THE RETURN OF BEAUX PELINI

Updated: May 24

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LSU 2020/2021 PREVIEW (PART I OF AN INFINITY X)

THE

RETURN

OF

BEAUX


BY

LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

ORGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 1/31/20


In spite of the maddening fact that Coach Ed Orgeron just climbed the highest possible professional mountain (when he led the greatest college football team of all time to a national championship), it appears the Larose, Louisiana-native will have to scale those heights yet again to prove the staying power of his hard-earned success.

Coach O is facing a tidal wave of analysts and pundits who couldn't wait to throw a wrench into the rolling harmony within the LSU machinery. Many couldn't hold off longer than a 5 hours of excessively awesome Louisiana celebrations to try and kill our buzz:

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"This may have been the greatest team of all time....but they better enjoy it cause they won't be there, doing anything close to that again," was what I heard from many a sportscaster, pundit, ESPN host, former player, friend and co-worker.

They're not only predicting a playoff-less 2020/21 for the defending champion Tigers, they're proclaiming the demise of LSU as any sort of powerhouse whatsoever....only months after this team rampaged through every blue blood from nearly every conference in the country (want some Pac 12?).

But more than the obvious question: "Can we replace Burrow, Brady, Aranda, Dennis Johnson, and all those missing NFL draftees?", our Coach will have to answer the most intriguing question of all:

Can he rebuild something so special, so quickly....again???

📷               With targets firmly afixed on our backs after drawing the ire and reckless frustration of every humiliated SEC rival nipping at our heels, while frontrunners Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson lie in fear of the Bayou (unless they're behind a keyboard) and every CFB media member or "expert" predicting LSU to lose 3-6 games losing their minds over Saban's Tinder account, it seems the remaining pieces of the greatest team of all time have much to "prove"...and I cannot wait for Ed to prove all of these blabbering idiots wrong all over again.

But as Orgeron rebuilds the staff, the process will be much more streamlined and efficient this time around:

The professional structure Coach Orgeron and visionary Athletic Director Scott Woodward have established down in Baton Rouge usurps the NCAA-ducking Alabama model, Clemson's breeze through the ACC every year, or the helpless way USC battle for any signature they can dig up...and in 2019 especially, the quality of programs in comparison wasn't even close:

LSU were king.

And after the season we just had (aka The Greatest Advertisement for a College Program Ever), LSU won't have to track potential suitors down...they'll be coming for us.

Those future members of Orgeron's coaching staff will be throwing their hat in the ring for an interview as if it were free Popeyes and sex with Jessica Alba; so accordingly, Coach Orgeron and Scott Woodward are moving fast:

While they celebrated the title victory in massive style and partied the week away, underneath the surface of Oval Office trips and the Get The Gat dances, this program and its two visionaries were moving forward...just like Joe Brady, Dave Aranda, Dennis Johnson and Joe Burrow.

Once the preparations for the LSU Tigers' 2020 campaign began, the first orders of business were undoubtedly:

1.  Recruit, Recruit, Recruit

2.  Replace passing game specialist Joe Brady & defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

3.  Trust / Develop Myles Brennan's Escapability

4.  Hold on to as many players, coaches and team personnel as possible

And then lastly:

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5.  Do it AGAIN

Since recruiting is a 24/7 process, the first step was hiring the new defensive coordinator:

Replacing Aranda's winning culture, and the arsenal of never-ending NFL talent he amassed was never geauxing to be easy, but who better to take the reigns of a hungry, young blood defense in desperate need of an evolution than a fiery maddawg such as Bo Pelini?

This was a hire that bothered some, confused others, shocked many, but mostly excited the Tigers' rabid fan base in the wake of Dave Aranda's departure: hell, last time we saw Pelini in Baton Rouge we were winning a national championship.

This was a hire that bothered some, confused others, shocked many, but mostly excited the Tigers' rabid fan base in the wake of Dave Aranda's departure: hell, last time we saw Pelini in Baton Rouge we were winning a national championship.

While an unknown quantity in 2020 for many a millennial, The Youngstown native's seething intensity, obsession with victory, and ability to gather top shelf recruits is well documented:

At LSU, the 5-star players kept rolling in: Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Craig Steltz, LaRon Landry, Ricky-Jean Francois, Curtis Taylor, Perry Riley Jr, Lazerious Levingston, and Drake Nevis to name but a few who were either recruited or chiefly developed by Bo.

