In the world of football, August is typically the month when the possibilities are as boundless as the heat index, when every team is undefeated and every player can chart a plausible path for his squad to championship glory.
September usually brings the first bite of reality — and fall chill in some places, I’m told — and the realization that this season may turn out to be a mighty long slog, indeed.
At LSU, there is still time to dream. Preseason All-American linebacker Devin White spoke Tuesday of how, unlike many of his teammates, he never played on a district or state championship team up at North Webster High School. He would like to know that feeling this year. He talked of being willing to pay the price whatever it took to make this LSU team a champion.
But reality has already crashed the party at LSU this August like a menacing afternoon thunderstorm rolling in from across the Mississippi River. The news of offensive lineman Ed Ingram’s arrest earlier this month on two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a minor brings to three the number of LSU players whose significant legal issues have come to light during camp.
Linebacker Tyler Taylor was arrested earlier this year after police in Cumming, Georgia, said he served as the getaway driver in a pawn-shop burglary, and wide receiver Drake Davis was arrested for multiple counts of domestic violence against his former girlfriend.
Add to that the transfers of quarterbacks Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse and the NCAA’s denial of an appeal by cornerback Kristian Fulton for his two-year suspension, and this has been a month from hell for LSU football to go with August’s hellish temperatures.
A comparatively minor dust-up over where McMillan may or may not transfer (LSU has prohibited him from going to a Southeastern Conference school, or any opponent the Tigers play the next two seasons) has been the proverbial cherry on top.
Remember The Advocate’s headline in 2011 for the “Game of the Century” between then-No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama? Biggest. Game. Ever!
If this August at LSU had a title, it might be Worst. Month. Ever.
The Tigers’ Sept. 2 opener against Miami can’t come fast enough for Coach O and his team.
All the arrests that have come to light could easily paint a picture of a program out of control, in which rules and demands for good conduct appear to be wanting. While the allegations against Ingram, Taylor and Davis are undoubtedly disturbing, they all came to light in a relatively short period of time — but the incidents themselves literally happened over the course of months and years.
For LSU and Orgeron, alleged bad behavior has been melded with, for him and his program, an unfortunate spell of bad timing.
The result has been a bad image for LSU football, with questions of “What’s going on in Baton Rouge?” ringing out far and wide. The rapid-fire nature of the arrest news, and the alleged crimes, blend into one huge public-relations horror.
As I mentioned in an earlier column, I believe Orgeron is trying to educate his players on how to do the right things. Part of the evidence lies in the visit by national sports talk show host and activist Rachel Baribeau in July, who spoke to the team about a number of topics — including self-respect and how to treat women with respect.
Baribeau or Coach O probably did not specify the following: “Don’t put yourself in a situation where you could wind up being accused of driving the getaway car in a burglary.”
From a football sense, the suspended player whose absence most troubles LSU is Ingram.
New offensive line coach James Cregg has had to shuffle and scramble to fill the void left by Ingram at right guard. Junior college transfer Damien Lewis — who was not one of the many LSU transfers touted to play a major role this season — has had to fill that gap. The Tigers are still unsettled at right tackle, where Adrian Magee is locked in a battle with Badara Traore (seen working with the first string Wednesday) and Austin Deculus.
A general theme coming out of last weekend's scrimmage — a scrimmage in which Orgeron said Joe Burrow and Myles Brennan were a combined 15 of 43 passing — is that the quarterbacks had little time to throw.
Breiden Fehoko spoke Tuesday of how Burrow talked Orgeron out of a field-goal attempt near the goal line, only to fall victim to a K’Lavon Chaisson sack.
There is still time for the Tigers to put their problems behind them and forge a successful season. It has certainly been done before: Remember the Shady’s bar fight right before the start of the 2011 season? That team turned out all right, going 13-0 in the regular season en route to the BCS championship game.
But so far August has been a nightmare. Kind of like the game that game in January 2012 that followed the 13-0 start.
The Tigers are hoping to wake up from their troubles before August issues bleed into September.