CFB Week 3 Preview: The LSU Lead Toss

A big clash is on tap for Week 3, when the 18th ranked Auburn Tigers travel to Baton Rouge to take on the 13th ranked LSU Tigers in an SEC West showdown. Mark Schofield looks at LSU’s inventive running game.

Both teams survived a scare last weekend, with LSU holding off a late Mississippi State rally, while Auburn needed overtime to emerge victorious over FCS opponent Jacksonville State. Further, Auburn has not won in Baton Rouge since 1999 – the infamous Cigar Game – where Auburn players and coaches smoked cigars on the field after trouncing LSU.

The winner of this game likely comes down to how the two teams handle one specific play: LSU’s lead toss. This play has become a staple of Cam Cameron’s offense since midseason and the Tigers have used the play to perfection so far in 2015.

Here, quarterback Brandon Harris is under center with 21 offensive personnel [Editor’s Note: This was mistakenly identified as 22 personnel. Thanks to an astute reader for correcting the error.] on the field, with an i-formation in the backfield and slot formation on the right. Fullback John David Moore (#44) and running back Leonard Fournette (#7) align behind the QB. The Bulldogs have their base 4-3 defense in the game with the linebackers shifting over to the closed ‒ tight-end ‒ side of the formation:

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The Tigers run their lead toss to the TE side of the formation. TE Dillon Gordon (#85) blocks down on the defensive tackle, while left tackle Jerald Hawkins (#65) and left guard William Clapp (#64) pull around end. The FB heads toward the left edge, while Harris takes the snap and executes a very short toss to Fournette, who quickly cuts straight upfield behind his lead blockers:

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Hawkins gets a great block on the edge, and Fournette cuts inside his LT for a very nice gain on this play:

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Later in the first half, the Tigers line up in the same formation: i-formation in the backfield with slot formation to the right, tight end to the left. Mississippi State has their base 4-3 personnel on the game, with the linebackers a step toward the closed side of the formation:

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The Tigers run their lead toss to the TE side of the formation again, but this time, the defense has linebackers shaded to that side of the field, as well as a defensive back just outside the tight end. They should have the numbers to slow down any play to this side of the field ‒ even the lead toss:

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The key block here is from Moore on the force defender, defensive back Tolando Cleveland (#7). The fullback leads Fournette around the left edge, and meets Cleveland and lays into the defender, turning him towards the sideline. The running back makes a nice cut off Moore’s block, and then puts an even nicer cut on safety Kendrick Market (#26), and 26-yards later the Tigers have themselves a touchdown.

Last Year’s Tape

Last season, Auburn controlled the meeting between these two teams virtually from the start en route to their 41-7 victory. Coach Gus Malhzan’s squad held LSU to just 280 yards of total offense, including only 138 yards on the ground. But when faced with the lead toss, Auburn struggled a bit.

On this next play, Harris is under center with 21 personnel on the field. The offense has an i-formation in the backfield and trips to the left, with the TE on the line of scrimmage to that side of the field. The defense has their 4-2-5 nickel defense in the game showing Cover 2 in the secondary:

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LSU runs the lead toss play, this time to the trips side of the field. Gordon blocks down on the defensive end, which seals the edge. Fullback Connor Neighbors (#43) leads the running back around the left edge, executing a solid block on the second level on linebacker Cassanova McKinzy (#8). Tailback Darrel Williams (#34) takes the toss and follows behind the blocks by Gordon and Neighbors for a solid gain on first down:

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Here is one more example of Auburn facing the LSU lead toss. Again, Harris is under center with 21 personnel on the field, with slot formation to the right using an unbalanced line with an extra blocker on that side of the field. The Tigers have an i-formation in the backfield behind their quarterback, with Fournette the deep back in the i. Again, the defense has their 4-2-5 package in the game, showing Cover 2 in the secondary:

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LSU runs the lead toss to the unbalanced/slot side of the formation, with Fournette following behind Neighbors. Hawkins, who was LSU’s right tackle in 2014, has the key block here. The OT pulls in front of the play and executes a perfect kick out block on the slot cornerback. Gordon again blocks down on the defensive end, while Neighbors leads the way and takes out the play-side linebacker. Fournette follows behind and picks up an easy six yards on first down:

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Even though Auburn won the 2014 meeting in a rout, this play still consistently worked for LSU. Given their success with the lead toss so far in 2015, you can expect the host Tigers to use a healthy dose of this play on Saturday afternoon. If Auburn surrenders six and seven yards a carry against this concept, the visitors might be in for a long afternoon.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

All video and images courtesy ESPN.

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