LSU’s struggling defense keeps shrinking.
Just about the time LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron confirmed during his Thursday post-practice Zoom news conference that sophomore defensive tackle Siaki “Apu” Ika has entered the NCAA’s transfer portal, reserve senior linebacker Travez Moore announced on his Twitter feed he was opting out for the rest of the season.
Ika, a 6-foot-4, 340-pounder from Salt Lake City, Utah, has started in one of four games this season where he’s registered five tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage and a sack.
Moore, a 6-4, 242-pound native of Bastrop, played in three games this season. He had three tackles, one tackle for loss and a sack. Besides being a linebacker, he was also used as a reserve pass rusher at defensive end.
Ika’s reasoning to transfer was simple and one Orgeron gave his blessing.
“We recruited him to play in the 3-4 defense and he came in very heavy,” said Orgeron, who personally handled Ika’s recruitment. “He wanted to be a zero-technique, nose tackle. He got down to 340 but with the 4-3 scheme (which LSU switched to this season under new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini), we wanted more quickness there.
“He (Ika) was struggling a little bit and I wanted him to stay, but he thought he could go find a place. My suggestion was to find a place that plays the 3-4 because he’s more of a 3-4 nose tackle. I think he can have a heck of a career.”
Ika appeared in 13 games without a start during LSU’s national championship season, rotating with Tyler Shelvin and recorded 17 tackles with a 1½ tackles for loss.
Just before preseason camp started in August, Moore tweeted that he had a severe bout with coronavirus. He said he lost almost 30 pounds dipping from 256 to 229. He said he had trouble breathing and lost his appetite and his senses of taste and smell which symptoms of the virus.
“Bro coronavirus is real,” Moore tweeted.
Moore’s tweet on Thursday announcing his departure didn’t give a reason why became the first LSU player to quit after the season started with 2-2 Tigers set to head to 3-2 Auburn for a Saturday afternoon game.
“I want to thank (LSU) for all that it has done for me and I am thankful for my teammates and the relationship I built here at the university,” Moore wrote on Twitter Thursday. “I will be opting out (of) the 2020 season.”
LSU has had four defensive players opt out but two — senior starting defensive end Neil Farrell Jr. and sophomore reserve tackle Nelson Jenkins — opted back in. Two projected starters, nickel safety Kary Vincent and defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin opted out in the preseason to begin preparing for the NFL Draft, the same reason given by preseason opt-out star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, the 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner.
Here’s what else Orgeron had to say in his eight-minute press conference:
“Had an excellent week of preparation. It’s going to be a tough football game. It always is between Auburn and LSU. We’re going on the road expecting a big-time battle. It may come down to the last play, it may not. It may come down to a specials team play. Whatever it takes, it’s going to be a very challenging game for us but we’re looking forward to it.”
On status of quarterback Myles Brennan
“He didn’t practice at all this week. Talking to (LSU trainer) Jack (Marucci), he feels he’s going to be back and ready to go for Alabama but we’re not sure yet. He’s getting better.”
On whether Devonta Lee, who was listed at tight end for the South Carolina game, would remain at that position or go back to linebacker
“That was just for this game. To assimilate what they do on offense.”
On the similarities between the offenses that Auburn and Missouri run
“It’s going to be a challenge. It’s always been a challenge. Every year (Auburn head coach) Gus’ (Malzahn) offense is a challenge, especially with shifts and formations. I think our team has gotten better. I think our defense has gotten better, especially along the lines of communication. From Missouri, we’ve had less mental errors last week, but we weren’t perfect. We did have less mental errors. The defense is simplified enough to where we can put our cleats in the grass and play. Tank Bigsby’s an excellent running back. The quarterback can run the football. They’ve got great athletes. It’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to make plays in space. We’re going to have to tackle well.”
On Auburn quarterback Bo Nix being best scrambler, they’ve seen to date
“I think so. We consider him a dual-threat quarterback. We consider him a big tailback back there. He gets in an empty package with a tight end and runs a power. It’s like Wildcat. We’re going to have to treat him like a Wildcat quarterback and really have to wrap up and gang tackle him to get him down.”
On the importance of his team going out and voting next Tuesday
“That was something we decided to do as a team. That was decided in a team meeting with the leadership council and we asked them what they wanted to do, and they said they were all going to vote.”
On the reaction fans have to wanting to see more of quarterback T.J. Finley this season
“I’ve to agree with them. I enjoyed the T.J. Finley Show Saturday night. I hope I see it again. I don’t pay attention to what’s going on. T.J. did a phenomenal job, one of the best freshman performances I’ve ever seen. Let’s see what he does Saturday and I think he’s only going to continue to get better.”
On the health of left offensive tackle Cam Wire
“Cam’s ready to go and had a good week of practice. The offensive line’s in good shape. We’re very thin if we get somebody hurt. Charles Turner’s going to have to be the backup guy to go in a lot of places or a true freshman has to play. I’m very pleased with Cam’s performance.”
On rotation of running backs this week
“That’s really close. Ty (Davis-Price) actually had more yards (vs. South Carolina). Me and Kevin (Faulk) discussed it today and I discussed it with the running backs. We’re going to do what’s best. We’re going to make a game time decision but either Ty or John Emery are the first teamers. They’re both equal to me. They’re going to get equal reps. They’re both great backs and I’m so glad that we’ve got them.”
On any additional adjustments on the defensive line
“We went back to having more speed at end. The first play where the end is 330 pounds wasn’t quick enough to make the play. We went back to having fast ends and the big guys inside.”