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by Lonn Phillips Sullivan
LSU's 2021 squad is in good hands under the watchful eyes of personnel guru Austin Thomas, aka LSU's returning prodigal GM, the man who put many of the championship pieces in place for the program (mostly thanks to the Tigers' triumphant 2017 class) before leaving to Texas A&M.
Coach O and A.D Scott Woodward have found the perfect guy to "keep the band together" during a potential second pandemic campaign...at least a Covid-affected off-season here in early 2021...and he's already struck gold.
Keeping 20 of 22 starting players along LSU's 2020 unit (including 3/4 of the 2019 National Championship squad) including all five offensive linemen, a plethora of multi-dimensional running backs and perhaps LSU's deepest (has the potential to also be called "greatest") receiving group ever...but can the Tigers prevent 2020's rash of opt-outs or transfers from happening again?
Damn well they can.
Last year was an anomaly, not only did LSU have unbelievable returning NFL-ready talent such as Ja'Marr Chase or Tyler Shelvin who were handed a one of a kind chance to take care of their families immediately, the pandemic forced many of these Tigers to opt out or transfer back home for their own safety.
Although If Austin Thomas is the GM last year, the Tigers only lose half of those guys....we only lose the no-brainer NFL Tigers, not all the extra transfers and opt-outs from our squad depth, killing our guys physically mid-way through the season. By the time LSU played Florida, there may have been under 50 scholarship players on the sideline at points during that game (due to injuries, absences)...hell, the team needed an injured, out of commission Derek Stingley Jr to fly with the team and dress just so the Tigers could make up the numbers...
We will have far better control over the roster during 2021 with Austin Thomas calling the behind the scenes shots with Coach O and Woodward....but their jobs are helped massively by the character of these returning Tigers.
While they may take the wrath of public criticism for some time for the horrific manner in which the past sexual assaults occurred and how they were handled (or weren't), these young men can become the agents of change.
From looking down the roster, LSU only has one high character Tiger after another...in fact, this team's character may rival our 2019 team after what we know now. You can tell there's a change within the program over the past few years under Orgeron, a zero tolerance policy that saw highly recruited talents like Tae Provens, Ray Parker and LSU's #1 OL talent Ed Ingram sent packing, only to return a year later after his charges were dismissed...an innocent man.
As the world looks down upon LSU's hierarchy with ultimate disdain (as they should), I can see this team becoming an example, exposing the national problem at its core. Don't forget, LSU's current group are actually made up of a few guys who were recruited during the Les Miles era (Glen Logan, Neil Farrell, Myles Brennan etc) right alongside intense freshmen prodigies and upperclassmen ready to explode.
These Tigers can ride that wave of criticism and questioning...coming out on the other end as stronger examples of what a man really is and how he's supposed to treat a woman. If that part is taken care of, in unison with LSU's talent, the football will take care of itself.
This team has a maximum bond: forged not only through the fires of beating 7 Top 10 teams on their way to becoming the greatest college football squad of all time, but after suffering 2020's 5-5 rollercoaster.
Our players, our staff...our head coach were attacked repeatedly throughout last season's jaunt...from all sides...they hunkered down amidst the tumultuous year and trusted only each other....that investment is now beginning to pay off.
The hiring process for defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and defensive line coach may have been arduous for the program...in fact, it seemed to invite even more criticism and accelerate the negativity against the program. Regardless, Coach O had to get the right people: fellow football obsessives who understand the toxicity Orgeron seeks to destroy, the championship culture he fights to maintain and the adversity they'll face....together.
Daronte, Andre, Blake, Jake and D.J get it.
If a CFP appearance or title victory doesn't occur during the 2021 season, then the seeds for a title in either 2022 or 2023 will at least be planted...that's where we're geauxing...
All together now...
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS: MICHAEL DINEEN!!!! ROBERT WALES!!! A.D!!!