HOOVER, Ala. — Ed Orgeron walked into the lobby at the Wynfrey Hotel on Monday afternoon toward a group of energetic LSU fans. They cheered for the coach, pushing helmets and shirts and footballs in his direction.
“Geaux Tigers,” Orgeron said.
About a minute later, Orgeron picked up a boy. He lifted him over a barrier and held the boy for a photograph. Orgeron smiled, his face tan after a recent vacation. He had arrived at Southeastern Conference Media Days. It marked 40 days until football season.
1. COACH O IS FULL GO
The vibe surrounding Orgeron felt positive throughout the day. After a 10-win season that ended in a victory at the Fiesta Bowl, there are high expectations on the LSU football team. Orgeron embraced them.
“Last year there was negativity," Orgeron said. "Now this year they say we're going to have a really good football team. I do believe we're going to have a really good football team, but we have to get back to work."
As Orgeron made his stops — radio row, the SEC Network set, the podium in a large ballroom — he answered many of the same questions in various forms. He discussed the hiring of Joe Brady, the passing game coordinator who helped install a spread offense. He reiterated his confidence in the secondary, once again calling it the best group he has ever coached and that safety Grant Delpit is “the best defensive player in the country.”
HOOVER, Ala. — Grant Delpit arrived at Southeastern Conference media days with a day-old haircut, a blue suit and an LSU pin on his lapel.
Orgeron smiled often on Monday. When LSU came to this event last year in Atlanta, his name appeared on projected hot seats. He didn’t have a quarterback. He had changed offensive coordinators. The Tigers were picked to finish near the bottom of the conference.
Instead, LSU finished second in the SEC West.
“Last year was a pivotal year for us,” Orgeron said. “We proved that we could win. Having a 10-win season is good. It's not great. It puts us in position to take the next step at LSU, which LSU deserves, and I understand that.”
Three players accompanied Orgeron at media days: Delpit, quarterback Joe Burrow and center Lloyd Cushenberry. They all expressed confidence in their coach.
HOOVER, Ala. — A perpetual smirk plays around the corners of Joe Burrow’s mouth. That look that suggests he knows something you don’t.
"He knows we have potential to be very good," Delpit said. "He just reminds us every day we can't let up."
When Burrow transferred from Ohio State last year, he sat down with LSU’s coaching staff as he looked for another school. They went over the offense, and Orgeron was an integral part of the discussion. That meeting helped convince Burrow to attend LSU. It showed him Orgeron’s understanding of the game.
As LSU transitions to a spread offense, it wants Burrow to run the ball more. He will have to balance fighting for yardage (his natural instinct) and protecting his body. But when it comes to Orgeron?
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“I'll run through a wall for Coach O,” Burrow said. “I wouldn't run through a wall for everybody.”
When Orgeron walked back through the lobby midway through the day, fans swarmed him again. He lifted another boy for a photograph. As he begins his third year as the head coach at LSU, Orgeron feels more comfortable.
“I think he's proven the last two years he's one of the best coaches in the country,” Burrow said. “You don't just fall backwards into a 10-win season when nobody is thinking you're going to do that.”
HOOVER, Ala. — More changes in officiating are coming in the Southeastern Conference, Commissioner Greg Sankey said Monday, with reforms that …
LSU has filled its roster with players Orgeron recruited. He believes he has a better staff than ever before, with coaches who understand “the expectations on myself and LSU.” Burrow returns at quarterback. Delipt, a unanimous All-American, will roam the back of the defense.
The expectations are high for this LSU team. Alabama looms on a challenging schedule. Orgeron said LSU needs to improve on the line of scrimmage. He didn't call his team perfect. But his confidence never wavered.
“We have a great football team,” Orgeron said. “We should be able to answer the bell.”