Updated: May 29
LSU'S 2020 EXPECTATIONS (PT.I):
LIVE FROM THE BARREN DESOLATION OF THE
MARCH COLLEGE FOOTBALL LANDSCAPE
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
As the nocturnal rumination of the NFL draft rises hazily in the midnight air and the continuing worldwide love/hate affair with our 2019 heroes attempts to consume us whole, here we all stand or sit...waiting...watching...listening to a million voices salute their own cacophony out of a cracker jack box.
They all want LSU's blood matted across the front of our white jerseys, with our perceived sins in the White House, deserved post-game cigar antics or OBJ mishaps staining the purple and gold trim...
This team's very existence (especially after losing to A&M in November 2018) was hissed about, but the voices became louder the more LSU won; throughout 2019, they grew more determined to get in the way of Coach Orgeron's crew.
So, the mantra within the locker room machinery became "ignore the noise" and oh, how truly rewarding the phrase came to be:
There wasn't a single non-alumni talking head on any national network or publication who wanted the bold, brash and daringly ambitious Joe Burrow or his team to win anything;
While reflecting the deranged psyches of many Roald Dahl villains, these fools (most from the spidernests and creeperfests of the interwebs) refused to accept passing game coordinator Joe Brady's Broyles Award because he was "too young & overhyped";
On the other hand, they wouldn't give credit for the offense's genesis to the "too old" Steve Ensminger either, but worst of all? How they underestimated the greatness of Coach Ed Orgeron and his band of merrymen...they didn't give us a hoot in hell's chance to win a damn thing, let alone become the G.O.A.T.
Dare I say it, there may have been a few Doubting Thomases aboard the LSU brandwagon, too (thanks Adrian)...in fact, from the gallery of clowns who've jumped off the Tigers' ship prior to the title, you could buy a few tiny islands from the bloated contracts of Jimbo, Tom Herman or Will Muschamp; dollars aside, all three would have to combine their careers and seize the brain of Bobby Bowden just to top what LSU did in one season.
Sadly, who knows how many other yankee-doodle dumbnuts Joe Alleva tried to hire while using exaggerated promises of cocaine and fast food franchises, those supposed overtures offered before his exile and Orgeron's rise under new AD Scott Woodward.
Despite LSU's Hollywood siege of college football, the naysayers' negative shadow said Joe Burrow needed to "stay in his lane, let Tua take the Heisman, the title and the #1 pick"...through the beady, fence-sitting eyes of the laziest among the media, Burrow was nothing but a "great white hype" after victories over Texas, Auburn and Florida.
"Let the script write itself, Joe.."
Instead, #9 took control, leading with a stunning example that shook up the locker room before the 46-41 victory over Saban's spineless huckabees:
Soon enough, players who were doubted by many, including their own fans, rose from these pre-destined notions and became lightning rods into the stratosphere: guys like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Thaddeus Moss, Terrace Marshall & Justin Jefferson, Lloyd Cushenberry, Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips followed Joe's lead toward the abyss, returning champions, and pushing away the boundaries, forever untethered from the limiting history of LSU's archaic offense.
Now, only a mere two months since LSU carved Clemson like Mick Jagger's face, Tigers fans are waiting for any sign of the passing of the Joe Burrow torch.
Not only concerning the QB torch, who will reproduce the value and back-breaking plays of Clyde Edwards-Helaire?
Who will replace the every down / every route histrionics of Justin Jefferson?
There are questions on defense about the legendary Grant Delpit's vacated safety position, the sudden loss of nearly 200 combined tackles from Phillips and Queen at linebacker; meanwhile the addition of former LSU DC Bo Pelini, replacing Dave Aranda after four years, stirs the questions or emotions in equal measure.
"Who is this LSU team?" I hear many asking...
However...I recognize them...this is the same old/new Tigers, the revamped, reloaded tradition which formed under Orgeron in 2018, combined with pieces of the greatest eras of Louisiana football history...
Coach Orgeron, Corey Raymond & Bill Busch, WRs' guru Mickey Joseph, "the Bayou Gandalf' Steve Ensminger, D-line chief Bill Johnson, special teams coordinator Greg McMahon, strength coach Tommy Moffitt, Athletic Director Scott Woodward, O-line renegade James Cregg, rip-your-face-off defensive coordinator Beaux Pelini, new passing game coordinator / former NFL head coach Scott Linehan, and new Running backs' Coach Kevin Faulk...
