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In Baton Rouge it feels like it’s been a decade since LSU’s 2019 National Championship season. Once on top of the world, Ed Orgeron’s program had a tumultuous 2020 season that was filled with injuries, opt-outs and coaching turnover. At SEC Media Days Coach O is pressing the reset button ahead of the 2021 season.
Assistant Coaching Changes
Joe Brady was the hottest name in the football coaching world after the 2019 season. He parlayed it into a gig as Matt Rhule’s offensive coordinator for the Panthers. Rhule’s move to Charlotte left a vacancy at Baylor that was filled by Orgeron’s defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda. The two departures were devastating.
The Bo Pelini experiment got ugly quick. Mississippi State broke an SEC single-game passing record and scored 44 points in a week one upset, setting the tone for the rest of the Tigers’ season. Steve Ensminger wasn’t the same play-caller without Brady, retiring shortly after the season’s conclusion. Coach O’s replacements are trying to bring 2019 back to Baton Rouge.
Orgeron hired two of Brady’s assistants, Jake Peetz and DJ Mangas, to take the reins of LSU’s offense. On defense he kept the hire at the NFL level by bringing in Daronte Jones, a former assistant on Mike Zimmer’s Minnesota staff. These hires could make or break Orgeron.
High Stakes QB Competition
Myles Brennan was initially asked to take on the difficult task of replacing Joe Burrow. Injuries ended Brennan’s season after only three games. After trying a few different options, Max Johnson, the son of Tampa Bay Super Bowl Champion QB Brad Johnson, emerged as a potential star, leading LSU’s improbable comeback victory through the fog in The Swamp. Will the young lefty snag the job or is Brennan the guy? Coach O did not tip his hand today.
“I believe in both quarterbacks. Myles Brennan and Max Johnson are two championship quarterbacks. Whoever wins is going to do a great job at LSU. It’s going to be a tremendous battle, and we’ll see what happens,” Orgeron said.
A Different Road Trip
When the Tigers come to Kroger Field this fall, 5,106 days will have passed between LSU and Kentucky’s last meeting in Lexington, a triple overtime upset of the nation’s top-ranked team in 2007. The 2020 10-game SEC schedule showed folks a potential path to playing more conference opponents and Coach O is all would like to see it happen, with a caveat.
“If they do it, I’m for it. I thought it was great. I’m excited to go play UCLA. I’m excited to go across the country and take the Tigers to Los Angeles. I’m excited to play my son. Both of us have some advantages,” he said.
“One of the things as a coach, I don’t worry about that stuff. It’s not in my wheelhouse. If I have a vote, I’ll vote, but wherever they tell me to play, I’m going to play.”
Father vs. Son
High profile coaches often save a roster spot for their son. Instead of playing for his father, Cody Orgeron will play against his Dad as the quarterback of McNeese State. Coach O is looking forward to facing his son on the field.
“They’re going to give us their best shot. My son is going to give me all I can get. And guess what? I’m going to give him all I can give him, and that’s just the way it’s going to be,” Coach O said.
“He’s going to expect my best, and I’m going to expect his best. We’re going to compete, but we’ll shake hands and hug after the game. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”
A former Wildcat will likely spend some time playing against the Tigers. Walker Wood is Cody Orgeron’s backup that gets significant snaps as the Cowboys’ Wildcat QB in goal line packages.
A Not-So-Great Out of Context O
“COVID helped us.”
That does not sound great, so let me explain. LSU was expected to lose a ton of talent in the trenches. Thanks to the COVID-19 eligibility waiver, they returned almost all of their starters on both sides of the line of scrimmage, including right tackle Austin Deculus, who could break the LSU record for games played this fall.
Players You Need to Know
Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks could sweep preseason First Team All-SEC honors at cornerback. Along with talented safety Jay Ward, LSU is living up to its DBU mantra in 2021.
Despite being just two years removed from one of the greatest seasons in college football history, Ed Orgeron has reached a crossroads. The 2020 season almost completely went off the rails thanks to a couple of bad hires. Johnson’s heroics provided some solace in the upset at Florida. He could be the one that gets the train back on the tracks for the Tigers, but it still might not be enough to live up to lofty expectations in the bayou.