No shortage of offensive questions for Orgeron

FILE: LSU head coach Ed Orgeron speaks during NCAA college football Southeastern Conference media days at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/John Amis)

John Amis

No, no, no, Coach O … NO!

Don’t go there!

And it was close.

So close it appeared an entire ballroom full of media was holding its breath, fear in the collective eyes, some looking ready to bolt for the exit doors.

For several moments there Monday at SEC Media Days at Atlanta, LSU’s Ed Orgeron looked ready to veer off course, to fall off the wagon and into that rut of a year ago when he dragged the entire congregation through every obscure nook and cranny of the Tigers’ depth chart until every inquiring eye glazed over.

It’s a mortal sin at the affair.

But, thankfully, it was a false alarm.

He tip-toed into it a few times, eliciting great moans of anguish from the gathering, but for the most part straightened up and reverted to his charming Cajun self.

But old habits die hard and the media did the LSU knee-jerk thing, figuring if you’re talking about the Tigers there must be a quarterback problem to solve somewhere.

And maybe there is — never mind that Orgeron probably has a better idea, or at least more viable options, at quarterback than at running back  for this season.

Certainly doesn’t fit the LSU stereotype.

But there seemed to be no shortage of offensive questions before what figures to be a pivotal year for this Great Cajun Experiment.

It was hard not to notice that the four-day parade of coaches began Monday with Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, the long-rumored heir to the LSU job — it didn’t work out — who instead became the Aggies’ $75-million coach.

Even though A&M has not beaten LSU since entering the SEC, the general consensus seems to be that Fisher will surely have all the answers now (and most of the money) and that the Aggies eventually got the best of the coaching deal no matter the price.

The jury is still out on Orgeron.

But once he side-stepped that tempting depth chart filibuster, at  least Coach O was candid, particularly on the offense (nobody ever questions LSU’s defense). 

Former Auburn coach Gene Chizik, now an SEC Network analyst, set the tone just before Orgeron took the podium when he said, “Orgeron took all his chips and pushed them all in with Steve Ensminger.”

In other words, if you fire a rock star coordinator like last year’s offensive mastermind Matt Canada and replace him in-house with an old friend straight out of the good ol’ boy network, it better work.

The Mississippi delegation even noted that he did the same thing following his first year at Ole Miss, a three-year debacle he’s still trying to live down among SEC folks.

Orgeron’s explanation this time didn’t mince words. His answer wasn’t a shock — it was widely assumed. It’s just never been spelled out quite so bluntly before.

“Here’s the deal. It’s tough when you make a mistake,” Orgeron said, obviously referring to hiring Canada and his odd-ball offense to begin with.

“It’s harder when you don’t admit you make a mistake. It just wasn’t the right fit. I had to do what was best for the LSU program.”

The Orgeron-Canada friction hit its low point when Orgeron admitted he meddled too much in the offense before a shocking upset loss to Troy.

He and Canada basically called a truce and agreed to disagree for the rest of the season, which LSU turned around to win six of their last seven regular season games.

“It didn’t work,” Orgeron said of his relationship with Canada. “And all the while I was saying Steve Ensminger is the guy. If I have the chance, I’m going to hire him.”

He did and he did.

“I have complete confidence in the direction he’s going to lead this offense. He and I are on the same page.”

So the chips are all in.

And, for Media Days’ purposes, LSU was also back in the familiar spot of wondering who its quarterback will be.

Orgeron doesn’t know who it will be. He hopes it’s an obvious choice, but he didn’t rule out the Tigers might start the season with a dual quarterback system.

But it was telling that Orgeron explained how quickly the staff jumped on graduate transfer Joe Burrows when it became known the former Ohio State backup was available to join the LSU quarterback duel with Myles Brennan and Justin McMillan. 

Maybe they weren’t as happy with the position following the spring as they let on.

But he was singing to LSU tailgate choir when he described what he wanted the offense to be under Ensminger.

“We’re mainly going to be a spread offense with three, four and sometimes five-wide receiver sets,” he said. “Still want to be 50-50 with the pass-run balance.”

 

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