LSU appears to be improving.
Certainly, he has a long way to go before he becomes a factor in the SEC West race.
But teams are supposed to get better week by week.
For the most part, the Tigers have done that. But the improvement hasn’t been as dramatic as coach Brian Kelly would prefer.
The Tigers began the season with a disappointing 24-23 loss to Florida State.
They then defeated Southern 65-17, though it was difficult to discern whether that represented significant progress or simply superior talent producing a predictable result.
Then came the 31-16 home win against Mississippi State last Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
It was a good start to the SEC season, albeit an incomplete performance.
Kelly spoke Monday about becoming more “consistent” and producing “a well-rounded performance.”
LSU appears to be closing in on those goals as it prepares to host New Mexico in a non-conference game on Saturday night.
But the Tigers have a long way to go if they’re going to make an impact in the SEC West once they return to conference play in Auburn next week.
Here are 5 questions they have raised that still need to be answered:
1. Is the offensive line evolving?
The Tigers have started 3 different drives in 3 games. We’re not sure what the lineup will look like on Saturday.
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The line struggled in the first game, but played better as the game went on. He played much better a week later, but that could simply have been the result of a weaker opponent.
He struggled again initially against Mississippi State, but again got better as time went on.
The offense isn’t going to be very successful unless it operates behind a line that meets SEC standards for 60 minutes week in and week out.
Can this group do that?
2. Is special equipment suitable?
Not good. Not good. Simply adequate.
The first is the first.
What we do know is that they have clearly been inadequate to this point: missed clearances, poor decisions, poor coverage, etc.
If special teams don’t improve dramatically, they’ll be exposed even worse during the heart of the SEC season than they already have been.
Special teams improvement is very much on Kelly’s radar, but after 3 games, it’s still elusive.
3. Is the defense really good?
If LSU is going to emerge as a factor in the SEC, the defense is going to have to be really good.
It’s already been good.
He had trouble stopping Florida State on third down and had a poor first drive against Mississippi State.
Otherwise it has been very good.
He got better as the game went on against Florida State, and he interrupted a good Mississippi State offense after that first touchdown drive.
The defense will probably have to be really good while the offense figures things out.
There are signs that he could be up to the challenge.
4. Will the aerial game be special?
The most talented position on this team is wide receiver.
If the Tigers can get the ball to their receivers regularly, the offense can be really good.
But that requires adequate pass protection, good decision-making and accurate passing from the quarterback, and consistent routing and catching passes from receivers.
So far, all of that hasn’t happened in unison with any consistency. But the potential is there.
The emergence of the aerial game is the factor that has the best opportunity to raise the ceiling of this team.
5. Can Jayden Daniels survive?
The brightest spot for the team so far has been Daniels’ performance: his toughness, athleticism, decision-making and leadership.
But all too often, those traits have been shown while he has improvised during seemingly doomed plays, which turned into positive plays only after he ran out and exposed himself to a lot of hits. Too many hits to be sustainable.
Sooner or later, LSU has to do a better job of protecting Daniels, even as he uses his gifts to elevate a limited offense.