Updated: Feb 26
WELCOME BACK MIKE WATSON!
ONE OF OUR FIRST SUBSCRIBERS RE-UPS FOR ANOTHER YEAR LONG BADASS SUBSCRIPTION! THANK YOU SIR!
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
5 THINGS TIGER FANS SHOULD BE EXCITED ABOUT
(NOT IN ANY ORDER)
1 . RETURNING STARTERS (ESP. O-LINE)
While the Tigers' 3rd nationally ranked 2021 class brought in major talent for the next few seasons, the biggest priority was securing the return of 20 out of 22 LSU starters. Once Orgeron's staff made it happen, the 91% reinstatement of crucial leaders, NFL-ready stars & gritty warriors greatly improved the Tigers' overall outlook for 2021.
I will tell you now...the clearest indicator of an LSU title run has always been returning starters...just look at the NFL Draft every year to understand the talent & continuity the Tigers replace every year.
When studying the seasons where the program put it all together for a championship (or in 2011's case, an undefeated title run) the main ingredients were always a mix of veterans and youth, maybe even a dash of the unknown quantity star, too...yet every time (without fail) these championship squads were anchored by returning starters in key positions, especially through the spine (for example 2019's spine: QB Burrow, RB Clyde, center Cushenberry, DT Shelvin, LB Queen, Safeties Jacoby Stevens / Grant Delpit, punter Zach Von Rosenberg & kicker Cade York or 2003's spine: QB Matt Mauck, RBs Justin Vincent / Joseph Addai, Rimington-winner Ben Wilkerson, DTs Lavalais / Oliver, LB Alexander, safety LaRon Landry, punter Donnie Jones & kicker Colt David).
LSU'S candidates to take those spots are enticing, one after another...even the unproven gems or players who struggled in 2020: the slate is clean now.
One position group required more attention than any other...accordingly, Coach O's #1 priority coming into the offseason?
Taking care of the trenches for 2021 as well as 2022 (2022 commitments of Will Campbell, Ben Bordelon & Lucas Taylor).
Thanks to the returning starters along both trenches, headlined by all 5 starting offensive linemen and 3 starting senior D-linemen, combined with a litany of unbridled freshman or sophomore talent, O & D-Line coaches James Cregg & Andre Carter (even Coach Orgeron) will have no shortage of options.
In addition, don't overlook the importance of convincing strong locker room characters & National Champions such as WR/CB/QB Jontre Kirklin, FS Todd Harris or LB Micha Baskerville to make one more geaux 'round; Not to mention every single returner could use an NFL Draft boost for 2022, a second chance for overlooked guys like Kirklin, Harris, Hines or Cam Lewis to shine for the GMs or Draft scouts.
While star players may grab the headlines, grit wins championships...
Thanks to LSU's returning starters, the Tigers have their veteran / locker room presence to combine alongside their younger firepower on both offense & defense.
2. OFFENSIVE FIREPOWER
When you scan through the list of LSU's available 2021 receivers, running backs, quarterbacks or even tight ends, many Tiger fans would chuckle at the riches staring back at them on the screen.
Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz has an army of aerial assassins to go with his stable of ground & pound / gash & flash warriors...of course, all led by four potential starting quarterbacks...
Assisted by a skill-position-heavy freshman class chockfull of intergalactic power-strokers (Thomas Jr, Bech, Smith, Hilton), a sophomore unit headlined by SEC-record-breaker / Tigers' #1 WR Kayshon Boutte (as well as Ja'Marr Chase-protege Koy Moore) & incoming juniors poised or yet to break out like Trey Palmer or Jaray Jenkins, no quarterback should fail when throwing to these guys.
To go with the high octane passing attack, Peetz's running back-oriented offensive proclivities will combine alongside the towering depth at the position, leading to a potent offensive attack based on balance.
RBs Coach Kevin Faulk has a number of Grade A backs at the position, beginning with our projected #1 starter Ty Davis-Price, backed by the extremely skilled John Emery Jr, rising sophomore Tre Bradford, walk-on Josh Williams, freshman touchdown machine Corey Kiner or Alabama-defecting track star Armoni Goodwin...the 2021 running backs group is more loaded than Bobby Gillespie.
So, this offense....on paper....should put up 35+ points in every game, correct?
I think so...
3. HIGH OCTANE 2021 DEFENSIVE POTENTIAL
As long as there were still questions about the stability of the Tigers' defensive coaching staff, Coach Orgeron's program couldn't turn the page on 2020's defensive "disasterpiece".
But once Coach Orgeron hired Defensive Coordinator Daronte Jones, DL Coach Andre Carter & LBs Coach Blake Baker, everything fell into place.
A massive enthusiasm began to permeate throughout LSU HQ for the first time since the pandemic began; the rumors of Eli Ricks' impending transfer turned out to be true, yet once Jones was hired, the talk of Eli going anywhere disappeared. In fact, I can confirm Eli is "excited" by the new DC.
All-American CB Derek Stingley Sr told OTB his son was extremely impressed by Jones, freshman & senior DTs Jaquelin Roy & Neil Farrell Jr both publicly voiced their approval, too. In fact, LSU Odyssey reported how Daronte Jones called incoming freshman Sage Ryan himself, to which Ryan told LSUODYSSEY.COM "everything was great, he down to earth".
In fact, when offensive players are stopping in the hallway to listen to your meetings, giving you a "you're the man" type point, when you're talked about like a longtime veteran Tigers coach only a month into your tenure, then you must be doing something inspirational...accordingly, this LSU defense needed Daronte's humanity as much as his football brain.
LSU has players with world class abilities in every position, often three or four men deep...they just needed confidence, a clear defensive plan & honesty.
With the two best cornerbacks in America & a stacked defensive line (which should be the strongest / deepest D-Line in America), defensive coordinator Daronte Jones just needs to figure out who will be his two starting safeties and linebackers, LSU's two weakest positions last year.
If this 2021 defensive unit can figure out the middle of the field, they will be a top 5 national defense, only a year after the program's worst ever defensive season (124th out of 128 national squads).
Still, if Blake Baker fails to maximize the potential of LBs Damone Clark, Micha Baskerville, Josh White or Mike Jones Jr, LSU may not find themselves leaking