....we're shooting for the stars every year now...cause why not?
We see grade A talent all over the field, three or four men deep on the sidelines in every position on the roster, containing masses of the best football players in the country: many from the Boot itself.
We have a vast coaching staff led by a proven winner, a guy who's a legitimate architect and re-builder of programs...
Still, this isn't some re-build...instead, we're reloading.
LSU only needed to cover themselves in a few positions from the 2020 recruiting class, and for a defending national champion boasting loads of returning starters possessing big game experience, and a plethora of desperate rivals like Kirby Smart or Dabo Swinney ready to commit heinous acts just to compete with us, we know we met our recruiting objectives, and masterfully so.
Now in 2020, these same talking heads, fundits, fanalysts, etc expect, hope, and lust for LSU's sudden, public meltdown and extinction whilst suffering the mother of all post-title win hangovers.
The vulchers are circling, pawing at unknown quantities Myles Brennan, John Emery Jr, and Damone Clark with complete prejudice and vengeful scorn.
There was nothing Paul Finebaum, Matthew McConaughey, Steven A. Smith or Skip Bayless could do to stop LSU in 2019 or 2020 thus far, yet they'll attempt to chip away at any crack or perceived weakness in the murky unknown winter of 2020, bless their entertaining hearts.
9-3 is an over estimation of 2020 LSU's "growing pains" in the eyes of these morbid fiends....9-3??
With these specimen on our team?
Are they infected with Joel Klatt's idiocy aaand the Corona virus???
They're afraid of LSU, they're scared of this team erupting yet again and surprisingly holding the entirety of college football hostage, like the guys from Dog Day Afternoon and John Q having breakfast with Patty Hearst.
MYLES BRENNAN ORIGAMI
If Myles Brennan were to light up Texas in the moonage daydream confines of Death Valley on September 12th, leading LSU to victory in the process, don't be surprised to witness a massive parting of the Red Sea:
One side leaping upon the LSU bandwagon, the other dormant in their silence and delirious jealousy until years down the road.
Although Orgeron's men haven't lost since the fateful 7 OT night on November 25th 2018, as the great LSU luminary Jacques Doucet told me recently "one day LSU will lose again and we can't blame the refs...we'll have to take it and you'll need to remain impartial..." and he's right.
However, as surely as Jacques is correct, so is the fact that LSU could lose a game, maybe even 2 in 2020 and still successfully defend our national title.
But to ride such a mentality drain after such an untoppable high would be a Herculean effort...
Purely for an example: say Myles gains confidence and steam before losing midway through the season, LSU's first loss in over a year and we drop to the cusp of the Top 10, with Alabama or Auburn coming after the first loss...we know the media and rival fan-methfume-synchronicity will be blaring about Brennan...destroying him because he "wasn't throwing for 800 yards or 19 touchdowns in a half with a cigar dangling from his mouth".
The test will surely come, the question is can Myles ride that pressure?
Yes he can.
He's done it before.
Brennan had the starting spot all but sealed heading into the 2018 season, and then, an Ohio State transfer named Joe Burrow signed in May...the rest, as we know is history. Myles sat back and handled the benching with grace, became hailed as the "most improved player" by his teammates heading into the 2019 campaign (acc. to the late, great Ed Aschoff) simultaneously Brennan's knowledge of the offense skyrocketed and expanded into orbit during his era as a Burrow-disciple and National Champion. Now it's his turn. While many have asserted the possibility of Brennan suffering growing pains due to such reliables as Justin Jefferson and Clyde Edwards-Helaire leaving, they've failed to do the recruiting research. LSU may have far more talent in 8 or 9 guys to encompass the loss of 4 or 5... Tight end virtuoso Arik Gilbert, shoulder surgery and all, should more than equal Thaddeus Moss's 548 yards and 4 touchdowns, the running back platoon of Emery, TDP and Curry will at least amass 2,000 yards and 20 TDs' combined, and then on the outside, we know what we're getting from powerhouse-brickhouses such as Chase and Marshall...even if Etling or Brandon Harris were throwing them the ball they'd combine for 2,500 and 35 TDs in 2020. More than stats and numbers, LSU's new offensive blueprint for success is a complete contradiction:
Unpredictable, manic and unrelenting in its philistine swagger.
