After multiple flight delays that forced LSU to make a fashionably late appearance in Arizona, LSU coach Ed Orgeron spoke to reporters at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Thursday night.
Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and walk-on linebacker Jared Small did, in fact, travel with the team just days after being involved in a deadly shooting in Scotlandville.
“It’s a legal matter that’s been taken care of,” Orgeron said. “Clyde and Jared are two of the best young men on our football team. We believe in Clyde and Jared, and we support them.
“Clyde and Jared received counseling, they’ve practiced and they seem to be OK. As of right now, they’re cleared to play the game and they will play the game.”
Orgeron quickly mentioned some notable absentees, including Kelvin Joseph, Dare Rosenthal who did not make the trip due to suspensions involving violations of team rules.
Travez Moore also did not make the trip due to what Orgeron called “personal issues” that he needed to take care of off the field.
With Joseph not making the trip and the Tigers already thin at cornerback due to Greedy Williams declaring for the draft and Kristian Fulton recovering from surgery, Orgeron said Jontre Kirklin has been taking snaps at cornerback.
“Jontre Kirklin has moved back at corner and Mannie Netherly has taken more snaps at corner,” Orgeron said. “Those guys are going to have to do good things for us. They’re going to have to be ready to play. We have some emergency guys that are going to practice this week unless two or three guys get hurt. We should be fine.”
Between suspensions, a shooting and the death of Kary Vincent Jr.’s father, there has been a lot surrounding the program leading up to its trip to Arizona for its first ever Fiesta Bowl appearance.
Orgeron said the character of the team has emerged during these trials, and he expects that to show up on the field against UCF on Tuesday.
“This team is built of great character,” Orgeron said. “There’s tremendous leadership on this team, there’s tremendous culture on this team. We support each other. One team, one heartbeat. We’ve made it through adversity before. We know how to handle adversity. Obviously these are extreme situations, but this team has handled them very well.”
The Tigers will also lack depth up front as defensive lineman like Breiden Fehoko (injury) and Ed Alexander (declared for draft) will not be available for the game.
Orgeron said those absences will allow younger and less experienced guys, most notably Tyler Shelvin, to step up and make a name for themselves in a crucial time and environment.
“Tyler Shelvin has had a tremendous bowl preparation,” Orgeron said. “Glen Logan is also going to play some nose tackle. Dominic Livingston can play nose tackle if we need him. Also we can Davin Cotton at nose tackle. Those are four guys who can play nose tackle if needed.”