O, no!

LSU coaching staff shakeup cause for concern

“I’m the head coach, and we’re going to do what I want to do,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron told reporters Thursday during a media session in Orlando ahead of the Tigers’ Citrus Bowl matchup against Notre Dame. The quote was in response to news that the Citrus Bowl would likely be the last in purple and gold for the Tigers first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

Fractures started to appear in LSU coaching staff within the first month of the 2017 season. The Tigers started 3-2, with losses against conference foe Mississippi State and the Sun Belt Conference’s Troy University. Losing to the Bulldogs, although rare, does happen and is comprehendible. Losing to the Trojans – at home – however was an eye-opener.

After the second loss, word leaked that Orgeron asked Canada to limit his offense by reducing pre-snap shifts and jet sweeps from his play calling. Troy’s defense attacked and left the Tigers scoreless at halftime, down 10-0. After Canada was able to apply his offense in the second half, LSU scored 21 points, but the Trojans put up two touchdowns, too, and walked away from Baton Rouge with a 24-21 upset. 

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The next week, athletic director Joe Alleva called Orgeron, Canada, and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda into his office to “get on the same page.” LSU went 6-1 the rest of the way, finishing 9-3 and earning a Citrus Bowl bid. Although the Tigers’ offense wasn’t flashy, it appeared things on the Tiger sideline had begun to jell. That was until this week.

Orgeron and Canada had not worked together prior to this year. The head coach brought in the coordinator to run a high profile attack and grew frustrated with the pace of progress. Instead of getting a revved-up V8, O got a four banger – even with Derrius Guice, one of the best running backs in the nation and the only player in SEC history with three career games of 250 or more rushing yards.

It is expected that O will promote tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, LSU’s interim offensive coordinator last season, to replace Canada. Ensminger, 59, prefers a more traditional pro-style offense, which Orgeron favors, to 45-year-old Canada’s motion offense.

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As the program’s leader, it’s Orgeron’s right to do as he sees fit, but considering his track record of meddling with his assistant coaches, it has to give Tiger faithful reason to shudder. When Coach O was hired a year ago, he said he had learned from previous failures of micromanaging. During his only previous non-interim head coaching experience at Ole Miss, Orgeron, a defensive specialist, struggled to get his offense in gear. After his first year in Oxford he fired offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, but the Rebel attack didn’t improve dramatically. In three years at Ole Miss, O’s O was ranked among the worst in the NCAA. Accordingly, he posted a 10-25 overall record, 3-21 in SEC play.

The Tigers are fighting for their tenth win of the season, but there has to be some concern for even the most die-hard Tiger fans for the future of the program. Orgeron may be able to pull through this and give Tiger fans the winner they crave. But a Tiger doesn’t change its stripes. If Orgeron doesn’t succeed, many dominoes – including Alleva – could fall as a result. In dropping Canada, LSU is losing a rising star and, potentially, a future head coach. Aranda, 41, is still on staff and may be groomed to be the future head of Tiger football. But for now, grievances between coaches is holding LSU back, and that’s not happening two states away in Alabama.

 

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The Citrus Bowl

No. 16 LSU (9-3) vs. No. 14 Notre Dame (9-3),

Noon, Monday, Jan. 1

Orlando, Florida

TV: ABC

 

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