By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Ever since the regular season came to a close, a rapid change swept through LSU's football program, leaving some scratching their heads, worried about the future, or sad about those who are now out the door:
Beginning with Coach O's firing, the shocking departure of an elite talent and #7 candidate, a long period of uncertainty while Athletic Director Scott Woodward found his man, high ⭐⭐⭐⭐ rated RB Trevonte Citizen's decommitment, new Head Coach Brian Kelly being announced to LSU's surprise & Notre Dame's dismay, and now the departure of a few long-time LSU assistants amid 2020 transfer flashbacks, the last few weeks have been a turbine at the end of a rollercoaster for many in and around the LSU community.
It's a wild moment of transition in suspended animation...Coach Brian Kelly is waiting on LSU's upcoming bowl game to make decisions about who will remain on staff, while on the other hand also trying to navigate the wandering eyes of a few Tigers' assistants, all as the transfer portal stands at attention....always open for business.
It's a heavy time for LSU fans, desperate for change but perhaps not ready for the complications or ramifications of turning a page with blood stained hands.
Even though Coach Ed Orgeron's firing was due to his own embattled ineptitude, off field scandal and loss of control, on constant display for his team to witness, LSU's #1 CB must've felt betrayed by Coach O's ouster.
Without a moment's hesitation, after his family moved from Southern California to Baton Rouge, second year CB Eli Ricks (one of LSU's most popular DBs of all time) entered his name into the transfer portal....and it's looking like he'll definitely be leaving.
Ricks' transfer was a wild rumor for much of 2020, but always carrying grains of truth burning in its fabric.
The enigmatic Ricks could sense a changing landscape at LSU, one where Orgeron's ways would be a thing of the past; Everything accounted for, I still feel LSU's 11 losses over 2 seasons, as well as his lack of playing time alongside close friend Derek Stingley Jr, really accelerated Eli's potential departure more than anything else.
With 5 interceptions, 2 returned for touchdowns, outrageous coverage statistics, and an insatiable playmaking ability, Ricks enjoyed a wonderful individual spell out wide in purple and gold.
The magnitude of his transfer cannot go unnoticed, especially when it appears both junior CBs Derek Stingley Jr and Cordale Flott will be headed to the NFL.
Unless Flott is persuaded to stay one more season or Ricks is somehow able to change his mind, 2022 could be the first year in a long time where DBU lacks star power on the outside.
As far as the coaching carousel, once Brian Kelly was announced, a collective sigh of relief could be heard from every major 2022 commit, while other recruits were left stunned & intrigued; simultaneously, a buzz of excitement spread through LSU's current roster & scores of supportive media members or fans, backed by a defiant swagger surrounding the program.
However, in the days following the rush of Kelly's shock appointment, edgy press conference, and litany of testy national interviews, we're now bathing in a decaying afterglow that is leaving many questioning Coach Kelly and Scott Woodward, wondering what will happen next, and demanding answers....
Since 2017, Assistant Head / WRs Coach Mickey Joseph performed a variety of invaluable tasks at LSU, from expert recruiter, a player managing genius who majored in relationships, and hard nosed sideline general who's legendary tenure produced LSU's most swaggering receiving prodigies yet:
Tiger #7 / NFL Pro Bowler DJ Chark enjoyed his greatest season during Mickey Joseph's first on staff; Alongside Joe Brady, Mickey ushered in the 2019 Trio's rise & development (1st Round picks Justin Jefferson, Ja'marr Chase & 2nd Round pick Terrace Marshall); another underrated accomplishment happened when Joseph helped fringe roster receivers Racey McMath and Stephen Sullivan get drafted; even now LSU enjoy the fruits of Mickey's hard work through SEC record holder Kayshon Boutte, and an astonishing group of 4 highly rated 2021 freshmen wide outs, each young man nationally ranked inside the top 13 of their class, and all heavily pursued by eternal nemesis Alabama.
Joseph also won the lengthy commitment of current freshman Tide WR Jo Jo Earle, a freakish athlete ranked as the 6th overall WR of 2021. Earle flipped during the peak of LSU's 2020 headline nightmares, not some reservation with Joseph's character, coaching or development.
It goes without saying, once news leaked of Mickey Joseph's decision to head back to his alma mater Nebraska, shit hit the fan:
Not only was there a large amount of sadness for the New Orleans-area native's choice to leave, some wondered if he had been "pushed out" or turned off by the prospects of auditioning for his own job.
Short of winning a Broyles Award, Mickey Joseph should be considered among the most accomplished assistant coaches to ever walk a sideline at LSU....chances are he could see around the bend.
Already holding the title of Assistant Head Coach and considerable recruiting authority, it's my understanding that Mickey saw Orgeron's departure as "writing on the wall", knowing egos could be at play and he may be forced into a position to fight for his job. Instead, he chose to strike out on his own first.
