Coach O says his Tigers grasp the importance of the season-opener at UCLA

PHOTO BY Jonathan Mailhes

LSU’s Ed Orgeron isn’t spouting the worn-out company line that head football coaches pound in their players to repeat like robots.

Like the importance of a season-opener.

Normally, the tried-and-true response is, “We prepare for all the games the same. This week’s game is important because it’s the one that’s right in front of us.”

But after the way the Tigers crashed and burned in last year’s season-opening 44-34 home loss to Mississippi State, a defeat that set the tone for LSU’s struggling 5-5 season, Orgeron isn’t underselling the meaning of his 13th ranked team’s 2021 opener at UCLA next Saturday.

“This game is probably the most important starting game I’ve had since I’ve been head coach,” said Orgeron after Thursday’s practice just more than a week away from starting his fifth full season leading the Tigers. “Our team knows that. For just to get on the right foot, to get to where we want to be, we have to start well.”

LSU final preseason scrimmage Saturday will truly be like a mock game, sans the pads and physical contact. The Tigers will be in helmets only on a day when game management is emphasized through play calling, substitution groups for specific down-and-distance and getting the kicking teams on and off the field in a timely manner.

Orgeron’s biggest concern as LSU is about to enter its first game week of the season is a rash of injuries on offense that has prevented continuity on the line and at running back.

“We’re getting (offensive linemen) Chasen Hines and Anthony Bradford back (both from injuries) and we’ll be full go,” Orgeron said. “They haven’t practiced the whole camp together, but it won’t take them long.

“I think next week if we can all get them together for a week and we can get some continuity, those guys are going to perform very well because they’re experienced.”

Also, junior running backs Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery Jr. have been injured for a majority of the preseason. Sophomore Josh Williams and incoming freshmen Corey Kiner and Armomi Goodwin have carried the load of work.

“I want Tyrion and John to be our running backs,” Orgeron said. “But they haven’t remained healthy throughout camp. Let’s see if they come back next week.

“If they come back next week and play well, they’re going to be fine. But if not, we have to find out who’s our best running back.”

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