Tiger Contenders: LSU Is Aiming For A Playoff Berth In 2019
By Lyles Martin
How many times have LSU fans heard this: “The Tigers are going to have a new-look, exciting offense with an improved passing game.” Obviously, that’s been heard countless times over the last several years.
Let’s start with new offensive coordinators: Gary Crowton, 2007 through 2010, Greg Studrawa, 2011 through 2012 and Cam Cameron, 2013 through 2015. Steve Ensminger served as interim offensive coordinator in 2016 after Cameron and head coach Les Miles were fired last September after the Auburn loss. There was not much consistent offensive production with any of these coordinators.
Everyone thought Coach Orgeron made a significant change when he brought in Matt Canada and his motion offense in 2017. But that was short-lived. Canada never could implement his system, which led to a lot of flash and dash without much substance. Needless to say Orgeron and Canada had their differences, which ultimately led to Canada’s firing in January, 2018.
With the exception of 2013, when the Tigers had a strong-armed Zach Mettenberger throwing for 3,082 yards, and wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr., giving LSU two 1,000-yard receivers for the first time in school history, the claims of a new and improved offense haven’t really lived up to all the hype and hyperbole.
Will things change this season? Bébé Orgeron coaxed Joe Brady away from the New Orleans Saints. He will now serve as LSU’s passing game coordinator. Brady has integrated elements of the Saints’ potent passing game into LSU’s playbook while also utilizing the run-pass option (RPO) offense he learned as a graduate assistant under former Penn State offensive coordinator and now Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead, the Godfather of the RPO.
Why did he leave the Saints to join LSU? According to Brady, “I saw LSU as an elite opportunity. I know LSU is an elite program. The receiver unit at LSU is … it’s hard to find a better unit to coach, both from a historic standpoint and the group I’m coaching right now. So I thought having an opportunity to put a stamp on the offense to help take LSU to the next level from an offensive perspective was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
When asked how this offense would be different from those of past seasons, Brady said, “You’re going to see an up-tempo offense that’s going to get our speed in space. That is different than things I’ve seen in the past. When you’re an up-tempo offense that gets your speed in space, good things are going to happen. You can get the best players on the field with the ball in their hands. I think then you’re sitting back and enjoying what you’re watching. So when I say get your popcorn ready, when you’re sitting there enjoying a movie and everything’s good, I think that’s what you’re going to be doing when you see our offense this fall.”
One thing that is certain about offense — quarterback Joe Burrow returns as the starter in his senior year. The Tigers have rallied around Burrow as a team leader who exudes a tough competitiveness and carries a high confidence level in all of his actions. His toughness has permeated throughout the offense.
In last season’s Fiesta Bowl, one play characterized his demeanor. Burrow was blindsided by the UCF’s Joey Connors after throwing an interception. A dazed Burrow got off the ground to throw for a career-best 394 yards and four touchdowns in a 40-32 win.
There’s no one Orgeron would rather have to break in the new offensive concepts than Joe Burrow. At the SEC Media Days, Orgeron said, “I do believe that Joe, if we let him, would run into a brick wall no matter what it took. He’s that tough. He has a linebacker mentality. We are going to use him on quarterback runs, quarterback draws; but we’re going to be careful how many times we run him again.
“This is a system that Joe’s used to. So he fits into it. The quarterback runs, the checks at the line of scrimmage — this is the stuff that he ran at Ohio State. So he was very, very quick to learn it. Loved it. I think he’s gonna do well.”
Burrow has been named to the watch list for the Manning Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Davey O’Brien Award and Maxwell Award.
Yes, LSU will run the spread, throw the ball to the tight end, throw it over the middle, and run a five-receiver set with a running back in that set, which means you’re only protecting with five. That means getting it out of the quarterback’s hand quickly. But it also means creating an effective pocket.
“We’ve got to win the one-on-ones,” said Coach O.
Orgeron said he wants backup quarterback Myles Brennan to take significant reps this year and act like he’s the starter. “Significant reps” suggests that Brennan will see more playing time this season than last year. That’s significant on a variety of fronts. For starters, obviously it’s smart for Orgeron to say that. He doesn’t want Brennan to enter the transfer portal. LSU needs quarterback depth, and would prefer to keep as much as possible with Burrow entering his final year of eligibility.
