HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
As we scanned through the footage of LSU's most recent practices, a litany of things have caught our attention.
First of all....look at how ripped free safety Todd Harris is?
Not to mention this is at least the fifth or sixth time I've seen Harris right at Daronte Jones' hip, the new defensive coordinator understanding how key Todd's role will be this year.
Standing as our most experienced safety, Harris Jr should be given far more credit than he's been given: Todd is actually the only DB at LSU who can claim an interception against Alabama and only one of two who've been able to force a turnover (Jay Ward the other).
As Coach Orgeron said a few times already this offseason, Harris's leadership, poise, Mac Truck conditioning and newfound confidence will prove instrumental for LSU's secondary.
Harris Jr looks to be running the show at free safety thus far.
Who could challenge him?
Jones has a few candidates to call upon, Jordan Toles or Jay Ward, Cam Lewis at strong safety is an option too, but the former Miami, Cincy and Minnesota DBs Coach will have far more artillery once Matthew Langlois and Sage Ryan join the fray in the summer.
However, he wants to build an establishment at the position right now, and in doing so, he's been a tough customer out on the practice field.
In the wake of Coach O's viral comments about Daronte enjoying a wild race-baiting spin by the national media (about his new DC being the "4th or 5th choice"), Jones has been out to shut his doubters' mouths one by one;
Coaches like Daronte Jones are sick of being made into puppets for the political agendas of others, the man just wants to coach football and improve the lives of the young men under his charge.
Often not reported? The rest of Orgeron's statement (which this site fully quoted) "he's doing a tremendous job!" Also...if Coach O's hiring methods are supposedly "discriminatory", then how come he offered the job to Marcus Freeman first & interviewed Derek Mason as well?
Even with the progress under Jones, the defensive staff are keeping the pedal down to the floor, seeking to erase the stench of 2020's disgraceful "defense".
There's a reason LSU Odyssey published a piece called "5 Reasons Why Daronte Jones is the Right Guy" on January 26th, the day of his hiring....and you're seeing that play out on the practice field right now.
Whether it takes a year for his philosophy to take hold or not, LSU Odyssey is riding with Jones because of the man's soul....I just get a great feeling when watching or listening to him...I sense success, success, success....how do I know? How am I so sure????
Because he wants it.
Look at how humungous Jordan Toles is, standing behind Daronte Jones. What a massive sophomore Jones will definitely hope to call upon.
Toles posted something about "asking for help but only hearing pins drop" on his Twitter a few days ago, yet another cryptic tweet LSU fans have wondered about.
But don't wonder or worry too much; Toles even went so far as to post on LSU Odyssey's own tweet a few months back dispelling transfer rumors around Toles; #21 posted "I didn't know I was going anywhere...."
Though Harris has been given a ton of trust and responsibility heading into Spring camp, Toles would be foolish to bail now, just as Mo Hampton arguably was; there's a strong path to the field given Jones' repeated usage of two covering safeties (rather than the typical free safety / strong safety mix) and since Jordan is clearly a lengthy, rangy, athletic beast of every opponent's burden who could handle himself at strong safety, Daronte Jones will be counting on Toles for solid reps.
Derek Stingley Jr was stoic out there, going about his business in his usual calm, silent demeanor...almost robotic. Sometimes I wonder if his intense chill can work against him.
Looking at the Missouri game where Connor Bazelak was able to complete a season high 5 passes on him (3 before his ankle injury) or even his lackadaisical play against Florida's Van Jefferson during 2019, I wonder if Stingley Jr could do with some more energy...even emotion; sometimes it appears to me that his static beginning can leave him a step behind at the jump.
Once again, this is the best cornerback in college football we're talking about: we're nitpicking here...but that's only because we want Derek to hoist both the Thorpe Award and have a chance at the Heisman.
I don't want to see Derek going another year without an INT, that just cannot happen...it was shocking to see him finish with a doughnut from 30 targets in 2020; and with Eli Ricks picking off 4 passes from only 19 attempts last year, Sting may actually become the boundary cornerback passers feel more comfortable throwing towards....a scenario which could see the potential next #7 grab his first interceptions since December 2019's SEC Championship Game.
I have sources telling me he'll be wearing the #7 jersey soon....but remember...he is still very attached to the #24 and Derek is all about starting a legacy.
Elsewhere, LBs Coach Blake Baker fine-tuned some of the mistakes he caught from the first scrimmage, drilling hand technique at the point of contact, showing his linebackers the quickest ways to shed blockers. As can be seen above and below, Baker invited his linebackers into a gladiator setting for one on one battles, talking to sophomore Antoine Sampah after he showed a lack of aggression in his hands.
