By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
There’s nothing that can fully prepare a player for his first trip into a hostile Southeastern Conference environment, especially one known for the incessant clanging of thousands of cowbells.
Under Ed Orgeron, LSU has come up with the next best thing.
Leading up to road games, LSU rigs up its own crowd noise simulation by hooking up large speakers to a John Deere tractor and placing it feet behind the offensive huddle during all team sessions. The speakers blast a mixture of opposing fight songs and cheers as the offense goes through its paces.
“It’s loud. They’ll pump some decibels right into your ears,” quarterback Danny Etling said. “I’m not sure if we’ll have cowbells or play some music, but it’s right by the huddle so you’ve got to scream basically. We’ll have to find a way to block out the crowd noise and not let it affect us too much.”
“I remember that from last season,” H-back JD Moore added. “It’s probably louder than the actual game. It definitely gives a great simulation.”
Only time will tell if that simulation does the trick as a young LSU team brings a host of green underclassmen into the hostile environment of Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday night for LSU’s SEC opener against Mississippi State.
The biggest test belongs to LSU’s offense, in particular Etling and his offensive line. True freshmen right guards Ed Ingram and Saahdiq Charles will be playing in front of hostile crowds for the first time, and left guard Garrett Brumfield will be making his first true road start.
Veteran center Will Clapp remembers making his first collegiate start in Starkville two years ago and the difficulties that came with it.
“It’s definitely unique,” Clapp said. “There’s not a place where you walk out the tunnel and there’s 30,000 cowbells shaking in your face.”
He continued: “Obviously it’s all about communication. When you’re at home, all the tackles and tight ends can hear my calls. Now everything I say (the guards) have to really tune in to because they can’t really hear me and they have to pass the calls on down the line.”
That communication will be an emphasis in practice this week as LSU prepares to go on the road while working to clean up procedural penalties that have been a recurring problem during the first two games of the season.
LSU has been flagged for 21 penalties — a whopping 10 in the first half against UT-Chattanooga — and 160 yards through two games. Those add up quickly in games between evenly-matched teams.
According to players, most of those are the byproduct of a lack of focus and can be corrected in practice this week. Orgeron called the penalties a point of emphasis heading into the week.
“Just mental errors that are week one type stuff, and I’m not talking week one game. I’m talking week one of camp type problems,” Moore said. “Some of it is just tightening the screws a little bit and realizing were not perfect and have to emphasize those fundamental things.”
Some penalties are unavoidable — what coaches call ‘effort penalties.’ The occasional holding call or pass interference flag that occurs over the course of a football game.
But procedural penalties like false starts, delay of games and illegal shifts are the kind of self-inflicted wounds that cause coaches to pull their hair out.
“The ones you’re really frustrated about are the pre-snap ones,” Etling said. “Just the ones you could take off the tape by being a little smarter or something like that. Those are the ones you want to correct … We’ll try to cut out all the ones we can control.”
Doing so could go a long way toward determining if LSU’s first road trip is a successful one.