We need to give Duke Riley a statue or something. Whatever he said to the team after that Troy debacle resonated. Win six of your last seven, play Alabama extremely tough and if we had the A&M version of Etling we might've beat Alabama. I think the most impressive thing this season after it played out is the come-from-behind win over Auburn, the only team hotter than LSU right now. While we're kicking ourselves for losing to Troy, they're probably doing the same thing right now with that loss.
Unfortunately, you can't block out or rewind those first five games, but this team has gotten a lot better, even if it is a down year in the SEC.
Finally, we need to give Odell Beckham a statue too for bringing back Neck one more time.
Feels like the most boring season in a long time. One of my biggest issues is that during my football season, I tend to miss the early season games and then have to watch them on tape delay or on Youtube. I was following the Troy game on my phone while in the booth in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec and it bothers me every time I have to miss an LSU game even if it's for my own game. Usually by the time my season finishes and I can watch all the games live, LSU is still kinda in it. 2015 is a good example of that. 2011 too. This season felt like it was done by the time I could devote my Saturdays to the Tigers. Of course, you hype yourself up for Alabama but the rest of the season was boring. I swear I'd rather lose to Alabama and have my heart ripped out then beat ass teams like Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Was bored watching all those game, the outcome never in doubt.
As far as the product on the field:
There was a lot of talk about the defense being more sophisticated this year in Aranda's second year. Now that a bunch of players were in the system for the second year, they could do a lot more things. With that all said, you can't replace Adams, Beckwith, Riley, White (all starters in the NFL) and not having the 2016 Key, you're just not going to be as good. Still, there was some young talent and Aranda is a heck of a coordinator so they'll finish in the top 20 of defensive S&P+. With young talent comes a lot of expectations going into next year. The defensive line is going to be crazy. I'm still torn on a guy like Devin White (mostly because I still have an antiquated view of what an inside linebacker should be) but having some horses in front of him will help him. He's a new age smaller linebacker who needs those guys to take on double teams or get penetration. Lawrence, Alexander and the gang are going to be tough to handle for any o-line. Would be nice to see another Glenn Dorsey or Drake Nevis type disruptive season from one of those guys because it's been so long since we've seen that. Donte Jackson was awesome but replaceable and with Delpit, Greedy we're in great shape on the back end. Not sure the statuses of Battle and Toliver but they could come back too.
The offense should be better. Broken record, I know, but it would just be nice if one of these years they could put it all together. The offensive line issues certainly didn't help. Danny just being okay didn't help. Guice's injury didn't help. There are reasons why the 2017 Tigers offense had struggles but instead of this being the outlier season, it's the trend. It's frustrating. Looking at next year is interesting. A lot of our hopes are going to be on Myles Brennan but he might not have the supporting cast that some of our other quarterbacks have had. Unless Edwards-Helaire is that good, there isn't an explosive back that has played snaps yet. The returning receiving corps has some experience but we're talking 24 catches total from Sullivan, Davis and Dillon this season. You hope that the o-line takes a step forward after a bunch of young guys getting major playing time this year. Put Brennan behind a solid line and we could be on to something.
O's first team will certainly be memorable. Losing to Troy. Upsetting Auburn in dramatic fashion. It's a young team that truly exhibited the high highs and low lows. First year coaches typically have transition years and you'd have to think this is one of the smoothest in recent memory.
It's a team that, at times, left you feeling like they were capable of more. But at times, also left you feeling like they maximized their strengths and hid their weaknesses efficiently. I expected the defense to be more exotic, as Seth eluded to, but injuries and lack of depth prohibited that. I expected the offense to be more complete. But Etling's limitations and again, injuries, prohibited that.
Still, I feel we saw the program step fully into Orgeron making it his own. This wasn't a replication of Miles' strategy and riding out those philosophies to success. LSU's roster, particularly on offense, is built to be a running team, not a 50/50 balanced team. That dictated a lot of the strategic decision making. But they still tried to push those barriers. Canada's shifts and motions helped diversity LSU's attack and they did spread the ball around to a lot of different targets. Those are big strides into bringing LSU into offensive modernity and something we really failed to do in the final years of Miles.
All told, a really successful year one for Orgeron. It's the first piece in easing the doubts of those who hated the hire: Orgeron isn't a lemon.
This was my favorite LSU team since the '11 squad. And if you had told me that after the Troy game I'd have laughed at you. The way they came together before the Florida game and gutted that out, even if Florida stunk, was commendable. And that game mattered. A lot. The Auburn win was incredible and a defining moment which you want from every season and honestly, what LSU had been lacking for awhile now. They blew out the remaining four opponents they had.
This wasn't the greatest LSU team obviously, but after we all said they had no guts five games in, they proved to have a whole lot of them. And showed it every week the remainder of the year. They battled and got everything they could out of what they had. Guys like Etling, Russell Gage, Corey Thompson, JD Moore, those are players you love to root for and this LSU team had them in abundance. I really ended up loving this team and will remember them fondly.
