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by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
As a Tigers fan and most of all, a wild-eyed journalist, I've reported on the greatest of LSU as well as our worst in 2020...and yet it was a ride I'll never forget....
How can you?
It's not even close to over.
The events of this season will ripple for the next 5 years around Baton Rouge's LSU campus and HQ, informing the Tigers of just how slippery the fall can be as the hunted, rather than hunter.
Orgeron is a hunter...he geauxs and finds the best recruits in the country for the purple and gold on a daily basis, so geauxing after that national title in 2019, Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ja'Marr Chase & Justin Jefferson at one side, Grant Delpit, Tyler Shelvin, K'Lavon Chaisson, Patrick Queen (among others) on the other, Ensminger and Brady together in perfect harmony offensively while Dave Aranda possesses one of the smartest sideline brains of any defensive coordinator in the country.
This season, LSU were the hunted and beginning with the pandemic causing a lack of practices, in-person meetings or sociable intensity (which fostered the relationships and
greatness of the 2019 unit), things felt awkward for this team.
Finally, after a rash of opt-outs and transfers, LSU found a way to topple #6 Florida's CFP Playoff aims in a historic upset, showcasing their freshman and sophomore talent across the board, from quarterback (Max Johnson) or receiver (Kayshon Boutte) to the secondary (Eli Ricks, Dwight McGlothern, Jay Ward) or the fast and furious D-Line (Ojulari, Gaye, Roy), these Tigers demonstrated the exact on-field value of high octane recruiting.
In a year where Boutte expected to be fourth or even fifth fiddle to Chase, Marshall, Gilbert, Palmer etc, Kayshon (as this writer predicted) enjoyed a breakout year despite two official touchdowns wiped from the board. He saved his best for the Alabama, Auburn & Florida contests, scoring touchdowns in each meeting vs LSU's top SEC rivals in the wake of Marshall and Gilbert's opt outs;
Former Mater Dei High 5 Star CB Eli Ricks recorded two interceptions (one returned for a TD) and 3 PDs in two appearances without Derek Stingley, proving more than capable in holding his own;
With all of the talent on board LSU's current roster, combined now alongside their renewed, battle-hardened experience (especially from the sophomores-turned leaders, Jay Ward, TDP, Cade York etc), Orgeron's 2021 class have the complimentary talents and high character to inject this next squad full of play-making, history-taking, legend-ascending specimen ready for championships.
After all that's happened in 2020, the allegations scandal, the NCAA investigation, the 4-5 record... LSU still pulled in a top 3-4 class with major room to grow for January and February....
This is fast becoming the highest-rated class of Coach Orgeron's career....and Tristan Leigh, Brian Thomas, Korey Foreman and Raesjon Davis still linger....
As a pile of redwoods covered in cement laid on the tracks, Coach O kept his diesel train plowing through all obstacles, somehow able to flip the script once again:
Ed had to completely recruit based on the magic of 2019, as well as the future brilliance of what 2021 could be...and you're seeing teenagers from Texas, Georgia, California and Michigan displaying more level heads than many Tiger fans....
However, due to this year's failures, it may be the last recruiting cycle he gets to bank on the 2019 team...many a parent will say "well...what about 2020?" and no matter what is said the old "that's a loser's excuse" will be levied at Orgeron....he knows he can't go into those homes making excuses, but facts are facts...losing a team of superstars and expecting a team riddled with injuries, Covid and inconsistent play to repeat as National Champions...
These kids know better than that.
Although 2021 is a near perfect class already, there are still imperative needs in crucial areas on the field which, if not filled, will see Orgeron's team suffer on the field once again later on....
5. MERRY FLIP-MAS
Wednesday turned out to be on of the wildest National Signing Days ever.
Despite all the havoc going on (both DE Keanu Koht and highly treasured WR Jo Jo Earle flipping their long-time commitments from LSU to Alabama, rumors of Derrick Davis Jr flipping to Clemson and safety Khari Gee flipping to Notre Dame earlier today) Orgeron and his staff kept the class intact so far.
In fact, LSU won the flips of Auburn decommit RB Armoni Goodwin, the 9th rated RB in the country, Miss State decommit WR-juggernaut Malik Nabers (who's talents are through the roof), Damarius McGhee
This staff have a lot of work to do concerning January and February: ensuring Raesjon Davis stays is mandatory for this staff...they cannot lose a year long commitment from the best LB in the country.
A close source to the Davis family told us "USC are dangling Reggie Bush's #5 jersey in front of the LB": Bush is Raesjon Davis' favorite football player and the Trojans are planning to take the enshrined number out of retirement for Raesjon to wear.
LSU have to counter-act these tugs of the Davis family's Trojan heart-strings:
Raesjon Davis is the ultimate flip LSU must prevent....and if Korey Foreman were to head to USC, that could be just enough to send Raesjon right behind.
4. CHRIS HILTON SIGNING
With his father actively questioning LSUs role in the sexual assault / domestic abuse allegations scandal involving former players, Hilton was torn for a few days...but deep down, he really knew where he was to end up.
Keeping Hilton was beyond huge: First in fortifying Mickey Joseph's brilliant WR group, even without Jo Jo Earle; second...thanks to the creepy, recruiting-based timing of another USA Today piece, Orgeron and his staff had even more work to do....a
3. FINAL 4/5
After Bryce Langston made it official and joined the Tigers as yet another DE mastermind tonight, there's still a few spots left and major room to grow for LSU's top 4 class:
TRISTAN LEIGH, RAESJON DAVIS, BRIAN THOMAS &........????
2. MAASON SMITH SIGNING
& 1. PROTECTING THE BOOT
Once Smith put the purple hat on, the entire state of Louisiana let out a huge sigh of relief...much like Sage Ryan, Jack Bech, Matthew Langlois, Malik Nabers, Maason was the #1 Louisiana priority for D-Line obsessive Coach O.
THIS IS NUSSMEIER's first roommate....his early enrollee partner in SEC dominion....
With or without his friend Korey Foreman, Maason wanted to stay home and represent Louisiana through and through:
If LSU couldn't pull off Maason Smith's signature, it would've been a local body blow which would've continued to leak premium Louisiana talent away from Louisiana State University, ya know....superstars at Alabama like Devonta Smith, Christian Harris, Dylan Moses to name just one example....
When history geauxs back and judges this 2021 group of Bayou talent, the one constant theme will be these players' resounding love and willful defense of Louisiana alongside the fastest rising national college football brand in the United States:
In retaining the commitments of Louisiana local superstar Chris Hilton, creating the Mississippi State flip Malik Nabers (maximizing the eerily-gifted Youngsville, Louisiana menace's array of football gifts), securing the twin 5 stars Sage Ryan, Maason Smith, as well as "should be" 5 star Saivion Jones....Orgeron defended The Boot's most impressive class of the last few years....and Brian Thomas is still left on the board.
THIS IS FAR FROM OVER
BLACK LIVES MATTER
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN @LonnPhillips
Copyright 2020 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC