Updated: Mar 12
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
On day one of Spring practices for LSU's upcoming 2020 championship-defending campaign, Derek Stingley Jr hilariously ripped a piece of purple and gold confetti from his helmet and tossed the nugget to the sidelines, focusing on the next drill to come...and this was merely Spring practice.
Through Stingley's rejection of the glossy reminder, still lodged in his facemask from the National Championship celebrations not even two months old, the symbol was there for LSU's creative department to capitalize on...if they haven't, I will:
As magnificent, absolutely storybook and surreal as 2019 was and will eternally be, for these players, led by this warrior coach and his brigade of grade A staff members, there has come a reckoning:
If 2019/20 was all Coach Orgeron aka The Governor of Pain Distribution, or Steve Ensminger ("The Bayou Gandalf") could ever hope to achieve, if last year was such a special insurrection which should see them remain forever content, we're seeing no signs of those disturbing trains of thought or any complacency from the players and their staff whatsoever:
We covered LSU Legend Kevin Faulk's hiring as Running Backs Coach, replacing the great Tommie Robinson, although in replacing Faulk's former title of Director of Player Development, Orgeron found the perfect man for the job in former LSU and NFL linebacking phenom Kelvin Sheppard.
Ranking as the Tigers' 9th all-time leading tackler in program history, Shepp is a knockout hire for the position of D.O.P.D:
Kelvin Sheppard is a guy who came to Baton Rouge, Louisiana as a young man, suddenly finding himself a few states away from his native Georgia while still in his teens.
In an interview with Jordy Culotta, Sheppard detailed how he had issues and triumphs adjusting to these new surroundings and the homesickness which came with his arrival on campus in the mid 2000s, even going without seeing his family for 3 months at a time.
Throughout the interview, Sheppard let us all know these experiences uniquely qualify him for this role with a perspective that Faulk, a local boy, may not have uunderstood...and as Orgeron's recruiting base becomes a vast, national sprawl, this "outsider" vantage point in such a high authoritative position may prove exceedingly valuable.
More than a psychological crutch for these players to lean on, Sheppard is living proof of success's long, hard road:
This man went from the "guy waving the towel, basically the cheerleader on the bench" in his own words, to a bona fide team leader who played under Pelini and went on to have success in the NFL....he knows the journey, he's walked the path...
This is the guy who can embrace these new signees and bestow his trials, tribulations, how he grinded to become the ultimate version of himself, in the end helping to guide these kids on how they can best accomplish their goals.
These players will undoubtedly look up to Shepp as Living LSU Proof of what can be done when one works and believes.
While matters in the facility fall into place under AD Scott "Tony" Woodward, the matters on the field geaux up another notch. As far as the coaching / support staff is concerned, if you need any indication of how hungry these 2020 Tigers are right now, just take the testimonial words of Mickey Joseph:
"These guys are in there at 5am working like we just went .500 last year," WRs / assistant head coach Joseph said during an Off The Bench interview this past week, mentioning the analysts' role in how increasingly productive the program has become.
As for the analysts, going into the offseason the questions were:
A) "What Do Analysts Do?"
B ) "Why Do They Matter?"
C) "Is This Some New Trend In Football?"
Not only do our analysts double or even triple the amount of work a coaching staff can accomplish in a week, they provide innovative ideas to a staff already rife with ingenuity.
Coming into the post-Championship deathbomb salute, the worrying signs for many were "Why and How are LSU losing so many analysts?"
The answer is simply "The analysts we were hiring were good enough to become coaches..." a stunning rarity and now a growing trend in Baton Rouge.
QBs' analyst Jorge Munoz and defensive line coach / consultant Dennis "Meatball" Johnson have taken off for Dave Aranda's Baylor, offensive analyst Blaine Gautier took the WRs' job at McNeese, and we also lose another well-loved graduate assistant in John DeCoster.
Much like the button pressing Orgeron's done the last two years, he's pressed all the right ones in 2020:
Among the 2020 arrivals are two former Orgeron players joining the staff as graduate assistants, former #18 Christian LaCoutoure and fan-favorite Dwayne Thomas. LaCoutoure will help Bill Johnson on the defensive line, while Thomas, the hard-hitting cornerback during his time at LSU, will intern under Corey Raymond in the secondary.
Also, Louisiana-Monroe graduate Alec Osbourne, another coaching prospect with ties to NWState / McNeese State, will work closely with Pelini and the LBs'.
