Updated: May 24
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN @LonnPhillips
I get it....
If you are one of the small but growing group who come here for an escape from the savagery of Covid-19's physical, mental, emotional devastation upon all of us, that is something we appreciate, we live through as well and we take pride in being that oasis.
But when talking about LSU's upcoming 2020 season...we can't escape talking about the virus's effects.
While we watched Texas A&M defy NCAA regulations without any organization or safety, Alabama wilt and disappear in their Deliverance huts right when a variety of other schools lost complete traction of their current team and future recruiting, all we've seen from Orgeron's Tigers is strident mobilization, urgent organization, and steely determination...all coupled with a dash of creativity from inside one of the hardest hit places on the planet.
"We're all on a level playing field," we keep hearing everyone around college football perpetually utter... however none of these teams have to face the overwhelming economic disparity and health-oriented challenges LSU's students, players, campus, or community has had to suffer through....but none of those schools have leaders such as Coach Orgeron or Tommy Moffitt.
As a strength and conditioning coach who's been on the staff for two decades, Tommy maintains the same energy and intensity in his workout programs as Orgeron displays when wrestling with a gator...this work ethic and its cutting edge results, are one of the main reasons LSU outlasted 7 Top 10 teams last year, as well as proving to be a chief indicator as to why they have the best chance of any program to glove-slap the face of this pandemic's threat.
Coach Moffitt and Shelly Mullinex have our players (especially the vast amount of new blood) running 3 days a week, lifting for 2, working on anything they feel like on the 6th day and then finally on the 7th day, Tommy said "rest".
The many football programs who've scaled down their support staff, specifically failing to hire the best strength and conditioning coaches they can find, will be caught naked and soaking wet during the first few weeks of the 2020 campaign...let alone leaving their student-athletes stranded in limbo.
Never before have assistant coaches or support staff been so critical to the success or failures of a football program....
Since coaches are shackled by government / NCAA / common sense regulations around physical contact, and with there being only one head coach, the MVP has to be the assistants continuously calling, texting and engaging our players to keep the pedal down.
Coach O has already dubbed Tommy Moffitt the "MVP of what's goin' on" during his weekly appearance on OTB, proclaiming the levels of progress, results and our players' overwhelming response have all exceeded his expectations, despite the circumstances.
In relaying Coach Orgeron's positive, encouraging, aggressive mentality to each and every player, as well as breaking down the position work certain players must abide, our Tigers are able to initiate the first ever LSU HOME MINI CAMP.
While other teams enjoy the extended vacation, our guys ache for the field....just like us.
There are 20-30 LSU players still living on campus, left isolated by our society's dysfunctional economic structure...and in this fearful new world we find ourselves, "the disparity across lines of class and race have been all too noticeable," according to Shelley Mullinex, an opinion (based on numerously blatant facts) to which I 100% agree.
For all LSU players, fans and coaches, specifically those 20-30 players stuck on campus, homes far away and travel bans in effect, kids living on scholarship who now must forage for food:
WE ARE WITH YOU.
Maybe an article about the future won't solve or settle what's goin' on right now...but when it happens...when normal life returns...when football returns, we'll be ready and we'll be pumped.
FIVE THINGS WE'RE MOST EXCITED ABOUT:
5. BO PELINI
When Bo Pelini casually walked upon the field at the first spring practice, the occasion was his first time leading an LSU practice since January 2008.
Nearly 12 years had elapsed since he last represented the purple and gold, although I get the vibe he rode with us all along in spirit.
In fact, one of the main reasons we all love Coach O so much?
His insistence on bringing back the LSU Department of Asskicking vibe upon which Pelini stakes his infinite, boot-stomping, fist-pumping Joe Pesci reputation.
When Bo led our defense, you felt Bo's fire, his fury and uncontainable passion in every press conference, practice session, or recruiting visit...I mean the dude probably gives himself a larynx-shredding pep talk every time he takes a shit.
From 2005-2008, that steadfast belief echoed throughout every hit his defense committed upon unsuspecting players.
Now with both Bo and O at the LSU helm, expect the defense to abandon its overly calculated leverage tinkering and squandering of maniacal talent, becoming much like the offensive side of the ball in their rampaging aggression.
