By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
What’s a Monday afternoon practice under Ed Orgeron look like?
No pads, high energy and absolutely no walking.
LSU practiced for the first time Monday under its interim coach following the firing of Les Miles on Sunday afternoon, a spirited 30-minute endeavor with plenty of running, hollering and even dancing along the way — but mostly running.
Oh yeah, and were reporters allowed to stand by and watch. Orgeron announced earlier in the day that media would be allowed in “on some days at some times,” a Titanic-sized departure from his predecessor. That hadn’t happened since the mid 2000s. Nick Saban was the last coach who allowed the media in for open periods of practice, a policy he’s continued at Alabama.
Even when Miles let reporters in, during spring practices and the first week of fall camp, it was only for 10-15 minutes of individual drills. Injuries and offensive schemes were treated like classified state secrets.
Clearly it’s a new day within the Football Ops Building. Reporters watched as new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger worked on up-tempo offense against the scout defense. Three starters, running back Leonard Fournette, center Ethan Pocic and right tackle Toby Weathersby, did not participate.
Meanwhile the starting defense worked with newly-named associate head coach and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Then the sides came together and worked on one side of the feel. Each time the offense ran a play, both units finished with a sprint to the goal line and back to midfield.
In personnel news, Frank Herron worked as the first-team defensive end in place of the indefinitely suspended Davon Godchaux. It’s also worth noting cornerback Kevin Toliver worked with the first unit after not playing a single snap against Auburn.
But the bigger story from Monday’s proceedings is the drastic shift in approach. Miles, old school as they come, routinely held grueling, hours-long practices during a game week. Just like Bo Schembechler taught him.
Orgeron made a point of explaining he wanted to trade physicality and time-consuming for intensity and brevity when it came to practice.
“We’re going to flip the script, and we’re going to come closer as a team,” Orgeron said at his introductory presser. “We’re going to play for each other and play with energy. Be less time on the practice field, more time in the meeting room, and hopefully we’re fresh.
“And hopefully we will see some excitement on the sidelines. I know one guy that’s going to be excited!”
There’s no question about that. As LSU athletic director Joe Alleva explained in formerly introducing Orgeron, the man’s “enthusiasm is contagious.” Orgeron took the podium with a hardy “What do you say, guys?” before addressing the crowded fifth-floor conference room.
According to Alleva, that injection of energy represents LSU’s best chance to get a derailed season back on the tracks after a disastrous 2-2 start. The best chance to salvage eight remaining games in a season that begun surrounded by championship aspirations. That’s where the always-fiery Orgeron comes in.
“It’s the days that we’re dragging,” nose tackle Greg Gilmore said. “The days where we’ve had a hard day before, we’re coming down with a little less energy. That’s when he comes in. That’s the key moment for him. He keeps us going. I don’t know if he gets tired.”
Orgeron may be a Cajun cross between the Energizer Bunny and Kevin Gates, but he recognizes his players aren’t. That’s why he’s cutting back on the duration and amount of contact during game-week practices in favor of more time spent in meeting rooms watching film.
Gilmore and the other defensive linemen who’ve worked with Coach O depict a position coach who drives his charges as hard as anyone. But as a head coach, he said he’s learned over time that, sometimes, you have to save the proverbial fastball for Saturdays. Work smarter, no harder, so to speak.
None of the players wanted to kick dirt on their former head coach or make excuses for the two losses, but every Tiger polled were enthusiastically ready to buy in to the new approach.
“It’s certainly nice on the body,” tight end Colin Jeter said. “No doubt about that for the guys that’re still banged up.”
“Maybe so,” fullback J.D. Moore said, asked if the approach could rejuvenate the team. “I’ve only known one routine since I’ve been here, and that’s the Les Miles way. So I’ll let you know this time next week.”