We discussed breakout players and positions -- what's one area of the 2017 Tigers that particularly concerns you?
Well, obviously quarterbacks. Until proven otherwise for once, that will always be the main area of concern for LSU. I think Etling showed that he can manage the game well enough in 2016, but he needs to take the next step and become an actual threat in the air, if for no other reason than to finally kill this tired ass narrative. He doesn't need to be Andrew Luck or Cam Newton, all he has to do is be better than he was in 2016.
I've been swayed to the ways of Matt Canada and his ability to make something serviceable out of nothing when it comes to quarterbacks. It's a very impressive track record but I'm not ready to bet the bank on the addition of Canada instantly solving all of LSU's ailments.
On the flip side of the coin, if Etling keeps his job it will be the first time since 2013 that an incumbent quarterback starts for most of the games for the Tigers and that was without a doubt the best year for the LSU passing game this decade. So they got that going for them.
Linebackers. Devin White seems like a future star, but he's still taking on way more responsibility than he has before. And while Donnie Alexander may fit into the mold of Debo Jones and Duke Riley in terms of the senior who breaks out, there's no guarantee that's something that will happen. Orgeron says he likes the freshmen and younger players there, but it's still one of, if not the toughest position on the field to pick up and be great at.
Dave Aranda is the whisperer and everyone should have a lot of faith in him, but this'll be a tough job, for 2017 at least.
Coaching. Coach O didn't bumble down the stretch last year, but he didn't exactly fill me full of confidence either. Losing to Bama was a mulligan, even if he lost it in a pretty much the same exact way Les had been losing it the past few years, which is fairly disconcerting. But the Florida game was a catastrophic failure. He let Fournette play when he hadn't practiced due to injury, the team couldn't turn yardage into points, and spent the whole game chasing the last mistake. And then, on the final play, he called timeout before fourth down and our quarterback and running back clearly thought the play went in different directions. That's an inexcusable error that cost the team the game.
Orgeron's calling card is recruiting, and I've got full confidence in him on that front. But this is a guy who rehabbed his image after a disastrous run by being a position coach, not even a coordinator. Yes, he's been an interim head coach twice, but he went 11-4 at two of the most powerful programs in the nation, which isn't exactly awe-inspiring. I don't know how he's going to do as the Guy in Charge.
Now, he could answer all of those questions in the affirmative this year. and there is a lot of "Yes, but..." in that history, but the time for excuses is over. It's big boy football time. Right now, I've got no confidence in his ability to make in-game adjustments in a tight contest. He hasn't so far. Last year he had the "I inherited this mess" excuse. That won't wash this year.
There are various roster holes at linebacker and safety. How will the offensive line shake out? Can Etling be serviceable? Will any receiver emerge across from Chark?
But by far the biggest concern rests on Orgeron's ability to navigate the team as a head coach. He plainly failed at Ole Miss and as much as we want to talk about him being a changed man, being called on for relief at USC and LSU does not equate being a full-time head coach. Can he effectively sell his message full time? Can he make clear headed decisions on the sideline?
The roster is the roster and there are probably enough issues to keep this team from competing for the SEC crown, but LSU's biggest question mark is without a doubt Orgeron.
Any concerns about Orgeron's overall management of the program will be things we see play out over long periods, well beyond this particular team.
But the lack of depth at tackle is a concern for me now and moving forward. Finding a stop-gap measure or a transfer player will be huge for 2018. Losing Willie Allen was a big blow — I don't know if he was going to play all that much right now, but he was certainly going to contribute, and likely start by the next season. Right now, that leaves K.J. Malone, Toby Weathersby, Jakori Savage, Adrian Magee and Seth Stewart. Malone has run incredibly hot and cold, Weathersby has battled injuries and the rest are redshirt/true freshmen. You could say that's sub-optimal.
The interior of the offensive line is pretty loaded, enough so that guys like Maea Teuhema and Austin Deculus might be able to slide outside in spots. But if this unit battles the injuries we saw in 2016, things could get messy. Which could also translate to some issues at quarterback, if the offensive front can't keep Danny Etling upright.
In many other years, I'd say quarterbacks. But at this point, I think I would have to go with coaching as well. Orgeron is an offensive-minded guy, which I think will help this team that's seen some positions on that side of the ball neglected in seasons past. We've acknowledged he's an impeccable recruiter as well.
But his run with the team last year wasn't anything revolutionary. There was obvious improvement, but he may have gotten a bit more credit for that from some than he deserved. We also have to look at his past. Orgeron's time with Ole Miss was a mess, and his stint at USC didn't convince us of much. He's already made a few off-the-wall mistakes in play calling and other team decisions with the Tigers. This will definitely be Orgeron's "prove it" year, and will really show if he's got what it takes to finally get this team up to the next level again.