Longtime head coach at Southern Cal John Robinson, who is now on the Tigers’ staff as senior consultant to Ed Orgeron, said during LSU’s second preseason game that the young quarterback is getting better and better. “He’s getting more and more confident in this offense. He’s staying in the pocket longer and his reads are better.” Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger are extremely pleased with Brennan’s progress. “We have two quarterbacks who can go in the game right now and win for us.”
True freshman Peter Parrish will back up Brennan. Although he’s shown talent as a dual option QB, coach Orgeron said, “He’s not ready yet.”
The Running Game
Leading rusher Nick Brossette is gone, but backup Clyde-Edwards Helaire returns to bolster the running game. And LSU will run the ball. Contrary to the idea of a new passing offense, the Tigers will continue to pound the ball and establish the run to set up the pass.
On the basis of pure talent, LSU should be better in 2019 thanks to Helaire and incoming freshmen John Emery, Jr., the country’s second-ranked running back in last year’s class, and four-star prospect Tyrion Davis-Price from Southern Lab. Chris Curry will add depth, as will Lanard Fournette. Curry had limited carries during his redshirt season, but he had a great spring and has shown signs that he can be used as a short-yardage specialist. Fournette should provide a running back receiver option.
Fullback Tory Carter returns. Carter was one of the most versatile players from last year’s squad, playing as a fullback, as well as tight end. The Tigers seemed to feed off Carter’s raucous attitude. “Wildman 2.0” played in a disappearing position in college football, particularly with spread offenses.
Can LSU find consistency in their talented wide receiver corps? The passing game struggled over the first half of the season, with too many dropped passes and poor route running, with receivers unable to break free of the coverage. By the end of the year, multiple receivers improved and showcased their talents.
Justin Jefferson became Joe Burrow’s go-to wide-out in 2018. Jefferson hauled in 54 catches for 875 yards and six touchdowns. Jefferson was named to the preseason Biletnikoff watch list. Former Tiger All-American Josh Reed won the award following his record-setting season in 2001.
Sophomore Ja’Marr Chase had a breakout game in last season’s Fiesta Bowl, in which he led the Tigers with six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. He could be a 1,000-yard receiver this season.
Five-star sophomore Terrace Marshall, Jr., had 12 catches for 192 yards while averaging over 16 yards per catch during the season. He’s projected to be a starter in 2019. He seems to have fully recovered from leg and ankle injuries suffered during his senior year in high school.
“We’re going to kill it on offense, said Marshall. “Can’t wait to see what we do. We’re just ready to showcase. I love it, man. I love it. It’s spread out wide. Everybody can get the ball. Everybody can eat.”
Senior Derrick Dillion has had his moments, but has never been able to consistently sustain success on the field. Dillion had 22 receptions for 307 yards and two TDs last fall. He missed spring practice while he recovered from offseason hip surgery.
Senior Dee Anderson was a no-show in preseason camp. He was suspended from all team activities until he passes a conditioning test. Anderson caught 20 balls for 274 yards and a touchdown as a junior. How does a senior, with a chance to go to the NFL, not be in playing condition to start camp? The kid can’t get out of his own way. The coaching staff has been silent regarding his status. 104.5 ESPN Baton Rouge’s Jordy Culotta said, “This is pure speculation, but I think they’ve just kind of had it with him.”
Redshirt freshman JaRay Jenkins should be a deep threat, along with speedsters Jontre Kirkland and Racey McMath. “I’m excited about Racey McMath,” said Orgeron. “He’s catching the ball. He’s a big and strong receiver.”
The five top receivers are back, including 6-foot, 7-inch, 232-pound Stephen Sullivan, who finished second on the team with 23 catches for 363 yards and two scores. This season, Sullivan has shifted to tight end. He’s a good deep-threat tight end who can hit. Brady said he will be used in much the same way the Saints used Jimmy Graham.
Thaddeus Moss (yes, Randy’s kid), a tight end, is looking forward to a breakout 2019 year. Moss said he (as well as the other tight ends) would be flexed out as a straight-up receiver trying to force a mismatch.
Moss, along with Jamal Pettigrew, sat out last year due to injury. “Thaddeus Moss is making a push to be considered a starter,” according to Orgeron.
Pettigrew is getting healthy again. He continues to work his way back into the lineup after a summer injury.
Count on LSU using a heavy rotation of receivers scattered across the field. Brady is coaching the group to be able to read defensive coverages during plays, which will determine the way a route is run. Wide-outs need to be able to notice when they’re defended by a man or zone coverage, or if a corner is pressing them tightly on the line of scrimmage.