The offense's DNA is balance, though it's also about big plays, valuable yards, not wasted garbage yards at the end of a 49-28 blowout from Auburn...
Ensminger's philosophy is rooted in explosion, it's about storming outta the gates, taking the castle, burning the sucka down, and taking no prisoners for 60 minutes, enjoy the night, have a safe drive home everyone, thank you for comin'.... That's LSU football now...and we're never geauxing back....we don't simmer down when we have a destiny to chase.
I don't expect Coach Orgeron to ever back down again in a game vs Nick Saban's Alabama.
If Myles is shockingly failing to work out, T.J Finley or Max Johnson could be more than serviceable once they understand Ensminger's protection schemes and the route combinations of our RPO / movement key passing game cocktail....don't expect Orgeron to wait around and lose. Let's face it...every LSU quarterback from now on will be stuck in Joe Burrow's infinite shadow, at least until something crazy like the "first naked quarterback" happens or "the first quarterback to secure victory before publicly flogging his bullheaded jock opponent in front of the world"......until then, we're all in Burrow's shadow...so Myles needs to accept this and roll with the history he could achieve or equal...which I believe he will. If he wants to be the next Joe Burrow at LSU, Myles must surely be working on route timing, accuracy and delivery with Chase and Marshall to fully cement their chemistry. Additionally, since many feel Brennan's big deficiency is his lack of play extension, it's imperative for him to develop his pocket awareness into a strength, looking to Burrow's 2018- 2020 moves as an obvious blueprint for success. Since you can't teach the incredible Gregory Hines-blushing backfield Burrow dances vs Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Clemson...etc or learn how to make the best linebacker in the nation faceplant from the sidelines, Brennan will have to take what he's studied and adjust on the fly during the games themselves, which is why the first game of the season against University Texas-San Antonio on September 5th could be a perfect canvas for Myles to build in rampant, rampaging confidence, painting the blank 2020 sheet with a base coat of opponents' blood. It's the only way to learn, taking your punches and moving on to the next play. He'll need to anticipate and duck away from some hits, but there'll be others Myles must take while delivering the pass...he'll only grasp the football school of hard knocks' harsh lessons from the field. Luckily Myles has played plenty for LSU, seeing the field on many occasions last season and in 2017-2018...but leading the team, seeing the field, and absorbing as much as he can in the role of team leader is an altogether new experience.
In 2020, Myles Brennan will have to lead LSU through an early season test at home against Texas before heading into the rough and tumble SEC schedule.
Myles will definitely be helped by the home field advantage against Alabama and Herman's Hermits, although the late test against Auburn at Jordan Hare is the game I'd circle as the real worrying matchup.
LSU could have one loss heading into the Auburn game, with a potentially banged-up team, and a title on the line...
We're still in such early stages here, all we can do is glance at the schedule and take a fading projection of what might occur based upon these rather dubious preseason rankings (LSU was ranked outside of the Top 10 in 2019's preseason rankings)...for me, I haven't even looked at the premature nonsensical rankings.
LSU should beat senior gunslinger Sam Elhinger and Texas upon the bloody stage at Death Valley, then to follow, the Tigers will most definitely overcome the convenience-store-antics of the Gators in the swamp, a trial by fire for Myles Brennan, as well as a necessary gauntlet on the pathway to attaining the golden keys to a purple and gold dynasty.
If LSU's offense can hit all cylinders with those receivers yet again, if Arik Gilbert is even half the talent his footage and stats against high schoolers says he is, if those running backs are a mere slice of the versatility and well-rounded bruising bravado we've seen advertised, then Myles Brennan's job becomes extremely easy and an opportunity he won't waste.
Of course, with Charlie Strong as Alabama's new defensive coordinator, we'll have to mark November 7th down as the game of the year, at home in the electric rock and roll church of Death Valley...with a title on the line...as always.
We back down from no challenge, no mountain too high to climb, no pressure too tough for these Tigers...bet on it.
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Join us Next time very soon for a double hitter on lsuodyssey.com