Low on healthy running backs, LSU football coach Ed Orgeron gave Tigers’ receivers a few snaps at RB in first spring scrimmage

A funny thing happened in LSU’s first spring football scrimmage last Saturday that opened the door for head coach Ed Orgeron to deliver an impromptu teaching moment.

With the Tigers nearing the end of a running game drill, they literally had run out of available people to run the ball because of injuries to John Emery and Ty Davis-Price and another unspecified back couldn’t go in.

Orgeron said walk-on running back Corren Norman of Lafayette, who carried 39 times in the scrimmage, needed a break and when he reached out to team members for suggestions to help close out the drills, he got a handful of volunteers from wide receivers Jontre’ Kirklin, Trey Palmer and Koy Moore.

“I stopped the team and said that was a teachable moment,” Orgeron said after Tuesday’s practice. “When you’re on the football field, we’ve got to go. It’s next man up. You never know when your time’s going to come but it showed me a lot of unselfishness.”

Orgeron said Emery was in a gold (non-contact) jersey and continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery and didn’t participate at all, while Davis-Price sustained an injury during the scrimmage.

“We had four plays left in the team run,” Orgeron said. “All of them went in there and did pretty well.”

Here’s what else Orgeron had to say:

On what he’s learned about your quarterbacks from last week

“The quarterbacks are competing real well. All three guys returning are doing very well, Garrett Nussmeier continues to impress and makes plays with his feet. He’s very accurate, got a strong arm and he’s fearless back there. All of them are competing back there, getting equal reps. We’ve only practiced four times. This is going to be an ongoing thing. We’re going to let it go throughout camp.”

On differences seen from the defense

“I do see a difference. I see our guys with their cleats in the grass. I see the communication being better, I see the defense simpler. I see our guys attacking and playing football. I’m going to hold judgement until the season.”

On positions he considers to be wide open

“(Linebacker) Bug (Strong) is doing a great job, Damone (Clark) is doing a great job. We still have Mike Jones, our graduate transfer, that hasn’t practiced yet. We have some new guys coming in. The safety position is wide open. With Derek Stingley and Eli Ricks, I think we’ve got two of the best corners in America and when Eli comes back, he’s going to be very healthy, and we’ll be strong in there. We may move Jay Ward to safety. The nickel position with Cordale Flott’s pretty solid. That’s not to say that nothing can’t move there. I can see a guy like (defensive tackle) Maason Smith moving up. He had a great practice today, becoming a starter in the rotation. We have 6-7-8 defensive lineman that can play which we need. Offensive line is pretty solid right now. We have to find a tight end; they blocked better today but we’re still not where we want to be. (Wide receiver) Evan Francioni came on today and is having a great spring. We need to find some guys that can catch the football and make plays. Obviously, we have (Kayshon) Boutte, we have Palmer, Jaray Jenkins and we’ve got some young guys coming in. We’ve got to develop the wide receiver position, the running back position, the linebacker position and the safety position.”

On how freshman safety Derrick Davis Jr. looked

“We asked him if he wanted to move to running back. He was a great running back (in high school), so he played a little running back today but decided he may want to move back to safety. I think Deion Smith’s going to be an excellent receiver. He’s coming off an injury and is not full speed right now.”

On the culture on the field after a week compared to last season

“I see our guys happy, wanting to be at LSU. I get to work at 6 and the parking lot’s full already. I leave at 9 o’clock and some guys are still working. You have some young coordinators that want to prove themselves, that are very hungry and are very detailed, working very hard. They’re doing a great job, they’re very organized. You have a lot of guys that want to be here, and it makes a difference. You’ve got a veteran team coming back so they’re together, they have energy, and they know what to expect at practice. They know how tough it’s going to be, they invite it. The expectations for this team are very high. They need to be, but we need to answer that on a daily basis by the way we practice to the LSU standard of performance. I can already see the difference in this team as far as execution at practice wise as opposed to last year. That doesn’t mean anything, I’m not saying they’re better. I’m saying we’re practicing better with more energy.”

On if offensive line starters have already been determined

“Everything’s locked in. Somebody would have to really shine. Anthony Bradford, if he gets it going and gets in shape, could be a guy that could factor in as a potential starter. The other guys are making progress but they’re not there yet.”

On the biggest things he wants to accomplish this spring

“We want to accomplish physical toughness. We want to get back to playing the LSU style of football on defense. Eliminate explosive plays. It’s not exactly what we do but how we do it. How you present it to the team. Are you clear to the team? Do they understand what we expect? We want to take our time; we’re not putting a lot in. We’ve got two defenses in. On offense we want to establish the spread offense again, we want to put the ball in our playmakers’ hands in space and let them make plays. I challenged the offensive line. We’ve got to have a five-man protection. We’re not keeping a tight end in, we’re not keeping a back in. I want to get five guys out and let them roll. If we needed to, we will, but we’ve got to win our one on ones. I’ve challenged the defensive line to be in great condition. I don’t think we’ve been in great condition. We’re not in great football shape like we want to be.”

On the goal for Todd Harris as the veteran back at safety

“Leadership. Make the calls back there. Come up and make plays when he needs to. Play the post when he needs to. He’s going to have to train some young guys. He’s going to probably be on the field with a freshman or a redshirt freshman. He’s going to have to make the calls or get them lined up. They’ll be nervous their first time. We have the No. 1 safety in Sage Ryan and No. 3 in Derrick Davis. That’s a position you could come in and start and I feel comfortable about it.”

On what he saw from the defense in the first scrimmage

“It’s my responsibility and I’m not letting it go. If there’s something our players cannot perform, we’re not doing it. I want to keep it simple. I want us to keep our cleats in the grass and play good, fundamental defense. Saturday, the defense had the upper hand. They played very well but they’re doing exactly what we want them to do. We had very few missed tackles. We had very few explosive plays. Eliminate mental errors, not let people wide-open down the field.”

On the addition of the new assistant coaches

“I think we did a great job in hiring the coaches. I hired some coaches I didn’t even interview from the last staff and I’m never doing that again. I interviewed everybody. We didn’t get the first, second or third (defensive coordinator choice) but we got them. On offense, I talked to Joe (Brady) and told him exactly what I wanted. They’re very smart and I couldn’t be more pleased with them. Daronte (Jones) was the fourth or fifth choice. So was I. Who cares? He’s here and doing a tremendous job. Andre Carter, I’m so excited about him at D-Line coach, Blake (Baker) is doing a tremendous job and DJ (Mangas) and Jake (Peetz) are going a great job.

I’m very pleased with our offense and I’m very pleased with our defense and obviously (special teams) coach Mac (Greg McMahon) I like. I trust our staff. I’ve said to myself that I’m not going to let things slip by, not one thing. I’m going to be hands-on. I’m going to watch every piece of film. I’m marking it down like I did in years before. They’re going to have to explain to me what we doing, how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it. We have a staff that’s going to listen. We have a veteran team that’s coming back. We have 33 guys that have started opposed to the year before. There’s a lot of difference this year, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to make a difference. But I expect to have a good team this year.”

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William Weathers

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