by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Anyone in their right mind would never consider these 2020 LSU Tigers of topping our out-doing the 2019 team...Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Lloyd Cushenberry and the current receiving corps dominated everyone in sight, plundering every SEC rival or collegiate blue blood (Texas, Oklahoma, Clemson, Alabama, Florida, Auburn and Georgia) all vanquished at the hands of Orgeron's Tigers in fanatically illustrious, inconceivably brilliant fashion.
But what if I told this 2020 team has a chance to be far more impressive and entertaining than the hell-bent-for-leather, "freight train of Ensminger/Burrow/Brady's brain"???
What if I told you:
If fully healthy, LSU's 2020 offense will once again bring about a year where analysts are caught with their LSU-hating pants down, their mouths zipped closed in order to prevent anymore mindless drivel to expel forth and their sports consciousness drained as if Rick Pitino's vampire colony recently visited their mind....would you believe me???
Would you buy the ticket and take the ride with me on a magical mystery tour of Why and How this current Tigers offense may provide even more headaches and issues for defensive coordinators?
Okay, just stay with me if you're doubting my logic here:
On the cusp of the 2019 season, we expected Joe Burrow to lead LSU into Tuscaloosa with an undefeated record, letting the chips fall where they may and the better team emerge the victor....and if Jeaux were to defeat Tua and Saban's highly-touted defense, we would surely become National Champions....the G.O.A.T statistics, broken records and backyard pool-full of national awards was a by-product of that team's greatness, their hard work and collective motivations:
Joe Burrow wanted to be recognized as the greatest quarterback on the planet....and whether the mainstream have ordained that title to the #9 yet or not, many are firmly on the bandwagon;
Joe Brady wanted to lead an NFL offense and jumped when the chance came...simple as that, no hard feelings;
Coach Ed Orgeron wanted to silence his own doubters, grab closure from leaving LSU back in his youth (moved from D-line to center, Orgeron couldn't stomach the switch or his homesickness); Orgeron instead starred on the defensive line and graduated from Northwestern State (a great time in the early 80s where he played alongside buddies Bobby Hebert and current LSU Defensive Line Coach Bill Johnson). Most of all, Ed aimed to build a dynasty at his dream job, coaching the Tigers;
Clyde Edwards-Helaire wanted to show the world he was the most valuable running back in the country....and now Patrick Mahomes also shares this same view; Patrick Queen went from the brink of the squad to becoming the intense 1st Round LB drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, the kings of linebacker greats....the stories geaux on and on and on.
The 2019 team is the greatest collegiate squad of all time due to an overwhelming hunger and fire towards victory and greatness...but I see the same intangibles within this 2020 LSU squad:
Myles Brennan went from LSU's biggest quarterback signing since Ryan Perriloux or Jamarcus Russell before riding the bench behind elder statesman QB Danny Etling as a freshman. Although Brennan would replace Etling during the embarrassment vs Troy, throwing a TD and a pick six, the freshman was yanked before the game was over and Etling re-took the reigns of the team.
So, we all believed Myles' time was coming when the 2017 season ended...all through February, March, April there wasn't a single LSU fan who believed anyone else would be named starting Tigers QB...for all intents and purposes, this was the eagerly anticipated sophomore's team.
Then, on the day LSU's only Heisman winner passed away on May 20th, Ohio State's Joe Burrow transferred and signed on with LSU as a graduate transfer following intensive recruiting by Orgeron, Ensminger, Bill Busch, Mickey Joseph and more.
Burrow arrived in Baton Rouge free to study and obsess over his new team and build an offensive philosophy with Steve Ensminger, another aspect which must've frustrated Myles. Brennan considered transferring, the situation being so sudden and tough to swallow...although the nature of Burrow's entrance into the transfer portal became an opportunity the ambitious and smart Orgeron wasn't going to miss.
At that juncture none of us would've blamed Brennan for transferring somewhere else; hell, even Joe Burrow departed Ohio State only because he had no chance of taking Haskins' position; instead, Brennan chose LSU a second time, once on signing day as a young man from Mississippi and again when Joe Burrow took over the team for two seasons.
He opted out of the 2018 season, red-shirting and studying everything about this evolving new spread attack under Ensminger. Then, he had to sit back and watch Joe Burrow become the Greatest Of All Time and set a religious amount of records...he's been just as patient as Joe, he waited longer than Joe, he had his team taken from him...
After seeing his intensity and vocal leadership during practices as of late, there is no question as to how fired up and ready to win Myles Brennan will be this season.
