LSU Covid-19 outbreak puts Saturday’s Alabama game in jeopardy

LSU freshman quarterback TJ Finley will likely start Saturday at Arkansas.

LSU football coach Ed Orgeron confirmed during his weekly news conference Monday that an unspecified number of players, a group that includes some starters, have contracted coronavirus and are in quarantine, and will be out for Saturday’s home game with top-ranked Alabama.

“Can’t go into detail,” Orgeron said. “It’s a very fluid situation. I can tell you that we do have players that got COVID and we do have some players that are quarantined. I can’t tell you the numbers. I’m going to let the doctors take care of all that. We’re focused on playing Alabama Saturday night.”

According to several reports, a decision to play the 5 p.m. game in Tiger Stadium is expected within the next 24 hours from the Southeastern Conference office.

LSU’s already had one game pushed back on its schedule. The Tigers’ Oct. 17 game at Florida was delayed until Dec. 12 when the Gators experienced an outbreak within their program.

Sports Illustrated reported the outbreak was the result of a party around Halloween with two position groups – quarterback and defensive back – being severely impacted. 

The Athletic reported LSU had four positive cases but that many other players are out this week because of contact tracing. The online outlet also reported that true freshman T.J. Finley would be LSU’s lone scholarship quarterback with Myles Brennan already out of the game because of injury.

The Tigers also have no long snappers or tight ends for the game, according to The Athletic.

 “It’s going to be challenging, obviously, with the guys that are out and the quarterbacks that we have,” Orgeron said. “We may have to put someone else at quarterback just in case. We have a plan in place. I’m not going to say what we’re doing because it would give away our game plan.”

The SEC established a threshold for teams in order to play a game. 

The impacted team must have 53 scholarship players, a number that includes a quarterback, seven offensive lineman – including a center – and four defensive linemen.

SEC protocol for players who test positive is at least a 10-day quarantine and 14 days for players believed to be at higher risk.

Although it’s understood LSU’s roster number would meet the SEC’s requisite to play, the Tigers’ roster is believed to be in the mid-60s range because of last year’s record number of NFL draft choices, to go along with transfers and opt-outs this season.

This marks the second outbreak LSU has had to deal with after a significant number of players were quarantined in June a trip to Tigerland bar in June. Orgeron said that the number of players impacted after that incident was less than Sport Illustrated’s report of 30 players.

“Most of our players have caught it,” Orgeron said in September. “So hopefully they won’t catch it again, and hopefully they’re not out for games.”

Here’s what Orgeron had to say on other subjects:

On tentative plans for shutting down injured QB Myles Brennan for the rest of the season

“There’s some discussion of that. What’s best for Myles, the doctors and them are talking to right now see what’s the best for Myles. We’re going to do what’s the best for him, whether it’s getting it fixed, getting it operated now or wait. I think we’re still discussing that.”

On how to improve LSU’s running game

“Well, we put in some different stuff, I think some stuff that’s going to help our guys, fit our players. I thought the offensive line had a great week of practice, great leadership. They were very physical in practice. We still got a ways to go in some things, and still have some things to shore up. I thought they took it upon themselves to be out there every day and work hard.”

On the defense allowing too many explosive plays

“You know, we went back and looked at all the explosive plays, explosive pass plays, 15 yards or more, explosive runs 15 yards or more. I watched every one of them with the defensive staff. We knew the problem, but I want to come up with a solution. One of the solutions is setting the edge better. We’re not setting the edge better by defense, whether it be force or whether it be a defensive end. We worked on that hard on the off week. I think we got some things solidified. We still got a ways to go with others.”

On staying positive in a tough season so far

“I promised myself when I got the job as head coach of Louisiana State University I wasn’t going to have a bad day. I’m going to come to work. I’m the head coach of LSU, man. That’s something I wanted to do all my life. No, things are going to happen. Adversity is going to hit, but I’m going to stay positive because I want my team to know we’re building a championship program. That’s what I come to work every day we do. We’re ranked number three or four in the country right now in recruiting. We’ll address some needs in recruiting. The recruits want to come here. We have some great young players and old players. We just haven’t put it all together yet, but I’m optimistic. We have five games left. I look forward to us playing great football.”

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