Unbelievable as it may seem, Ed Orgeron has already led LSU onto the field as head coach 21 times. Although he’s entering only his second full season as permanent head coach, the program very much feels like it’s his: the players, the staff, the facilities and even the motto (“One Team. One Heartbeat,” anyone?)
Matt Canada is out, and Steve Ensminger is calling plays. Joe Burrow gives LSU its best option under center since Zach Mettenberger. Orgeron fended off Texas A&M as they tried to lure Dave Aranda to College Station this offseason. And if you haven’t noticed, the Tigers are staring down a top five signing class in 2019.
The future is bright. The present, however, is murky.
With a talented but inexperienced roster facing one of the most difficult schedules in America, oddsmakers have pegged LSU to win seven or eight games in 2018. Seriously, though: Lewis and Clark might have had an easier time reaching the Pacific than this LSU team will have navigating this schedule.
LSU fans aren’t known to be a patient lot, but they may need to be as the Tigers venture through what could be a bumpy season in Baton Rouge.
Most valuable defensive player: Devin White. The junior linebacker will make every call and just about every tackle in what should be an All-American caliber season. Enjoy watching him, because he’ll be an NFL millionaire this time next year.
Offensive player to watch: Jonathan Giles. Finally eligible after transferring from Texas Tech, the wide receiver has already been awarded the No. 7 jersey and all of the expectation that comes with it. If LSU opens the season slinging the ball around, Giles is the most polished option.
Starting quarterback: Joe Burrow. You didn’t think they signed him to hold a clipboard, did you?
Biggest surprise: Clyde Edwards-Helaire. There wasn’t much room for a running back to shine behind Derrius Guice and Darrell Williams. The sophomore will be the breakout star of 2018.
Biggest impact freshman: Kelvin Joseph. Although he signed with LSU as a safety, the numbers crunch at cornerback has already forced a position switch. The Scotlandville product will get plenty of reps as a freshman out of necessity.
Under pressure: Kicker Cole Tracy. It’s a rarity that a coach will use a coveted roster spot on a specialist as a one-year mercenary. That’s what Orgeron felt he had to do to shore up his kicking game after the Tigers converted just 16 of 27 field goal attempts in 2017. Tracy was the best kicker in Division II last season. Let’s see how he handles kicking under the bright lights of Death Valley.
Game you shouldn’t write off as an easy win: Mississippi State. Dan Mullen may be gone, but 18 starters return including quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Don’t be surprised when the Bulldogs are favored in Baton Rouge.
Biggest upset possibility: Miami (Florida). The Canes scuffled down the stretch last season, losing their final three games after a 10-0 start. Three top defenders are gone, and they still aren’t settled at quarterback. LSU will have the crowd advantage in Arlington, too.
Record prediction: 7-5
Bowl prediction: Texas Bowl
Matt Moscona has hosted “After Further Review” on 104.5/104.9 ESPN Baton Rouge since 2010 and is now syndicated on 100.3 ESPN New Orleans and on Cox Sports Television. Radio Ink magazine named him one of the U.S.’ Top 30 Local Sports Talkers five times since 2012. He is also the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Louisiana Association of Broadcasters Prestige Award Winner for Best Sports Show.
This article was originally published in the Tiger Pride section of the August 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.
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