Updated: Dec 27, 2021
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
When you think about "pure attrition", the last two years may be the wildest time in LSU's history, headlined by massive changes & departures in coaching, personnel as well as administration, all while the program continues to undergo a major cultural facelift under the watchful eye of USA Today & the NCAA's microscope.
Cutting right to the heart of what the University really values most, Brian Kelly's new regime have begun their rebuilding / reloading task at LSU in great haste....and the fallout leaves no title or position safe.
2020-2021 will be remembered as an era where many jumped off LSU's sinking ship, from 5 stars, divas, Tiger die hards and beloved players alike...and with visions of Derek Ponamsky's conniving "Mr. Burns hands", Coach O grunting and bucksnorting as he publicly spills locker room secrets or game plans, who could blame most of their decisions?
Since Joe Burrow took one last drag on his cigar and walked on down the Superdome hall, LSU's roster have endured massive shakeups at every turn.
Of the Tigers' 3 direct quarterback successors to the Burrow throne, Myles Brennan, TJ Finley and Max Johnson all transferred, with Myles luckily gaining a change of heart and returning to LSU.
However...since the team walked off the Superdome field as 2019's National Champions and the greatest single squad in the sport's history, LSU's program started losing one critical player after another to 2020's rash of opt outs & transfer portal exits, 2021's injury & opt out desolation, and of course, the NFL.
Losing key 2019 juniors during that next spring's NFL Draft greatly hurt the leadership of the pandemic year squad; Still, holding 60+ members of the 2019 championship team on roster, LSU were ranked #6 heading into that season.
What (...or should I say who) followed was a near biblical exodus, losing 18 players to opt outs or transfers during 2020 alone, while this past season has barely abated the pressure (14 thus far):
Ja'marr Chase, Terrace Marshall, Eli Ricks, Max Johnson, TJ Finley, Arik Gilbert, Derek Stingley Jr, Ali Gaye, Tyler Shelvin, Kary Vincent Jr, Marcel Brooks, Justin Thomas, T.K McLendon, Trey Palmer, Deion Smith, Dare Rosenthal, Koy Moore, Eric Taylor, "Bugg" Strong, Joseph Evans, Mo Hampton, Landon Jackson, Nate Harris to name some.....and now, questions are beginning to swirl around the future of a variety of top players.
Next, 2019 Tigers Damone Clark and Neil Farrell Jr have already opted out of LSU's bowl game; immediately, many Tiger fans wondered about the future of Ty Davis-Price, Cordale Flott, John Emery Jr, and Jay Ward, many asking "do these 2019 champions want to return for their final year wearing purple and gold?"
At one point during both 2020 and 2021, news of LSU's transfer departures, season ending injuries, Title IX violations or opt outs became so rampant it felt as if the very foundations of the campus shook & bled......
All of the manic chaos culminated in a wide ranging sweep of changes that resembled the end of The Godfather Part II more than your typical ebb and flow off-season moves:
Over the past few weeks, Brian Kelly's new regime cleared out longtime Tiger heroes Corey Raymond, Kevin Faulk, Mickey Joseph, Greg McMahon as well as Tommy Moffitt & his colleague Shelley Mullinex, both legendary 21 year strength and conditioning coaches at LSU.....oh and we almost forgot to mention, Brian Kelly is only Head Coach because Ed Orgeron needed to be ousted after 2 years of ludicrous shenanigans on & off the field.
Under the guidance of Kelly, LSU are now embarking upon a whole new ride, with so many faces from the Tigers' past 5+ years now making their exit.
Tigers such as Neil Farrell Jr, Damone Clark, Glen Logan, Micah Baskerville, Avery Atkins, Austin Deculus, Cam Lewis, Myles Brennan or Jontre Kirklin feel as if they've been at LSU for a decade....
At the same time, many Tiger fans will be saddled with "what ifs" forever concerning Derek Stingley Jr or Eli Ricks being able to play 2 full seasons together, or what kind of interstellar junior year Ja'marr Chase could have had in 2020, or what about Arik Gilbert's complete & utter collapse as a Tiger and at UGA........and, there will always be questions surrounding the domino effect at quarterback:
What if Myles is never injured in 2020 or 2021??