“We’ve put more effort into reading defenses than we did last year,” said Jefferson. “With this offense, we kind of have to read the defenses in order to run our different routes and get open in space.”
Burrow must manage the game and be a big time quarterback and take what the defense gives him. Also important — Burrow needs to be on the same page an his receivers. An inevitable risk comes when a receiver runs one way when Burrow is anticipating he will go another.
Burrow has an NFL-potential receiving corps to work with. They must show improvement over last season and make those game-changing catches that could make a difference in winning or losing close games. The growing pains from 2018 are behind them. It’s time to step up and be held accountable. Struggles with catching the ball with everyone suffering from the dropsies can’t take place this season if the Tigers want to make a legitimate run for a playoff spot.
Teams that have qualified for the College Football Playoffs have averaged 39.4 points, 483.3 yards, and 6.8 touchdowns. Teams that have won a national championship have averaged 40.1 points, 482.2 yards and 7.3 offensive touchdowns a game. Orgeron realizes that if the Tigers are serious about winning another national championship, they must average almost 40 points per game.
Most coaches will tell you the game is won on the offensive and defensive lines. The Tigers’ O line struggled last season, which seems to be a common theme for LSU football.
LSU finished second-to-last in the SEC in sacks. They allowed way too many. LSU was tied for 106th nationally with 35 total sacks allowed; and the team ranked 110th with 89 tackles for a loss.
The Tiger front had difficulty in getting a strong push in short yardage situations. They continued to struggle late in games when they were trying to run down the clock. It was three downs and punt. This stat said it all — they allowed the most negative plays of any LSU front since 2009.
That being said, this year’s group has a nucleus of veteran talent. Four starters return, beginning with 6-foot, 5-inch, 305-pound junior tackle Saahdiq Charles on the left side and 6-foot, 7-inch, 321-pound Austin Deculus on the right side. Upperclassman 6-foot, 7-inch, 323-pound Badara Traore will also get reps at both the right and left tackle. “I think he’s one of the most improved players on the team,” said Orgeron. “He can go in at tackle or guard. He’s the next man up right now.”
Guard is the main question mark, at least on the left side. The right side is solid with 6-feet, 3-inch, 332-pound Damien Lewis. The left guard spot is open, with 6-foot, 4-inch, 335-pound senior Adrian Magee and 6-foot, 4-inch, 336-pound sophomore Chasen Hines battling it out. Magee has played both guard and tackle. Orgeron indicated that Magee is in the lead for the left guard spot at this point.
Lewis has missed workouts with an ankle injury. Hines has been in and out of practice, still recovering from offseason knee surgery. Donavaughn Campbell has practiced in Lewis’ place at right guard.
A true freshman, 6-foot, 5-inch, 325-pound Thomas Perry of Teurlings Catholic was projected as a backup at offensive tackle, but has limited practice time due to an apparent serious injury in fall camp. He is likely to be a redshirt.
Running second team are redshirt freshmen Cameron Wire at right tackle and Dare Rosenthal at left tackle.
Junior Lloyd Cushenberry III, No. 18, the 6-foot, 4-inch, 309-pounder, returns at center. Cushenberry was one of only two offensive linemen — the other being guard Damien Lewis — to start every game for the Tigers in 2018. Cushenberry has been selected to the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which is presented annually to the best center in college football.
Finding a backup center will be imperative. Chasen Hines figures to be a candidate to relieve Cushenberry. And incoming freshman 6-foot, 4-inch, 245-pound Charles Turner has been playing as a second teamer during preseason camp.
Fall camp injuries have caused significant shuffling on the offensive line. Five-star freshman Kardell Thomas could miss the entire year with an ankle injury. Since fall camp began, LSU has practiced with just 11 of its 17 offensive linemen.
Jakori Savage may move from defense back to the offensive line where he played last season. The move would add depth to a thin position. “We talked about that,” Orgeron said. “We’re not there yet, but that could happen.”
In the preseason, the offensive line’s injuries somewhat resemble those the offensive line had to deal with during the 2018 season, when it took LSU seven games to field the same starting rotation in back-to-back games.
At some point, this will have an effect on the offense. The line has to establish chemistry and learn how to gel. And that comes from practicing day in and day out. You’ve got to be able to work alongside your teammates. For LSU not to have reps from their starters throughout the entire preseason is not a good thing. Not having preseason game experience as one unit will take its toll early in the year, which makes the Texas contest look even harder.
