Tell the Truth Monday: LSU needs to seek Orgeron's replacement
It’s Tell the Truth Monday – and it’s time to acknowledge the unavoidable.
The LSU football team is no longer respected.
Ed Orgeron’s team – Ed Orgeron’s program – is no longer respected.
The Tigers won the CFP championship 2 years ago.
That historic run rightfully earned Orgeron a raise, a contract extension and significant job security.
But in college football terms, that was a long time ago.
LSU went 15-0 two years ago.
Since then Orgeron’s Tigers have played 16 games. They’ve lost as many as they have won.
They went 5-5 last season and they are 3-3 this season after a 42-21 thrashing at the hands of No. 16 Kentucky on Saturday night.
A Kentucky football team punished an LSU football team.
Let that sink in.
Any fair evaluation of the Tigers’ precipitous drop-off must be kept in context – and in most corners, it has been.
Orgeron lost nearly all his starters from the championship team, and even LSU’s highly-touted recruiting classes couldn’t realistically be expected to replicate success in 2020 that resembled that of 2019.
But the free-fall last season was exacerbated by Orgeron and his staff not having the recruits prepared to handle expanding responsibilities.
After the championship, Orgeron had to replace passing game coordinator Joe Brady and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. He chose poorly in replacing them, respectively, with Scott Linehan and Bo Pelini.
The head coach later admitted that he made both hires without conducting in-person interviews.
To his credit, Orgeron acknowledged his poor choices and dismissed Linehan and Pelini after last season while offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger moved into a consulting role.
This time Orgeron held in-person interviews and chose defensive coordinator Daronte Jones, offensive coordinator Jake Peetz and passing game coordinator DJ Mangas. He made 3 other changes to his staff.
The evidence compiled during the first half of this season suggests Orgeron’s latest hires aren’t significantly better than his earlier ones.
The recruits aren’t developing as quickly as projected and the mental and physical breakdowns are only slightly less frequent than they were a year ago.
The bottom line is, the bottom line is no better.
It’s instructive to look around the SEC on Saturday.
Texas A&M bounced back from consecutive losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State to knock off No. 1 Alabama.
Ole Miss and Arkansas bounced back from come-back-to-earth blowout losses to Alabama and Georgia, respectively, to produce an epic shoot-out in which the Rebels prevailed 52-51.
Florida bounced back from an upset loss at Kentucky to manhandle Vanderbilt in preparation for a trip to Tiger Stadium next Saturday.
Tennessee has bounced back from a humbling loss to Florida to prevail in consecutive blowouts against Missouri and South Carolina.
That’s a handful of programs earning respect by showing resiliency and progress and competitiveness.
Orgeron’s program isn’t doing that – hasn’t done it since hoisting that championship trophy way back when.
LSU followed up an uninspired home loss to Auburn with the even less inspired thumping from Kentucky.
Orgeron’s team didn’t earn respect last season, nor has it this year.
The lack of respect was evident early in Lexington.
Kentucky faced a 4th-and-goal from its 3 on its first possession. The Wildcats have struggled on offense and have a really good defense.
The percentage play was to kick a field goal, secure in the fact that your defense was going to set the tone for the game – as it had when it sacked Max Johnson and recovered his fumble to help set up the scoring opportunity.
But Mark Stoops didn’t kick. He didn’t hesitate to go for the touchdown. And he was rewarded.
Chris Rodriguez Jr. went uncovered – as backs and receivers facing Orgeron and Jones’ defense often do – and Will Levis tossed him the football for a touchdown.
Levis, who had seemed overmatched in previous SEC games against Missouri, South Carolina and Florida, finished with 3 touchdown passes and 2 touchdown runs.
Opponents are confident they will convert key downs, that they will produce explosive plays against LSU.
They’re confident LSU can’t run the ball consistently well on their defense, though the Tigers had modest success running the ball after Kentucky had taken command of the game.
They’re confident they can consistently pressure Johnson and eventually force him into a mistake or at least prevent the offense from ever getting into a rhythm.
They’re confident against Orgeron’s team because Orgeron’s team has given them reason to be confident.
Kayshon Boutte is a really good receiver, though he was injured in Saturday’s game, and periodically LSU can sack opposing quarterbacks.
But periodic good stuff isn’t enough to earn opponents’ respect.
The lack of respect from opponents inevitably will lead to diminished respect from prospective recruits.
The truth on this Tell the Truth Monday is LSU must start searching for a head coach going forward who can regain the respect that Orgeron has squandered.