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LSU coach Ed Orgeron smiles while discussing the remainder of LSUÕs signing class during a press conference in the Lawton Room Wednesday Feb. 5, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La.

Ed Orgeron's appearance with the Baton Rouge Rotary Club annually marks the beginning of football season. The novel coronavirus pushed the speech online this year, but through a screen in the football operations building, Orgeron still broke down LSU's roster and gave his outlook on the upcoming season.

Though the Southeastern Conference has not made a decision on football this fall, Orgeron said LSU continues to prepare for its season opener against UTSA. The team is scheduled to begin preseason camp Aug. 7.

Here are highlights from Orgeron's appearance with the Rotary Club.

On how the team adjusted during stay-at-home orders...

You know, with this, the times that we’re in with the COVID-19, our team didn’t blink. Our guys went home for about 11 weeks. Our coaches were home. We worked on Zoom meetings like we’re doing now. We gave them tips and reminders, daily.

Our guys were doing the drills on their own. Some of them were hitting the back of their shed. Making dents in the shed. Getting their momma mad at them. Some of them were pushing trucks up the hill. Bench pressing logs. Whatever it took, our guys did it. And our coaches kept on installing. Kept on football.

We had an academic task force led by (special assistant) Derek Ponamsky. He did a tremendous job keeping our guys eligible. So, we said "This is the hand we’re dealt with and we’re not going to blink."

Our guys came back (June 8). (Director of strength and conditioning) Tommy Moffitt has had six weeks with them. They’re in tremendous shape right now. We have a couple of guys who are overweight, but we’re going to get it down on them. I think our team right now is about ready to play, to be honest with you.

On defensive changes...

I’m so excited that (defensive coordinator) Bo Pelini chose to come back. As you know, Bo had some of the top defenses in the SEC and the country. We’re a 4-3 defense. We’re an attacking defense. I felt that this is what we needed to change from a 3-4 to a 4-3 because it fit our style and also fit our players.

You’re going to see more blitzes. You’re going to see safeties coming; corners coming; defensive line in the backfield; better pass rush; putting our athletes in space and letting them play. So I’m really excited about Bo Pelini.

On offensive continuity...

I’m really excited about (passing game coordinator) Scott Linehan. Joe Brady did a fantastic job for us. But let me make sure everybody knows this: (offensive coordinator) Steve Ensminger led this offense. Now, Joe Brady taught us the spread offense. Steve Ensminger led this offense and called about 70% of the plays. So, we have the same offense.

On LSU's approach during an uncertain season...

We get asked all about the time, "What about the season?" Well here's our mindset: obviously that's out of my control. I know what's in our control is we're going to prepare. We're preparing that we're going to kickoff Sept. 5.

I'll have our team ready. We're not going to blink, and we're not going to change our mindset. If they move it back, if they change it, who cares? It doesn't matter. You call us at midnight, we'll go play in the pasture.

On keeping players safe during the COVID-19 pandemic...

When the guys came back we tested everybody. We told them the protocols. We had Zoom meetings. We have rooms. Everybody wears a mask. And then we test our guys. Some guys got tested, not as many as they say, but we put them into quarantine. We put them by themselves. And anybody that's had contact, (senior associate athletic trainer Shelly Mullenix) and them trace everything.

We had a little spike, and then we came down. I think we have two guys right now that have the COVID. We feel that we've done very well. When we're practicing, we're practicing with masks on. The coaching staff masks in the office. I really think we've handled it about as well as anybody in the country.

On players opting out of the season because of health concerns...

I haven’t heard that. None of our players have talked about that. I know that they have the option. Our players are eager to play. These guys are elite. These guys want to win championships. They believe in each other. I don’t expect much of that to happen.

On learning from the 2019 championship season...

We’re always looking to get better. We analyzed our season. I think one of the things we need to get better at from last year is defense. We didn’t play good defense. That’s why Bo is here.

I do believe we’re able to use our athletes more to play better defense. There were too many points scored on us last year. I think you’re going to see a big improvement.

On the challenges of preparing freshmen this year....

First of all, we’ve had an advantage in that in the month of July we’re usually not practicing. These freshmen are getting more practices than any freshman group has ever had. They’re going to get about 12-13 practices that no other freshman group has ever had.

They’re getting indoctrinated, they’re getting acclimatized, they’re learning. I think walk-throughs and the meetings that have allowed them to see the older guys and how they do it has been very beneficial.

I expect a lot of freshmen will be playing this year.

On the recruiting impact of high school football cancellations...

It’s tough. Obviously I support high school teams playing. We have already evaluated the players off of junior film.

We have 16 commitments. If they don’t play, a guy who’s a marginal player or we have to see more of them, if he misses his senior season, he’s probably not going to get a scholarship to LSU.

On using technology to communicate...

“Well, I’m glad I have a lot of smart people working for me. They turn on the machine and I talk.”


Email Wilson Alexander at walexander@theadvocate.com