Monday Morning Coffee Break

Monday Morning Coffee Break

Mississippi State and LSU tangle Thursday night at Davis Wade Stadium. How do the two teams compare?

OFFENSE
LSU

LSU returns six starters on offense - senior wide receiver Early Doucet, senior fullback Jacob Hester, junior left offensive guard Herman Johnson, junior center Brett Helms, sophomore left offensive tackle Ciron Black and sophomore tight end Richard Dickson.

Doucet is projected to be the 3rd best overall prospect in the nation by Scout.com's lead NFL analyst, Tom Marino.

Starting elsewhere are sophomore Lyle Hitt at right guard, senior Carnell Stewart at right tackle, senior Matt Flynn at quarterback, sophomore Brandon LaFell at wide receiver and sophomore Charles Scott at tailback. Another player to watch is senior Will Arnold. Will, a right offensive guard, has been held out of a lot of the pre-season training camp as he comes back from ankle and knee injuries suffered last season. Look for him to play in the game.

Flynn is projected as the 97th best overall prospect and 8th best quarterback in Scout.com's NFL draft rankings. Arnold is rated the 78th overall and 3rd best offensive guard prospect in the same rankings.

Missing from this year's offense is last year's No. 1 overall NFL draft pick quarterback JaMarcus Russell and two other first-rounders wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis.

Last season, Russell, showing why he was chosen No. 1 overall pick, was 18-of-20 for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns while leading his team to a 48-17 home victory over MSU. Bowe caught 5 passes for 95 yards and 1 TD while Davis had 101 yards and 1 TD on 6 receptions.

THE KEY

Will LSU's new right tackle, Carnell Stewart, be able to contain MSU's outstanding senior pass-rusher Titus Brown? If not, having Brown in the LSU backfield could go a long way to slowing down the LSU passing game.

MSU

MSU returns a very experienced offense for the LSU game with eleven players having started 5 or more game during the 2006 season - junior QB Michael Henig (6 starts), sophomore HB Anthony Dixon (5), senior WR Tony Burks (8), senior TE Dezmond Sherrod (5), senior TE Eric Butler (6), senior C Royce Blackledge (12), junior OG Anthony Strauder (6), junior OG Michael Gates (7), sophomore OG Craig Jenkins (12 starts at OT), senior OT J.D. Hamilton (6) and junior OT Michael Brown (5).

None of the senior starters are among the top 150 NFL pro senior prospects according to the Scout.com NFL draft rankings.

Missing from last year's starting unit is offensive guard Brian Anderson and fullback Bryson Davis.

Jenkins has been moved to Anderson's spot on the offensive line while junior Jeremy Jones, who has been moved from tight end to fullback, is battling junior Brandon Hart for the fullback spot.

Two of MSU's key offensive starters, Henig and Brown, did not play against LSU last season.

THE KEY

Once the SEC cleared OT Michael Brown to play, the MSU offense went from scoring 12.6 points per game to scoring 24.1 points per game. And during those six games he played in MSU faced 3 of the top 7 scoring defenses in the SEC - Georgia (4th), Arkansas (5th) and Alabama (7th).

DEFENSE

LSU

LSU, the top-ranked scoring defensive team in the SEC last season (12.6 points per game), returns a veteran group of eight starters (7 of whom are seniors) - senior DTs Glenn Dorsey and Charles Alexander, senior DE Tyson Jackson, senior LBs Ali Highsmith and Luke Sanders, junior LB Darry Beckwith, and senior CBs Jonathan Zenon and Chevis Jackson.

LSU's defense has four starters who are projected by Scout.com's lead NFL analyst, Tom Marino, to be among the top 71 senior pro prospects, including Dorsey (the No. 1 overall), Highsmith (26th overall), Chevis Jackson (39th overall) and Zenon (71st overall).

Missing from last year's starting unit are both safeties, including first-round draft pick LaRon Landry, and DE Chase Pittman, a fifth-round draft choice.

MSU

MSU returns five starters from last season's team - senior DE Titus Brown, junior LBs Gabe O'Neal and Jamar Chaney and junior safeties Derek Pegues (converted to S after starting at CB) and Keith Fitzhugh. De'Mon Glanton, a two-game starter last season at safety, has won the starting spot from Fitzhugh, although both are expected to play a lot.

None of the senior starters are among the top 150 NFL pro senior prospects according to the Scout.com NFL draft rankings.

Missing from the starting unit are DTs Deljuan Robinson and Andrew Powell, DE Michael Heard, LB Quinton Culberson, S Jeramie Johnson and CB David Heard.

As of now, it looks like MSU will start senior Avery Hannibal at DE, sophomore Kyle Love and junior Jessie Bowman at DT. Sophomores Anthony Johnson and Marcus Washington have held onto the CB spots after winning them in the spring, but look for juco CB transfer Jasper O'Quinn to push for a starting job if either falters.

THE KEY

Will MSU's inexperienced sophomore cornerbacks, Johnson and Washington, be able to handle LSU's outstanding stable of wide receivers enough to keep the LSU offense from jumping out to an early lead? And will MSU's talented but inexperienced defensive line be able to match up with an LSU offensive line that has a mix of talented youngsters on one side of the line and inexperienced veterans on the opposite side?

SPECIAL TEAMS
LSU

LSU returns junior kicker Colt David, who was 8-of-13 on field goal attempts last season. Senior Patrick Fisher takes over the punting duties for the graduated Chris Jackson.

MSU

MSU returns starting punter Blake McAdams and starting kicker Adam Carlson, both of whom are juniors.

THE KEY

Will both McAdams and Carlson be more consistent this season? And has Carlson developed the leg strength to handle kicking off from the 30-yard line instead of the 35 as in years past?

INTANGIBLES

  • Although LSU was a powerhouse at home last season, going 8-0 and scoring 40.6 points per game while giving up 8.8 points per game, they had a little trouble when they went on the road. In their four road games against Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas they were 2-2, scoring 18 points per game and allowing 20 per game. All four opponents were ranked in the top-10 at the time LSU played them.
  • Will LSU's offense be up to par with a new offensive coordinator (also the QB coach), new wide receivers coach and new offensive line coach onboard? And this will be QB Matt Flynn's first year to start after being a backup his first three seasons.
  • MSU, on the other hand, has the same coordinators that Sylvester Croom brought in when he was first hired.
  • Last season, MSU had four losses by 3 points each. In the previous four years combined, MSU had lost games by 3 or less points only three times.
  • LSU has defeated MSU the previous seven games and has an overall record of 64-33-3 versus MSU. In games played in Starkville, LSU only has a 10-6-2 lead, but has won 7 of the last 8.


    Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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