Missouri’s Week Three matchup against LSU was moved from Baton Rouge to Columbia due to safety concerns about Hurricane Delta.
Despite avoiding a trip to Death Valley, Missouri will get the same vaunted opponent: the defending national champions. LSU lost the vast majority of that team, but they remain a dangerous opponent.
Natasha Malone, Sports Editor of The Reveille, spoke about remaining superstars like Terrace Marshall and Derek Stingley, as well as some new and very talented players on the LSU Tigers.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity purposes.
The big story this year is that of the players who contributed to a national championship and possibly the best CFB team ever, nearly everyone is gone. Aside from the obvious (quarterback), where are some of the spots that LSU was hit hardest by opt-outs and the draft?
The hardest-hit area was the wide receivers, especially after Ja’Marr Chase decided to opt out. Losing Justin Jefferson was huge, and we had known that, but after Chase opted out, it really thinned out the wide receiving corps. Other than wide receiver, I would say offensive line. After some losses, that’s definitely a key area of improvement. Defensively, linebacker. Obviously, losing Patrick Queen was huge, and after a couple opt-outs things are very thin on defense, especially after last week when they lost [cornerback Derek] Stingley [Jr]. Although that was not as planned [he was hospitalized with a non-COVID-related illness and missed Week One], that definitely hurt them, but he should be back next week, and that will hopefully strengthen the secondary.
Tell me about the quarterback, Myles Brennan. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Myles Brennan has had a lot of time to develop under Joe Burrow and Danny Etling. His first start was a little shaky from most peoples’ views, but I wouldn’t say that it was as bad as most people said it was. He has great arm strength, but his ability to see the field needs to improve. He’s really good when he sees his first read, but if his first read is not there, then he starts scrambling and he doesn’t know what to do. Granted, these last two games were his first starts since high school, so you can expect a little shakiness, but his ability to step up in the pocket and not bail on plays too early will be key.
Who are a couple players who have stepped up in place of the departures and played particularly well?
Arik Gilbert. After the loss of Chase, they needed another wide receiver or tight end to step up there. He was the highest-rated tight end in 247 Sports history, and he’s come in and made a huge impact on the team. He’s a freak. Coach [Ed] Orgeron has compared him to Calvin Johnson, and everyone is very high on this guy, with good reason. In place of Clyde [Edwards-Helaire], they had a sophomore running back by the name of John Emery step in and he had a breakout game for himself. He was a five-star running back coming out of high school, ranked No. 2 in the country, but he struggled last year with ball security. He’s definitely improved, and I would expect more out of him as well.
Terrace Marshall Jr. is the one holdover from the WR group; what has he meant to the team so far?
He’s given a sense of leadership to all the young guys around him. LSU’s wide receiver corps is very thin, and his experience has really helped the guys around him. He has just as much talent as Jefferson and Chase, but he hasn’t gotten the amount of opportunities due to their activities.
Derek Stingley Jr. may have been the best CB in college football last year as a true freshman, and his start to this year was a bit weird. What happened there and what kind of difference does he make to this team?
Stingley obviously could have gone top five in the draft last year and could go top five in the draft this year [if he was eligible]. His incident is still kind of unknown; all that we know is that he was rushed to the hospital a couple nights before the [Week One] game, and that he was not gonna be ready. He wasn’t practicing on Monday [last week], but then he came back with a no-contact jersey [and played in the Week Two game]. Definitely expect him to play this week. His presence means a lot, because the secondary is very, very thin. After the loss of Kristian Fulton, it definitely hurt. But Eli Ricks, who was the No. 1-ranked cornerback in last year’s class, had two interceptions last week after a shaky start against Mississippi State where he had a couple blown coverages. I would expect to see him opposite Stingley.
The other big story this year is that “most” players on the football team have had COVID. How has that affected things thus far?
That’s all that we’ve really heard, that most players have already had it. The team isn’t really focusing on it right now, and I haven’t heard many updates about it since then, so I don’t think it’s had that much of an impact on the team.
Why did LSU lose to Mississippi State, but mainly KJ Costello, who threw for 623 yards?
The loss of Derek Stingley played a vital role in that, seeing as our secondary is very thin. They had a couple guys who had never played, or some transfers who had never seen SEC play. But in general, seeing the air-raid offense for the first time was definitely really hard for them. We know that Arkansas was able to find a way to stop it and get a win there, but for LSU to see it first, combined with the fact that they didn’t have much fall practice, was very hard. You wouldn’t see it by the numbers, but the newly re-found 4-3 defense actually got a lot of pressure on Costello, forcing him into many … third-and-long situations, but they just struggled to get off the field.
What’s a matchup that LSU can exploit against Missouri?
LSU’s strength is definitely the ground game, and Missouri’s front seven struggled to keep up with Tennessee’s offensive line. The offensive line obviously is not where it was last year, but I’d expect them to keep stepping up, and the LSU ground should be a big factor in the game this weekend.
Final score prediction?
LSU 38, Missouri 17.