I had this team around 9-3 in my mind over the summer, and I suspected there'd be some roller-coaster elements to it, but yeah, it definitely wasn't what I envisioned. A 6-2 mark is a big deal — LSU hasn't done that in five years. Yes, the SEC was down this year, but that was going to be the case no matter what, so the question is, how much does the loss to Troy *really* matter? Was it ugly, sure. But does it really matter, beyond a funny anecdote?
What this all comes down to is where Ed Orgeron and LSU go from here. A 9-3/6-2 mark is fine for this team, this year, but as we've said before, the standard is what it is and the expectations are what they are. So this has to be a starting point that builds to something. A nice finish in recruiting, and some improvement in 2018. When you factor in the possible mega class that could be on deck for 2019, the dominoes could be set up, if Orgeron truly does know what he's doing.
The big thing I'll remember this team for is bridging the Miles and Orgeron Eras. We had the seniors who came through with strong performances — Christian LaCouture, Greg Gilmore and D.J. Chark — and others who had huge moments in smaller roles like Russell Gage, Darrel Williams, etc... But that bridges to young rising stars like Devin White, Rashard Lawrence and Greedy Williams, along with the promise of some talented young offensive linemen like Ed Ingram and Saahdiq Charles. And we saw that organic growth in the way LSU got better this season. The defense closing out fourth quarters, the offense adjusting much better in games (LSU ranked 10th in offensive S&P+ in the second and third quarters of games). There was a big win to be proud of over a team that may yet make the College Football Playoff, and three big conference wins to close things down. This team has a lot to be proud of.
Do y'all realize this team averaged 6.28 yards per play, down from 6.70 in Miles' final year? Scoring is down from 2015, too. Yet, the offense simply felt like it was doing better. The numbers declined, but the team looked better. Sometimes, the eyeball test is right. The defense improved from its 2015 levels because Aranda is a god, but people weren't carrying torches and pitchforks over the defense.
In the preseason, I thought LSU would have a puncher's chance because it had arguably the best player in the conference on each side of the ball. Well, Arden Key essentially missed the entire season due to injury, and Derrius Guice struggled with injury issues until November. Right out of the gate, Coach O was robbed of his two biggest assets, and it showed. What makes the rebound this year so remarkable is not just that they rallied back from a loss to Troy, but that they rallied back without their best players playing their best. Orgeron had to change the plan on the fly. And it worked.
This team, I believe, got every bit out of its talent. Taking into account those injuries, and the sudden defections from the offensive line, this team simply wasn't as good as the last two years. However, they will finish with the best SEC record (6-2) in five seasons, and are still in competition for 10 overall wins, something they haven't done since 2013. Yes, there were cancellations before, and the SEC is way down this season, but the fact is, results speak volumes. This team had every reason to make excuses, and instead it delivered. No excuses needed.
Orgeron still has major issues in program management. He finished the year with three consecutive blowout wins, yet couldn't get his freshman quarterback any meaningful reps. He quarrelled publicly with his offensive coordinator and seemed to kick him out the door at his final press conference. By season's end, he seemed to almost to be trying to ruin his kicker's confidence. But these are skills that can be learned with experience. Those are long term issues. In the short term, Orgeron showed a skill that has been lacking in our previous coaching staff: flexibility. He adapted, and he won.
Well, it was something alright. We took the...interesting route, but we finished at the same place I thought we would.
Any time a coach takes over a program and brings in a new offense, I expect there to be some growing pains and was willing to give O a pass here and there. Losing to Troy does not warrant a pass.
But to his (or Duke Riley's) credit, after the State and Troy debacles the team pulled the e-brake and turned the car around. It wasn't pretty, and the win against Florida turned out to be way less important than we thought at the time, but the comeback against Auburn and the way the team played against lesser opponents (mostly in the second half, oddly enough) has me where I thought I'd be at this point: very excited for 2017.
I would have liked to see Brennan in those blowouts at the tail end of the season, but if that's my chief complaint then things are pretty okay.
Overall, this team looked much better than last year's. The biggest takeaway from it has to be that Orgeron has proven himself at this point. We're no longer left with the question as to if he can truly manage a successful LSU team for a full season. Things did look grim after the loss to Troy, and barely scraping past a bad Florida team. But all notions of LSU being on the major decline quickly disappeared after the win over Auburn. Given the almost complete absence of Arden Key all season long, the injuries to Derrius Guice and how many big talents were lost to graduation and the 2017 NFL Draft, it's safe to say LSU did a very nice job with what they had.
Another key thing to look at is the Alabama game. For the first time in a long time, it looked like the Tigers actually had a chance at overtaking Alabama. If we had a bit better quarterback play from Danny Etling, and cleaned up a few things on offense, we could have won this game.
As previously mentioned, there were times it seemed sensible to put Myles Brennan in at QB that Orgeron missed out on. Assuming this is your starter next season, it would have been a good idea for him to take advantage.