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Behind Enemy Lines: LSU football beat writer Brody Miller discusses CMU game


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Detroit sophomore Willie Reid celebrates after breaking up a reception, Saturday, Sept. 11.

Central Michigan Life's Christian Booher spoke with The Athletic LSU beat writer Colby Miller to preview Central Michigan's game against the Tigers at Tiger Stadium. 

LSU is 1-1 in 2021, coming off a victory over McNeese State. 

CMU and LSU have never played. 

Miller discussed the state of the program, where the Tigers are struggling, the impact of cornerback Derek Stingley and more in this exclusive Q&A. 

*NOTE -- These responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

What is there to know about LSU heading into Week three? 

LSU is kind of in a troubled situation right now. They obviously got beat pretty badly by UCLA and showed a lot of problems that a lot of people thought would be fixed by now. The offensive line looks like a major concern, the offense as a whole just doesn't look like it's clicking right now. We saw some of the coverage busts, little mistakes and run defense issues that plagued LSU in 2020. 

There's definite concern right now at LSU that there's all this talent on this roster, all these pro players, and they seem further from ever from getting back on track. 

What does quarterback Max Johnson bring to the table on offense, and how has he performed in the first two games? 

I think it's kinda been an up-and-down two games for him. That's the kind of thing where I don't know if you'd look at it and say he's played poorly, but it's also the kind thing where he looked shaky in the pocket with so much pressure getting in those first two games. I think that's something where you can't quite put the blame on him for those issues because the offensive line put him in a tough spot. But at the same time, he hasn't exactly looked stable back there. 

He's made something out of nothing a few times and there's been some times where he's forced some things or panicked and made some bad turnovers. I think Max Johnson's at that stage where you can't quite grade him yet because I think you need to see what's gonna happen.

Of all the pro prospects on the roster, who stands out the most as someone LSU can count on? 

It's definitely Derek Stingley. He's number one, two or maybe three in the whole NFL Draft next year. He's kind of like the perfect corner in some ways. He's big, strong, fast and smart. He checks all those boxes and is kind of a robot in positive ways.  

If you're looking for another one, wide receiver Kayshon Boutte is off to a pretty dominant start so far. At the end of last year, he had that 300-yard game against Ole Miss and was breaking SEC records in his first two weeks. He looks like he's only getting better.

Another one to throw out is that Defensive line. The D-line still has some issues, they need to improve that run stopping, but the pass rush is fantastic. You've got Neil Farrell, Ali Gaye, Andre Anthony, BJ Ojulari or even Mason Smith, the five-star freshman. 

LSU will be without running back John Emery Jr., who is dealing with academic issues. Who is someone within the run game the Tigers feel they can lean on? 

The tough thing with the run game is that you can't even blame the running backs for anything going on right now. The offensive line is struggling so much that there aren't any holes. It doesn't matter what guy is in there because they're all pretty talented, there's just nowhere for them to go. 

Tyrion Davis-Price has been the starter these past two weeks and he's your trustworthy veteran and a good power back who can get you yards, but not create much. I think they're at a point where you need somebody who can kind of create something and that's where the academic ineligibility of John Emery is a huge blow. 

I think Davis-Price will still get the bulk of the carries, but I think you're gonna start seeing them turn to Corey Kiner and Armani Goodwin, their two highly touted freshmen, because they are a little more dynamic. I think you're gonna see a little bit by committee, but I do think the freshmen are gonna get a little bit more time. 

Two seasons ago, LSU fielded one of the best teams in college football history. After a down year last year and struggling to start this year, where is the program at under Ed Orgeron? 

I wouldn't call it a rebuild or retool because at the end of the day their talent is still off the charts. They're as good as anybody in the country if you're just looking at recruiting rankings. Their junior, sophomore and freshmen classes were all top-5 signing classes in the country. 

So, in theory, their infrastructure should be as good as anyone. There are problems right now that I think we're all in the process of trying to figure out what LSU did wrong. 

There's an offensive scheme that just doesn't seem sharp and on top of things. You have an offensive line that, for whatever reason, just hasn't developed properly for multiple years now and that's just a bizarre thing considering the ability they have there. 

The identity that LSU has built itself on on defense for years now is just kind of not gap sound, not communicating, all those things. You have to assume that goes to coaching, but now you're at two different defensive staffs in these last two years. That's pretty much entirely so, maybe the common denominator is Ed Orgeron, but it's just hard to really pinpoint. 

It's a fine line. I don't think 2019 is a fluke or anything like that because LSU is a program that's won three titles in the last 20 years, but there was something about 2019 that was a lightning in a bottle for sure. Everything came into place between Burrow, the Joe Brady hire and that receiving corp and all that stuff. 

But still, it's not like the in a vacuum talent of this team is just drastically worse than that 2019 team. There's just infrastructure issues that are really hard to pinpoint right now. 

Do you have a score prediction

LSU wins, 31-21, but Central Michigan keeps it close. 

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