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by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Another day where the sun rises...and more bad news for LSU fans.
5 Star freshman TE phenom Arik Gilbert, who's recruitment was not only a historic victory for the program but a major coup in the 2020 class, is heavily considering opting out...and what we heard from our head coach may point to exactly why.
Coach Ed Orgeron said there "wasn't a locker room problem" when asked by T-Bob Hebert on Off The Bench today....he talked about Arik Gilbert's opt out in surreal terms....as if the situation was a minor blip and we heard the same slogan once again, "next man up", as well as inviting Gilbert back as if a freshman bailing on the team before the Florida game was acceptable...the Coach O i know wouldn't tolerate this...
Or is it because Coach O knows the real reason why Gilbert is choosing to opt out?
"Next Man Up" is becoming a tired slogan when the next man up may be your last...
LSU is losing talent from all sides, both from the current team and the future 2021 class....and no one's taking off or rebuffing because we've lost 5 games...
This exodus is due to an inability to solve the on-field problems which have been pounding the Tigers' program into submission since Joe Burrow left campus...as well as a failure to recognize and discipline the issues off the field that existed in the office of F. King Alexander and Joe Alleva, bleeding over into the Orgeron era with the handling of the Drake Davis case by Deputy AD Verge Ausberry.
We have made every possible excuse for the on-field play this season....and there are plenty, from the opt outs, to the hurricanes, the NFL Draft exodus, 2020's Covid insanity wreaking havoc on our society as well as the LSU roster...but at every turn, there's been one reason after another for Coach Orgeron to break a thousand headsets...and it starts with him:
Beginning with an arrogance in the Pelini hire (the comments about Aranda's defense "This defense is better already than at anytime since I've been here"), an ill-thought out replacement for Joe Brady in Scott Linehan's brontosaurus offense, Coach O's appearance on Fox News, the coaching staff's slow reaction to the social justice movement (and tone-deaf silence until being forced into action by former Tiger Ryan Clark)...then, when the rape allegations piece emerged from USA Today and our own reporting here on LSU Odyssey, the situation deserved a trademark bold reaction from the University...which never came....and their continued silence has only generated more uncertainty and less investment from those in and around the program.
Combined with the on-the-field inability / unwillingness to adjust on both defense (most egregiously) and on offense throughout all but two games, there's been an off-field incapability to account for what's transpired.
When asked "why Derek Stingley Jr wasn't covering DeVonta Smith from the beginning", Coach O's response sounded like the cracked voice of an exhausted, beaten down man who's watched his world rapidly fall in on itself...and I felt sick and numb for a true personal hero who thought he'd finally defeated his doubters once and for all, only to face the toughest test of his career in the encore of his G.O.A.T squad:
"I just thought...we had a plan for it....they were movin him around a little bit and I think sometimes it was difficult to get that done...and we did a better job in the second half...."
I have made every excuse for this coaching staff....because I believe in them so implicitly after 2018-2019, those years showing extreme growth on both sides of the football, especially on offense...I have given them every mulligan that can be had....but this cannot be excused.
Coach Orgeron cannot be satisfied with that answer....I know Derek Stingley Jr isn't.
How Coach O couldn't tell Pelini or Raymond where to shove their ridiculous "Flott vs Smith in the slot" scheme is beyond me....why did it take until the 2nd or 3rd touchdown for Coach O to smash his headset in front of Bo's mute, numb expressionless visage?
And why smash a headset when you could just run over to Pelini and demand to know just what the hell is going on....
Coach O has always talked about the autonomy he supplies his assistant coaches; he wants them to feel as if they're head coaches themselves, yet maybe this Jimmy Johnson-ingrained idea has been taken a few steps too far and now Coach O finds himself covering for his big $2.5 million dollar hire, routinely interrogated with every hard question that Pelini should be answering himself.
Still, Orgeron is the head coach....
How has this happened where a year ago this month, we were watching Joe Burrow bawl his eyes out at the mere mention of "Coach O" and now Arik Gilbert, T.K McLendon, Justin Thomas, Kary Vincent Jr, Ja'Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall, Apu Ika, Travez Moore, Marcel Brooks are running home or to the NFL?
From sources inside LSUHQ, I've been able to gleam some of what's gone down and where the disconnect may be found.
We're told a number of defensive players are failing to grasp the 4-3 concepts due to their lack of versatility and athleticism of course, but also due to more in-your-face methods than many of these players are used to. Pelini has fired into frenzied anger, stark-raving mad over failures when watching film, only to be told of a miscommunication on his part which caused the problems during the sequence in question;
Instead of admitting his shortcomings and time away from the top levels of the game, Bo hasn't made a strong effort to get to know LSU's young defensive unit, although Covid's shutdown and lack of spring practices cut his chances at success in half, Pelini knew how to get this job done and he simply didn't fulfill his duties as a Tiger in 2020...his job was to bring the humanity alongside the iron-faced deathmetal aggression, and instead "he's more withdrawn and closed off, old fashioned reserved...like he never wanted to know the players in a summer when every black human being just wanted to be heard."
I can see Pelini's coaching works for Jabril Cox, Damone Clark, Jacoby Stevens and others...although it's had a negative effect on freshmen like B.J Ojulari (who was destroyed by Pelini on the sideline after allowing Arkansas QB Felipe Franks to break contain).
