The annual SEC Media Days act as the unofficial start to the college football season each year, as the media and fans get their first opportunity to hear from the coaches and players prior to the new season.
Ed Orgeron helped kick things off this week in Birmingham as the second overall speaker of the conference, previewing all of LSU’s new coaches, players and position battles heading into fall camp. The Tigers also brought along graduate student and starting right tackle Austin Deculus and junior cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. as representatives.
A lot was covered during LSU’s portion of the day, but here are the three biggest takeaways from what the Tigers had to say Monday.
1. NEW COACHES = NEW RESULTS
There was understandably a lot of criticisms directed toward LSU last season, most of which fell less on the players and more on the coaching staff. Orgeron was quick to make changes this offseason, bringing in younger, more forward-thinking names to lead both the offense and defense, starting with offensive coordinator Jake Peetz and passing game coordinator D.J. Mangas.
“We brought back Jake Peetz and D.J. Mangas to run Joe Brady’s offense of 2019, one of the most prolific offenses in the history of football, and that’s what we’re going to,” Orgeron said at the conference. “I think those guys are going to do a tremendous job … The type of offense we’re going to run—the style of offense of 2019, the type of checks that we had, the type of protections—that’s the stuff I’m talking about now. Now, that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing we’re going to run. But that is going to be the basis of our offense, which is a spread offense, which we learned under Joe Brady.”
Defensively, Daronte Jones takes over as defensive coordinator for the often-critiqued Bo Pelini, and he’ll look to use his NFL expertise to get LSU’s defense back to its normal standards.
“We have to eliminate explosive plays,” Orgeron said. “Too many explosive plays, too many missed assignments. Too many busts. Too many receivers running down the field free, and we played a lot of man and a lot of combination of man, stuff like that. Some of it was simple. Some of it was too complicated. We’re going to simplify stuff. We want our players to have their cleats in the grass. We’re going to play a lot more zone. They’re not going to be switching off of this level, switching off of that level. We want our guys to play, keep the ball in front of us, and make plays.”
But another change you’ll see—and arguably the biggest—won’t come on the field.
Orgeron complimented all the new coaches for their communication skills and being able to relate to the players on a closer level than the previous, older coaching staff.
“One of the things—and I talked about this before—our coaches didn’t know this, but when I was interviewing them, I was pretending I was one of our players, and I wanted to see how well they would communicate to our players,” Orgeron said. “Coaches are going to know a lot of football, but it’s how much that they can get to our players and how much our players will know, and every one of these coaches, they average 20 years younger than the coaches I had on the staff. Every one of these coaches made an A-plus in communication with our players.”
2. MYLES VS. MAX IS A TIGHT COMPETITION
It’s no secret that LSU has a quarterback battle on its hands as it enters the fall.
Myles Brennan steps in as the more experienced veteran who has put in the time as a backup in his five years on campus. Max Johnson enters the picture as the sophomore competitor who led the Tigers to two big victories down the stretch at the end of 2020.
Brennan won the starting job a year ago, but Johnson entered spring training as the first-team quarterback. And from what we gathered from Orgeron’s statements this week, that competition will come down to the wire.
“Obviously, on offense we’ve got a battle at quarterback,” Orgeron said. “I think it’s healthy for a football team. I believe in both quarterbacks. Myles Brennan and Max Johnson are two championship quarterbacks. Whoever wins is going to do a great job at LSU. It’s going to be a tremendous battle, and we’ll see what happens … Whether or not Max, Myles, or Garrett (Nussmeier, a freshman quarterback) can run (the offense) like Joe, I’m not expecting that, but I want to see the same type of plays. I want to see the same type of adjustments that were so successful for us.”
3. COMPLYING WITH COVID
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who always opens SEC Media Days with his statements and Q&A session, turned some heads this week with his powerful comments on the league’s COVID-19 protocols and requirements.
According to Sankey, six of the 14 schools in the conference have reached at least an 80% vaccination rate. It’s a good start, but it could cause even more issues in the coming months if numbers aren’t higher by the start of the season.
“That number needs to grow and grow rapidly,” Sankey said. “COVID-19 vaccines are widely available. They have proven to be highly effective, and when people are fully vaccinated we have the ability to avoid serious health risks, reduce the virus’ spread and maximize our chances of returning to a normal college football experience and to normal life. With six weeks to go before kick-off, now is the time to seek that full vaccination. We know nothing is perfect, but the availability and the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines are an important and incredible product of science, not of political football.”
Sankey also alluded to the fact that postponing or rescheduling games will not be an option this fall and teams may instead be forced to forfeit if they can’t field the proper number of players.
Neither Orgeron nor LSU have officially released the football team’s vaccination numbers, but it was widely reported that LSU was indeed one of the six schools above that 80 percent mark.
“I think most of our guys have been vaccinated for COVID, and obviously that’s a personal choice,” Orgeron said simply. “But hopefully, hopefully toward the season, most of our guys decide to get vaccinated.”