There is little doubt that the line is the key to the offense’s success. Questions that must be answered — can they protect Joe Burrow from an SEC pass rush? Can they stay away from too many third and longs? Can they avoid those costly penalties, such as holding and false starts? Are they smart enough to understand their blocking assignments in a new offensive scheme?
There can be no more excuses from a veteran group with adequate depth. Now the offensive line needs to do its part. LSU’s offense will go as far as the offensive line takes them.
“Offensive line, we’ve got to come through, man,” Orgeron said. “We’ve got to come through. This game is won up front. It’s about the big men.
“The focus in camp was the line of scrimmage and getting better on the line of scrimmage. Line of scrimmage discipline, eliminate pre-snap penalties, pass protection and run blocking. We have to develop a great offensive line.”
LSU was outgained 576-to-196 yards during a butt-kicking 29-0 loss to Alabama last season — a direct reflection of getting smashed in the mouth on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Besides center Cushenberry and right guard Lewis, Orgeron said the other starters and substitutes on the line need to get better and be more consistent.
This is not a great offensive line; certainly not anywhere near as great as 2003’s offensive line of Andrew Whitworth, Stephen Peterman and Rudy Niswanger. But it can be a decent to a very good line, or at least a solid one.
Dave Aranda, college football’s highest-paid assistant at $2.5 million, which was more than over 70 FBS head coaches made in 2018, is beginning his fourth season as LSU’s defensive coordinator. Aranda was ranked the No. 1 coordinator in the Southeastern Conference by the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Yes, his units are blessed with loads of NFL talent, but his system capitalizes on all that speed.
Last season, it was considered a subpar defense. No doubt there was an erosion of the suffocating defensive numbers LSU posted in its first two seasons under “The Professor.” Yards allowed were up. Points were up. Opponents averaged over 339 yards and 22 points per game. The Tigers were ranked fifth in total defense in the SEC and 25th nationally.
“We were bending too much; still not allowing a lot of points, but allowing too many yards,” Aranda said. “I take responsibility for all of it.”
“We gave up 167 yards rushing per game,” according to head coach Orgeron. “That’s not championship football. That’s not LSU football. So we have to stop the run. There’s no question we need to get better in tackling, gap fits, schemes, tackles for losses — whatever it may take to stop the run.”
Aranda has never had a defense at LSU finish No. 1 in the SEC in any category. It is obvious that he has not come close to putting up the numbers at LSU that he did in his previous stop at Wisconsin, despite a wealth of talent.
There are cynics out there who will say Aranda has not earned his keep. The fact is, he’s not a player and for sure not a miracle worker. Tiger followers hope that he earns all of his money this year.
So goes the LSU defense for 2019.
It will be hard to replace the departed Devin White and Greedy Williams. White, an all-time LSU fan favorite and 2019 Male Corbett Award winner cannot be replaced. But other great players have left and the team finds a way to survive.
Seven of the nine top tacklers are returning. LSU seems to be loaded on the line after getting through a full season of injuries. The Tigers return three starters.
Orgeron’s biggest coup was getting 6-foot, 3-inch, 317-pound Rashard Lawrence to return for his senior year. Lawrence, the Fiesta Bowl defensive MVP, finished the season with 54 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks. Lawrence has been named to the 2019 Ted Hendricks Award watch list, which honors the top defensive end in college football.
Breiden Fehoko is back in the rotation after returning from off-season surgery to repair a biceps tear.
“We have our rotation,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to attack up front and make more plays in the backfield.”
Joining Lawrence and Fehoko up front will be Glen Logan. Logan, who started in 10 games in 2018, recorded five tackles for a loss and four sacks.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Jarrell Cherry has been one of the stories during the offseason. His body has seen a major transformation since his arrival in Baton Rouge. He’s added 40 pounds and is up to 264. The real story is he has been carrying a backpack filled with bricks to build up his strength, stamina and weight. He carries his backpack all over campus. He’s drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff for his intensity in the spring.
“Jarrell’s carrying bricks every day to school in his backpack,” Fehoko said. “He’s crazy, man.” Carrying the bricks, paired with his normal workout routine, has made Cherry “strong as a rock,” according to Fehoko.
