LSU-Alabama: Grant Delpit

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has a word with LSU safety Grant Delpit (7) during a timeout in the first half of LSU's football game against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday Nov. 9, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. LSU won 46-41. 

A younger Ed Orgeron may have dug into his players after the defensive breakdown that occurred in Mississippi on Saturday, when LSU surrendered its most yardage in a game in nearly two decades in a 58-37 win over Ole Miss.

But Orgeron's 35 years in coaching, including a three-year stint in Oxford where he's admitted he was too brash, taught him he wanted to be a head coach at LSU "that coached from within, not above."

Orgeron said he's learned to "see the feeling of the football team," and when he walked into the locker room at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, he saw a team that was already disappointed enough.

There was no yelling. No scorched earth.

"I think that would have just added fuel to the fire," Orgeron said Monday. "I thought they needed to be picked up a little bit."

So he calmly told his No. 1 LSU Tigers (10-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) that the win was most important although expectations hadn't been met. He could say without saying that the program's undefeated season was still intact, but improvement was necessary to win an SEC championship and a national title after that.

Orgeron knew the players knew it themselves.

Senior defensive end Rashard Lawrence said Monday "it was a pretty embarrassing effort on our part," that the defense "had a tough time adjusting" throughout the game, and the Tigers "will definitely rebound."

And so the players advanced to the fifth stage of grief on their own — acceptance — and the team was clear to move on.

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There was plenty accountability for Ole Miss' 614 total offensive yards, the most surrendered by LSU since it allowed 632 in a 44-15 loss to Florida in 2001.

Orgeron said Monday "anything that goes wrong, put it on my shoulders."

As if anticipating criticism of LSU's $2.5 million per year defensive coordinator, Orgeron said unprovoked in his opening statement, "I believe in Dave Aranda, our coaching staff and our players. We're going to have a great defense. I know that."

It's a similar message Stevens said he received when he met with Orgeron and Dave Aranda and safeties coach Bill Busch: This one's on us. 

"But at the end of the day, it's us, too, because we're the ones out there playing," Stevens said. "It was stuff that we could have prevented ourselves, and as players, we've got to do that."

Just what were the things LSU could have prevented? They've become more clear after film sessions. Orgeron said the coaching staff spent three hours on four plays.

Ole Miss showed new looks within its zone-read spread offense that LSU hadn't seen yet. Orgeron said the Rebels broke out a new run play that created a lot of space on the edge. Compounded with a few players out of position, the play was lethal.

Orgeron said he was the one who called for a blitz on a long run in the first half, when inside linebacker Patrick Queen and outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson chased the running back, while Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee faked the handoff and sprinted free for a 46-yard touchdown.

"We tried to be a little too aggressive," Orgeron said.

The LSU secondary also came under fire for surrendering a late 55-yard touchdown pass, in which safety Grant Delpit appeared to slip in pursuit of the receiver.

Orgeron said Delpit has been playing through an ankle injury.

Orgeron didn't disclose the details of Delpit's ankle injury, which the 6-foot-3, 203-pound junior suffered against Auburn, but he said the ankle is "very sore."

Delpit practiced just once in the week leading up to LSU's No. 2-vs.-No. 3 game against Alabama, and Orgeron said Monday "I don't know if any players would have played."

Delpit was a unanimous All-American last season, and Orgeron said his play has been limited by the injury.

"Making tackles in open space hurts sometimes because he can't bend or run like he wants to," Orgeron said.

LSU's nickel safety, Kary Vincent, was tapped to be Delpit's replacement in the Alabama game, if necessary, and Vincent himself suffered an injury against the Crimson Tide that prevented him from starting in the Ole Miss game.

True freshman Cordale Flott started in Vincent's place, and Orgeron said they had to play Vincent in spots because "we were very thin back there."

The LSU secondary has taken significant depth hits this season.

Former defensive back Kelvin Joseph, who played in 11 games in 2018, transferred to Kentucky in August, and starting free safety Todd Harris suffered a season-ending knee injury against Northwestern State. Then, on Oct. 3, Kenan Jones entered the NCAA transfer portal after playing in two games.

The losses hit LSU's depth enough that Orgeron said he considered "moving a couple receivers over to safety."

Orgeron wouldn't say which receivers, but "it wasn't No. 1 (Ja'Marr Chase), I promise you that."

Delpit will get "a couple days off this week," Orgeron said, who added "hopefully" the safety can return for LSU's game against Arkansas at Tiger Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday.

If LSU wins, the Tigers will clinch their first SEC Western Division title since 2011 and play Georgia in the league championship game on Dec. 7 in Atlanta.

Arkansas has beaten one SEC opponent in its last three seasons, and at 2-8, former Razorbacks coach Chad Morris was fired after the team lost 45-19 to Western Kentucky.

Will Delpit sit this one out to recover?

"If Grant needs rest this weekend, we'll give him rest," Orgeron said.

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