Scooter Hobbs column: Warm bodies will do for LSU

Published 9:54 am Friday, December 31, 2021

LSU will be arriving in Houston today for Tuesday’s Texas Bowl.

Everything else seems to be TBA.

But it should be an interesting roll call once they pull up. Counting noses on a third-grade field trip might be easier.

Presumably the Tigers will round up enough players to give Kansas State an honest go of it.

Or maybe the whole depleted team gets to Houston in a minivan.

The last bowl before the national championship game, like the postseason as a whole, is a little up in the air right now, murky.

Bowl officials seem to be spending a lot of time reminding folks that, yes, they still plan to have a game.

And Kansas State did arrive on Thursday.

So there’s that.

Exactly who will be playing for LSU is anybody’s guess.

The starting lineup might be a draw of straws or rock, paper, scissors.

Never mind everybody surviving the COVID nose swab with a negative test.

Already depleted by the regular season’s never-ending rash of injuries — although a couple or three might return — now you have the annual LSU tussle with the NCAA transfer portal and the fashionable bowl optouts.

And who knows how final exams went? Any academic casualties?

Mainly, the Tigers might have to invent a quarterback out of equal parts thin air and wide receiver Jontre Kirkland.

With starter Max Johnson having already transferred, Garrett Nussmeier has already exhausted the limit he can play and still redshirt.

But at least LSU seems intent on giving it the ol’ college try.

Some of the Tigers, at least.

LSU was a co-conspirator in starting the bowl opt-out fad after the 2016 season when the Tigers’ Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey took the plunge as trailblazers.

Neither seemed to scare off any NFL suitors, so the stampede began. You suspect in some cases it’s just to remind folks that they’ll be available for the draft.

But it’s the reality these days.

So the Tigers lost probably their best two remaining defensive players, defensive tackle Neil Farrell and linebacker Damone Clark.

They were also the unquestioned team leaders.

They’ll find some bodies to fill the gaps.

But who’s going to coach them?

Ed Orgeron won’t be there — probably in Destin. New head coach Brian Kelly will be there, but strictly as an observer. He won’t coach a single one of them yet.

Interim head coach Brad Davis will be in charge while still handling the offensive line. Also, he’s the only Orgeron coach thus far retained by Kelly.

A few stragglers from Orgeron’s staff are hanging around anyway, just for this game.

Mostly, though, it will be analysts stepping in for key assistants who have already found work elsewhere.

Not optimal, for sure.

LSU will deal with it as best it can.

But whether the game comes off — you never know these days — give the Tigers credit for trying.

Take Texas A&M, for instance, which has some sort of mystique built on dragging innocent fans out of the cheap seats to pitch in as the famed make-do “12th Man.” Yet somehow the “can’t-do” Aggies knew 10 days ago that it would be impossible for them to field a varsity for today’s Gator Bowl.

Maybe they needed a 13th and 14th Man.

It was presumably COVID-related, to a degree, although that seems a long way out to figure out such a day-to-day situation. But the Aggies weren’t immune to numerous opt-outs and the dreaded portal either, further depleting the ranks (or is it the corps?).

Maybe it was the prudent move by the Aggies. No need to risk embarrassment.

And LSU might regret ever leaving Baton Rouge.

It could turn into the college version of Monday night’s Saints-Dolphins game. Certainly has the potential.

But go for it anyway.

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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com