Beginning in 2008 at Nebraska, a program in the doldrums of Midwestern desolation (possessing far less resources or attraction than LSU), Pelini continued to lure the best away from bigger schools, all because they wanted to be coached by the man himself:

Future NFL studs Prince Amukamara, Alfonso Dennard, Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, Will Compton, Randy Gregory and Maliek Collins are all evidence of the crazed former Super Bowl champion's ability to rack up the talent in the most unlikely of places......so there's no question in my mind as to how he'll perform alongside Corey Raymond on the recruiting trail.

You don't have to be born in 1978 to realize just how long Pelini's been successful. His legend and reputation proceed him and only seemed to grow with each passing year as the man took a sabbatical from the stress, success and 24/7 anguish of Division I football.

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 His journey began in Youngstown, Ohio where the confident, fiery Pelini was a natural leader on the football field at Cardinal Mooney High School, coming of age around teammates and friends the Stoops brothers, longtime friends who'd all realize their dreams separately before joining forces down the road.

As a highly recruited safety, Bo played for Ohio State in the late 80s, achieving his Bachelor's degree in business management at the same time he was taking heads off on the field. After his playing days ended, Bo went straight into coaching, heading to the University of Iowa to become a graduate assistant under Hayden Fry.

During this time he grabbed a Master's Degree in sports administration from the Ohio University, had a brief stint in the Arena Leagues before serendipitously landing with the Steve Young / Jerry Rice-led 49ers of 1995....this man is no meathead.

Legendary coach (and defensive genius behind the blistering 5x Super Bowl winning 49ers defense of the 80s and 90s) George Seifert hired Bo on his Niners staff in a limited role, at first as a scouting assistant.

However after having conversations about the schemes, the opponents, and the operation in San Francisco,  Seifert saw something special in Pelini and took him under his wing.

In Pelini's second year by the Bay, the "defensive Joe Brady circa 1995" was appointed defensive backs coach of the juggernaut 49ers as they won a Super Bowl over San Diego.

Seifert educated Pelini on his next move, and it was with fellow young upstart Pete Carroll, taking on his first high profile gig as the New England Patriots head coach. Pelini coached linebackers and other defensive positions in Foxboro from 1997-2000, until the Italian Stallion saw yet another opportunity waiting for him in Green Bay.

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No that's not the silent bad guy from "Fargo"...

He was an assistant on the Packers staff for two mostly successful playoff seasons in Green Bay under Mike Sherman, the former A&M coach saying of the coordinator:

"I always considered him to be a very smart, intelligent coach, and he always saw the big picture, so I always appreciated that. Sometimes a position coach doesn't always see the big picture."

Seeking the "big picture" he could see in his head, the restless Bo took off for Nebraska, accepting the defensive coordinator position for the 2000 Cornhuskers.

He stayed with Nebraska for some time, eventually becoming the interim head coach during the 2003 Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan State.

Then, an opportunity to wreak havoc with old friends came up: the stars aligned and Pelini, who spent nearly 4 years in Nebraska, had designs on a special project:

The national champion coordinator followed his old buddy Bob Stoops to be a part of his project in Norman.

Bob had recently parted ways with his brother, his long-time defensive coordinator and he'd finally promoted Brent Venables to a coordinator role after 5 seasons as Mike Stoops' Dwight Schrute. But Stoops didn't trust Brent to handle the job completely in year one, and saw a role for his old friend from Cardinal Mooney to slot in, both Venables and Pelini operating as co-defensive coordinators.

As he wrestled with the decision to move his family once again, Bo's brother Carl persuaded him of his penchant for working with college kids, and the vagabond Bo packed up his family and headed for Norman. Since his childhood friend had already won a national title with Venables on staff, and the potential to perennially play for more, this was an opportunity for real autonomy at a high level which Bo had never experienced, nor could he pass up.

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With these unbelievable minds on Stoops' staff, it was no wonder the team of Venables and Pelini led the Sooners to a #1 defense, holding five opponents under 10 points during an undefeated regular season and posting a shutout vs #5 Texas.

