After bulldozing its way to a national championship in 2019, the ship sunk for LSU football in 2020 as the Tigers went a mere 5-5 on top of implementing a self-imposed bowl ban. So just how can LSU find its way back to SEC contention when the 2021 season kicks off? That’s no simple question, though 247Sports’ Josh Pate took a crack at finding an answer during a recent episode of The Late Kick.
Upon consulting the opinions of LSU fans at Geaux247.com, offensive line development, wide receiver development, and proving both new coordinators — defensive coordinator Daronte Jones and offensive coordinator Jake Peetz — to be “home run hires” are among the keys. Pate elaborated on those topics as the Tigers aim to right the ship this fall.
“When I asked this, the most popular sentiment was offensive line,” Pate said. “And I think that was, pretty handedly, the No. 1 reaction. But then beyond that, wide receiver development beyond Kayshon Boutte, which we talked about is the big, glaring thing coming out of the spring game — like, Boutte is a bona fide No. 1 receiver in the SEC — you can count on him in the foxhole. But they had two to four of those guys in the past, and you want to find which one is the two, three and four this year. They have to have some stud receivers. To do what they want to do, you have to have more than one dependable receiver.
Now the good news is that this is not like trying to make chicken salad out of fill-in-the-blank. They have a lot of talent. It’s just unproven. They have names on the depth chart. They’ve got to prove themselves. That’s what they’re looking for. So that, the running back room finally playing to the sum of the individual parts, which you’ve been waiting on for a while — I mean you had Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but then after that, a lot of names. And they still have a lot of names. ‘We know what this guy should be capable of, but he’s still not quite there.’ … Do they have (backs that can also be effective pass-catchers)?”
While the offense had no shortage of struggles in 2020, though, it was a typically stout LSU defense that looked uncharacteristically out-of-sync. It only took one game for the Tigers to surrender more than 600 passing yards — LSU allowed Mississippi State to throw for an SEC single-game record 623 in the season-opener — and the perpetual struggles would ultimately lead to Bo Pelini being relieved of his duties after just one season back as the defensive coordinator in Baton Rouge.
Ask Pate, and that now puts Jones in a spot where the first task at hand is building trust on a side of the ball where there was hardly any a year ago.
“(One user) said really early on on in the thread, is that both the coordinator hires have to be home runs,” Pate said. “They can’t just be C+. You can’t have that. You just can’t … Daronte Jones has to be a home run hire. I don’t care what Ed Orgeron said when he was hired or what choice he was on the pecking order. He’s gotta get the job done now … That LSU defense was done wrong last year. And I don’t mean by opponents. I mean internally.
“There were a lot of really good players on LSU’s defense last year that got hung out to dry and put in a no-win situation. I’m talking about not having shot at success when they took the field because they were set up for failure … the first thing Daronte Jones has to do is earn the trust of those guys.”
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LSU is slated to kick off its 2021 campaign on Sept. 4 at UCLA. It will be the program’s fifth full season under Orgeron’s watch.