The analysts' staff, which now blankets the 10 man sideline staff and includes six women led by Assistant AD and Recruiting Coordinators Sharon Lewis and Keva-Soil Cormier (Alabama have 0 women on their staff or support staff), includes Joe Brady's good friend from William & Mary's D.J Mangus (the guy always seen on Brady's right in the booth), 22 year college coaching veteran and former Dallas Cowboy Mark Hutson helping out James Cregg on the offensive line, Russ Callaway, a 2x National Champion as an analyst with Alabama, and even coach's son Tyler Spotts-Orgeron are now offensive analysts...
Still, for those wondering about Joe Brady's void in the passing game, we introduced you to Scott Linehan's expertise in our Offensive Preview, but for the still-skeptical....we really need to announce Carter Sheridan's debut upon the LSU scene.
WHY CARTER SHERIDAN MAY BE
THE BEST LSU HIRE OF THE OFFSEASON
Joining Ensminger's crew of offensive mastercats, offensive analyst Carter Sheridan mirrors the NFL experience and in-depth passing game knowledge of Linehan, taking his 11 years of experience on the New Orleans Saints' staff under Sean Payton to Steve Ensminger's ultimate crew.
Sheridan's presence is an important capture for Orgeron:
2019's Head Coach of the Year has been tirelessly, constantly looking for anyone who may possess more insider intel on the inner workings of the Saints' spread attack we so mercilessly utilized last season...and as Ja'Marr Chase takes the #7 jersey, taking on further responsibility and leadership, Sheridan's arrival may only serve to bolster Chase, Marshall, McMath, Trey Palmer, Kayshon Boutte and the rest of the WRs corps to an even higher frontier of matador receiving exploits.
Carter Sheridan's work alongside the. Saints' wide receivers under Sean Payton, as well as his St. Augustine High School / New Orleans roots, will pay major dividends for LSU's 2020 season, furthering his career, as well as expanding the offensive staff in the right areas.
Hell, Carter probably shared a few beers and sleepless nights together with Joe Brady in the vampiric darkness of a 24/7 NFL film session...we're talking a detail-winner here in Coach Sheridan.
While great coaches or analysts depart our program to move up the CFB ladder, Orgeron has replenished the squad with new blood and home run hires, keeping the program's foot on the gas after last season's unassailable majesty...
An offensive staff shakeup may potentially turn out to be the best thing for LSU geauxing into 2020...we're refusing to back down or change our aggressive, over-the-top, deceptively balanced attack under Ensminger/Brady/Burrow: we're just adapting new ideas to our change of personnel.
Grabbing new faces, such as Sheridan and Linehan to push these NFL-ready receivers, has instilled a mentality in which we won't stay too content for long on the offensive side of the ball.
All seems right in Baton Rouge...but there are still omens of doom the Tigers must address during the Spring before summer's brutal camps open:
There may be concerns along the Tigers' offensive front...or at least worries about defined roles...as for my opinion, if we can stay healthy, we'll see another Joe Moore Award-winning line from James Cregg and Mark Huston....but if you ask anyone from the National media or Glen Guilbeau, the sky is falling.
While Austin Deculus locks up the right tackle spot, we have a group of guards who's roles haven't been locked down on the inside, although Ed Ingram and Kardell Thomas look like sure starters on either inside guard position to me.
Kardell Thomas is coming off a bad fall-camp ankle injury which curtailed his 2019 season until his re-emergence in the 2020 title game; in his stead, Ingram played much of 2019, suffering lapses early before recovering to become a quality option for Cregg, and finishing the season looking downright filthy.
Chasen Hines will attempt to make the center spot his own, though with the only option behind him being a former D-lineman forced over to center for the sake of competition, he better watch as much film on Lloyd Cushenberry and become more intimate with Myles Brennan's clasped hands than Blondie's girlfriend so he can grasp the position ASAP...we need him.
On the outside, left tackle Dare Rosenthal impressed Orgeron to the point of declaring "Dare will be playing in the NFL one day", before cautioning the assembled media due to Rosenthal's departure from school for "personal reasons".
Rosenthal is expected to return to school by summer, but for now during the Spring, Marcus Dumervil and Cam Wire look to battle it out for the left tackle position. Dumervil, much like running back Kevontre Bradford, was a necessity LSU's recruiting coordinators couldn't afford to miss as part of our 2020 class...we had to grab a left tackle...a good one at that. Luckily, the highly-prized 4-Star recruit chose Baton Rouge over a pile of other schools, crediting Joe Burrow's swagger and LSU's juggernaut intensity whilst winning the national title as his motivation to come to the Boot.
