Photo Courtesy: WVUE/Mark LaGrange
One of the most interesting aspects coming into the 2018 season was how teams were going to try to attack the LSU Tite defense with run-pass options (RPO's). Much can be learned from the offenses who faced this front and how they chose to attack it.
A main target of teams playing against LSU’s Tite defense is using the slot receiver on bubble screens. The defense’s pre-snap alignment tells offenses that they have a numbers advantage on bubble screens because the Sam linebacker is usually apex’d and the half-field safety is sitting way above seven yards deep.
Offenses will read this as a 2-on-1 advantage for them. The wide receiver will block the cornerback while the safety and outside linebacker converge too late to stop the play before at least a 5-yard gain. On paper, this strategy makes a lot of sense against the Tigers and teams have been trying it for years.
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The problem? The two safeties that Aranda had in his seconday were pretty good. Jamal Adams was the sixth overall pick in the 2017 draft and Grant Delpit looks poised to be one as well.
Those safeties close in a hurry.
In the clip below, West Virginia countered aggressive safety play with a nice fake bubble screen for a touchdown, which could be an answer if the bubble screen is being stopped by safeties.
With the way LSU often presses their corners, teams have tried to throw “gift” routes (fade), which is just a single reciever route tagged with a run play.
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Here, the Ole Miss quarterback rides the running back before throwing, but a lot of teams will have their quarterback just take a one step drop back and throw it while the rest of the offense executes a running scheme in front of him.
The RPO that offenses have utilized the most against LSU is the slant RPO.
It’s worked against LSU because of how Aranda plays his outside linebackers. These linebackers are run-first guys, so the receiver can get behind them during the quarterback’s ride. LSU often lines those backers up at three yards off the ball. When playing the Tite defense and getting burned by these slants, linebackers could be moved back to five yards, slow playing any run concepts. With two 4i-techniques inside of them, even if they are at 5 yards, they can still make a play against the run game when the ball should spill outside.
Most teams ran the slant from the inside slot or from the solo wide receiver. Ole Miss ran it with their outside receivers, while the inside reciever ran the slot corner off.
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Coaching against LSU’s version of the Tite defense, one RPO concept to try against this defense is a little stick, out route that puts that same outside linebacker in conflict.
With the corner locked and the outside linebacker inside the slot receiver, read the outside linebacker. If he sticks his feet in the ground too much instead of dropping off, there’s a window to get the ball to the out route. Against this concept, the cornerback is the most dangerous defender because he could trap the out, but the safety won’t be there in time to make a play.
If the safety does come down quick, Auburn showed a nice double move against LSU to keep that player at bay in 2017.
Attacking the outside linebacker has been key for teams facing LSU this season. It’s a great strategy to keep the outside linebackers conflicted and the safeties as deep-half players. The Tite front is popular right now and many teams will begin to face this defense next season. When doing so, consider using the aforementioned RPOs.