A year ago, I wrote about LSU’s terrible injury luck the prior year and how there was no possible way that history could repeat itself. If nothing else, LSU was bound to improve simply by their rotten track record with injuries reverting to normal.
It’s been two straight years of rotten luck on the injury front, and last year was about as bad as an injury report can get. I will tempt fate by stating there’s no way that LSU could be so unlucky on the health front again this season. There will be injuries of course, but nothing like the scourge which afflicted the team last season.
And how did that turn out? 2018 was even worse.
Things started off on the wrong foot in the season opener, when LSU lost K’Lavon Chaisson for the season to injury. Before, we were complaining about having one of our best players hobbled and at a fraction of their former capacity all season, but Chiasson one upped Fournette, Guice, and Key by being completely unavailable.
LSU’s top recruit, Terrace Marshall, showed up on campus after missing his senior year with a severe injury, and never fully recovered for his freshman year. Garrett Brumfield and Breiden Fehoko would both suffer major injuries that took them out of multiple games.
The offensive line was a MASH unit all year, never boasting the same starting five on consecutive weeks until late October. The defensive line wasn’t much healthier with Ed Alexander limited, Fehoko out for the second half of the season and Rashard Lawrence working through injuries that required offseason surgery. And the two lines overshadowed a defensive backfield that was so ravaged by personnel losses that there literally were no cornerback substitutes available in the overtimes against Texas A&M, and a wide receiver was forced to play corner in the Fiesta Bowl.
How bad was it?
Of LSU’s 22 official starters against Miami, how many of them do you think started all 13 games? Six. Foster Moreau, Damien Lewis, Lloyd Cushenberry, Grant Delpit, Joe Burrow, and Rashard Lawrence were the only six LSU players to start all 13 games.
Okay, but that’s a tad misleading because, say, Greedy Williams took the Fiesta Bowl off the prepare for the draft. How many guys started 12-plus games? Ten. Not even half, and one of the ten is Austin Deculus, who didn’t start the Miami game and was forced into his role by injury.
But hey, I know what you’re thinking, guys lose jobs. Are starts the only way to look at this? I mean, Devin White only started 12 games not due to injury, but because of a league suspension that I am in no way still pissed off about.
Okay, how many week one starters simply played in 13 games? That removes talent from the equation entirely. Out of 22 starters against Miami, only 12 played in 13 games. Applying our Greedy Williams standard, only 15 guys played in 12+ games. That’s less than 70 percent.
By the season’s end, 85 different LSU players made an appearance in live action. Of those 85 players, only 29 appeared in 13 games and just 39 appeared in more than 12 games. Less than half the roster made a mere appearance in at least 12 games last year.
To put this in perspective, Alabama played 15 games, and needed just 75 players to do it. Of their 75 active players, 31 played in all 15 games and 43 played in 14 games. Bama played a bunch more games and needed less players to do it, yet a larger percentage of their roster played in virtually all of their games.
LSU finished the season with 42 players who made at least one start, thanks to roster volatility. It wasn’t just spot starts. Of the 20 Game 1 bench players who would eventually start at least one game, only six of them started just one game.
But perhaps no position group demonstrates LSU’s extreme roster volatility more than the offensive line. LSU used 13 different linemen on the season, and 9 of them earned at least one start. Look at the team’s usage:
To contrast it again with Alabama, the Tide needed just six starters for the season, and four of their linemen started all 15 games. LSU only had four players who appeared in all of their 13 games.
LSU kept on rotating players in and out of the lineup, and this doesn’t even get into the fact Ed Ingram missed the entire season by suspension. The fact LSU was able to muster an even borderline competent offense despite missing so much up front with such frequency is amazing.
Ed Orgeron won ten games last season with a team held together by medical tape and Ace bandages. If this year’s team is only moderately healthy, that would make it a massive improvement in 2019.
Seriously, guys. This is getting silly.