Neil Farrell and Tyler Shelvin were two young guys who developed a great deal last year. Shelvin reportedly lost weight during the offseason and is down to 346 pounds. Expect Shelvin to start at nose tackle with Farrell, who is recovering from a broken ankle. Shelvin will get more game reps at defensive tackle in 2019. “He still needs to get in shape,” said Oregon. “He’s been bothered by a nagging knee injury.”
LSU has massive 6-foot, 4-inch, 353-pound, 4-star freshman Siaki “Apu” Ika from Salt Lake City pushing for starting time at defensive tackle. Ika has been somewhat limited in practice with a minor injury.
Ika is competing with Shelvin for playing time. Orgeron considers them both to be starters and plans on rotating them in and out of the game.
Freshman Joseph Evans, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 288-pound defensive lineman from Haynesville is getting an opportunity at nose tackle. “Joe Evans is coming along. He showed that he can play and go in there,” said Orgeron. “He can play at nose tackle [or] defensive end.”
“Front-wise, we’re letting the front do more than what it’s done,” Aranda said. “They’re on edges more. They’re attacking the line of scrimmage more. And so I’ve talked to Breiden Fehoko and Rashard Lawrence about that. They’ve asked for that for a while.”
There’s no replacement for what Devin White brought to the linebacking corps. But you can count on Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen to help fill the void. Phillips is back after coming up with 87 stops despite a shoulder injury. Queen had a great spring and put a grip on the spot after Phillips was dinged up.
And with 6-foot, 2-inch, 238-pound senior Michael Divinity returning on the inside, LSU will be set for its starters. Divinity’s move inside strengthens the middle. But expect to see him and Queen playing on the edge as well as inside.
Damone Clark, the 6-foot, 4-inch, 238-pound sophomore from Southern Lab is pushing Phillips and Queen for the starting job next to Divinity. “He’s really an elite athlete,” Orgeron said. “He can run. He’s always first in sprints. In the weight room, he lifts everything you put in front of him. He just had to learn to play stack linebacker and diagnose and be in the right gap at the right time. He’s doing that now. He can tackle in space.”
Sophomore 6-foot, 2-inch, 233-pound Micah Baskerville will be a sub behind Clark.
Maybe the most important addition of all will be the return of outside linebacker No. 18 K’Lavon Chaisson. Orgeron called Chaisson LSU’s best pass rusher even after he missed essentially all of 2018 with a torn ACL. Aranda plans to use Chiasson as much as possible as a rusher, while limiting how much he has to drop back into coverage.
Juniors Andre Anthony and Ray Thornton should give Chaisson support on the outside.
For 2019, the Tigers’ defense will employ “The Green Team.” That’s Orgeron’s name for the defensive package reserved for LSU’s top four pass rushers; the platoon of sack-master specialists that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda often deploys in third-and-long. It’s the speedy, energized unit named after a green traffic light — go.
The strength of the defense could very well be DBU’s (Defensive Back University’s) “No Fly Zone.” LSU has the two best defensive backs in all of college football in All-American safety Grant Delpit and five-star corner pre-season All American Kristian Fulton.
Since 2000, Delpit, one of only 40 players in the country named to the preseason Walter Camp Award watch list, is the only player with a five-sack, five-interception season who has also forced and recovered a fumble. He stuffs the run and can even rush the passer. He has the size to play in the box, the quickness to cover slot receivers, and the speed to play centerfield. He’s the total safety package.
Hopefully, Fulton will be fully recovered from an ankle surgery he suffered in the win over Arkansas last season. He’s purely physical and plays a tight man-to-man cover. Expect him and Delpit to be high draft picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
When K’Lavon Chaisson went down with a torn ACL at the beginning of the 2018 season, Aranda had to create a new position to build a pass rush. So, he invented the “Quarter” — a safety playing closer to the line of scrimmage; actually a glorified linebacker. It was Jacoby Stevens who proved himself a perfect fit for the position.
In the final three games of the season, Stevens finished with 27 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 1 interception and 7 run stops. The 6-foot, 2-inch, 225-pound DB returns for his junior season.
Juniors Eric Monroe and Todd Harris, Jr., are excellent coverage DBs. Expect both to see plenty of action. Harris has established himself as the third safety behind Delpit and Stevens. “Todd Harris is really doing good,” according to Coach O. “He’s really shown that he’s a starter for us.”
Kary Vincent, Jr. will come in to play the slot corner in the nickel package. Vincent posted a 10.07 in the 100-meter dash to win the LSU Invitational this spring. He had 31 tackles, one sack, six passes deflected and one interception during the 2018 season. He’s nothing but speed and more speed.
