The gang’s all here as we start working through the summer to talk some football.
Q: What, in your eyes, constitutes a successful 2017 season for LSU? Is it a particular record, or something more?
Fair or not to the new offensive coaching staff, LSU has a stigma for lack of ability to coach and develop QBs. You can still see that impact in our current recruiting, where we're struggling to lure top targets for 2018. Even allowing that we just landed a pair of top-250 QB talents in the last class, LSU is hardly in the running for the top targets on their board and that's largely because it's easy ammo to point at the struggles and say, "Why would you want to go to that?"
So offensive performance will be a heavy factor to me. We don't need to set records, but we need to see competent QB play and production in the passing game, even with a young receiving core. We need to see the offense do more than run into a wall vs. Alabama.
This is a young team, so winning the division seems out of the question. They probably won't even be favored to go second in the West. So, I'm not gauging a successful season on number of wins (assuming we hit an eight-win threshold here) as much as what the wins are. Assuming we sweep the non-con schedule, LSU then has to pull four conference wins out of the hat. The most beatable teams on the schedule are all road games in 2017. So I'm looking at eight wins as the bar for "solid." Go above and you get into "good season" territory.
We fired Les for failing to win 10 games every year, so that's the standard. Ten wins. Orgeron doesn't get a New Guy excuse, as he was here for the building of this foundation, so he's on the hook for the talent that is here.
I agree that a division title seems out of the question, as Bama is simply a lot better than LSU this year, but looking around the rest of the conference, I'm not overly impressed with the competition. So Coach O gets a Bama Mulligan, but every other conference foe is vulnerable. No one looks like a real power this year. Win the four non-cons, go 5-3 in the SEC plus a bowl win, or 6-2 without one... 10 wins. That's the baseline for success. Nothing changes.
The other criteria, I absolutely agree: we need to see a different offense than we've seen in the past. We don't need to be a fast break offense, but I'd like to see increased pace and some explosiveness that's been missing.
Oddly enough, I'm actually viewing this season on a complete inverse than what I'm used to.
On one hand, the cold hard facts that say LSU is completely under new management with a revamped offense (hopefully) full of young players is one of the three toughest divisions in college football. That screams "REBUILDING YEAR" and I feel like the national media is on board with that and it's become the general consensus among LSU fans.
But then I look at the schedule...BYU (in Houston), Chattanooga, at Mississippi State, Syracuse, and Troy open it up. Those are not just all winnable games, those are HIGHLY winnable games. LSU can and should be 5-0 to close out September. And then there is the Florida-Auburn block. The Florida game has been a toss-up more times than not and right now I'm not sure where I stand on the Auburn game. I'll have to see both teams in action before I reach any conclusions, but that's another winnable game as well. And then there's the shell of Ole Miss waiting on the other side.
So going into Bama, I can see LSU as 6-2 with two tight losses or a clean 8-0. And then Arkansas, at Tennessee, and Texas A&M...more winnable games.
So...anywhere between 9-3 or 11-1 is a reasonable expectation for me. Let's split the difference and say 10-2.
So Poseur and I agree on something, somebody take a picture.
As usual, the "how" interests me more than the "what," but I think we're pretty close to the same page. What I want to see is improvement — an offense that is successful and consistent, particularly. Signs that Orgeron's talk is going to be backed up on the field, and that we'll see a team that indicates that the program is trending up.
The schedule will be tough though. Not so much in the individual games, because yeah LSU will be favored in nearly all of them. More the grind aspect of it. There's only one game here that I'd put firmly in the "cupcake" category, and that's in week two against Chattanooga.
Even teams like Troy and Syracuse are at least going to be tricky. Not necessarily toss-ups, but games where LSU's going to have to come out firing and play well for four quarters to really put away. You factor that with five conference road games and that's a heck of a grind, both mental and physical. He's going to have to manage both kinds of fatigue, all while implementing a new offense and working to develop a lot of younger contributors. Nine or 10 wins would be impressive against this slate, and I agree that we also kind of go in knowing that Bama's got the division all but locked up.
The definition of a successful season for LSU — or any team for that matter — comes down to more than just a record.
I think the biggest thing LSU needs to fix is their offense. This team's defense has always been a reliable unit as a whole, but obviously it takes talent and consistency on both sides of the ball to win football games. The offense as overall has been rather shaky and inconsistent for the past several years, particularly at the quarterback position. Hopefully with a new coaching staff on offense, and a head coach in Ed Orgeron who is an offensive-minded guy, the Tigers can finally become a school that talented quarterback recruits will take a second look at.
The issue is a major one I believe has been kind of brushed to the side for a while now, given that quarterbacks who have actually played for the team have told me they felt like they were never prepared to go to the next level and that the position as was basically neglected. The key to creating a team that can really contend with Alabama lies in solving issues on the offensive side of the ball, which I think can be fixed within the next couple of seasons.
Unlike a lot of people, I am actually sold on Danny Etling, and believe he will be able to take this offense farther than any quarterback has in roughly four years. I see promise in the younger guys behind him as well, and given LSU is able to recruit well at the position in years to come, they may not find themselves with such a QB issue every season.
If I did have to give a number of games to call the season "successful", I would put it realistically at nine wins. As previously mentioned, this is a young team and one in a sort of "rebuilding" stage. I do think they will make progress quickly though, and we'll be making a championship run not too far out from from now.
If they look like a program and team improved all across the board from the previous 4 seasons and look like a team that's in position to actually challenge for the SEC West in the future.
That might mean nine wins, maybe it's 10, or maybe in some incredible season it's even 11. But for basically the last four years, LSU hasn't really left you feeling for any sustained period of time that they were a complete team or that they were headed towards contention in the future. That doesn't mean the offense has to drop 40 repeatedly or that the defense has to hold everyone to 10, but if LSU can put together a season where it feels like they became a complete team by year's end, I think that would leave me feeling optimistic and leave me thinking it was a success.