Earlier this week, we put together our own preview of the LSU Tigers, which (despite exhaustive research) still misses out on some of the finer points. Here to set the record straight is Billy Gomila from And The Valley Shook to give us a good deal more info on the Bayou Bengals in 2018.
Who’s the heir apparent at quarterback? Myles Brennan has a little more experience, but Justin McMillan is a name that’s come out more and more since spring. Who’s got the edge?
Well, right now LSU has thrown itself into the Joe Burrow Sweepstakes, trying to land Ohio State’s backup as a graduate transfer. Right now, it seems to be a competition between staying at home and playing for Cincinnati, or coming down south, and as of this writing, we haven’t heard a decision yet.
If Burrow either elects to be a Bearcat, or somehow can’t win the job, I think Brennan is probably the best bet. McMillan is a heady player who knows what LSU wants to do, and provides a little more mobility, but just doesn’t have the passing ability, at least in my opinion. Brennan has a nice arm, but he’s still a skinny kid as a true sophomore, and I think more time in the oven would be ideal. The untold story of LSU’s quarterback woes over the years is that they’ve constantly had to trot out first- and second-year players before they probably should have been ready.
Redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse has the most potential of the bunch, and will almost certainly get in some in packages. He’s a big, strong runner with a powerful arm, but again, needs to work on his accuracy. He’s also coming off two knee injuries in high school, and the staff is still a little unsure how he’ll handle live fire.
There are a ton of guys gone from the skill positions on offense -- tell us about the names that we don’t know at running back and wide receiver that will make the LSU offense go this year.
Well, LSU’s go-to guy will be a newcomer, but one with a history. Jonathan Giles was a Biletnikoff finalist at Texas Tech in 2016, and will step in as the No. 1 option this year. There are a host of veterans who have been around, but there’s also two top-10 freshmen recruits coming in looking to earn time, Terrace Marshall Jr. and Ja’Marr Chase. There’s also true sophomore Justin Jefferson, who asserted himself in the spring.
At tailback, as of today the top option appears to be sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who was mostly just a kick-returner last year. He’s much more of a scatback than we’re used to here, but at 210 pounds it’s not like he’s that small. Overall, there’s no Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice in this group, so LSU’s going to need a tailback-by-committee approach. I expect true freshman Chris Curry to help out once he arrives as well.
The offensive line has a couple of pieces back, but like Auburn, it sounds like you’ll be looking for the right combination early in the season. What’s your expectation for that group?
It’s hard to believe, but LSU’s been perilously thin along the offensive line (both lines, really), and that’s been a big focus of Ed Orgeron’s recruiting so far -- and he brought in two big-time JUCO transfers this cycle to help, tackle Badara Traore and guard Damien Lewis. It’s not totally clear yet if either will start right away, but it kind of depends on how things shake out. Traore will compete with sophomores Saahdiq Charles and Austin Deculus for the two tackle spots. LSU has two solid returning guards in senior Garrett Brumfield and sophomore Ed Ingram, but the big question mark is center, where sophomore Lloyd Cushenberry is in line to replace Will Clapp, but hasn’t quite locked the job up yet. What could happen is Brumfield move to that spot, with Lewis and Ingram manning either guard spot. It’s just a question of how the pieces fit.
Hopefully this will be sorted out by the time we head to Auburn.
The defense is going to be nasty. Name one guy from each of the defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs that’s a lock to make All-SEC this season.
Well, right off the bat there’s the SEC’s returning tackler in linebacker Devin White, and leader in interceptions, cornerback Greedy Williams. They’ll both be preseason all-conference, and should contend for All-American honors.
Up front, Rashard Lawrence can be dominant when healthy, but he should have more help with another Red Raider Refugee in end/tackle Breiden Fehoko, who was a top-100 recruit once upon a time, and has a new lease on life with Orgeron. Overall, this should be the best defensive front LSU has had in some time.
What’s the mood like with LSU fans in relation to Ed O? He had his highs (beating us) and his lows (Troy) in his first full year, so what does the fanbase expect in 2018?
I think anybody who loses their bowl game is on the “hot seat” for the most part. Orgeron’s first team took that big hit early, but recovered pretty well and had the best SEC record any LSU team has had since 2012. The key is to build on that. There was the bowl loss, then a struggling finish in recruiting, so that put a bad taste in a lot of mouths. The reality that he had some rebuilding to do here is not something people were prepared to accept.
In terms of this year, right now there’s a lot of woe-is-us 6-6 talk, but I have a feeling that for some fans, Orgeron still won’t get much credit if he does better than that. That’s just the state of LSU fandom right now. People have become very comfortable aligning themselves into a camp and turning their brain off.
What’s your take on the schedule? It doesn’t look like there’s an absolute murderer’s row aside from that back to back with Florida and Georgia. Over/under on wins for the season?
Well, you have Miami, then the trip to Jordan-Hare all in that first month, so it’s pretty tough. Even Louisiana Tech, while a game LSU should absolutely win, is a program that has a lot of pride and will come in with its hair on fire -- much like Troy did. And games like that wear on you. So it’s a pretty hard slate, especially if things start out rough right out of the gate.
This time of the year is funny, because right now there’s going to be a lot of 6- or 7-win talk, but also “disappointment lists,” which raise the question as to how you can be a disappointment if you’re not supposed to be that good in the first place. But I digress.
It could be a great opportunity to show some progress for Orgeron, or a difficult run. We’ll see how it all plays out.
Next week: the Arkansas Razorbacks