LBs Coach Blake Baker may have the toughest job of any coach on our staff....looking across his depth chart, the former Miami DC has some heavy hitters at the top (Damone Clark, Mike Jones Jr who's still yet to arrive through the portal, the absent Micha Baskerville) but the bulk of his options are made up of unknown quantities.
Even though we know Josh White, Antoine Sampah, Zavier Carter, Aaron Benfield, Hunter Faust, and Navonteque "Bugg" Strong, we have hardly seen these young Tigers on the field as of yet....
What will they offer Baker's linebacking corps?
As of right now, a stunning young man has been practicing between the LBs and defensive ends: Georgia-native Phillip Webb is a player who has to be considered for a linebacker position. I'm not sure if he was granted a medical red shirt or not for his mostly sidelined freshman year, but regardless Webb is a physical dynamo who's versatility, size, mobility and infinite length make him a more compact linebacker version of B.J Ojulari.
We simply have to see him deployed by Baker.
Also, freshman Zavier Carter dwarfs most of his fellow linebackers, seeming to be a colossus in the making in Baton Rouge....watch for #17 to get some major Spring reps as Baker experiments with personnel while attempting to cement his philosophy.
The #1 Defensive Line in America were practicing hard at LSU's indoor practice facility, showcasing their versatility and second to none physical tools.
Andre Carter and Coach Ed Orgeron will have a bountiful array of matchup destroyers they can call upon. Right now, this D-line sports any and all combinations of personnel.... every single DL profile fulfilled on roster to Orgeron's satisfaction:
Inside, you have veteran bulldozers (Neil Farrell Jr, Glen Logan, Joseph Evans) or younger philistines of vicious and mean (Jaquelin Roy, Jacobian Guillory, Maason Smith, Eric Taylor) supplemented by an overwhelming amount of lethal edge rushing specimen (Ojulari, Gaye) alongside powerful DEs who could even be kicked inside for maximum pressure (Andre Anthony) and then there's a bevy of unbelievable young talent coming in the 2021 class (a diesel DE Bryce Langston, who Coach O said "could be the best DL I've recruited here," early enrollee Landon Jackson will be fully healthy and ready to tear off some spines, while rounded out by St. James High's unbelievably gifted secret weapon Saivion Jones).
Oh yeah and there's extra talents who could be thrown into the mix, from Utah-native Soni Fonua who's gone back and forth from LB to DT, aforementioned LB / DE Phillip Webb and another lesser spoken about edge-rushing Ferrari named Desmond Little, a member of Orgeron's 2019 title-winning squad. Desmond is a 6'5 tower of power capable of flying through rings of fire off the edge.
In the absence of now former title-winning DL Grad Assistant Christian LaCouture, also a former Tiger Legend himself, Coach Ed Orgeron has now reasserted himself as defensive line commander after reportedly taking last year away from the D-Line to allow the rise of GA LaCouture or analysts Keith Sanchez (who left the program this January to pursue a law degree with the intentions of returning to football) and LSU Legend Bennie Logan.
He's having a lot of fun working next to DL Supernova Andre Carter and showing young stunners Jaquelin Roy, Jacobian Guillory, Eric Taylor and Maason Smith the brutal techniques of attrition which won Orgeron 4 National Championships as a head coach and assistant.
Meanwhile, Carter hammers in his own style of professional imperialism, demonstrating how unstoppable, seething fury can combine with calculated wrath to produce D-Line results so brutal even Derek Ponamsky hid his eyes.
Maason Smith is unbelievably quick for a defensive tackle.....
Remember...this is only the start of the Houma Booma's time as a Tiger...
No way....what are LSU getting into....Maason could fool around and fall in love with a Heisman Trophy (you babyboomers will get that one).
Peetz strutting around like Dennis Hopper in Waterworld.
"We want to be their worst nightmare...our dream!"
There is an unspoken tension between these three quarterbacks, Myles, T.J and Max....all knowing everything is on the line for this power trio, leaving freshman Garrett Nussmeier as the only relaxed quarterback of the group.
The rest continue to act funereal around each other when waiting in between drills or taking turns doing reps. Wearing intense game-face stares, all four quarterbacks have remained alert, ready, knowing their every reaction, step and pass are being monitored by the meticulous Peetzy.
Offensive Coordinator / QBs Coach Jake Peetz understands he has 4 quarterbacks who can win games for LSU......his real job is to come in and find out which one can beat Alabama and deliver an SEC / CFP Championship to the Tigers.
If you asked me for the best performer from what I've seen and heard in Spring thus far?
Coming out of LSU, it's mostly Myles loyalists such as Ensminger, Callaway and Munoz who expect him to eventually win the job...but Peetz has one eye firmly trained on the multi-faceted quarterbacking origami of Mad Max Johnson and freshman prodigy Garrett Nussmeier, both impressing Peetz and passing his every test thus far.
LSU's Receivers were in fi