NEW ORLEANS, LA – SEPTEMBER 04: LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) talks with team personnel during the Allstate Louisiana Kickoff game between the Florida State Seminoles and the LSU Tigers at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Kevin Langley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels has been on an absolute tear over the last three quarters of football, spanning back to the final quarter against Florida State, then to the first two in Baton Rouge against Southern last weekend. He seems to be finding his groove in Brian Kelly’s offense as he’s led the Tigers on eight straight touchdown drives dating back to week one.
But let’s keep things in perspective, the majority of that did come during LSU’s 65-17 rout of Southern in week two. Playing a SWAC school is one thing, this week he’ll get another challenge against Mississippi State and all the many wrinkles that Bulldog defensive coordinator Zach Arnet will throw his way.
Arnet runs an aggressive 3-3-5 defense that utilizes a lot of different blitz packages. He uses a lot of the same concepts that former San Diego State head coach and current New Mexico head coach Rocky Long uses. After all, Arnet spent nine years under the tutelage of Long, helping him craft his own version of the 3-3-5. Arnet isn’t afraid to scheme his defense to put pressure on the quarterback in an effort to force opposing quarterbacks into quick decisions. Daniels will have to be patient, but decisive with his decisions.
This could be Daniels’ biggest test yet. LSU heads into the weekend as a +2.5 underdog to Mississippi State. According to LSU head coach Brian Kelly, Daniels continues to grow as a starting quarterback for the Tigers, and you want to see that continued improvement week to week as he becomes more and more comfortable with the offense.
“I think there’s still growth there and I think he would tell you that if he was standing here,” Kelly said of Daniels. “He’s so coachable and I think I mentioned this the last time we talked about him, his demeanor when he comes to the sideline, he’s extremely coachable and taking in information talking to the box, talking to me on the sideline where you can get him information and he can pick that up and move on to the next series.”
With SEC play here, Daniels’ success will be even more important when it comes to the success of this Tigers offense and how far this team can go in the SEC West.
“Now we get into SEC competition, and everything is heightened,” Kelly added. “Our preparation has to be even better, more detailed.”
They’ve undoubtedly worked on some of those details during practice this week to help prepare Daniels for barrage of various 3-3-5 looks over the next two weeks. It’s not one of the more common defenses that you see, but Daniels will see it two weeks in a row facing Arnet and the Bulldogs and then follow that up with another home game against New Mexico and Arnet’s former mentor Rocky Long and his version of the defense, which should look pretty similar to the concepts they’ll see on Saturday night.
Will Daniels be able to identify the different looks within the defense, understand the blitz packages and where the pressure is coming from?
“It’s really about how the birds line up,” Kelly said of Daniels’ ability to deal with the challenges of Mississippi State’s 3-3-5 defense. “I mean it’s a 3-3-5 defense, but they can move people around. It’s recognition of where those overloads come from and those pressures, how you slide the front, how we recognize who are the five to block in the run game and the 3-3-5 presents some of those problems and we’ll have to do a great job of making it a little bit simpler.”
Since taking over the Mississippi State defense in 2020, Arnet’s Bulldogs have finished in the top five of the SEC for two consecutive years in total defense, rushing defense, yards per rush, first downs allowed per game and takeaways.
Kickoff for Saturday night’s matchup between LSU and Mississippi State is set for 5:00 PM CT.