Right now, we need Bo in our foxhole....thank (pick your deity) he is.
My man @aperkins2113 would agree.
4. THAT NASTY DEFENSE
Perfect segue right into the bloodlust of Pelini's 2020 defense, featuring a bevy of ultimate freshman athletes, strong veteran leaders and the precise assortment of both young and old, new or returning in all the right areas.
We've got cats with rings such as safeties Jacoby Stevens, Todd Harris, Kerry Vincent Jr, corners Derek Stingley Jr, Cordale Flott, Jay Ward, and Raydarious Jones all returning to DBU this fall.
That impressive list will now be joined by newcomers like 2020's #1 corner Elias Ricks (the second straight year in which DBs coach / Recruiting Coordinator Corey Raymond has secured the #1 CB in the country), highly touted speed-freak Dwight McGlothern, and Maryland safety Jordan "For Whom The Bell" Toles.
At linebacker, a spot which saw us lose four starters to the draft (Jacob Phillips, Patrick Queen, Michael Divinity, K'Lavon Chaisson) everyone figured LSU would be lost in 2020 without those guys.
Instead, we empowered returning "region of doom" ringleader Damone Clark (a Devin White disciple who posted a ridiculous 55 tackles from the bench in 2019), oft-forgotten LSU veterans Ray Thornton and Micha Baskerville (feeling "now is their time"), then we moved Marcel Brooks and Devonta Lee from strong safety and receiver to shore up depth as well as providing instantaneous competition...the lifeblood of every great team.
On Coach Johnson's D-line, there's a package deal of specimen which should excite us all heading into the season:
B.J Ojulari scares grown men into acts of malicious desperation, Jacquelin Roy could pick up your car while you sit inside, Phillip Webb's colossal length makes him as disruptive in the pass rush as he is dropping into coverage, all while returners Tyler Shelvin, Utah native Siaki Ika, Glen Logan, Justin Thomas, Andre Anthony, and converted tight end T.K McClendon already ooze authority in the trenches.
Thanks to this litany of high ranking recruits putting out filthy game tape of their exploits, we have a small idea of just how these freshmen may improve the 2020 Tigers. However, Pelini always cuts his guys to the quick, pushing them to the pinnacle no matter where he's been: expect greatness.
3. MYLES, JA'MARR & TERRACE
Myles Brennan's cannon arm has already unleashed gems during the few Spring practices thus far, although it's been his recent leadership in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak which has warmed hearts and baptized the exhaustion of our misinformation consuming minds.
After LSU luminary Bobby Hebert Sr passed away tragically from the horrors of this pandemic, Myles Brennan has immediately stepped up to the plate, starting a foundation in Hebert's name to raise funds for Covid research.
He may not be Joe Burrow...but he's damn close.
Meanwhile, Ja'Marr Chase is still annoyed over the cancellation of Spring practices, only being able to debut the iconic #7 jersey on a few occasions before the outbreak ruined the fun.
Together, Chase and Terrace Marshall caught 33 touchdowns last year, an astounding number which becomes all the more impressive when realizing Terrace missed 6 games in 2019 due to a broken foot (Chase also dropped a few sure TDs).
There are high expectations for the howitzer arm of Brennan to pick Chase and Marshall out for at least 25 TDs combined...yet, I'm gonna say something crazy...but it will come to pass regardless:
If both receivers and Myles stay healthy for the entire 15 game run to defend our title, both receivers will catch 20 touchdowns each.
With Myles Brennan displaying leadership and calm during a turbulent local time for the health and safety of Louisiana's citizens, Ja'Marr Chase eliciting images of a D.J Chark-Randy Moss lovechild, just as the ambitious Terrace Marshall looks to blow the roof off his stellar 2019, don't hesitate when looking at the options:
Thanks to Arik Gilbert's monstrous presence at tight end and his versatility in a variety of formations, no DB will be immune from the LSU offense's touchdown inferno.
We have three stud sophomore running backs who can do it all:
Chris Curry can blast you with his frenetic power and thick legs, Tyrion Davis-Price possesses all the speed, agility and murderous pace you'd expect from a hulking every down LSU back, and John Emery Jr could be the most talented of them all.
