air this season, and Smith has been another beneficiary of that style of play. He only has four receptions on the year, but the 6’5” 249 pound senior has averaged a whopping 30.25 yards per reception — proving that he has the capability to provide big plays to spark the offense.

2016 Season Stats: Four receptions, 121 receiving yards, one touchdown

Offensive Line

NCAA Football: Florida at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

63 K.J. Malone (Jr.) - Malone really struggled in the season opener against Wisconsin, but he has shown strides as the year has progressed. At only 6’4 303 pounds, he doesn’t possess the same size as former LSU left tackle Jerald Hawkins, but he is an athletic player who shows the ability to seal off the edge in the run game. There is no doubt that he is going to have his hands full against Jonathan Allen on Saturday, however.

2016 Season Stats: Seven games started

64 Will Clapp (So.) - Clapp has been dealing with a nagging shoulder injury this season, but he should be in there starting at left guard against the Tide. The 6’5 309 pound sophomore from New Orleans plays with a nastiness in the trenches that coaches both love and respect. Even though he is only a sophomore, Clapp has shown some similarities to Buffalo Bills offensive guard Richie Incognito. His health will be something to monitor throughout the game, and if he can’t go, expect Maea Tuehema to step in at left guard.

2016 Season Stats: Six games started

77 Ethan Pocic (Sr.) - Pocic is currently the best offensive lineman on LSU’s roster. He is projected to be a day-two pick in the upcoming NFL draft, and he will be crucial to any success the LSU offense will have against Alabama this upcoming Saturday. At 6’7” 302 pounds, Pocic is tall for a center, so it is possible that he could be moved to guard — or maybe even tackle — in the NFL. His versatility hasn’t been tested up to this point because he has started every game this season at center, but make no mistake that he will be playing on Sundays come next season.

2016 Season Stats: Seven games started

76 Josh Boutte (Sr.) - At 6’5” 346 pounds, Boutte is by far LSU’s biggest offensive lineman. That hasn’t resulted in him being LSU’s “best” offensive lineman, however. Boutte has been inconsistent all year, and while he has shown the ability to get to the next level in the run game and create holes for Fournette and company, he has been a liability at times in pass protection. The right side of LSU’s offensive line is an area that Alabama’s defensive front can exploit if attacked correctly.

2016 Season Stats: Six games started

66 Toby Weathersby (So.) - LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has stated that if Weathersby is 100% healthy by this Saturday, then he will be the starter at right tackle against Alabama. So far this week, we still don’t have much clarity on that statement. Maea Tuehema has taken reps with the starters at right tackle so far this week in practice, but don’t be surprised if both end up taking reps on the right side this weekend.

2016 Season Stats: Three games started

Names to Know:

75 Maea Teuhema (So.) - Teuhema has become the sixth-man for the LSU offense line. He has started five games this season — including one at left guard and four at right tackle. The 6’5” 315 pound sophomore is versatile, but he struggles against speed on the edges. Expect Tim Williams to have a field day if Teuhema is pressed into action at right tackle.

2016 Season Stats: Five games started