Sophomore Cameron Lewis of Monroe will back up Vincent on the second team.
The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect and No. 1 ranked cornerback in 2019, Derek Stingley, Jr., will start at the other corner opposite Fulton. Stingley was an early enrollee. He practiced with the team during the Fiesta Bowl practices and in the spring. He’s another future NFL star like his grandfather, the late Darryl Stingley of the New England Patriots.
Depth at cornerback is still a concern. The Tigers will have to fill the gap with true freshmen Cordale Flott, Raydarious Jones, Maurice Hampton and Jay Ward. Flott is the player Orgeron circled as the next man up.
Every LSU defensive back takes pride in man-to-man coverage, according to Vincent. No SEC defense played more Cover 1 snaps over the past three seasons than LSU (139), and none played fewer Cover 2 snaps than LSU (8).
In the end, it all starts with Aranda, who is taking what he’s been given — a defense full of speed, versatility and aggressive athletes — and an evolving philosophy. He’s mixing and matching; experimenting with his approach to change the results.
Cade York is being thrown into the fire. Pressure? What pressure? He’s coming into the place where the player who came up with the greatest kicking season in LSU history was a star last year.
All Cole Tracy did was connect on 29-of-33 field goals with four against Miami, a game-winner against Auburn, all four of his attempts in the Fiesta Bowl, as well as all 42 extra points he attempted.
York has all the talent to be fantastic. In the class of 2019, York is rated as the nation’s No. 1 kicker by Rivals and No. 2 by ESPN and Kohl’s Kicking Camps.
With Tracy leaving after his one and only season at LSU, the Tigers need a kicker who is not afraid of filling some exceptionally big cleats. York said he is ready for the challenge.
It’s York’s job to win even though there will be competition in fall camp from junior Connor Culp. To say the least, that’s not a good sign, as Culp struggled mightily with field goals and extra points during the 2017 season.
Sophomore Avery Atkins, a walk-on, was quite a find last season as the Tigers kickoff specialist, booming the ball out of the end zone an NCAA-best 90 per cent of the time. Atkins practiced kicking field goals during the spring.
Orgeron said Atkins has also been learning to punt and will be placed on scholarship for the 2019 season.
Punter Zach Von Rosenberg, the former minor-league pitcher and Barbe star, and one of the oldest players in college football (29 in September), developed into a kicker who could change the field position with his strong leg. Von Rosenberg was named to the preseason Ray Guy Award watch list, which honors the top college punter in the country. He averaged 45.7 yards per punt in 2018.
Kickoff returns will probably stay with Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Tigers like running backs to handle kickoff duties. He showed good judgement last season, particularly since touchbacks and fair catches have come out to the 25.
Stingley has won the punt returning job. Having scored 15 touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns in high school, he could take on all return duties.
LSU signed one of the best classes in the nation, even though they were No. 4 in the SEC. Yes, the incoming class is loaded with talent. But which signees can have an instant impact for LSU in 2019?
As mentioned previously, Prosper, Texas, native Cade York should have an immediate impact as an LSU kicker. “Cade is a more polished kicker at a younger age than Cole (Tracy),” Orgeron said. “But obviously he has to prove it in front of the crowd.”
The LSU defensive backfield is loaded, but incoming freshman Maurice Hampton should see playing time back at the corner. Hampton’s 6-foot, 1-inch and 205 pounds gives him plus-size and should help him in the SEC against aggressive receivers. He’ll be limited in camp with a broken hamate bone in his right wrist. He’ll join the Tiger baseball team in the spring.
Incoming freshman John Emery, Jr., out of Destrehan could be a future star in the backfield. Emery has excellent field vision and elusiveness that reminds you of Leonard Fournette. The Tigers had only 13 runs of 20 yards or more in 2018. That was 97th in the country. This freshman should have a chance to break those long runs of 40 or 50 yards or more.
Siaki “Apu” Ika has the strength and size to cause problems for every offensive lineman. He screams double-team just by how wide he is. He can clog running lanes and get an impressive push right off the snap. Oh yeah, he’s an early enrollee. So his spring experience will help.
The No. 1 prospect in the nation will start in the secondary for the Tigers — Derek Stingley, Jr. He’s 6-foot, 1-inch and 188 pounds of pure athlete. The Baton Rouge Dunham School recruit was named the Gatorade Louisiana Player of the Year in 2018. According to safety Grant Delpit, “He’s better as a freshman than I was. He’s so big, but his footwork is so quick at the same time. He’s just a freak, man.”