The incident made sense....it was a situation where finally Pelini was showing some intensity on the sideline, but once again, this was misplaced and ill-thought out considering Damone Clark was never chewed out by Pelini after allowing a billion blown coverages in the short passing game or completely ghosting on a myriad of long rushing gains, most ending in touchdowns....and here's Bo blasting his leading sacker...a freshman who's expected to screw up far more than he has.
Players feel it deeply when a coach is being unfair...a coach can be as tough as he feels he needs to be, however when he becomes unjust, he loses his players.
All throughout the campaign Bo has let his players down, asking certain guys to play positions which will never play to their strengths in a million years, failing to change when a myriad of defensive layers are ripped back, ignoring the complete and utter depth of talent on his bench....and what do we have to show for his contract?
From surrendering 623 passing yards to Miss State...who's only win remains against LSU, getting Vin Diesel'd by Missouri's Connor Bazelak for 45 points and 500 yards the biggest ever Mizzou win over LSU, followed by giving up the most points ever in the LSU-Auburn series (48) while letting Bo Nix rumble for 81 rushing yards and toss for 300 before finally, being sent to our own funeral when we were consumed by #1 Alabama for 470 first half yards (219 by DeVonta Smith alone) and 45 points...a final score of 55-17 was the most points sieged upon an LSU side by Alabama.
By halftime, Bo Pelini's Week 1 defensive framework, Damone Clark and Cordale Flott included, allowed the most points ever to Alabama in the entire history of the match-up...specific mistakes playing out before our eyes as if we were playing Mike Leach instead of Steve Sarkisian and Nick Saban...and both kicked our ass..
The tackling has been slapstick, as if we're watching a Marx Brothers film...and yet LSU fans believed an injured Grant Delpit and Rashard Lawrence weren't effective enough against Ole Miss last year, at least they allowed their 600+ yards while still making some stops instead of pulling off the worst defensive stats in college football history.
That's because while they may have been broken down, hurting, homesick even, Aranda's beat up 2019 defense made sure to get the job done and bring the win home in a crucial near-trap game.
They refused to fold.
But that's the thing...2020 LSU began with an acceptance and acknowledgement of quitting, leaving the team / "self-serving principles"....I can't blame anyone, it's 2020, do what you have to do I suppose, however that lack of collective trust has begun to fester after each historic loss, hardship, negative Tweet or bad press conference beginning and ending from our staff.
This is not LSU football...this is not even Les Miles' LSU football...
When you look to the offensive side of the ball and see Arik Gilbert wasted as an extra tight end (we have Kole Taylor to do that job), Ty Davis-Price grabbing 100+ yards vs South Carolina while being completely neglected and unable to receive more than 3 carries the next game or John Emery Jr rushing for 100+ yards vs Vanderbilt while touching the ball less than 3 times vs Missouri the following week...rushing the ball from the shotgun formation straight into pressure consistently as if they hadn't beaten our brains in with the play already...
The lack of innovation has been stunning, once again, coming from Steve Ensminger's long leash on Scott Linehan. Ensminger trusted Linehan with developing a manner in which to erase the competition through the supernatural skills of Arik Gilbert...and Linehan mysteriously failed, although it's no surprise...when the bright lights come up, his career has shown the man "doesn't have the chest"...and Coach E should've put his foot down long ago.
We don't need to wonder what's going on at LSU....
2020 is going on at LSU, the negativity formed from ripe inaction and a lack of accountability coursing through the coaching staff on down to the players...and this is from a true believer and defender of Tiger Faith who's rallied the troops when they've been inconsolable at times...but there's a limit we all have....mine is losing like THAT to Nick Saban.
The team wouldn't be performing this way game in, game out, addressing the media with the same platitudes and almost making inspiring slogans such as "One Team One Heartbeat" sound hollow when they look away from one another on the sidelines, arms folded...eyes rolling, hell maybe even laughing it up about the Halloween party coming up that night....
After our National Championship Age of Aquarius, there was no Summer of Love for Coach Orgeron...it just went straight to Helter Skelter after that....
He suffered a huge personal blow we won't get into out of respect, but it's had an effect, he's a human being and we love the man, then he's seen one departure after another of NFL-seeking LSU legends, all of whom Orgeron recruited and coached as an extra father, suddenly the pandemic hits...Coach O is alone, stir-crazy and lonely at LSUHQ for weeks on end...one disruption after another, on again and off again...the dead periods of recruiting killing his mojo even as the Tigers pulled off one sick commitment after another by kids who admire, trust and want to play for Coach Orgeron...the background haze of unjust NCAA investigations, social justice marches in the heat of the summer as young black men and women are being murdered (culminating in October when LSU WR Koy Moore was held at gunpoint by police for no reason other than the color of his skin), followed by a slew of high octane opt outs or transfers, a debilitating Week 1 loss to Miss State, a season-ending collapse vs Missouri which also took the health of starting QB Myles Brennan, more transfers and opt outs, the historic beatdowns to eternal enemies Auburn and Alabama, and suddenly, a sobering slap across the face with the rape allegations cover-up at LSU, participated in by members of the athletic department...none of which at this time includes Coach Ed Orgeron or members of his immediate coaching staff.
That's when it all stops....that's when none of the rest of it matters and people may just end up being a scapegoat unless they get out in front with the truth and spill everything they know...completely and transparently.
As we've wrote before and will continue to write or say, the dark clouds hovering over Louisiana State University's football team won't go away until the fog of silence and denial within the university's athletic department is exposed.
Coach O....act now....we need you.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2020 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS: Sorry to anyone who was offended.