So now that the regular season is over and done with, here’s a quick primer on what’s next for LSU’s program over the upcoming weeks/months.
Ed Orgeron and Co. should know their bowl destination by Sunday evening. A win on Saturday would have meant a Sugar or Fiesta Bowl birth, although the SEC trying to protect the SEC Championship Game loser would have likely been a hangup then.
The Peach Bowl seems like a safe bet to me, but SB Nation’s Jason Kirk still thinks there’s an outside shot at the Fiesta against a West Coast team like Washington State. That would obviously be a much better outcome, although if you’d told me Peach Bowl before the season, I’d gladly take it. We’ll have more on that news when it breaks.
The most important thing about the bowl is the 10 practices that come with it, about half of which will focus on developing young players for next year. Hopefully, whatever happens, we get a fresh match-up with an opponent we can get excited about.
LSU’s staff will be running the roads over the next few weeks in the lead up to the early signing period, which will take place from Wednesday, Dec. 19 through the 21. The plan, certainly, will be to sign all of the Tigers’ verbal commitments officially, then use the final six weeks up to National Signing Day on Feb. 6, 2019 to try and fill the final open spots.
There are 20 verbal commitments right now, but that number may ebb and flow over the next few weeks. Since Dan’s last roundup, the Tigers have added a big fish in running back John Emery, whom they believe will sign. Among the uncommitted, players like Devonta Lee or Jay Ward could possibly announce a decision by then. But players like Nakobe Dean and Ishmael Sopsher will almost surely go down to the wire.
There’s been some speculation regarding JUCO commitments like Dreshun Miller or T.K. McClendon being pushed out of the class to make additional room, but I would not expect that to happen unless the coaches have replacements lined up. So if news of either decommitment breaks, that’s likely an indication. Linemen and cornerbacks will be a big focus. I’d be surprised if LSU did not sign a full class of 25, unless they can’t secure the right names or decide to hold open a spot or two for the potential transfer market.
LSU is losing just 12 scholarship seniors in this class, so there’s going to have to be some additional attrition from the rest of the scholarship roster in order to bring in a full recruiting class. And how Orgeron manages that will say a lot about the progress of the program to date.
There will certainly be some NFL Draft defections — Greedy Williams and Devin White are likely high first-round picks — but managing the depletion of recent years would be a big step forward. Three big names that come to mind are defensive linemen Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko and cornerback Kristian Fulton. All three are certainly NFL players, and they’ve been the kind of “on the cusp” players that LSU has lost recently. And all three could be the difference between a good and a great defense next season.
Between Fulton’s injury and his past issues with the NCAA, it could be easy to see wanting to start his professional clock as soon as possible. LSU’s pitch will focus on the fact that as of today, he only has nine games worth of tape for NFL scouts to look at, and coming off his injury, he’ll likely be limited in what he can do for workouts. Whereas another year here at the level he played at this past season, and he could be an All-American and potential first-round pick.
The two linemen face the most loaded NFL Draft class at their position in years, meaning that a higher pick with another year is almost guaranteed. And Fehoko’s biceps surgery creates a similar workout limitation to Fulton. Nose tackle Ed Alexander is another player that I expect to at least test the NFL waters. He’s battled knee injuries for most of his career here, which may also push him to declare early versus taking on another season of wear-and-tear that he won’t make up, a la Will Clapp last year.
The other departures will be crucial; does LSU lose back-of-the-depth-chart players, or more contributors? Players who could transfer to a Southeastern or a McNeese and play much larger roles, or just try and get paid now because they’re sick of school? And of course, some players just may not be wanted back for one reason or another.
There’s also the legal situations involving sophomore guard Ed Ingram and linebacker Tyler Taylor, who were arrested in connection with a sexual assault and armed robbery, respectively. Both have remained suspended, but maintained their innocence and stayed in school otherwise. While it seems doubtful that either would be back, the fact neither has actually gotten the boot yet suggests that there could be a path back to the team, pending the disposition of the cases.
Nothing is in the wind on this front right now, but these situations always are, and will remain fluid, maybe more so than recruiting even.
It’s been only a matter of time for Corey Raymond to get a call up, either to a defensive coordinator job, or maybe an NFL DB job. Although I have always heard he loves working at LSU, the lure to move up the coaching ranks is always there.
Likewise, Dave Aranda will move on eventually as well. Maybe not this year, but eventually. In talking to program insiders, most believe he doesn’t necessarily see himself as a head coach, but many do believe he’ll eventually want the challenge of running an NFL defense.
Bill Busch is another assistant that I could see getting a mid-major, or maybe a Big 10 coordinator job.
On the offensive side of the ball, passing game coordinator Jerry Sullivan was on a one-year contract, and previously retired anyway, so it remains to be seen if he’ll be back. Steve Ensminger’s next move will likely be retirement as well, although I doubt that comes this year, regardless of public sentiment. Running backs coach Tommy Robinson has shown interest in moving to the NFL at times.
As far as potential staff additions or new analysts, former NFL quarterback/media personality Sean Salisbury has been rumored to be joining the program, after compliance forbade him last year due to ties to recruits. Word is that may have changed, although that could just be a rumor. Any offensive head coaches let go, but still owed money, could be possibilities as well.
There are still a lot of moving parts here — jobs shifting across the country, and the NFL hiring cycle still to come as well. Things will likely move slowly here, through National Signing Day. I will bring it up now because people apparently don’t listen — Hugh Freeze will not ever be joining Ed Orgeron’s coaching staff.
PodKATT: Hugh Freeze will be too busy to join a college staff, as he’s signed on to be Rick Neuheisel’s OC for the Arizona Hotshots of the newly launched AAF, the league that’s now the home of YA BOY ZACH METTENBERGER
R4 P2 Memphis - ZACH METTENBERGER pic.twitter.com/cqwotRVXRB— PodKATT (@valleyshook) November 28, 2018
We’ll try to stay on top of any news as it breaks.