The Tigers were counting on Southern Labs’ 6-foot, 3-inch, 326-pound Kardell Thomas to get plenty of playing time at left guard. However, Thomas suffered a severe ankle injury requiring surgery at the end of fall camp. Thomas put in extra work over the last six months to get his body weight down. He will miss two to three months and looks like a redshirt candidate.
Freshman Anthony Bradford, a 6-foot, 7-inch, 355-pound tackle from Muskegon, Mich., is a player Coach O says could have immediate impact. “We think Anthony Bradford has elite talent [and] strength. We went over the things he did this summer with Tommy Moffitt. We’re looking forward to him having an excellent camp.”
Bradford has moved from RT to battle for playing time at the guard spots. “He’s more suited for guard right now,” said Orgeon.
At 6 feet, 1 inch, 235 pounds, Tyrion Davis-Price has the size, power and speed to give LSU an inside runner who can help the Tigers in those short yardage situations — an area that was a real problem last year. He runs a 10.8 100 meters. He’s the big back who can keep drives alive and move the pile.
Highly rated prospect Marcel Brooks of Flower Mound, Texas, is dangerous in backside pursuit and a powerful striker. He’s a dynamic athlete who shows outstanding playmaking ability on both sides of the ball. He explodes off the edge and closes fast. He will need to bulk up and get stronger to combat college linemen. Brooks was ranked nationally as the 32nd best player in the country. He’s expected to play a role similar to that of Grant Delpit.
Elite four-star wide receivers Trey Palmer of Kentwood and Devonta Lee of Amite will add depth to an already talented receiver corps.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Palmer was rated as the seventh best player in Louisiana and the 23rd best wide receiver in the 2019 class. This kid will be the fastest receiver on the roster. He was a state champion in the 100 and 200 meters.
Lee, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 215-pound athlete, was one of the most coveted recruits in the country. He can play as a wide receiver and safety. 247 Sports ranked Lee the No. 8 athlete in the country. He has blazing speed. He should be able to take advantage of the man-to-man coverage. Lee has made crazy catches during preseason camp by jumping up and over defensive backs.
LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase talked about what Palmer and Lee bring to the wide-outs: “We’ve seen a lot of speed from Trey getting down the field. But Devonta needs to work on his plays a little more. Once he gets down and he’s comfortable, he’ll start to play a little faster.”
LSU won the recruiting battle between Alabama and Texas A&M for the No. 1 ranked prospect in Louisiana in 2020 with the commitment of University High’s Jaquelin Roy. He was ranked the No. 5 defensive tackle in the country and No. 46 overall. Roy helps address a big need that results from the loss of Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko. At 6 feet, 4 inches, 290 pounds, Roy is physically capable of contributing early in the season.
Just when you thought LSU’s hidden player problems would not surface for the season opener, they reared their ugly head on game day prior to the start of the Georgia Southern contest.
Junior left tackle Saadhiq Charles and middle linebacker Michael Divinity did not play during LSU’s 55-to-3 win. Both are returning starters and top players who were practicing with the first team throughout preseason camp. Speculation was that both players were disciplined for team rules violations or compliance issues.
Orgeron did not provide reasons for the two players not playing, except to say, “We handle all those things in house.”
Then there’s this story … Perhaps relief may come to LSU’s offensive line in the person of former Tiger starter guard Ed Ingram in early October. Ingram was suspended for all of the 2018 season, although he is still listed on the LSU roster. He has been awaiting trial for an alleged sexual assault in August, 2017.
The red-shirt sophomore from Desoto, Texas, plans on enrolling in the fall semester.
A Dallas-based attorney representing Ingram declared that his client is not guilty of the allegations that stem from his arrest on two counts of sexual assault in Dallas County, Texas. Attorney Mike Howard said, “Edward is not guilty and is looking forward to his day in court. In this day and age it’s so important to let all the facts come out before making judgements. Edward looks forward to those facts coming out in court and trusts the criminal justice system will get to the truth of the matter.”
A criminal trial date is scheduled for Sept. 16, according to the District Attorney’s office in Dallas.
“I think that maybe, maybe, if things go right, we may get him at some part of the season,” said Orgeron.