The reverberations of Joseph's departure are still being felt, with high odds that at least one freshman wide receiver will transfer, followed by a possible strike out on 2022 juggernaut WR Shazz Preston or a decommitment from LSU's elite 2022 & 2023 wide outs DeColdest Crawford & Omarion Miller in reaction.
To make matters more extreme, the expected firing of 21 year Strength & Conditioning Coach Tommy Moffitt didn't go down as smoothly as Scott Woodward & Stephanie Rempe would've liked.
Although there stood a near unanimous consensus among LSU fans, media members, radio hosts and analysts, Brian Kelly's decision to send Moffitt packing was followed by a sorrowful, near forsaken response by some of the Tigers' current roster and their families.
The truth is LSU suffered biblical amounts of injuries over the past 3 seasons, even hobbling out of the 2019 regular season with major ailments littering our defense.
But over the last 2 years, after news of opt outs, transfers, ridiculous Coach O quotes or Title IX investigations, you always could rely on horribly timed injury news.
Everyone from Kayshon Boutte, Derek Stingley Jr, Eli Ricks, Andre Anthony, Ali Gaye, Myles Brennan, Todd Harris, Dare Rosenthal, Anthony Bradford, Maason Smith, Cam Wire and Jacobian Guillory all suffered season ending injuries over the past 2 seasons, while Terrace Marshall, Grant Delpit, Ja'marr Chase, and Rashard Lawrence played through nagging, recurring injuries for most of their Tiger careers.
The truth? LSU were becoming weaker physically, which instigated their lower confidence, getting eaten alive at the line by UCLA (who finished 3rd in the Pac 12 South), gleefully muscling LSU aside in front of the entire college football world; Later, Kentucky tore through LSU's offensive line like mincemeat & rammed the ball down LSU's throat for 4 quarters; The Tigers D-Line may boast some elite talent, however when it came time to have the stamina to sack or tackle average SEC QBs Bo Nix or Will Levis, our players were winded...bled dry....
The injuries took their toll on LSU's collective performances, a vicious cycle which was only mercifully halted by Coach O's firing and Daronte Jones retaking the reins of his defense. On offense, the team simply never recovered from the season ending injury to WR Kayshon Boutte. In some circles, others will argue QB Myles Brennan's broken humerus last August ruined our chances then and there.
Meanwhile, our OL remained a constant shuffle of absences and shaky returns, from iron man Austin Deculus even missing a few games, LT Cam Wire being knocked out of the lineup, and returning to the field for a quarter before picking up an even bigger injury; then more problems suffered by Ed Ingram, Chasen Hines and Anthony Bradford continued to pour gasoline on an already raging fire.
In one week, LSU lost both starting DEs, cornerbacks, right & left offensive tackles, a starting safety went down with a concussion, and the nation's receiving TDs leader Kayshon Boutte sustained a 2021 ending ankle injury.
Football is based around injuries....they will happen as long as the game is played. Regardless, the amount of Tigers succumbing to injury was too much for anyone to ignore.
Could nutrition be the problem?
Are they practicing and lifting too much?
Are they not practicing or lifting enough?
Will the narrative become "Moffitt was too soft" or "he was too tough"???
LSU's new Head Coach Brian Kelly & AD Scott Woodward answered those questions for the program when they fired Moffitt.
Also the truth? LSU haven't won a National Championship outside of the poll era without Tommy Moffitt leading our strength & conditioning program.
We are now in uncharted waters...for the first time since Y2K fears & Nick Saban wearing purple & gold, LSUHQ will be without Tommy Moffitt's Hunter S. Thompson shades or crackling Cajun energy.
It's a tough outcome for many Tiger loyalists to take...an outsider from Massachusetts coming down South into Tigertown, being handed a large check, unlimited resources, seemingly the blessing of the fan base, and yet here he is, getting rid of long time Tiger staples in the name of vital change and future progress.
Let's not lose context here...
LSU fans wanted Kelly to make changes, so.....here come those changes, whether you or I love it, hate it or don't give a damn.....that might be hard to stomach, especially if regional politics is your bag.
While I believe in letting Kelly install his vision, I also defiantly feel there is a strong locally-bred bridge to LSU's Louisiana roots & recent past which must be kept in place.
As I outlined in our Odcast Radio Show earlier, there exist 5-6 members of LSU's current staff, as well as 3 definite support staffers who we believe Brian Kelly must retain in order to keep continuity within LSU's roster, recruiting base and program.
My wishes aside, according to Kelly's recent moves, it appears no coach is safe until after the bowl game, meaning a situation which is very much in a state of stark raving fluctuation......a station that's made LSU fans exhausted, excited, worried & anxious all at the same time.
It's okay...we're used to this.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
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