LSU’s injuries mount, losing both starting offensive tackles for home opener vs. McNeese State

LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron watched his defense allow 475 total yards, including a season-high 330 yards in Saturday's 42-21 loss at Kentucky. Photo by: LSU athletics.

LSU will feature two new starting offensive linemen when the Tigers host McNeese State in their home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Head coach Ed Orgeron said Tuesday during his weekly news conference both starting tackles Austin Deculus and Cam Wire were out with undisclosed injuries and would not be available to play.

“Guys are going to have to step up,” Orgeron said. “Charles (Turner) will have to step up. Anthony Bradford will have to step up. Chasen Hines is a little bit beat up. He’s going to have to step up. We’re going to have to play some young guys. We’re going to mix and match and see what’s the best thing for our team.”

The loss of Deculus is of particular importance. The fifth-year senior represents the offensive line’s most experienced player, having started in his 50th career game in last Saturday’s 38-27 loss to UCLA.

Orgeron said that Wire, in his first season as a full-fledged starter after Dare Rosenthal transferred to Kentucky, was not available to play either, leaving the Tigers to choose from Turner, Anthony Bradford or Garrett Dellinger to start at the two tackle positions.

For the second straight week LSU will be without defensive end Soni Fonua and wide receiver Jontre’ Kirklin, while running back John Emery Jr. could also miss his second straight game.

Emery reportedly missed the UCLA game for an academic reason, but Orgeron said he expects a decision on Emery’s status for the McNeese game could go down to the wire.

“It’s unknown right now,” he said. “I won’t know until the end of the week. Right now, he’s unavailable. That could change. I won’t know that until Friday.”

Senior defensive end Ali Gaye, who has started in all 11 games in his career, won’t play against McNeese and safety Jay Ward is doubtful, Orgeron said.

Orgeron confirmed a report by Fox TV that senior linebacker Jared Small is out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.

LSU is also expected to be without cornerback Dwight McGlothern, wide receiver Malik Nabers and running back Armoni Goodwin, none of whom played against UCLA because of injuries.

Here’s what else Orgeron had to say:

Opening statement

“After reviewing the film, our guys played hard. I thought they prepared very well. After looking at the tape, No. 1 as coaches we need to put them in better position to have success. No. 2, when they’re in the position to have success, they have to execute. Overall, I thought our players had a lot of want to. There was a lot of mistakes made. Most of the mistakes can be fixed by coaching, getting them better and I take the responsibility of myself. We’ve deal with it. The 24-hour rule, now on to McNeese.

They’re coached by Frank Wilson who I believe is one of the greatest assistant coaches that ever came to LSU. He’s a great recruiter. I worked with Frank and I’m glad he’s coaching my son. I’m glad we’re playing McNeese. I love playing in-state schools. That’s good for the state and we’re glad McNeese is coming to LSU.”

On McNeese

“They play a spread offense. My son Cody’s the quarterback. He and Josh Mathews have had a good career together. They are good players. Defense, Isaiah Chambers, All-American. He’s an outstanding rusher that’s a transfer from Houston. They played a 4-2-5 and a spread on offense.”

On lack of diversity in running game

“They (UCLA) did a good job; they knew what we were doing. They out schemed us in a lot of situations. We spent time on Sunday going through those things. We have to eliminate those things. There were a lot of things as coaches that we could have eliminated, and we didn’t do it.”

On the frustration of being unable to develop depth on the offensive line

“Yes, it has. We won a lot of games with Austin Deculus and Ed Ingram. We won a (national) championship with those guys. Those guys started as freshmen in The Swamp. Those guys are good football players and I believe in them. It’s a shame we lost our left tackle (Dare Rosenthal) right before the start of the season. I think that hurt us a bit. Liam’s (Shanahan) is back but we have to have more continuity. They just got a new offensive line coach. I’m not making excuses for them, but it’s different for the guys. It’s going to take time for them to gel. I believe in (offensive line coach) Brad (Davis). I believe in this offensive line. Some of these young guys are going to have to step up.”

On finding some holes to run through in the second half

“We felt like we had to come out and run the football. We found a couple of cracks in their defense. I thought our guys made a couple of adjustments at halftime that worked but still was nowhere the variety of runs, nowhere the style of runs we need to run at LSU. We had a meeting on that and that’s going to get fixed.”

On any impact of moving to Houston to practice

“I would like to think zero. I don’t know if it did or not. We were lucky, the administration let us go to Houston. We were kind of a in a cocoon there. Maybe the guys were affected a little by their families. That was a natural thing. I felt we had good practices. I felt like we traveled well. I felt like we were ready to play the game. I didn’t see many distractions throughout the week besides us having to move and their families in harm’s way.”