"Even when I lost the starting spot and was on scout team, I never stopped leading. Leaders lead," Myles said recently. We watched him pump away 60 yard bombs to Ja'Marr Chase, snapping quick routes outta his hand with a robotic efficiency, the ball leaving the palm so effortlessly the receiver has more than enough time for yards after catch.
The LSU receivers were working alongside Myles throughout the pandemic, battling together outside in parks throughout Baton Rouge or other more private locales in Louisiana.
The same blueprint as 2019 was followed to a tee, Ja'Marr and Terrace Marshall elevated their game, Ja'Marr gaining big muscle around his torso and arms while earning the "play-maker, History-Taker" jersey at LSU, the heir to Patrick Peterson's legendary #7, becoming only the second wide receiver to "receive" the honor since NFL Pro Bowl Wide Receiver D.J Chark.
A combined 33 touchdowns stems from these two top receivers alone, Terrace catching 13 overall, 8 TDs vs 6 Top 10 opponents (injured vs Florida) and 5 in the postseason, Chase hauling in 20 overall, 5 vs Top 10 teams and exploding for an incendiary 21.2 yards after catch; he also snatched 3 touchdowns over 3 games in the SEC title game and CFP playoffs (Jefferson and Marshall exploded due to Chase's brilliant route-running and selflessness).
Yet this offense is far more than a two man or three man show...far far far more:
While 2019 had a fixed lineup of Burrow, Clyde in the back-field, Cushenberry at center, Deculus at right tackle, Thaddeus Moss at Tight End (moved all over out wide), Terrace Marshall, Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, there were still 15 touchdowns and a myriad big plays from LSU's 2019 backups, many of whom are in pole position to become 2020 starters:
Extending the receiving options ever further in 2020, Orgeron recruited Ja'Marr Chase's Rummel High protege Koy Moore, the versatile Alex Adams and 5 Star wrecking ball Kayshon Boutte, all of whom are improving by the day.
Right now Moore and Boutte lead the freshmen, supplying a bevy of playmaking opportunities. Boutte himself is involved in a daily battle vs Eli Ricks, matched up out wide frequently during these fall practices and providing some unbelievable competitive fireworks (just within view on the sidelines, Stingley and Chase silently watched a few of these reps).
There also exists a senior authority in 3rd WR Racey McMath, a leader and joker within the locker room who'll be playing on Sundays soon.
Racey stands to make a massive impact upon the LSU passing game, showing a selflessness and camaraderie amongst his fellow receivers (becoming the star man in many of his teammates' hilarious Instagram videos) as well as establishing an obvious chemistry between himself and Myles Brennan.
Sophomore Trey Palmer has big expectations coming into September 26th vs Mississippi State, the special teams master of 2019 becoming a quick fan favorite (his punt return TD vs Northwestern State was only the 2nd special teams TD of the season).
Palmer's flash and flair are clear indications of his capabilities; still, it'll be his grit and competitive edge on every play which will set him free.
Sophomore Jaray Jenkins is developing at a high rate, proving himself as yet another thoroughbred amidst Mickey Joseph's G.O.A.T Wide Receiving Corps.
Jenkins produced some gripping moments throughout early Fall practices, although he'll need to improve his burst off the line...his current hesitations give any corner the upper-hand in fortifying their jam, though he's still working hard and solidifying his game.
However the options for Brennan don't stop there:
In Thaddeus Moss, LSU lost a prime athletic target who's very presence, biological reputation and ability on the ball gained every offensive weapon a couple more yards and Joe a few more seconds....he also caught 3 TDs in the CFB Playoff including his stock-skyrocketing 2 TD Championship game performance.
Well, LSU didn't lose Moss completely due to the player's talents...Moss also knew full well who would be competing for the starting TE spot in 2020...a hulking colossus we call Optimus Prime...but his birth name happens to be Arik Gilbert, an athletic human missle crisis unlike any football has ever seen.
He's not only a megalodon at Tight End, we've witnessed Gilbert split out wide and deployed in the slot too (just as we predicted back in February), Gilbert possesses authoritarian pace, showcasing pants-soaking moves and strutting jukes behind the line of scrimmage or in the second level, all garnished with his physically imposing climax, punishing any would-be tackler in sight courtesy of a blast from his 6'5 255 frame.
Athletic isn't the right word...transcendental could fit though.
Wearing the #2 jersey, Gilbert is a sight to behold as he lapped up every pass in his vicinity thanks to a pair of feathery palms and long, sharp grasping fingers ("I don't think he's missed a pass in any practice yet..." Myles Brennan said, "I'm glad he's on our team," the quarterback smirked with a knowing chuckle).
Alongside him at Tight End are another duo of fascinating options, Kole Taylor #87 the first Colorado-born player to wear purple and gold or LSU baseball's Nick Storz taking #85 and developing into a massive new addition to the offense.
