Orgeron all smiles at SEC Media Days; looking for progress
HOOVER, AL -- LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron was all smiles during the SEC Media Days being held this week.
Last year, the gruff speaking Orgeron and the Tigers were not looking like hot commodities. When LSU football was mentioned, there was a ton of apprehension in the air. No one in the media, or the college football world for that matter, was giving the Tigers any chance of doing much in 2018.
Nevertheless, LSU proved all of the detractors wrong by going 9-3 in the regular season, finishing in second place in the SEC and bringing home a huge win in the Fiesta Bowl.
“Last year there was negativity,” Orgeron said. “Now this year they say we’re going to have a really good football team. I do believe we’re going to have a really good football team, but we have to get back to work.”
This season, things are much different. The Tigers are projected to be in the mix for the SEC Championship and LSU is projected as a Top 10 pre-season pick. However, Orgeron knows that last season was just a stepping stone toward bigger and better things.
“Last year was a pivotal year for us,” Orgeron said. “We proved that we could win. Having a 10-win season is good. It’s not great. It puts us in position to take the next step at LSU, which LSU deserves, and I understand that.”
As it usually does, the Tigers will come into the 2019 season with one of the best defensive units in the country. Under defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, LSU has flourished on the defensive side of the ball. However, Orgeron is still not satisfied with the way his team did against the run last year.
Tiger opponents averaged 167.5 yards rushing per game in SEC contests and was not very good at getting pressure on the opposing quarterback with just a four-man rush. Orgeron called out his defensive front in particular saying “that isn’t championship football.”
Orgeron promises to be more hands on with the defensive lineman this upcoming season. With the new spread offense that will take to the field this year, Orgeron knows that his defense will spend a ton more time on the field in 2019.
Speaking of the offense, the introduction of former New Orleans Saints coach Joe Brady as a passing game assistant will be one of the main things to watch this season in Baton Rouge. Brady comes in with a ton of knowledge and should be a big boost to quarterback Joe Burrow.
When Burrow hit the campus last season, the Ohio State transfer was used to a system that ran a lot of Run-Pass Option. In fact, being under center was very foreign to Burrow when he stepped onto the field for the Tigers for the first time last season.
Now, Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger and Brady have revamped the offense to suit Burrow’s style. The Tigers are looking for Burrow to run the ball more in the RPO offense; something that Burrow seems to not only enjoy but relish.
“It’s getting closer to my comfort zone, to what I’ve been doing my whole life,” Burrow said. “The RPOs. The speed. That’s something I’ve been doing since I was 14 or 15. We’re still going to have some of that smash mouth LSU football, but I think we’re evolving a little bit.”
“Last summer I didn’t know if I’d ever be a starting quarterback in college,” Burrow continued. “This year, with 13 starts under my belt, I want to be a leader and want to make everyone around me better.”
Burrow’s leadership on the field has allowed him to be named to the pre-season watch list for the Davey O’Brien award, given to the nation’s top quarterback. Burrow, along with teammate Clyde Edwards-Helaire were both named to the Maxwell watch list for the nation’s top player.
When it come down to it, Orgeron knows that expectations are very high for the Tigers, but he thinks his team is ready.
“We have a great football team,” Orgeron said. “We should be able to answer the bell.”