On watching film of your son Cody’s game against West Florida

“It was the first time I got to watch it and I want to evaluate our opponent, but I also want to cheer for my son. It was a little bit different. I thought he made some good throws. They moved him out, they sprint him out and Josh (Mathews) made some good catches. I thought they had a good game plan. They were a little more in sync, it’s the second year under the same offense, so I thought the timing was OK. I thought he scrambled pretty good. I thought the offensive line blocked better.”

On the uniqueness of playing against your son

“First of all, the game’s about LSU winning. It’s about LSU-McNeese. Personally, I’m proud of Cody. He walked on at McNeese. He was the sixth string quarterback and standing in line. Now he’s one of the few players left in that class. He earned a scholarship. He’s graduated, he’s going to get his graduate degree. We’re proud of him. Cody was always a late bloomer. He was a tennis player. His brother was the star football player, but he caught up his senior year. He brought his team to the semis but playing against Cody’s going to be pretty cool. He’s going to be talking some smack. I know he’ll come to the sideline and talk a little smack. He knows all of our players. He’s excited to play in Death Valley. Once the game starts it’s competition. I’m the head coach at LSU, he’s the quarterback at McNeese. We’ve both got to do what we can to win the game.”

On the challenge involved preparing your defensive line to get after the opposing QB which is your son

“It is challenging. I’m going to coach the way I know how to coach. I may tone down a couple of words I use because it’s my sone but besides that, Cody knows we’re coming. We’re hungry. We have this taste in our mouths. We’re coming and McNeese is in our way, and he understands that.”

On the amount of time Cody Orgeron’s spent around LSU’s practices

“Cody comes around here all the time. Our players love him. He comes to our practices. Frank Wilson and their staff came to our practice. Cody comes throw the ball on the field. He’s a member of my family, just like anybody else.”

On two teams familiar with dealing with the impact of hurricanes

“I wanted to use it as an internal motivation. I wanted to win it for them as anybody. I’m more disappointed in the loss. When you start playing for that and stuff like that it kind of gets away from why you play the game. You’ve got to play the game to win and focus on the fundamentals. I wanted to win just as bad as anyone for the people in LaRose and people in Louisiana. It just didn’t happen. It’s the beginning of the year. I believe we have a great team. I believe we’ll have a great season, and it starts this week with McNeese.”

On the ability to improve on defending the crossing routes

“We went back and looked at why we’re not covering them. We had an extensive meeting on that. We came up with some drills to help our guys cover the certain crossing routes. We saw some different stuff we hadn’t shown them in practice. That’s coaching. I think we fixed that. We made a couple of adjustments, made a couple of calls, when they get in a couple of formations, we can take the heat off the crossing routes. We’ve made some adjustments this week. That’s the first live action with our defensive coordinator (Daronte Jones), he’s got to learn our players and our players have to learn our defensive coordinator and we’ve got to make a big jump this week.”

On the list of things, you got to get fixed; what’s the easiest things to address

“When you look at the film the thing, I was most pleased with was the effort and the want to of the players. It’s been like that at everyday at practice. The leadership, the continuity of the team. Everything else can be fixed. That right there is the most important thing and they’ve got it. Great leadership and great team unity. It’s fundamentals. It comes down to stance, alignment, assignment. Simplifying stuff. We have to protect the quarterback better. Whatever that takes to protect, we can’t let our quarterback get hit. We have to have short, easy throws to put the ball in our playmakers’ hands in space and let them make plays and have more variety in our run game. On defense, whatever it takes to stop the run, we need to do that and eliminate the explosive plays. They had 11 explosive plays and that’s way too many.”

On the improvement the offensive line can make

“We need to help them out at the variety of runs that we run. It you run one or two runs people key in on them. They know what you’re running, they overload the box, they practice those runs and here they are. They’re coached, too. The more we can get the ball outside with our players the more we can have gap schemes to where we can help our offensive linemen out. It starts with us as coaches. We have to help them out.”

On whether you were just kidding with the UCLA fan walking into the Rose Bowl

“That was all in fun.”

On whether there could have been adjustments to open up the running game

“Last spring, we went through our core runs. We put up five basic core runs that we want to run. Obviously, there’s going to be some runs you would sprinkle into a game plan. Those five core runs would be run different formations, motions and shifts. I think the game plan got dwindled down a little bit because of the blitzes and stunts they were doing, and we felt sometimes that we may be running into them or have to check out of them. It’s a combination of what they were doing and a combination of us needed to do a little bit better.”