Ingram, who is 6 feet, 4 inches, 314 pounds, started 12 games at right guard and played in 13 for LSU in 2017 as a true freshman.
How long it will take Ingram to return to playing shape, if he does return, is certainly questionable.
It’s interesting to note that the trial date set by the Texas Judicial System comes a week after LSU plays Texas in Austin on Saturday, Sept. 7 in the pivotal game of the year.
There is a huge amount of excitement in this 2019 team, and a huge amount of optimism in Tiger Nation. We can never know about the days to come. But we think about them anyway.
It’s been 12 years since LSU delivered the BCS National Championship to the state of Louisiana.
Last year’s bowl win, in the team’s 19th consecutive bowl game, against the University of Central Florida in particular, meant a lot. It got LSU to 10 wins for the first time since 2013, and up to No. 6 in the final poll. It’s one of the big reasons there are big expectations for the Tigers in 2019.
LSU comes in at No. 6 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll and the AP Poll. The Tigers are ranked in the top 25 for the 19th straight year.
Let’s cautiously say this could be a special year in Baton Rouge. Even if they leave Tuscaloosa with a loss — assuming it’s their only one, which is probably highly unlikely — they could still be in the playoff contention conversation.
Oddsmakers know LSU is extremely talented and have placed the Tigers at 6-to-1 odds to make the playoffs.
Since the 2011 National Championship appearance, the Tigers have not been a major player on the national level. Beginning with the 2012 season, LSU has lost at least three games a season, and has reached only one traditional New Year’s Day bowl, which was the Fiesta Bowl last season. The Tigers have not finished higher than third in the SEC West over the last six seasons.
LSU has never made the four-team College Football Playoffs that began in 2014.
Is 2019 going to be the year that changes things?
There does seem to be a concern that the Tigers have been going down with a rash of camp injuries at an alarming rate. Injuries have always figured into the overall success of the team.
However, this team is still full of talent, passion and potential — with an emphasis on potential. We’ve heard it before — plenty of TP&P.
Negative plays and self-inflicted wounds hurt the most. LSU football has a long history of these woes, and it will happen again this year. Count on it. Mistakes will be made and it’s something this team will need to overcome. Hold your breath and hope that in the end, they find a way to win.
With that said, here’s a message to the team from former All-American UGA running back Tim Worley;
“Compete in every game. No exceptions. Ever. Win games you’re supposed to win. That means all of them. Enough with the trying hard crap. You’re at LSU to win. Just do it.
“Get off social media before and after ball games, and limit your time on it during the season. Shut your mouth. Shut your mouth. Shut … your … mouth … Say what you have to say with 60 minutes of dominant football.
“Stop your whining and commit to where you are. That’s at LSU. Your job is to play like your life depended on it. It’s a privilege to be on scholarship and receive a paid education. Take the responsibility that comes with playing NCAA , and especially SEC Football.
“Big TEAM; little me.”
LSU has won eight games or better every year since 2000, which ties the team with Oklahoma for the longest current streak among Power 5 schools. During that time span, LSU has won 10 or more games 10 times; won two national championships; won four SEC titles; finished in the Top 10 eight times; and finished sub-.500 in SEC play just once. LSU is among the best in the nation since 2000 with 186 wins.
Tiger fans expect this trend to continue, with optimistic hopes that this season brings a chance for another championship.
The 58-year-old Bébé Orgeron begins his third full season as Tigers head coach. The old-school Larose-Cut Off Tiger’s adaptability and risk-taking have put him in a position to stick around longer than most people expected. It was not long ago he was definitely on the hot seat. How far he can take this team this season is anybody’s guess.
As was stated earlier, LSU has talent. Experience and new schemes — LSU has those, too. It seems that the team has “Good Vibrations” (thank you, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys) that will guide a consensus Top 10 team through what may be the most anticipated season since 2011. Leadership, certainly an intangible, will emerge in the players who will step into the role that Devin White filled last season.
Its LSU’s job to prove there is reason for optimism. Now all they have to do is deliver. As Bébé would say, “Geaux Tigers.”
In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a heartfelt congratulations to the Louisiana Little League baseball team from River Ridge’s Eastbank All-Stars. These 11-to-12-year-old kids captured the 2019 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn., with a dominating 8-to-0 win over the International Champion Curacao. The historic title win is not only the first in Louisiana’s Little League baseball history, but also marks the farthest a team from the state has advanced in the tournament. It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest achievements of all time in Louisiana sports history.