But during the 2005 BCS National Championship Game, the Venables/Pelini team ran into the dynastic USC Trojans team, helmed by Pete Carroll and recruited by Ed Orgeron. The all star defensive staff were powerless against Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, surrendering 55 points in what is still considered the biggest blowout in the history of the title game.

Soon enough, the shit hit the fan in Norman, and since longtime servant Brent Venables was next in line for the Mike Stoops coordinator role, there was no reason for Bo to waste his talents at Oklahoma any longer.

Meanwhile, in the SEC, Les Miles had replaced Nick Saban as the head coach at LSU and was determined to make his own mark. With Will Muschamp running off for pina colatas and bromantic massages in Miami with Nicky Saban, Coach Miles had a new hire to make.

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Like Bo, Les Miles was a fellow Midwesterner who'd cut his teeth in the Big 12, and the former Michigan man was interested in Pelini to replace Muschamp. Miles earmarked him for the gig after being impressed during their 45-35 clash between his former Oklahoma State team and Pelini/Venables' defense from Oklahoma the year prior.

He knew he was right for the job and so did we:

Once Bo Pelini stepped foot off the plane in Baton Rouge, he became a new man.

Under the guidance of wild mad-hatter Les Miles, armed with the cavalcade of expert returning Saban recruits, and the new Tigers' staff bringing in new blood, LSU stayed under the radar as far as garnering national respect, but for anyone actually watching they were very much an SEC machine.

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LSU were the first school to win multiple BCS titles in an era "dominated" by USC, Florida and Oklahoma and under this new regime, Bo Pelini's Hieronymous Bosch expressions of eternal bloodlust became a significant part of the team's identity during the mid 2000s: there was no Joe Burrow in sight.

During an era when LaRon Landry, Craig Steltz, Glenn Dorsey, Matt Flynn and Perry Riley Jr were the big names at LSU, and the defense combined with the grind of Jacob Hester to grab victories, Bo Pelini was a rock star in Baton Rouge.

LSU has always been a defense first school...and for Bo Pelini, the recruiting was almost too easy, the talent he collected was endless, and many of these standouts forged careers in the NFL. But then, the pattern struck again: Bo had ascended up the ladder towards every coach's ultimate conquest, a head coaching position at a high profile program.

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   Pelini returned to Nebraska, and somehow stayed there for nearly 5 years of relative success in a packed Big 12, bringing in Heisman nominee defensive player Suh. Following years in the shadows, Bo returned Nebraska to the limelight, to the big stage, only to fall short thanks to a field goal kicker in the epic, crucial Big 12 title game vs Texas 13-12 (Suh sacking Colt McCoy 4x).

Bo's Nebraska would lose the 2010 Big 12 title game as well, before the program shifted to the Big 10 conference. Due to their ineligibility because of scandals of varying degrees, Nebraska qualified for the 2012 Big 10 title game over Ohio State and Penn State, but lost a shocker 70-31 to Wisconsin...and it wasn't Bo who grew restless or fiery this time, it was the rabid Cornhuskers fans.

Following his ridiculous firing from Nebraska in 2014, Bo set off for his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio to coach their Division II powerhouse Youngstown State. There in Ohio, anonymous to the world's media and at home with his people, Bo enjoyed the fans (aka the people he grew up with):

It was no secret how much they appreciated him as a coach, in stark contrast to the disgusting antics and abuse Pelini received from angry, unrealistic, and ungrateful Cornhuskers fans, though the contradictory and hilarious defensive genius was never shy delivering his own spew of vitriolic lambasting back at 'em.

Though the world of college football seemed to exile and forget about Bo Pelini after his leaked tirade in 2014, Coach Orgeron did not.

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These last 5 1/2 years back home in Ohio, relaxing with his family and seeing the bigger picture, with his head firmly out of the rat race of Division I, Pelini is at the perfect stage in his career to coach at Orgeron's LSU.

Orgeron's not just looking for X's and O's guys, we can grab any Bobby Petrino or whistlin Tom Herman around: we made it clear we don't care about big names when we leaned on relative outsiders the last two years, assets such as Jorge Munoz, Joe Brady and Tommie Robinson: Coach O and AD Woodward are pursuing the best minds, wherever they may be from, and Pelini is another adaptable, creative thinker added to the LSU staff.

