LSU is just two games in with transfer Joe Burrow, and Auburn has already been made to take notice of the quarterback’s importance to his offense.
Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State in the offseason after Dwayne Haskins was named the starter, is 2-0 after wins over then-No. 8 Miami and Southeastern Louisiana. The 6-foot-4 junior is completing his passes at just a 47.7 percent rate. But it’s his “smarts” at the line of scrimmage are going to require extra attention from Auburn’s defense this Saturday.
“That’s part of the game that goes on just about every week,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said of Burrow’s checks on Tuesday. “Even though he just got there, he’s a more veteran guy and it looks like to me they’re putting some things in his hands. That’s just kind of a game within a game that an offense and defense goes through quite a bit each Saturday.”
Both of Burrow’s touchdown tosses came in a 31-0 win over Southeastern Louisiana over the weekend. It was the opener against Mark Richt’s Miami team in Arlington, Texas, however, where Burrow impressed with checks and audibles against a Hurricanes defense that grabbed 17 interceptions last season.
Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said Sunday that, while he only has the two games to make a “short evaluation,” Burrow’s ability to keep LSU ahead of the sticks stood out, and Steele won’t be able to slow him down with his game plan alone.
“Any time that you’ve got a quarterback that can get you out of a bad play and into a good one, that ups the difficulty a little bit,” Steele said. “(Jeremiah) Dinson and Deshaun (Davis) … you can do some things with those two that can give you a coach on the field, if you will. They really understand football at a high level. So, you can at least take away what (LSU) does best.”
After being sacked twice in each of his two starts, Burrow will line up across an Auburn defensive front that boasts nine sacks this season — tied for second in the nation.
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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said Monday that, in order to protect Burrow against the likes of Big Kat Bryant, Dontavius Russell, Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson and Nick Coe, the Bayou Bengals could go four-wide with their receivers.
“Those are options,” Orgeron said. “We can go empty. We can go four-wide. It’s less protection. We are taking a chance of being one-on-one.”
Like Jarrett Stidham, Burrow tends to hold onto the ball for too long, and Orgeron will admit that. In an ear-splitting Jordan-Hare Stadium last season, SEC quarterbacks were made to pay for that habit. In four home conference games, Auburn sacked opposing quarterbacks nine times. The Tigers’ average margin of victory in those games was 40-16.
“We’re going to have crowd noise all week,” Orgeron said of preparing for Jordan-Hare. “(Burrow has) been in some loud games before. The specific stuff we do on the road regularly, we’ll do with him and he’s able to do it. This will not be foreign to Joe Burrow.”
What also won’t be foreign to Burrow is cornerback Jamel Dean. Dean and Burrow, both former Ohio State Buckeyes, both traveled very different paths to wind up in the SEC. When asked about the quarterback Tuesday, Dean’s face lit up.
“I actually like Joe Burrow,” Dean said with a smile. “I was already campus (at Ohio State) but he was still there. I’m pretty sure, if he felt like how I felt, he’ll probably have a chip on his shoulder and he probably wants to prove to Ohio State why he should’ve been there playing.”
*Editor's note: Thanks to Brandon Adam and The Daily Reveille for quotes from LSU's Monday press availability.
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