Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal posted this interesting article concerning the LSU defense.
The gist is that when Oregon was added to the schedule in September 2010, Les Miles and co. began plotting defensive adjustments to stop the Ducks. One obvious adjustment was to improve his team’s conditioning so they could keep up with the Ducks. Another was to change part of the team’s strength and conditioning regimen – especially for his defensive line:
LSU’s four sophomore linemen—the ends Mingo and Sam Montgomery and defensive tackles Bennie Logan and Michael Brockers—were all red-shirted in 2009. This gave Tommy Moffitt, LSU’s strength and conditioning coach, the chance—as he put it—to “experiment” with them.
Moffitt stressed plyometric training. He had them flip tires and push sleds, varying the resistance based on what he called the coefficient of friction. He charted how much each player moved at every practice, down to the yard. He went online and searched for new exercises, he said, until his “eyeballs bled.”
One of Moffitt’s favorite metrics is relative strength—a measure of how much work a player can do per pound of body weight. Defensive backs, he said, should score in the upper fives, defensive ends in the low fives and defensive tackles in the mid fours. If a player has a too-small number, Moffitt said, it’s a sign that his “non-functional” mass is slowing him down.
Moffitt believes that if a football player can lose 10 pounds while improving his relative strength, he’ll be more efficient in games. “We’re not going to roll a bunch of skinny minis out there on the field; that’s not our goal,” he said. “But we want every ounce of weight to be force-generating.”
Brockers, the tackle, said it took some convincing for him to buy in. “I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the strength or size” to take on 320-pound offensive linemen, he said. But after trimming down from 315 pounds to 305, he said he feels just as strong as he did last season—in addition to having more speed and stamina.
To simulate the rapid pace at which Oregon snaps the ball, Miles came up with a novel idea at spring practice: He had the defense work against two offenses. As soon as one offense finished running a play, a fresh new one trotted out. Miles liked it so much he carried it over to the preseason. “I want you to imagine practicing against a hurry-up Oregon offense in the middle of the summer,” Montgomery said, “in Louisiana.”
The adjustments obviously worked, at least where Oregon is concerned. The Tigers beat the Ducks 40-27 in the season opener for both. With the trend toward fast-paced, hurry up offenses, I can’t say this is a bad strategy. It will probably come in handy on October 22nd when LSU hosts Auburn and their 90-play-a-day offense. The idea of 240-pound defensive ends probably has coaches like Nick Saban licking their chops, though.