He spent 6 years propping up the corpse of Nebraska's derelict program, only to be jettisoned...humbled. And after grinding for years at Youngstown State, Pelini's status had faded....all of this has, in totality, been a good thing for the Pelini family.

Suddenly, within a week and a half of LSU's breathtaking national title victory, his name resurfaced all over the media as if we'd gone back in a time machine to 2008 when the Italian Stallion's own future out the door was imminent and broadcasted wire to wire.

Back then, Pelini was the hot shot; now in 2020, Bo may have all the fire in his belly as a coach from before, but he's become a more centered, layered, optimistic man...finally his wandering spirit stopping its course back home where it all began.

That's where it was supposed to end for Bo...back home at Cardinal Mooney, Youngstown State...back where he was a legend.

But Ed Orgeron has made a stroke of genius here by hiring back the old coordinator after 11 years.

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I must admit how saddened I was knowing our coordinator would be headed to Nebraska during the second half of the 2008 BCS National title game, watching LSU massacre my uncle's alma mater Ohio State. But on that night, the sheer hard-hitting velocity of the defense, alongside images of Bo Pelini's baggy, stretched out grey Tigers sweater and bizarre gum-chewing mannerisms on the sideline, will forever be etched in my mind, and most likely yours, too, Pelini fan or not.

Resuming his career with our beloved Tigers in the season directly following the greatest offensive onslaught anyone's ever seen in the history of space, time or magic makes too much sense to be the wrong move.

Knowing the guy is fully capable of delivering a title-winning defense to Baton Rouge is a big deal, especially in the post-Burrow era:

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 We'll do whatever it takes to maintain that high offensive standard, but we'll never reach the heights or the output of that 2019 LSU offense....point is, we can't win the SEC with 58-37 scorelines again.

It went unnoticed how often the high octane drives from our offense's sheer pace and aggression would wear our own defense out much faster than the opposition could....without Joe Burrow, we'll likely not see this issue arise in 2020.

The question isn't whether Pelini will move the defense back to a 4-3 from Aranda's constantly tweaked 3-4 front formation, it's whether Pelini can adapt to personnel, post hybrid schemes using the returning safety hybrids Jacoby Stevens and Kerry Vincent Jr and provide linemen Glen Logan & Tyler Shelvin, freak sophomore Derek Stingley Jr, linebacker Damone Clark and safety / linebacker combo Marcel Brooks the best chance to succeed.

Those players are more than likely LSU's defensive spine for 2020.

Will Pelini be able to use these athletes, as he did in the mid 2000s, to the best of their abilities against the top offenses in the country?

Dave Aranda was a resounding success in his 4 years at LSU, however the table may now be set for Bo Pelini to fly even higher.

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Bo Pelini will be perfect for this job: he's a man of depth and vision, not a mere meathead barking orders, as his image may depict. Bo is a player's coach, and while rooted in old school methodology, the former Cornhuskers castaway is one who loves transcending tags or scouting reports: his eyes and your work ethic will tell him how good you are, nothing else.

Pelini looks for the unpredictable, which as a defensive coordinator, is exactly what's called for.

His defenses always wreaked havoc, amassing 71 turnovers in 3 seasons and averaging just under 40 sacks, while leading the SEC in overall defense in 2005, and placing 2nd in 2006 and 2007.

He's a coordinator who loves to get creative with blitzes, naming them after the blitzer during his last stint in Baton Rouge.  With a fired up Corey Raymond as the DBs coach and as his assistant, this defense is primed for a historically dominant year, one that may emulate 2019's offensive explosion.

Could 2020 be a full return to grinding LSU defensive values, although with the added high-flying Ensminger offense to assist?

The only reservations I have with Bo as our new defensive coordinator are three main, pretty obvious issues:

His sometimes bullyish demeanor of the past, his defenses' habit of softening with a big lead, especially when it comes to blitzes, and whether this is another of Bo's moves up the ladder once again.

Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure:

If you're an LSU fan and you can't trust Coach Orgeron's decisions or the professional / profitable direction we're headed in under the leadership of Scott Woodward, then take off the Burrow jersey right now and forget 2019 ever happened.

To quote Joe Burrow:

"Oh why are you so entitled to the fruits of (others) labors?

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GEAUX TIGERS

by

LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN Uninterrupted Writings Inc

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