A Baton Rouge Rotary Club member got up to speak Wednesday, surveyed the packed club lounge high above Tiger Stadium’s south end zone and gently lamented that all their meetings weren’t so well attended.
Of course, it isn’t every day that LSU coach Ed Orgeron is the Rotary Club’s speaker.
Orgeron knows how to work a room. He told the story of his and assistant coach Bill Busch’s in-home recruiting visit to the house of LSU freshman nose tackle Siaki “Apu” Ika in Salt Lake City, who Coach O informed the crowd is now at “a slim 356” pounds.
“When we met him,” Orgeron said, “he was 390.”
Coach O talked of eating some unknown Polynesian dish — this probably happens to coaches way more often than you think — only to have Busch tell him later it was sheep.
Sheep, not lamb. An apparently important distinction.
Optimism abounds for LSU football as the Tigers check in for preseason camp Thursday and open fall practice Friday.
The upshot of all this was Orgeron, making his last public speaking appearance before LSU players check in Thursday for preseason camp, was having a rollicking good time. He looked and sounded like a man who believes he has a good team on his hands, one who doesn’t mind if all the “coaches” out there (read: LSU fans) think that, too.
He told the story also of the day Miami Hurricanes coach Jimmy Johnson called a young Orgeron, an assistant coach, into his office to tell him the secret of being a great coach.
“I said, ‘Coach, let me get my notebook,’ ” Orgeron recalled. “He said, ‘You don’t need your notebook. I’m just going to tell you: get good players.' ”
Orgeron and his staff — Busch being one of his best recruiters — are getting good players, according to the industry standards. LSU’s 2019 recruiting class was ranked No. 5 nationally by 247Sports.com. The website ranks LSU’s 2020 class No. 3 despite the fact it isn’t a deep year for talent in Louisiana (only seven of the Tigers’ 22 commitments are from in state). Rivals.com actually ranks LSU’s class No. 1, though that's partly because the purple-and-gold Tigers have three more commitments than the Clemson Tigers.
Being a defensive line coach, Orgeron knows his team has to be strong in the trenches. Sensing correctly that a talent gap had grown between LSU and Alabama in this critical area, Orgeron and his staff have gone D-line heavy the past two recruiting cycles. Eight LSU commitments, the most recent coming from the reaffirmation of University High defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy to the Tigers, are defensive linemen. This after signing four last year: Ika, Joseph Evans of Haynesville, Desmond Little and Soni Fanua, plus Texas transfer Michael Williams.
Wednesday, though, Orgeron turned his attention to the other side of the ball.
LSU true freshman linebacker Donte Starks will not report to preseason camp Aug. 1, coach Ed Orgeron said Wednesday at a Baton Rouge Rotary Cl…
Yes, he vowed to his crowd of “coaches,” the Tigers are going to run the spread, throw the ball to the tight end and throw it over the middle. He said freshman running back John Emery from Destrehan (who only will wear Charles Alexander’s No. 4 … no pressure, kid) will be a “difference maker.”
But it all is predicated on having an offensive line that can block and open up the holes through which LSU’s new offense can operate. And Orgeron knows that better than anyone.
"Offensive line, we've got to come through, man,” Orgeron said. “We've got to come through.
“This game is won up front. It's about the big men. And I feel like we have one of the best centers in the country, one of the best centers in the SEC in Lloyd Cushenberry, great right guard in Damien Lewis.”
At left guard, Orgeron pointed to Chasen Hines as the starter but hedged his bet to say that it could be Adrian Magee or even Kardell Thomas at that position.
He was pointed in his comments about his tackles, Austin Deculus (right) and Saahdiq Charles (left). And no mention of Badara Traore at right tackle, which might have been telling as it pertains to his battle with Deculus at that position.
“At right tackle, Austin Deculus, he's a third-year starter. He's gotta have a better year. He's got to be more consistent. At left tackle, Saahdiq Charles, a third-year starter, got to have a better year. Got to be more consistent."
LSU punter Josh Growden has entered the NCAA transfer portal, a source confirmed with The Advocate, which leaves the team with one veteran pun…
Orgeron talked of going to five wide receivers (at times including the running back in that set), which means you are only protecting with five. That means getting the ball out of his quarterbacks' hands quickly, but it also means creating an effective pocket.
“We’ve got to win the one-on-ones,” Coach O said.
Win enough of the one-on-ones, and the wins will add up.