Players and coaches alike credit a players-only meeting following the Troy debacle as being the turning point in LSU’s 2017 season.
Those in the room attest that it was the defining moment as a floundering 3-2 football team rebounded to win six of its final seven regular-season games. Tight end Foster Moreau has gone so far as to say LSU wouldn’t have won so many of those games if not for the loss to Troy.
Perhaps that’s why this year’s team — whether it be LSU coach Ed Orgeron or his Leadership Council, which consists of roughly 15 veterans representing every position group — felt it necessary to get everyone on the same page before such a humbling loss takes place.
Amid a tumultuous fall camp, LSU held a players-only meeting on Wednesday night after the Leadership Council met with Orgeron, according to accounts from Moreau and safety John Battle, two of LSU’s senior leaders.
“The leaders of the team pretty much got together and expressed some things in terms of how camp is going and how we want our season to go,” Battle said. “We won’t have this meeting in the middle of the season like we did last year after Troy. We just wanted to get above the 8-ball and express how we want our season to go.”
According to Moreau, the main reason for the meeting was the abrupt departures of quarterbacks Lowell Narcisse and Justin McMillan on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, respectively.
“Guys were upset,” Moreau said. “You hate to see guys like that go because we love Justin and Lowell. They were brothers. They were teammates. Just great guys to be around. High-character, high-quality, stand-up dudes. We all enjoyed being around them, so that’s tough. You lose a brother, you lose a family member, and loss comes; we’ve got to be pros about it. We’ve got to move forward, try to put it behind us as best we can and try not to harbor too much difficulty.”
Players were reluctant the share too many specifics of what was said during the closed-door meeting for fairly obvious reasons. Linebacker Devin White did a lot of the talking, as he did after the Troy game, according to fellow linebacker Jacob Phillips.
It seems most of the discussion centered on whether the locker room was going to splinter apart of come together as the quarterback competition was cut in half. Obviously the latter will be necessary for LSU’s season to get where players and coaches alike want it to go.
“Since the meeting everything is on the table and the elephants are out of the room,” Phillips said. “We’re able to gel again.”
McMillan and Narcisse transferring left graduate transfer Joe Burrow and sophomore Myles Brennan as the lone scholarship quarterbacks on the roster as LSU continues its open competition for the starting job.
Orgeron said last week that Burrow and Brennan each had their best practices of camp on Tuesday and Wednesday after their two competitors left the program.
The coach added that both quarterbacks “played a lot better” in Saturday’s scrimmage despite poor statistical showings, which he attributed to an unusual amount of drops.
“They’ve handled it well, and we came out to play those last three practices and they did a good job,” Moreau said of the quarterbacks. “I’m proud of the way they handled it. It could have been super negative. It could have gone wrong in a bunch of different ways, but I’m proud of the way they handled it and the team handled it. They did a good job.”
The two quarterback transfers weren’t the only distractions through fall camp, either. Offensive lineman Ed Ingram, linebacker Tyler Taylor and wide receiver Drake Davis are all suspended indefinitely for various “legal matters,” to borrow a phrase from Orgeron.
One of Orgeron’s go-to slogans is “block out the noise,” whether that be ignoring negative press on social media or the next man stepping up when injuries/suspensions/transfers arise.
For whatever reason, fall camp at LSU always seems to come with a lot of noise. A brief refresher in service to the idea that 2018 isn’t all that more chaotic than the years that proceeded it:
2017: The season-opener against BYU is moved from Houston to New Orleans due to massive flooding in Texas.
2016: The shooting of Alton Sterling and the Louisiana floods rock Baton Rouge. Star running back Leonard Fournette injures his ankle in a preseason scrimmage.
2015: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is treated for prostate cancer and holds a press conference regarding his health.
2012: Star defensive back and Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu is dismissed for a violation of team rules.
2011: Starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns are arrested and suspended indefinitely for their alleged roles in the infamous Shady’s brawl.
“We do have a history of some things going on,” Battle said. “Camp is always something going on. We had the flood years before, the Alton Sterling incident happened. Camp is always something going on that affects us, but I feel like we’ve handled it pretty well with the things that did go on.”
How the 2018 camp stacks up with those others in terms of peripheral noise is a matter of debate, but players expressed relief to clear the air in Wednesday’s meeting before breaking camp Saturday.
According to players made available to the media, there’s something comforting about getting back to the normal routine with school starting Monday and LSU shifting into game preparations with less than two weeks until the season opener against Miami.
“No more long days just sitting up in the stadium all day,” Battle said. “We can kind of be students again and interact with other people. We’re kind of locked up all day (during camp), so now we’ve got some freedom to get some fresh air.”