LSU and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda face a unique task in stopping Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in the Citrus Bowl.
LSU’s defense has a knack making opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable: bringing blitz packages, having big men up front that constantly provide pressure, and turning the pocket into the size of a phone booth.
Doing it against Louisville’s Lamar Jackson in the upcoming Citrus Bowl will be a challenge unmatched this season for the Tigers.
“There’s times where when you pressure him [Jackson], he scrambles. When you don’t pressure him, he passes the ball and completes bombs. That’s the problem and that’s what’s unique about him,” LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said.
Jackson has put up extraordinary numbers this season, accounting for 4,928 total yards of offense and an eye-popping 51 touchdowns, and heads into Saturday’s Heisman Trophy ceremony as the favorite to win college football’s most prestigious award.
Thriving when out of the pocket and freestyling with a run or pass, Jackson will bring back memories of November 5, when the Tigers faced another quarterback that could extend plays with his legs and smart choices: Alabama’s Jalen Hurts. In the 10-0 Crimson Tide victory, Hurts rushed for 114 yards and the only touchdown in the game, while LSU held him to 107 passing yards and an interception.
A lot of the defense’s success will fall on linebacker Duke Riley, who will be in charge of spying on Jackson and making sure that he does not get past the second level into the secondary. That is when Jackson can show his speed and score in an instant.
Like Hurts, turning Jackson into a one-dimensional player by taking away the passing game would have a huge impact, but it will all come down to making the tackles when he is within grasp. Jackson can make players miss, and when Davon Godchaux and the rest of the defensive linemen have a shot at him in the backfield, they simply cannot afford to miss.
It will be the end of a successful first season for Aranda as the defensive coordinator in Baton Rouge, as the Tigers are No. 6 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 16.4 points per game.
After Ed Orgeron became the full-time head coach in November, his first priority was to make sure Aranda stuck around as well. LSU, in return, made Aranda the highest paid assistant in college football, with a three-year contract that will pay him $1.8 million starting next season.
If his defense shuts down Jackson, he again prove why he is worth it.