LSU coaching revelations come too late to matter
LSU has looked like a different team since its open date.
The Tigers are allowing 10 fewer points per game in the 2 games since the open date than they allowed in the 8 games before the open date.
But they’re scoring 17 fewer points per game post-open date than they were scoring pre-open date.
And that’s the primary reason that they are winless in their past 2 games.
They were in position to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the college season, but they came up short in a 20-14 loss at No. 2 Alabama 2 weeks ago.
They were in position to knock off No. 25 Arkansas, but fell to Arkansas 16-13 in overtime last week.
In both games the defense was really good and the offense, well, wasn’t.
LSU (4-6) should be good enough on both defense and offense to get past Louisiana-Monroe (4-6) on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
But if the Tigers are going to get bowl eligible, which requires not only a victory this Saturday but another one next Saturday against Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium, the offense somehow must show improvement in the next 2 weeks as the defense has shown in the past 2.
That’s not going to be easy.
The offensive line is shrinking by the week. Guards Chasen Hines and Ed Ingram were sidelined by injury against Arkansas. Left tackle Cameron Ware injured a foot during the game and he’s probably done for the year.
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Even when it has been healthy, the line has been inconsistent at opening holes for the running backs and protecting the quarterback.
The patchwork unit should be able to hold its own against the Warhawks, but the Aggies have one of the better defenses in the SEC and Max Johnson could find himself under quite a bit of duress.
And it does appear that Johnson will be the quarterback.
Johnson has started every game this season and the last 2 games of last season. But head coach Ed Orgeron decided last week that the game against the Razorbacks was a good time to take an extended look at freshman Garrett Nussmeier, who had seen limited mop-up duty.
Johnson produced zero points in 2 series and Nussmeier produced 13 the rest of the way, but he threw a critical interception on the first possession of overtime.
It should be noted that the Tigers technically used a third quarterback in the game. They decided in the 10th game of the season to unveil Ty Davis-Price as a Wildcat quarterback on a 1st-and-10 at the Arkansas 18.
The running back couldn’t handle an imperfect snap and Arkansas recovered the ball, thwarting LSU’s opportunity to expand its 10-3 second-quarter lead.
The head coach clearly was not enamored with that play call and seems unsatisfied with his rookie offensive coordinator (Jake Peetz) and his rookie passing game coordinator (DJ Mangas), both of whom worked for Joe Brady with the Carolina Panthers last season and were brought in to try and capture the Tigers’ magic under Brady 2 years ago.
Orgeron realizes that it might have been premature to start plucking fruit from the fledgling Brady coaching tree.
“Their experience level might not have been what I needed for this job,” Orgeron said.
Orgeron’s tenure has been littered with examples of his tenuous satisfaction with offensive coordinators – Cam Cameron, Steve Ensminger, Matt Canada and Ensminger II before he caught lightning in a bottle with Ensminger as offensive coordinator and Brady as passing game coordinator.
When Brady left, Orgeron brought in Scott Linehan to team with Ensminger. That didn’t work, Linehan was fired, Ensminger became a consultant and Orgeron rolled the dice – hoping to land Brady 2.0.
And here we are.
On the other side, Orgeron brought in Daronte Jones as defensive coordinator to replace Bo Pelini, who was a bigger disaster than the Ensminger-Linehan pairing.
The defense was better, but not a whole lot better than it was in 2020 during the first 8 games of 2021.
But during the open date Jones took Orgeron’s advice to heart and started overloading the defensive front, utilizing players with linebacker skills as pure linebackers and blitzing more.
The aggressiveness and less predictability paid off and for 2 weeks the LSU defense has looked like an LSU defense pre-2020.
“I wish I had done this 4 years ago,” Orgeron said.
And now, 10 games into his final season Orgeron seems to recognize that his offensive hires weren’t wise ones.
But Jones seems to be figuring out how to make this defense work with these players.
It’s too bad for the Tigers that both revelations came too late to make much of a difference.