It is alleged that Kole Taylor could possibly be an actual Rocky Mountain, however these reports are unsubstantiated despite the wealth of evidence.
What a rotisserie of elite options for Offensive impresario Steve Ensminger, WRs Coach Mickey Joseph, Passing Game Coordinator Scott Linehan and Analysts Russ Callaway and Carter Sheridan to deploy.
And to further aid this large cast of domineering pass-catchers?
RBs Coach Kevin Faulk's kingdom of cruisers and bruisers appears stocked, locked and fully loaded.
Yes, no offensive coordinator could've stopped Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2019, and even with a torn hamstring, Clyde leveled and destroyed Oklahoma, Orgeron only resting him due to the coach's knowledge of how deep the talent was at Clyde's position.
Now, there's a new era in LSU's backfield: The Freshman Trio of 2019 now become the Three Horsemen of 2020's Saban Apocalypse.
Chris Curry, Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery roasted and toasted defenses throughout the season, together scoring 10 TDs while all three averaged in excess of 4 yards per carry and 7 yards per catch.
TDP scored 6 TDs, featuring his game-winning 35 yard touchdown run which created separation vs the Top 10 Florida Gators, John Emery scored 4, blasting Oklahoma and Arkansas for big touchdown runs with the use of only a single eye (an ailment now surgically corrected, giving John the use of both eyes thank gawd) and of course, Chris Curry starting vs Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl and setting the tone with long blasting, rasping carries, flogging and dragging opponents' haunted souls in the infinity of his wake.
Joe Burrow fought for Chris Curry to be named the starting running back after Clyde's injury limited his involvement. He repeated his name over and over to the coaching staff, knowing Ensminger, Brady and former RBs Coach Tommy Robinson would do Joe's bidding....after all, the smartest man in the room knew best:
From 90 yards on 16 carries, Chris Curry arrested Oklahoma's defense, pinning them so narrowly inside this allowed Joe to lay back for 8-10 seconds on many plays and scan the defense, looking for secondary routes and pathways to huge gains...all set up by an efficient, devastating and painful running game; crucially, Curry successfully emulates the same motions out of the backfield as Clyde.
Then there's some scintillating freshmen who pose a tremendous threat to the Sophomore Trio, keeping the competition meter within K-Feezy's RBs' corps at full blast:
Tre Bradford is a flashing flurry of dynamic "take it to the limit" pace...a true candidate for playing time and a legitimate, uncatchable threat once he reaches the second level; Meanwhile, dual threat athletes Keenan Dunn and Corren Norman have also demonstrated their abundant qualities and Tiger Class in space.
Finally, let's assess our plethora of experienced, versatile and comfortable options along the offensive line (including Austin Deculus's superb fitness, Dare Rosenthal's reliability at left tackle, a group of highly prized guards led by National Champions Ed Ingram and 5 Star Kardell Thomas, backed by Anthony Bradford, Marlon Martinez and Chasen Hines) while jack-of-all-trades linemen Marcus Dumervil, Charles Turner and Thomas Perry will become huge pillars of the line throughout the 10 game season...the biggest victory for James Cregg's Joe Moore Award-defending line?
They're heading into fall camp with Liam Shanahan as the established center....no more question marks about center, the smartest, the most experienced and hungrier trenchman took over the second most important job on our offense and made it all his own.
When you see what's on tap in Baton Rouge, you cannot deny: LSU's Offense will shock the world for a second straight season in 2020 because of their depth, consistency and a ton of hunger.
Orgeron's Tigers truly have a symphony of bottomless options, but more than NFL-ready personnel, this unit know they are working within a structure that works...an aggressive game-plan which is proven.
Maybe we won't see 55-10 scorelines or 60 point rampages in the CFP (Oklahoma...), perhaps this LSU team must prove they belong by surviving a gauntlet of 10 tough contests as defending champion and the big prize for every SEC rival hunting them.
Regardless, this offense will still shock the world if they lead these Tigers to glory yet again, this Roman Empire of a passing game buoyed by a rotating bludgeoning machine at running back and a tougher, stronger defense looking for their own dance with history on the other side of the ball....all led by a quarterback with an edge sharper than Joan Rivers' wit and a coach ramming down history's front door.
You'd be a fool to bet against them...
Instead....just watch and appreciate what's about to unfold...get your popcorn ready and don't forget the gummy bears.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
COPYRIGHT 2020 UNINTERRUPTED WRITINGS INC LLC
SHOUTOUTS TO: PEGGY, HOPE YOU HAD AN AMAZING BIRTHDAY THIS WEEKEND!!! WE LOVE YOU!!! JAMER IS READY!
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