Playing with only one eye last year, Emery lit up the field whenever he played, especially entertaining us during the Utah State and Arkansas games.
Now that his vision is fully restored, expect Emery to push Curry and TDP hard for the starting spot, however Davis-Price has proven capable of catching in space; making plays in the passing game earned the sophomore further playing time.
Although Curry shown brightest during the Peach Bowl, then John Emery Jr flashed early before riding the bench at times, the main guy who maintained a significant presence throughout the season was Davis-Price, scoring the game winning touchdown vs Florida after a 37 yard burst.
But we'll use all three.
1. PROVING THEM ALL WRONG...AGAIN
As we sit back and listen to the analysts and idiots recall yesteryear's fairytale statistics, shattered records, and abused egos of every college big shot from Saban to Jimbo, they all sit and smile...satisfied because the 2019/2020 season finally ended....the bothersome beatdowns, sleepless nights wondering how it all happened...
They thought they'd never be forced to watch our trophy-stroking, cigar-puffing, title-winning deservitude celebrations ever again, these college football talk show / podcast hosts want LSU fans to know one thing and one thing only:
"You got lucky in 2019..."
First off, scoring nearly 90 offensive touchdowns, having a 1,500 yard rusher, two 1,500 yard receivers, three receivers posting 13+ touchdowns each, a quarterback tossing 60 touchdowns, running for 5 more TDs while scampering for 39 first downs on the season, boasting a freshman corner who snatched 6 interceptions, sporting a crew of stone cold ballers who returned from long absences due to injuries, suspensions, transfers or the long shadows of the bench...and they're all now NFL Draft guarantees...
That isn't luck...it's hard work, detail-oriented majesty, full frontal vulnerability, and most of all: ingrained greatness....we aren't afraid to make a mistake reaching for the ultimate...we dare to dream...
Not only is half of the team still here, most of the unknown pieces (which made LSU a hellbent victory-machine) remain, having improved as players and overall as people.
The defense is considerably stronger, even whilst losing significant talent in the middle of the field; our mind-melting offensive schemes are only improving and evolving during the time off, Ensminger refusing to slow down the offense whatsoever.
In fact, thanks to the hiring of analysts Carter Sheridan (former Saints WRs coach) and Russ Callaway (former Bama analyst) to assist new passing game coordinator Scott Linehan, Myles Brennan will have all the tools and resources in order to explode.
Joe Brady Joe Brady Joe Brady Joe Brady Joe Brady Joe Brady Joe Brady Joe Brady Joe Brady Joe Brady Joe Brady Joe Brady....
As if the former William and Mary receiver gave birth to Louisiana State University...just barely in 2019.. as if the 30 year old prodigy created the spread offense itself...Joe Brady has been given full and untouchable credit for the magic and production of LSU's offense.
"And the Heisman Trophy goes to....Joe Braaa...I mean...Joe Burrow!"
Don't listen to the noise.
Linehan worked alongside Randy Moss, Megatron, Daunte Culpepper at his zenith and Matthew Stafford...guys Joe Brady never even met until the title game, let alone saw outside of the same pixelated motion pictures we've all seen.
Just as we'd predicted in our Offensive Preview, before Spring practices ended, Linehan already disseminated videos of Randy Moss and Megatron throughout the receiving corps...
I will never rag on Joe Brady, Brady's ma boy...but if the former Saints analyst's inexperience can be credited for the entire work and legacy of a group of offensive geniuses with a century plus of combined experience, then Scott Linehan, Carter Sheridan (11 years with the Saints) and Russ Callaway (20 years & 2 national titles) will surely one-up Brady in their contributions to the LSU staff.
Believe it...LSU's offense will be dynamic, dangerous and a multi-dimensional threat using versatile looks, formations, or simply by using a scattering of personnel, both in the backfield or out wide.
With the Tigers three steps ahead offensively, quarterback Myles Brennan spending 3 years chomping at the bit and leading the community in the face of adversity (ala Joe Burrow), and Bo Pelini leading a crossfire hurricane defense, look for LSU to keep on hitting the gas gas gas.