BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - LSU head coach Ed Orgeron met with sports journalists the day after two more players decided to opt out for the 2020 season and he reiterated the “Next Man Up” philosophy.
Orgeron said the team had an outstanding practice in full pads on Monday, August 31, that saw lots of competition and several guys stepping up.
“‘Next Man Up’ - that’s why you have to recruit, that’s why you’re at LSU,” said Orgeron. “You’ve got some good young players that can play. I know our guys are going to step up. It is a lot of turnover but it is a great challenge for our staff.”
With wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase being one of those players who has opted out, Orgeron said he thinks they have the depth at that position to survive the loss. He noted there is not enough talk about junior pass-catcher Terrace Marshall Jr., who snagged 46 balls for 671 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He also had the highest red zone efficiency rating in all of college football in 2019, despite missing three games due to injury.
Orgeron said this is the time for those other guys to step up. He had lots of good things to say about true freshman wide receiver Kayshon Boutte out of Westgate High in New Iberia. He also mentioned Lutcher’s Jontre Kirklin and Kentwood’s Trey Palmer. Of course, there’s also Racey McMath, who had 17 receptions for 285 yards and three touchdowns last season. Coach O joked there are 200 balls between Justin Jefferson and Chase that have to be caught and the guys they have left are eager to catch them.
More than 30 players who helped the Tigers go 15-0 last season and win the national title have now departed for one reason or another. Orgeron knew there would be challenges in 2020 but he could’ve never imagined this situation roughly eight months ago.
As far as players opting out, Orgeron said everyone’s situation is different. He said he talked to both Chase and defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin and both had legitimate reasons for opting out but it was hard for them to leave the team, especially Chase. He added LSU is supporting those players 110% in their decision.
“We wish them the best. They did everything they could for LSU while they were here. [They] helped us win a championship, an interval part of our championship team. It was hard for both of them. Guys are opting out for different reasons. That’s the time we’re living in. But you know what? We have guys that are going to step up. We have some guys who are ready to step in. We have a good roster that can handle that. Obviously, I hope no one else opts out. I hope that’s the last one but it may not be but we have to deal with it.”
Tuesday, the Tigers were back on the practice field. Jacobian Guillory (No. 90) hardly looked like a true freshman in his LSU uniform. Guillory, another true freshman, Eric Taylor (No. 96), and sophomore Ipu Ika (No. 62) hope to collectively fill the void left behind by Shelvin.
Meanwhile, Liam Shannon (No. 56), a graduate transfer from Harvard, figures to start for LSU on the offensive line at center to fill in for the departed Lloyd Cushenberry.
Orgeron addressed reports of many of the offensive lineman being forced to quarantine recently because of COVID-19.
“Yeah, our whole offensive line was back yesterday (Monday, Aug. 31). It was good to see them. As far as I know, the whole offensive line was back practicing. Here’s what happens - a couple of guys are going to be positive, maybe more. But there’s some guys around them and they have to be quarantined. But you know what? It’s good it happened now and not in the middle of the season.”
Another topic that was talked about a lot was the march the players through campus on Friday. Orgeron said he wasn’t at the beginning of the march because he didn’t know about it. He explained he later got a message that the team wanted to meet at the president’s office and he went. He added it was a players-only deal.
Coach O pointed out there have been conversations with the team since then where players are allowed to express themselves. He said the “Block Out the Noise” message is for players to know they need to take care of the task at hand but he understands there are outside forces affecting them, so an open dialogue with the players on the things happening in the world is necessary.
He said there are great leaders like JaCoby Stevens, Andre Anthony, and Myles Brennan who have helped the team come together. He described Stevens as phenomenal with how he’s been doing things off the field. He noted when Stevens speaks, everyone listens. He called him a great player and a great young man who is a tremendous asset to the football team.
Orgeron still doesn’t know what capacity will be in Tiger Stadium when LSU hosts Mississippi State on September 26 for the season-opener but he wants the players to learn how to create their own energy and own noise in case the fans are not there to do it. A decision on capacity is expected soon. The team will play Preseason Game 1 this week. It will be their first time back in Death Valley.
Coach O spoke briefly about his three scholarship quarterbacks. He said Brennan is having an excellent camp. He is doing everything the coaching staff asks and has earned a passing grade in every practice. Orgeron added TJ Finley out of Ponchatoula has made the most improvement in camp. He also remains impressed with Max Johnson’s athleticism.
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