Blogger Q&A - And The Valley Shook

This week's Blogger Q&A comes from And the Valley Shook, SBNation's LSU blog. My responses to theirs should go up soon. What do you think of their prediction at the end?

1. When the Tigers signed Russell Sheppard, I figured that he would win the quarterback job from Jordan Jefferson. Then he was immediately moved to wide receiver. Considering that Jefferson isn't exactly lighting it up, why doesn't Miles give Sheppard a chance to show what he's got? Is he really that bad? Also, discuss how LSU uses Sheppard currently and any plans to use him differently later.
 
I think way too much attention is paid to new recruits.  They are like the shiny new toy under the Christmas tree, and we want to play with them right away.  Even in his recruiting videos, Shepard didn’t look like a polished passer, but let’s put that aside for a second.  What SEC quarterback has EVER come in and played at a high level as a true freshman?  It just doesn’t happen.
 
Miles realizes he has a great talent in Shep, and he’s getting him the ball however he can, but right now, that great talent does not mean great quarterback.  In fact, nothing he’s done makes me believe he could be a quarterback, as it looks like his future is at running back once he adds some muscle. 
 
The guy who needs the chance is Jordan Jefferson.  The guy is only 19, a true sophomore, and he’s already performing quite well.  He’s not among the SEC elite, but he very well could be if he ends up being a three year starter.  You can’t coach experience.  

2. Talk a little bit about your veteran defensive line. I know they're not getting much pressure on quarterbacks, but I'm still very scared of them. Who among them should I expect to rock the world of our offensive line in pass protection?
 
Rahim Alem is both our best defensive lineman and our worst.  He’s a ferocious pass rusher and even when he wasn’t racking up sacks, he was getting to the QB and forcing him out of the pocket.  He’s a high energy player and he’s got the dreaded "endless motor".  Here’s the rub, he’s reckless as hell and frequently forgets assignments.  He’s just awful in run coverage, often spending short yardage situations on the bench, and he’s susceptible to screen passes.  A shifty back like McCluster absolutely terrifies me.
 
Which means you should still fear the interior of our line.  Drake Nevis leads a solid unit, and it’s no accident LSU has been so good on goalline situations this season.  We may not be getting lots of sacks, but we do usually win the push at the line.  

 
3. Who is your best offensive player about whom no one is talking? Defensive?
 
Richard Dickson is so forgotten that he’s no longer getting the ball.  I just don’t know why he’s disappeared.  Actually, I do.  Crowton has completely abandoned the middle of the field in order to avoid interceptions, and that’s where tight ends make their living.  I expect him to continue to be a non-factor.
 
The less-hyped guy to worry about is Terrance ToliverBrandon LaFell is a great receiver and rightfully draws the most attention from defenses, which opens up opportunities for the big and smooth Toliver.  He can beat you downfield and he can also run you over.  He’s probably the next in the line of great LSU receivers. 
 
On defense, everyone is talking about Patrick Peterson, for obvious reasons.  He’s awesome.  Simply awesome.  But the guys who have keyed our defensive resurgence is our linebacking trio of Kelvin Sheppard, Perry Riley, and Harry Coleman.  LSU has lacked big time linebackers for a long time, which is surprising for a team that has been so good defensively. 
 
If I had to single one as the guy no one is talking about, it’s Harry Coleman.  Last year, he was a safety, but Chavis shifted him to linebacker, in a move a lot people questioned.  Coleman has absolutely thrived, even with some added bulk to his frame.  He could have been a star safety in our excellent secondary, but instead he took one for the team and moved to the problem area of linebacker and made it a team strength.  I love guys like that.  Coleman might be my favorite player just for his commitment to the team. 


4. For argument's sake, let's assume that LSU loses to Ole Miss this weekend. Is Les Miles on the hotseat for finishing the regular season 9-3 and third in the West? As an Ole Miss fan, I can't even fathom being dissatisfied with that, but I understand that expectations of grandeur are important for a program with BCS National Championships under their belt.
 
This is where I get to say how much I hate our own fanbase right now.  There is a vocal minority of fans who want Miles on the hot seat NOW.  It would be a mistake to say Miles is being compared to Saban, he is in fact being compared to the Saban Myth, a mythical coach who had every player prepared, never made a wrong decision, and never lost a game apparently.  Miles cannot live up to the Saban Myth.  No coach can. 
 
The preseason expectation was 9-3 or else.  Miles seems likely to reach that, which won’t in any way silence his critics.  Neither will winning the next two games and then the Cap One Bowl.  If LSU finishes 11-2, I absolutely guarantee it will in no way silence his detractors.  There is absolutely nothing that will except multiple national titles and undefeated seasons, which is a ridiculous standard.  Miles, simply put, is the most successful coach in LSU history.  How a vocal portion of our fanbase is treating him is absolutely shameful.  Frankly, it’s also self-defeating.  What coach would want the LSU job if we run off a guy who, in five years, has had 4 10-win season (possibly), 2 SEC West titles, 2 BCS bowls, 1 SEC title, 1 national title, and guided the team through the hurricane disaster year during his first year with class and grace?  That resume should make you a legend.  If that’s not good enough, what is?
 
5. What's your prediction for Saturday's game? Give a predicted score and explain how it will play out.
 
We hate predictions at ATVS because the game is unpredictable.  But, since you asked, it’s only polite to make my best guess.
 
I think McCluster will have another big day.  Not Tennessee big, but I do think he is going to clear 100 yards easy.  What I don’t see is Ole Miss getting it’s passing game going against the LSU defense.  Peterson will shut down Shay Hodge and McCluster will have to be the offense by himself.
 
On the other side of the ball, it all depends on how effective Jordan Jefferson is.  If he can play reasonably well on his ankle, he’s a ruthlessly efficient passer.  I’m still concerned about our run game, but Keiland looked comfortable as The Man.  Our offense will sputter like usual, and then explode for a big drive or two, also like usual. 
 
The difference, as always for LSU this season, will be special teams.  LSU negates all returns in its kick game and our returners are, well, pretty darn good.  LSU wins the field position battle which will key a close victory.  Afterwards, people will call it lucky.  LSU 23-21
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