On including more designed runs from Max Johnson

“We never told him not to run. He could have run any time he wanted to, he needed to scramble. We need to run a couple of more zone-read options with him. No way do we mean to limit Max’s mobility and extend plays with his feet. Anytime he feels the need to run or scramble, he has the freedom to do that. No one told him not to run. But we’re not going to run quarterback powers with him or quarterback leads. We’re not going to do that.”

On the number of players that are suspended for McNeese

“I know the guys that are unavailable.”

On use of nonconference games to sit out suspended players

“We can do that.”

On the prospect of either getting younger players playing time or sticking with veterans

“Moving forward, the guys we have, let’s play. You can never tell; McNeese can come in here and give us a game. The 2019 team, Northwestern had us at halftime or something like that. These guys are going to come play their best game. There’s no planning on pulling back. We’ve got to get better. However, the game goes, if we can get guys in at the end or whenever we can put them in, we’ve got to play our best to beat McNeese. We’ve got to play our best to get this taste out of our mouth.”

On the play of freshman Jack Bech and Brian Thomas Jr.

“Excellent. They’ve been excellent in camp; all our receivers have. Brian Thomas looked like he belonged out there. We need to play him more.”

On whether there’s ever been coaches that’s coached against his son

“I’m not sure. I’m not a history buff or have checked it. John Elway went against his daddy. I don’t know of any instances that has happened. I’m looking forward to it. Bobby April’s a mentor of mine and said enjoy this, it’s a special moment and it is. He (Cody) called me today asking me for four more tickets.”

On Johnson’s success when he was able to deliver the ball on time

“We came out smoking. We were going and going and all of a sudden, they started getting pressure on the quarterback. He missed several balls. He was really good at times. There were times where he’s got to get better. It’s the first time he’s the man and we’re going to give him time to get better, but he needs to improve.”

On whether Johnson looked hesitant in the pocket

“Those guys were blitzing. Those guys were in his face, he was getting hit. He was tough. He hung in there. I said get Garrett (Nussmeier) ready and he never came out.”

On whether anything from the game surprised you

“I felt that we were going to play really well. I felt we could match them up. I thought the game would be tight. I knew that when I watched them play Hawaii, I knew that was a lot better football team. I believe the will to fight was there. I just wish we would have coached them better. I’ve got to put that on me. Offensively and defensively, we could done have done somethings better in camp to prepare our guys to play a better game. That’s the thing I’m most disappointed in. The preparation we had as coaches.”

On Johnson playing in front of his first true road crowd

“That’s true. Knowing him that crowd probably fired him up. He’s got to get better this week; he knows he needs to improve. I hope to get Garrett in and see what he can do.”

On finding solutions to defending crossing routes

“I believe it’s a zone (coverage). Sometimes we have some match zone principles that we have to look at and see if our guys can trust their keys. They were showing some different keys that were putting them in a confusing situation that was allowing those crossing routes. We looked at it, looked at the terminology and made some adjustments if they get that look again hopefully we can cover them.”

On whether to give a series or two to Garrett Nussmeier and Corey Kiner

“(Running backs coach) Kevin (Faulk) wanted to put in Corey last week but it wasn’t an opportune time. The kid deserved a chance, but we couldn’t afford him going into the game like it was. Those guys I plan on playing this week for sure.”

On being more involved in making adjustments

“They gave us some challenging stuff, tackle-over stuff, end-over stuff. Almost every down was a slide the front, adjust the back end and they were going fast. It was a challenging offense, and we knew that going into it. I wish I would have prepared the team better. All the things we saw on tape, we spent eight hours on the tape Sunday offensively. Everything can be fixed.”

On the differences you see in McNeese from the spring

“I believe they were more in sync. I studied the offense more. I thought they got rid of the ball quick, they moved Cody around which is his strength. I thought they caught the ball well. I thought they had a good plan.”

On the status of Koy Moore

“He’s good. He’s OK. He had a nagging injury throughout the summer, but it’s fully healthy now. He’s in good shape and nothing wrong with him. We need to get ball to him. We need to get the ball to Kayshon Boutte earlier. I thought he had a fantastic player. The guy’s a dynamite player but we need to find him earlier.”

A thank you to Tiger Nation

“I want to thank all of our fans that showed up in Los Angeles. It was a great venue. I want to thank all those guys that came there. Our team, myself, we really appreciate it. We look forward to playing in Tiger Stadium. We look forward to the Tiger Walk being full, we look forward to Tiger Stadium being full and getting back on track.”

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