Welcome New Subscribers ANDREW C. MESSINA, JAMIE THORNHILL & SCOTT MCCLENDON, J. MORRIS, PCOCLOTHING, ALLEN TEW!!
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
2020 is over...and with the arrival of 2021 comes the clean slate of a new season for Ed Orgeron's Tigers...
Some changes will take some getting used to, while others have us excited and ready:
Sadly, longtime offensive staffer and 2018-2020 coordinator Steve Ensminger retired from on-field positions and has taken an offensive analyst job; justifiably, LSU ousted Bo Pelini after one year and still seek a new defensive coordinator; to replace Ensminger, Orgeron hired Jake Peetz and his Carolina partner in crime (2019 Tiger) D.J Mangas as an offensive staff tandem on the recommendations of Joe Brady, but luckily for the veteran championship coach not everything or everyone is new:
First, general manager and all around personnel guru Austin Thomas has returned to the fold after a few year sabbatical, then, heading into 2021 LSU will have 3 returning seniors from their defensive line and so far have 4/5 confirmed offensive line starters coming back (Rosenthal set to become the 5th), providing Orgeron with a massive boost along both trenches. The experience of Austin Deculus, Andre Anthony and Glen Logan will be key as the Tigers introduce hungry young 2021 freshmen ready to make massive contributions.
Among these early Tiger enrollees (players who've already undergone their first team meetings): quarterback phenom Garrett Nussmeier, defensive tackle superstar Maason Smith, the Pride of Texarkana defensive end Landon Jackson, safety Derrick Davis Jr as well as punter Peyton Todd, all key current & future Tigers already getting to know their teammates, coaches and surroundings.
Not only returning the leaders in the trenches, LSU are seeing all starters return outside of 1 year transfer mercenary Jabril Cox, Jacoby Stevens, Terrace Marshall, Racey McMath and Zach Von Rosenberg, while losing RB Chris Curry to Utah (the transfer LSUODYSSEY.COM first reported on 12/17) and potentially TE Arik Gilbert to a move elsewhere, though this is far from confirmed....
That means LSU still have Derek Stingley, Eli Ricks, Ali Gaye, Kayshon Boutte, Ty Davis-Price, John Emery, B.J Ojulari, Jay Ward, Koy Moore, Jaray Jenkins, Damone Clark, Micha Baskerville, Mo Hampton, Trey Palmer and Devonta Lee to go alongside this buffet of returning veterans...
So, if you look at all the pieces Orgeron's staff currently possess, from the in-coming, top 5 2021 class, the now-experienced 2020 freshmen who battled through a pandemic-crazed season and came out on the other side as the focal point of the LSU brand, or 2019 debutant champions such as Derek Stingley, Jay Ward, Trey Palmer or Ty Davis-Price...now coupled with the rugged, rough and tough, "been through all the wars" experience of true Tigers like Glen Logan, Neil Farrell, Austin Deculus and Andre Anthony staying on and Coach O has himself a blockbuster of a squad.
I can't see too many faults with the roster here, even along the offensive line there is extreme depth in numbers, gems James Cregg has barely begun to scratch the surface of (Thomas Perry, Marcus Dumervil, Marlon Martinez, Kardell Thomas)...
Simply put, if LSU's coaching staff do their job here, the 2021 Tigers will geaux toe to toe against Saban's Crimson Tide for the heart of the SEC, the CFP and the National Championship...
But first....LSU need to find the right defensive coordinator to erase the stains of that mockery of a 2020 "defense":
Pelini was hanging great Tigers out to dry with thick-brained schemes and ridiculous pre-snap confusion becoming as much of a hallmark as the missed tackles, the horrorshow blown coverages...
Instead of maximizing his defenders' talents, Pelini used our players' own weaknesses against them, shoving slot cover guys like Flott on the outside in man coverage, asking a run-stuffing linebacker such as Damone Clark to cover a basketball-playing 6'4 245 lb tight end on a seam route....total madness...no wonder some of our young guys became disillusioned...
It will take time, but I have a belief Coach O will find the right guy. Is it Zach Arnett from Mississippi State who we profiled in this piece, or Alabama DC and Louisiana native Pete Golding or Bama analyst / former Florida champion Charlie Strong, the Saints' Ryan Nielsen...or is it "DBU Miyagi" Corey Raymond, right under our nose all along?
Well...we thought he refused the job, not our fault for not putting his name in the hat.
When you talk about LSU's defense, you can see the array of talent and play-making ability...this unit scored the most defensive touchdowns since the legendary 2011 and 2012 defenses under John Chavis...these young players also forced a great deal of turnovers and constantly handed their offense chances to win games (Miss State, A&M, Missouri especially), even forcing 8 total first half turnovers in 2 games vs #6 Florida and Kiffin's Ole Miss.
Why a guy like Marcus Freeman said LSU was his "dream job" before turning around and settling for Notre Dame when Eli Ricks, Derek Stingley, Jay Ward, Mo Hampton, B.J Ojulari, Maason Smith, Ali Gaye, Sage Ryan, perhaps Raesjon Davis as well...all those guys are here.....how could you deny coaching talent like that?
Maybe someone who's scared of failing like Bo Pelini...
The shoes of Dave Aranda have proven harder to fill than we'd all anticipated, and with each passing day uncertainty grows as to the direction of the Tigers' defensive outlook...
We all know LSU have a superstar, top 5 defense sitting right there on the roster...it's just up to Coach Orgeron to find the right guy to untap the potential of these world class players and map out a blueprint for National Championship / face-eating vengeance.
