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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has a word with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) and the offense during a timeout in the first half of LSU's football game against Arkansas at Tiger Stadium Saturday Nov. 23, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La.

Leave it to the ever-optimistic Ed Orgeron to find the positives in the middle of a pandemic.

LSU’s national championship-winning football coach was on 104.5 WNXX-FM’s “Off the Bench” morning drive show Tuesday, reveling in the joys of getting the band (read: coaching staff) back together and finding ways to be more active than before in recruiting.

Orgeron said his staff was able to return to work in the LSU football complex last week, following strict protocols laid out by Shelly Mullenix, LSU’s senior associate athletic director for athletic training.

“We have to take our temperatures and wear masks,” Orgeron said. “It’s good to be back to work. I’ve been by myself (in the office) for eight weeks. This is my team and my family. We count on each other.”

It is still undetermined when players will be able to get back on campus. The same goes for recruits being allowed to visit, though the uncertainty hasn’t stopped the LSU staff from making headway on both fronts.

“We work 8-6 every day, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” Orgeron said. “Part of that day is dedicated to Zoom (video) meetings with players and part with recruits.”

Orgeron said LSU’s returning players finished spring semester final exams last week and “as far as we know, everybody has done very well.” He credited special assistant Derek Ponamsky and assistant head coach Mickey Joseph for keeping up with players academically as they completed their semester work online.

“We go over fundamentals Monday and Wednesday. Tuesday and Thursday we reinstall the offense and defense,” Coach O said. “This is the third time we’ve installed stuff and we’ll install again in camp. By the time the season comes, they should have it down by then.”

Orgeron said while LSU and all schools have had to recruit remotely over the past couple of months, his staff has spent more time recruiting this time of year than it normally would. The Tigers are now up to 10 commitments for the 2020-21 recruiting cycle including three this month: Flower Mound (Texas) Marcus quarterback Garrett Nussmeier, Atlanta Hapeville Charter linebacker Zavier Carter and Cincinnati Roger Bacon running back Corey Kiner, who gave LSU his pledge Monday.

“During those Zoom meetings we show them the new facilities,” Orgeron said. “We have parents and their decision makers in there and I get on there with them.”

With LSU coming off its 15-0 record-breaking season and having a record-tying 14 players taken in last month’s NFL draft, Orgeron summed up the program’s brand in one word:

“Outstanding,” he said. “We are on the national stage. We’re the elite team in the country, and they want to come play with the elite players in the country.”

Orgeron went on to say he’s glad Bo Pelini has returned to LSU as defensive coordinator after his first stint from 2005-07 under Les Miles. Pelini spent the past 12 seasons as head coach at Nebraska and Youngstown State.

“He’s one of the smartest football coaches I’ve been around,” Orgeron said. “We’re from the same 4-3 (defensive alignment) family.”

In a previous radio interview Monday, Pelini downplayed the difficulty of switching LSU’s defense from a 3-4 under previous coordinator Dave Aranda (now head coach at Baylor) to the 4-3, saying both require players to be in multiple formations.

Orgeron stressed the importance of having depth on the defensive line.

“We’re four or five deep at some positions,” he said. “I’m excited about (freshmen) BJ Ojulari and Jaquelin Roy. We’ve got big (junior) Tyler Shelvin back and (freshman) Jacobian Guillory. We’re going to have a better pass rush than we’ve had.”

Orgeron emphasized the importance of finding a place for sophomore inside linebacker Marcel Brooks, who he said has bulked up his 6-foot-2 frame to 210 pounds from his listed 194 on the LSU depth chart.

“We have to put him on the field,” Coach O said. “He’s a force. He’s fast, can make plays, very aggressive. He plays defense the way it ought to be played.”

Orgeron also mentioned senior transfer linebacker Jabril Cox, a two-time FCS All-American at North Dakota State, and incoming freshman Josh White.

“We’re excited about him,” Orgeron said, referring to Cox. “He’s 6-3, 233 pounds and can run. The other young man I’m excited about is Josh White. He’s one of the best linebackers in the country in our opinion. Getting those guys back and getting them in shape will be a priority.”

Senior Andre Anthony is a better fit for the 4-3 than the 3-4, Coach O added, describing him as a left end. “He’ll play for us,” Orgeron said, “perhaps start.”

Coach O also said versatile Harvard senior transfer Liam Shanaham (6-5, 270) could find a starting role somewhere.

“He can play center, guard and tackle. That’s very important for us,” he said. “He may come in and start. We brought him in at least to be a backup. We’re unstable at some spots, so we’re sure he can bring some depth for us.”

LSU is scheduled to open the 2020 season Sept. 5 against Texas San Antonio. There is still no word on whether the season will start on time or whether games would be played with a reduced number or without fans in the stands.


Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com