We owe the young man every opportunity to earn the LT spot because of the public commitment on Early Signing Day...but Dare remains the favorite. Interestingly, Dumervil's freshman teammate Marlon Martinez (also from St. Thomas Aquinas High School) followed his friend to join James Cregg's LSU line corps, and this familiarity coupled alongside Martinez's adaptability, could forecast a LT / LG tandem featuring Dumervil and Martinez.
Now is the time for experimentation all across the team...looking for roles and responsibilities to befuddle even the best coordinators...and when it comes to scheming confusion, chaos & winning control, look no further than the madcap magic of Bo Pelini's upcoming kick to the face defense:
FIRST VIEW OF BEAUX PELINI ON
AN LSU PRACTICE FIELD SINCE
AND IT FELT GOOD, DINNIT?
The options at linebacker looked slim once Patrick Queen, Jacob Phillips, K'Lavon Chaisson and LB/DE hybrid Michael Divinity Jr declared for the NFL draft, yet after only 2 months, our depth appears more than adequate going into 2020:
This defense will become more prone to violence (in the name of defending law & order) than a 20 year old Nick Saban at a Grateful Dead concert...
On Saturday, Pelini looked assured, quietly observant, and confident at the helm, spending most of his time coaching up the linebackers in a toned-down intensity.
Clearly trying to identify their best roles, Beaux deployed a trio of Damone Clark as the anchor, while Micha Baskerville and Ray Thornton stalked the outside, much to the surprise of many expecting Damone Clark to occupy the C and B gaps...although placement could all just be experimental until Pelini-disciple Jabril Cox arrives on campus.
The North Dakota State phenom chose the Division II masters over Pelini's Youngstown State a few years ago, chief rivals for the DII crown year in and out, however you'd be remiss to feel Pelini's recruiting didn't have an effect on the young Jabril, as he now follows him 3 years later to Baton Rouge.
According to steadfast local reports, Pelini and Bill Busch also shuffled through personnel at safety, giving Maryland high school star Jordan Toles the majority of the reps at SS.
The hard hitting, menacing Toles has been high on many an LSU fan and reporter's list for guys we're most excited for, but he'll need to edge out returning side to side freak Kary Vincent Jr for the spot.
At free safety, Bill Busch will most likely deploy returning S/LB hybrid (and likely #18 candidate) Jacoby Stevens, however National Champion Cam Lewis or LSU outfielder Mo Hampton's athleticism, dexterity, and his dual abilities in coverage, the middle of the field or the line of scrimmage could see a riveting competition for Bill Busch's two safety positions when he returns after baseball season (& a recent injury on the diamond).
We had a peek at superfreak Elias Ricks, debuting in his #12 after a week of de-commitment panic and Orgeron announcing he would miss Spring practices, it appears Ricks talked his way into taking part, nursing his shoulder via a non-contact yellow jersey.
Elsewhere, when you consider the personnel along Bill Johnson's impressive and deep defensive line, the switch to a 4-3 defensive attack couldn't come at a better time.
While our depth at linebacker remains low, to the point we went to Division II to grab NDState's Jabril Cox and moved WR Devonta Lee to his second high school position at LB, our defensive line boasts a myriad of options...not only in the personnel groupings but in how they're utilized.
In our defensive preview, we went all in on Tyler Shelvin, Glen Logan, Phillip Webb, Andre Anthony, Jacquelin Roy, and East High's Siaki Ika, but we neglected to go in deep on one of the most impressive, yet underrated:
Like defensive lineman Aaron Moffitt, T.K was first recruited as a tight end prospect as well, catching a single pass for 12 yards vs Georgia Southern over the 2019 season;
But when the National Champion was asked by Orgeron to become a defensive end, McClendon's team first attitude appears to have jettisoned his impact along the front.
After only a single Spring practice, T.K's metamorphosis as a lineman looks utterly complete:
The Soperton, Georgia-native not only impressed the assembled media during Saturday's padless drills, he drew a lot of attention from Orgeron himself on the practice field, Ed giving him pointers, tips, and long bouts of attention observing T.K's three-technique, as well as his abilities on the edge.
Throughout his Thursday press conference, Orgeron highlighted respective players and their potential impact on the team, and one of those names alongside safety Jordan Toles, linebacker Micah Baskerville, and left tackle Dare Rosenthal?
We heard T.K McClendon's name mentioned many times, Ed appearing "high" on the fumes of T.K McClendon's dank versatility and willingness to help out the team.
HOW DID HE LOOK?