As for the offense, the buck starts and stops with a thrilling quarterback battle on the horizon between four, perhaps three studs...one, a record-breaker during his 3 game stint before injury as an LSU starter (senior Myles Brennan), another being a gutty ultra-confident madman who's powers only seemed to multiply by the down during his freshman stint (Mad Max Johnson);
Another freshman T.J Finley looked incredible at times and sports a big, massive frame topped off by a howitzer for an arm, although I wonder does he have the intangibles necessary for success against vicious SEC defenses? Can he mentally throw away the last play instead of crumbling as he did vs Auburn, A&M or Alabama?
Last but not least, 2021 early enrollee freshman Garrett Nussmeier, the Patron Saint of Joe Burrow out of Flower Mound, Texas...a Tiger Knight who has drank the warrior's blood in preparation for his debut campaign...and I expect Nussmeier to make a shockingly strong push for the starting job.
Garrett could be on the fast track to LSU success thanks to a family connection that runs straight to the offensive coordinator's headset: his father Doug Nussmeier is close friends and former coworkers with Jake Peetz from their short time coaching together at Alabama.
If that doesn't sauce this battle up with just a little bit of pizzazz and background eyebrow raising, then what else could?
This quarterback battle geauxing into Spring and Summer 2021 will be a raging conquest of all out warfare in timing, precision, understanding and innate greatness...in the end, the decision will be up to Coach Orgeron under the advice of offensive coordinator Jake Peetz, Passing Game Coordinator D.J Mangas and most definitely Offensive Analyst Steve Ensminger, the man who recruited all four quarterbacks to Louisiana State University...
...yet as we witnessed when watching the 2020 campaign unfold, although all 4 quarterbacks could feasibly win SEC games for LSU, there exist at least one or two guys, (maybe even three) who could take Orgeron's LSU straight back to the top....choosing which talented quarterback from this G.O.A.T LSU QB room is an envious challenge and burden most collegiate programs can only dream of...
Ominously on the other hand, a savage misstep in picking the 2021 starting quarterback could cost LSU yet another season in the wilderness of college football.
Save the predictions and forebodings for another day, when you map out LSU's potential starting lineups, you get some chills of excitement:
DE Ali Gaye DT Jaquelin Roy DT Maason Smith DE B.J Ojulari
DE Ali Gaye DT Neil Farrell DT Jacobian Guillory DE Andre Anthony
DE Phillip Webb DT Maason Smith DT Joseph Evans DE Saivion Jones
DE Ali Gaye DT Jaquelin Roy DT Maason Smith DE Landon Jackson
That's just the defensive line...geaux ahead...toy around with the combinations yourselves... it's fun, there's a plethora of unbelievable D-Line options for LSU's new DL Coach hire, and I believe there may be one name above all who deserves a shot at the gig:
2019 National Champion grad assistant and former #18 Tigers Legend DL Christian LaCoutoure, and we're hearing LSU are going to give him every chance at the job.
He's been a recruiting colossus, instrumental in mentoring Landon Jackson, Maason Smith, Saivion Jones and others he's recruited on the trail as part of the LSU staff.
Orgeron has decisions to make...with February's last 2021 chance just ahead. LSU must look to sign LB Raesjon Davis and go all out for offensive line / wide receiving talent in abundance, despite the in-coming greatness of Deion Smith, Chris Hilton and Jack Bech.
For receiver, we have one name in mind Coach Ed Orgeron won't be too keen to lose:
Orgeron will be disgusted if he lets the #1 WR talent out of Louisiana leave for Nick Saban's Alabama or Jimbo Fisher's A&M, especially after Devonta Smith's 2020 outings....
Yes, we're talking about Brian Thomas Jr, the explosive, all-encompassing juggernaut receiver who's always been high on LSU's radar.
Although we've been hearing A&M for a few months, recently there's been strong rumblings about Thomas Jr leaning towards LSU.... but after watching a Louisiana native tear it up for the Tide for his 2nd title, 3rd title game appearance, becoming the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991, racking up 215 yards and 3 TDs in the first half of a title game while taking home a Biletnikoff Award...is Thomas Jr down with Saban, too?
Meanwhile, LSU should pull out all the stops to convince decommittee Raesjon Davis to come back to the fold by February. I'm told the So Cal LB has eyes on an Ohio State visit before the deadline day, yet he still has mad love for the Tigers, just as his family does. But is a union with buddy Korey Foreman at USC still an option for the #1 linebacker in America?
Raesjon is an extreme talent and a young man of intense character the Tigers should feel awful losing, especially when Davis was nearly obsessed with the Tigers only a few months ago, recruiting for the 2021 unit. Davis would obviously strengthen any other College Football Playoff competitor instantly, so losing Raesjon could also mean watching him play the Tigers as a high stakes opponent down the road...
Along the offensive line, look for LSU to aim for Snow College's Australian Jordan Moko, a sizable beast in the trenches. A former rugby player, he has a nose for aggression and pure iron test of wills, rarely losing out. Regardless of the fact Tommy Moffitt will need to pack some weight on Moko, the Aussie has more than enough intangible speed to be just fine after the gains.
Even if Coach O's staff can't sign Raesjon or Brian Thomas Jr, the class his guys have pulled off has been remarkable already. A top 5 class surely, no matter what, after all the dust has settled in February, but will this squad be enough to challenge Alabama for the title in 2021?
I feel this unit is enough to contend vs Alabama as long as LSU maximizes their potential:
Look at what Kayshon Boutte did, setting the SEC receiving record as a freshman...meanwhile, guys like Devonta Lee and Dwight McGlothern sat the bench for most of the season....could they pull off the same record-breaking antics as Boutte?
Perhaps...but overall, whether a player is as gifted as Boutte or McGlothern or not, the reason I know every Tiger on roster can make a difference for this team????
They have enough upperclassmen present to show them the right way.<