What happens if current Aggie Max Johnson takes over from Brennan in 2020, rather than Auburn transfer QB TJ Finley?
It's quite a change of scenery around Tiger Town:
Corey Raymond's DBU factory closed its doors & turned out the lights as he heads to Florida.....Mickey Joseph's powerhouse WR recruiting produced multiple 1st Round picks or NFL Pro Bowlers and he's already taking Louisiana talent to Lincoln.....Super Bowl winner Greg McMahon's stunning elegance as a special teams coordinator and a heart to heart recruiter was snuffed out.....everything Kevin Faulk represents.....all of it is now gone from Louisiana State University.
Derek Stingley Jr, Damone Clark, Neil Farrell Jr, Andre Anthony and more are soon to be declaring for the NFL Draft.....Max Johnson and his brother are now wearing Texas A&M colors, while Eli Ricks has committed full blasphemy by transferring to Alabama and taking on the #7 jersey.
One of the most universally beloved Tigers in recent times, Eli Ricks spent a year of his LSU tenure with one foot in the transfer portal, but finally after opting out halfway through 2021 for shoulder surgery, Ricks immediately proceeded to do everything possible to sever the ties at LSU, transforming into the ultimate LSU villain overnight.
Because of the highly charged personal tone of Ricks' move to rivals Alabama or Max Johnson's flight to A&M, there's a widespread fear that LSU's best remaining players will be picked off, with constant rumors about the Tigers' top talent, Kayshon Boutte, heading to Alabama, too.
Both Kayshon and his father have gone on record numerous times, talking to both the Jordy Culotta Show and through this very author, denying anything but love & loyalty for their hometown Tigers; even Kayshon's father Embrick Boutte scoffs and mocks the mere suggestion that his son would leave anywhere, let alone for Alabama.
When fans are beginning to even question Tigers of the utmost loyalty, it's a sign that our world has just been turned upside down. Everything you thought was settled at LSU has been flipped....but that doesn't always mean catastrophe....in fact, new champions often rise from the burning embers of difficult change.
It's a delicate moment at LSU........
Change can be grueling, where the familiar has been traded in for something completely alien....developments so foreign to our Tiger minds that many can't see through the dark, especially when hit with one major departure after another all at once.
As most LSU fans shivered in agony over many or all of these changes, there were glimmers of the future's promise:
Brian Kelly brought Frank Wilson back to the fold, leading the Tigers' recruiting team for the first time since 2016; Wilson is a legendary figure both around Louisiana and at a national level, winning Recruiter of the Year honors from three different recruiting sites in three different years (Rivals, NFL.com & Geaux 247), his presence more than making up for Raymond and Joseph's missing local prowess.
As longtime Tigers' special teams coordinator and recruiting genius Greg McMahon was forced into retirement, Kelly asked Brian Polian, his right hand man & recruiting guru at Notre Dame, to follow him down South and fill the same vacated roles.
Though Corey Raymond will be sorely missed, another Kelly colleague out of Notre Dame looks primed to take over his role. Kerry Cooks has signed on with the staff and looks set to be a magnificent coaching hire. After talking to LSU's current defensive backs, as well as a few DB recruits, I am convinced Cooks is a hell of a coach.
Waiting in the wings behind Mickey Joseph for two seasons, Super Bowl winner Carter Sheridan was stuck in an analyst role while holding a decade plus of NFL experience coaching receivers with Sean Peyton's New Orleans Saints. Now that Kelly is on board, the new Head Coach swiftly promoted Sheridan to WRs Coach for the upcoming Texas Bowl Game.
If he stays in the role remains to be seen, still it's a great sign of shrewd management, full knowledge that Kelly is looking throughout the remaining pieces of LSU's staff for hidden gems.
It's been a rough two months, topping off what will possibly be considered the worst 2 years in Louisiana State University's history.......an era where ominous news, high profile departures, and hurricanes were the only things LSU fans could predict....
Although, I'll make one wager here:
I see the light at the end of the tunnel.....
It's a new day at LSU....
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
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