Ed Orgeron gave his players a Christmas gift Thursday: practice at 6 a.m.
“Everybody was on the field at 5:57 ready to go,” the LSU coach said Thursday in an 8 a.m. post-practice news conference with a small group of reporters.
Orgeron gave players the Christmas weekend off — the real gift to his squad — so most could return home to spend the holiday with family. But, first, there were drills at the crack of dawn to cap the opening week of bowl practices.
The 19th-ranked Tigers (7-4) began practicing for the Citrus Bowl last Thursday and conducted a normal game week of drills this week. They’ll resume practices Monday and Tuesday in Baton Rouge before departing later Tuesday for Orlando, Florida.
At the bowl site, they’ll practice Wednesday through Friday, treating next week like they did this one – as a normal game week.
Most of LSU’s game plan against No. 15 Louisville (9-3) is installed, Orgeron said.
“It’s a matter of polishing it up,” Orgeron said. “Couple of tweaks the coaches will put in next week but most of the game plan is in right now.”
In all, LSU will practice 12 days. There is no limit to how many practices a team can hold between its final regular season game and the bowl game. The 15-practice limit is a misconception that likely comes from the 15-practice limit the NCAA imposes on spring drills.
However, during bowl preparation, standard NCAA practice rules apply. Same as the regular season, the rules limit practice and other athletic activities to a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week.
Orgeron is following the schedule of his mentor, former Southern Cal and current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. In 2009, for instance, Carroll practiced the Trojans just 10 times in preparation for the Emerald Bowl.
Meanwhile, during LSU's drills, backup quarterbacks Lindsey Scott and Justin McMillan, mobile passers, have been simulating Louisville’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“Lindsey broke several tackles Tuesday and Wednesday. So did Justin,” Orgeron said. “They did a great job.”
Orgeron called the intensity and focus of practice this week “fantastic.”
“We started the week going through a whole game week of preparation and by the end of practice on Thursday, we wanted to be game ready. I feel like we are,” the coach said.
Orgeron plans to spend Christmas in Mandeville with his family: wife Kelly and three boys Cody, Parker and Tyler.
“We’re probably going to eat too much,” he said.
That memorable gift
A Saints jersey that he received at age 7 was Orgeron’s most memorable Christmas gift.
His parents bought him the jersey a year after the Saints began playing in 1967. Orgeron, a LaRose native, remembers listening on the radio to the Saints’ first game from his front yard.
“We were singing ‘Saints go marching in,’” he said. “Next year, I got a Saints uniform. That was a big deal.”