In 2008 the LSU defense routinely allowed scoring and passing barrages the likes of which were on display between the hedges Saturday against Georgia. The fix: In the offseason leading up to the 2009 campaign, Les Miles brought in The Chief, John Chavis, to right the Tigers’ ship defensively.
It may be hard to believe, considering it was almost five years ago, but outside linebacker Lamin Barrow from John Ehret High School joined Chavis in coming to LSU that same offseason.
Not since either hit campus in TigerTown has a Bayou Bengal defense looked as lost or confused as the group that took the field in Athens, where LSU fell 44-41 and surrendered 494 yards of total offense to the Dawgs.
“Coming off a game like we had, a loss, I don’t think anybody’s really willing to accept that,” said Barrow, now a redshirt senior. “The tempo has been a lot faster in practice. Guys are coming with a little bit more edge, and I think it’s just been a lot more focused. We’ve been stressing on trying to come back and be the dominant defense we once were. I think as a whole this team is reacting well after the loss. Of course it hurt us, hit us hard. We were down for about a day, but we’re looking past it and it’s on to Mississippi State now.”
As for the only coordinator Barrow has ever known, Chavis, who Miles referred to as “sick” in his postgame press conference, is schooling his crew on the basics this week. According to Barrow, Chief hasn’t had to yell more or light into players with anything extra through two practices since the debacle because they’ve been hard enough on themselves.
“Coach Chavis, I feel like he’s the best defensive coordinator and best linebacker coach in the country,” Barrow explained. “So he’s always been an intense guy, having an edge to him. He’s just stressing the little things right now, so that the things we make mistakes on in practice don’t happen on the field on Saturday. Things like lining up right, getting the calls in – that’s what we’re having an emphasis on.”
Two months ago, on the brink of Fall Camp, Barrow was honored by his teammates, who voted him to wear the coveted No. 18 jersey for his final go-round at LSU. It was a logical selection considering Barrow had amassed a whopping 104 tackles in 2012.
Now, in what qualifies as a moment of crisis for the Tigers’ defense, Barrow indicated he’s taken it upon himself as a leader to set the record straight for the younger defenders. Beginning with the Mississippi State game, Barrow made it clear the defense has something to prove.
“It’s just a mindset that the team has taken upon itself,” began Barrow. “I’ve been around the longest, and so being that veteran guy and that leader, I pulled the team aside and let ‘em know, ‘I’ve been around for years and I’ve never seen a team put up 44 points on us.’ It’s not to say that we didn’t fight hard; it’s just unacceptable. I think everybody has that feeling now.”
When it comes to correcting mistakes from the Georgia game, which Barrow said he’s already watched tape of at home “a thousand times,” LSU’s No. 18 concurred with one thing Miles said on Monday – guys can’t try to do too much.
“In a game like that, a game of that caliber on national television, guys want to be the guy and make some plays,” continued Barrow. “Certain plays happened where people were outside of their gaps or didn’t take care of their responsibility. The type of defense we are, if everybody plays sound and does what they’re supposed to do, we wouldn’t have that problem.
“But guys were so antsy out there to make plays, it’s just the way these types of things happen. That’s something we’ve stressed on this week – just handle your responsibility and everything will work out.”
Barrow also touched on something else that was apparent, maddening and ultimately, in his opinion, easily correctable.
“Just being ready,” Barrow said while shaking his head slowly. “If you go (look at) film right now, you’ll see at least four or five plays where we weren’t even lined up correctly, we weren’t even ready for the snap with tempo. It’s something that we have to take amongst ourselves. Coach does a great job of getting that call in, but there’s too much wondering around the field, too much lackadaisical movement. We’ve got to be ready to play.”
On LSU’s lack of a pass rush Saturday, Barrow gave credit to Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, saying that Murray more or less discouraged the Tigers from bringing pressure after defeating it so easily early in the ballgame.
“I think Aaron Murray did a great job of checking things off. The earlier plays where we did have blitzes on, he was picking them up real well and getting his offensive line to slide protection (to us),” recalled Barrow. “That’s hats off to him. He’s a veteran guy … And his three-step drops, he was getting off real quick. It’s just something he took advantage of.”
The Marrero native would like to see more pressure from LSU in the future but quickly reiterated that he’ll defer to Chavis on that matter. “I think we will, but it’s all up to Chief at the end of the day. I feel like we can line up in our base package and beat any team in the country. It depends on what they feel comfortable calling.”
One thing’s for sure. There’s very little surrounding that LSU defense that’s comfortable this week leading up to the Tigers’ visit to Starkville.
“We’re trying to come out there and make a statement,” said Barrow about the MSU game. “We’re just trying to get back to that glory.”
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