Following a week in which doubts from LSU Legend (and National Champion) Ryan Clark's Twitter account attempted to rile and divide the Tigers' social media fanbase, Myles Brennan's imminent takeover of the 2020 Tigers finally became a hot topic of discussion and boiling anticipation.
On Saturday, in swift defiance, Myles gave us what we all came to see: full gusto throws, precision-equipped back-shoulder fades to Terrace Marshall, quick releases across the middle for Chase, intense eyes....and most of all, every throw meant the world to him.
Watch his face when Ja'Marr Chase and Kevontre Bradford drop catchable passes, he lights 'em up without needing an "F bomb" or angry expressions...they can feel his steely, subtle, stern gaze from 50 yards away.
For those of us wondering where and when Brennan's aggression and Joe Burrow-esque mentality will rear its head, you may have to keep waiting until Burrow's NFL Draft selection ends the media's never-ending turbine of criticism, exploitation and praise for the Heisman Winner:
"When you backup the Heisman all year, you tend to keep your mouth shut," Orgeron smiled before dropping the grin, and looking as serious as Mr. Rogers reporting a bicycle theft.
He continued: "But we've already seen the intensity that none of you see..." Orgeron's statement made sense:
Why would the backup to the most demonstrative, badass quarterback in football be screaming at everyone while holding a clipboard?
Myles needs to continue trusting his instincts, recognizing the time or the place for launching into a tirade, leaning on coaches for criticism and support, or to simply say nothing while leading by example....whichever he chooses, I trust this kid.
But now's his time...his family have been waiting nearly 4 years to watch their son start a game for LSU, and so far, the closest they came to watching their son for a full game was the 25 minutes he played in the historic losing effort vs Troy.
By now, if you're wondering whether Myles has the minerals to respond to such a high bar, questions will still abound for those people until Brennan successfully defends LSU's national title:
There's some unspoken tension towards the kid who, after his home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, didn't spend the aftermath in the Superdome, but rather docked on a 70 foot yacht in Destin, Florida.
His financial elevation wasn't the problem, rather how he's been raised to respond to adversity.
How will The Silver Fox respond to doubt, division and straight-up illogical anger for "daring to exist" post-Burrow?
Could Brennan wilt under the pressure strapped upon his shoulders by the world's college football media?
For Myles Brennan, the surfer boy and rich kid tags mean nothing when you look at how he dropped 452 yards and 3 TDs in his first high school game for 4A St. Stanislaus...against a 6A team....or how even after replacing Danny Etling (before being benched in favor of Etling again), Brennan was once thought of amongst LSU fans as "the savior" of the program...
...In a bizarre twist of fate, as these high expectations swirled inside his head and around campus, Myles then had to sit back for 2 years and watch Joe Burrow rescue LSU out of the doldrums and into the stratosphere...but throughout it all, Brennan, a sure starter at many top Power 5 schools, refused to transfer...
The kid may be well off financially, he may have lived a sheltered childhood...but entitled he is not
On the field Saturday, we witnessed a phenomenally quick release from Myles, adjustments in his footwork which will pushback against his critics, and a quieter, less-demanding demeanor which hasn't given itself over to the red-eyed mercenary bravado of Joe Burrow just yet; still, Myles looks capable of his own brand of renegade leadership....we'll just need to get used to it, and it'll be somewhat fascinating to watch the quarterback wrestle against his own past:
Since Burrow screamed at his teammates after a certain failure, should I now scream at them?
Since Joe waved to the Texas fans, should I do that if we're up big at the end?
Since the unproven Joe led with his words and fearlessly leapt into the void of the unknown, backing up those boasts 100%, should I guarantee a 15-0 season and a Heisman for myself?
You're not Jeaux.
More than Brennan's arm, his awareness, his footwork in the pocket, and ability to extend the play, most concerning to many LSU fans is whether Myles has the stones to stare doubt in the face, geaux jumping into the fire with little outside support, and come back a Heisman-winner and National Champion?
Let me tell you this Tigers fans:
Myles won't need to pull off a single Joe Burrow move, line or guarantee for us to defend our national title....
...He just needs to be the best version of Myles Brennan and LSU's destiny to repeat will be firmly placed in their hands.
However...if we get behind Brennan 100%, perhaps he could throw 70 TDs in 2020...
If there's anything the quarterback learned from Joe Burrow, the lesson is:
"Why the hell not?"
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
COPYRIGHT 2020 UNINTERRUPTED WRITINGS INC. LLC
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Next time We Delve Into T.J Finley and whether he's 17 feet tall, if Marcel Brooks should be at middle linebacker or on the outside, and the powerhouse technique / destruction of Ray Thornton + more.