6 offseason priorities for LSU in 2021
It already has been a busy offseason for LSU.
And Ed Orgeron is just getting started.
He is remaking his coaching staff, and he has more recruiting to do. And fitting the player pieces into the new schemes will be a key to trying to bounce back from the disappointment of a 5-5 season.
Here are 6 offseason priorities for LSU in 2021:
1. Allow the offensive staff to establish its identity
Orgeron hired Jake Peetz as his offensive coordinator and DJ Mangas as his passing game coordinator largely on the recommendation of former passing game coordinator Joe Brady.
Brady, who was instrumental in the Tigers’ championship run in 2019, worked with both Peetz and Mangas in his new role as the Carolina Panthers’ OC in 2020.
Orgeron is obviously and understandably trying to recapture the offensive magic of 2019.
But Peetz and Mangas aren’t the 2nd coming of Brady.
They need to be able to install their own schemes, tailor them to the talent on hand and continue to evolve as young coaches just as Brady did in 2019.
Orgeron is smart enough not to ask the new coaching tandem to simply “do what Joe did.”
Put them in position to thrive as Brady did, but in their own way.
2. Hire Ryan Nielsen
Just because Orgeron caught lightning in a bottle when he hired Brady from the New Orleans Saints, that doesn’t mean every significant opening on Orgeron’s staff needs to be filled by someone on Sean Payton’s staff.
But hiring Nielsen makes a lot of sense.
Nielsen played at USC under Orgeron, he was an assistant under Orgeron at Ole Miss (2005-07), and they are close.
Orgeron and Nielsen would be on the same page more than Orgeron and former coordinator Bo Pelini were.
On top of that, Nielsen has done an outstanding job as the Saints defensive line coach, helping mold the strongest unit on one of the top emerging defenses in the NFL.
3. Stick with Myles Brennan
TJ Finley has a lot of talent.
Max Johnson played very well while starting the last 2 games of the season.
Garrett Nussmeier is a highly regarded signee.
So LSU has a lot of talented young quarterbacks who might help them win a lot of games down the road.
But Brennan was the Tigers’ best quarterback in 2020 before getting injured. He will be their best quarterback in 2021.
Groom the young guys in case Brennan gets hurt again, and also for the future.
But stick with Brennan. He gives you the best chance in 2021 — and it’s not real close.
4. Expand Derek Stingley Jr.’s role
Orgeron reportedly told Stingley when he signed him that by his junior season, he would be able to get a few snaps on offense to go with his role at cornerback and as a return specialist.
That kind of role would enable to Stingley to enhance his Heisman resume in a Desmond Howard kind of way, and thereby enhance his NFL profile.
But Stingley was hampered by illness and injury this season and didn’t have nearly the impact he had as an All-America freshman.
There might be a temptation to ditch the offensive plans for Stingley and let him focus on defense.
But the better option is to get him healthy and get him as many snaps as possible on defense, special teams — and offense.
LSU is rebuilding. They might be better next year. They have talent. But they don’t have enough elite players to be a championship contender just yet.
They need a player such as Stingley to have as much of an impact as possible.
Turn him loose.
5. More clearly define the running backs’ roles
Clyde Edwards-Helaire was outstanding in the running game and the passing game in 2019.
The Tigers don’t need one player to duplicate Edwards-Helaire’s productivity.
They have multiple players who can do it.
Chris Curry has entered the transfer portal, but John Emery II and Tyrion Davis-Price return, and a couple of recruits arrive.
The offense this year never had a clear identity. The loss of personnel and injuries had something to do with that.
Emery is an explosive runner and effective pass-catcher. Davis-Price is a power runner and adequate pass-catcher.
Creating distinct packages that perfectly suit each one’s talents will produce more productivity from the running backs.
6. Keep recruiting
This doesn’t just mean fill in remaining holes with newcomers. It also means don’t take anything for granted.
The Tigers lost numerous key players they were counting on — during the summer, early in the season, late in the season.
But LSU recently received a lot of good news, as several players on both lines of scrimmage — where the team has to get better — announced they would take advantage of an extra year of eligibility to return next season.
If all of them — defensive tackles Glen Logan and Neil Farrell, defensive ends Andre Anthony and Ali Gaye, left guard Ed Ingram, right guard Chasen Hines and center Liam Shanahan — all follow through and do return, the recovery from 2020 could be substantial in 2021.
But don’t take anything for granted.
Remind them of what they mean to the program, the significant roles being reserved for them, the opportunity to enhance their pro prospects, the feeling they had this season when teammates bailed out.
LSU needs them. Don’t let them get away.