LSU may have had its defining day
It must have sent bright red flags flying up all around the LSU football program, especially the fans’ wing.
But apparently it was fairly harmless as these things go.
You never know with those “Players Only Meetings.”
LSU organized one last week.
Often they are a sure sign of a morale problem, real trouble right here in River City, as likely as not a last-gasp attempt to salvage a season. Or at least make it look like you’re making the effort to.
But this LSU players-only-meeting was last week, almost three weeks before the start of the season.
Could all the season’s hopes and dreams have derailed that quickly?
Maybe it was a preemptive strike.
Last year LSU waited until it hit rock bottom with that shocking loss to Troy before calling the obligatory meeting with no coaches allowed.
That one worked — LSU, which looked dead and buried at the time, won at Florida the next week (on guts and guile more than artistry) and won five of its last six regular-season games.
Save the official minutes from that meeting.
This latest was different.
When this pow wow convened, perhaps the first question should have been a show of hands as to whether there were any more young scholars in the group who might have had an as-of-yet undisclosed arrest in the last couple of months.
It would be nice to know that up front because those little unexpected distractions seemed to be coming out of the woodwork once head coach Ed Orgeron marvelled just before the start of August camp what a refreshingly uneventful offseason it had been.
So now you’ve got three indefinite suspensions for arrests. There’s backup linebacker Tyler Taylor for allegedly driving the getaway car in a Georgia pawn shop burglary. There’s backup wide receiver Drake Davis, who’s accused of second-degree domestic battery against a former girlfriend. She has since changed her statement.
And this awful August all started on reporting day when Orgeron announced that projected starting offensive right guard Ed Ingram was suspended for a violation of “university policy.” That smacked of academic chicanery, but on Tuesday it was revealed to be a very legal matter — he had been arrested on Aug. 2 back home in DeSoto, Texas, on two felony counts of aggravated sexual assault of a minor.
Stay tuned …
But, like, if there are any more surprises to come from that “uneventful” offseason, that meeting might have been a good time to step forward and fess up.
But no, that apparently wasn’t the reason to convene.
The legal system will handle those inconveniences.
This was all sparked by the far more innocent departure of two quarterbacks, Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse, who apparently were held in high esteem by their teammates.
They transferred when coaches let them know they were third and fourth on that crowded quarterback depth chart.
A group of team leaders — known as the Leadership Council, with a cross section of guys from every position group — went to Orgeron wanting to know what was up.
Not sure what he could have told them. He didn’t run off the two quarterbacks.
But the result was the clear-the-air meeting, which really could be a good thing.
It didn’t settle the quarterback duel and it won’t bring back Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice (both running backs now in the NFL), but it was a chance for this team, which could be adding as many as five transfers into starting roles, to establish its identity.
LSU will always have talent, but in the long run building a good team chemistry will be as important to winning big as any of those position battles.
The Geneva Convention or some such declared that little of what is said in a players’ only meeting can be leaked to the civilian world.
But several players said junior linebacker Devin White did most of the talking.
That’s a good thing.
It was that players-only meeting after the Troy loss that White morphed from being a very good player into an unquestioned team leader.
When he speaks, teammates listen, and all who have spoken felt better about everything afterwards.
It’s not like they have much time to build that chemistry. The Tigers open in Arlington, Texas, against No. 8 Miami in what could define the season early.
But if this sounds like the August from hell for LSU, it’s still probably a good barroom brawl away from topping 2011.
That team, which played a high-profile season opener in Arlington, Texas, against a top-five team (Oregon), had the famous Shady’s Bar “incident,” which ended with quarterback Jordan Jefferson suspended and the whole team running a lot of extra wind sprints for the actions of a handful of teammates.
That had the potential to kill team morale.
All LSU did was destroy Oregon 40-27 and go 13-0 before the infamous rematch with Alabama for the national title.
That August, though, holding that team together, might have been Les Miles’ best coaching job, at least in a crisis.
This August may go a long way in defining Orgeron.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org