After a one-game absence, LSU’s team could be getting back one of the nation’s top players.
It couldn’t come at a better time.
Following a season-opening 44-34 loss at home to Mississippi State, LSU head football coach told reporters Monday that sophomore All-American cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. is expected to play in Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. game at Vanderbilt.
Stingley, who spent Friday in the hospital with an undisclosed illness, was released from the hospital Sunday.
“I think Derek’s going to be back,” Orgeron said during his weekly press luncheon Monday via Zoom. “I talked to (LSU Director of Athletic Training) Jack (Marucci). We’re waiting for all of the medical exams to clear. I expect him back as early as maybe tomorrow.”
While Orgeron said the door was open for Stingley’s return, he said that senior defensive tackle Glen Logan, who was ruled out of Saturday’s opener will not play against Vanderbilt because he’s serving aa two-game suspension for breaking team rules in the off-season, according to SI’s Ross Dellenger. Logan is expected to play in the Oct. 9 home game against Missouri at 8 p.m.
Without Stingley missing the first game of his college career, LSU’s secondary felt the brunt of his absence. The Tigers surrendered a school-record 623 yards passing and five touchdowns to State quarterback K.J Costello.
The Tigers were forced to rely on younger, unproven players such as Cordale Flott, Jay Ward and Darren Evans in Stingley’s absence with diminishing returns.
“I’m hoping he can play and obviously it makes a difference in our team,” Orgeron said of Stingley. “We need that. It’s a position of need. We’re always going to put his health first. I’m going to listen to the doctors. If the doctors, Derek, his parents say he can play, he’ll play. If they don’t, then he won’t. I expect him to play. I expect him to maybe be back at practice tomorrow, but we’ll see.”
Here’s what else Orgeron had to say Monday:
On his thoughts after Saturday’s game
“Get back to fundamentals. Get back to playing the LSU standard of performance which was not there Saturday night and I take all the responsibility. But we’re going to get it fixed and get going. I believe in this coaching staff. I believe in this team. I know they’re hurting today. I know that we’re going to come back and have a great practice.
“On defense, they (Mississippi State) had 383 yards after the catch. That’s tackling, that’s assignment, that’s too many guys running free. We’ve got to work on our coverage. We had some mistakes in our coverage on leverage and assignments. Some of the positives, we had five sacks and caused four turnovers and we scored on defense. I thought the pressure on the quarterback was there at times, but it could be better.
“On offense, we’ve got to protect the quarterback better. We gave up seven sacks. Some of that was scheme, some that was technique. We’ve got to protect the quarterback (Myles Brennan) better and we’ve got to make better decisions. We had guys open, we didn’t hit them. I think that’s going to come with more experience with Myles. We have to eliminate the drops. We had too many drops, especially at the beginning of the game. We had too many drops that hurt our drives and we’ve got to be able to run the ball better.
“I thought we played very well on special teams. We had 49.5 yards per punt with five inside the 20. We were two of two on field goals and we had seven kicks (kickoffs) and they were all touchbacks. I’m looking forward to today. I’m looking forward to seeing the team, looking forward to coaches identifying the things that we could do better, coming up with solutions and having a great day of practice.”
“Derek Mason’s done an outstanding job. He’s an outstanding coach that I have a lot of respect for. He was an outstanding defensive coach at Stanford. I know Derek very well. Kenechi Udeze’s on that staff and he has that defensive line playing very well. I thought their defense played pretty good against Texas A&M. They have what we call a pro spread on offense with four returning starters. They only gave up 12 points against A&M. Ken Seals is their quarterback. Amir Abdur-Rahman is a tall, rangy defense. I think defense is their strong point right now. I think their defensive line is very good. This week is about us getting back on a winning track and play to the LSU standard of performance.”
On running back rotation
“That’s what we want to do. Obviously, Chris (Curry) is our lead back in our opinion. I thought John (Emery) did some good stuff on short yardage. You would think Chris and Tyrion (Davis-Price) would be there in short yardage. I’m pleased with our backs. I think we need to run the football more, get them more touches out of the backfield. They didn’t catch the ball enough out of the backfield.
“Chris and (Curry) John (Emery Jr.) had a good game. Tyrion’s (Davis-Price) a really good back. There’s somethings that all three of them do. I just think we need to get the running game going. I’d like to run more on first down, get some positive yards. Let’s get to second and four, second and three. They were run stunting, blitzing a guy through. We’ve got to get a better plan. We’ve got pick those guys up. There was too much penetration.”
On what prohibited staff from in-game adjustments; any changes expected vs. Vanderbilt
“All of that is Bo’s decision. We talked about it. They were hitting us on some pick routes, some over routes. Some of it was scheme. There were adjustments we can do, not necessarily play zone but we can do some adjustments in man (such as) passing guys off. It all depends. Not having Derek there really hurt us. I’m glad that he’s healthy and OL. His safety’s of the foremost importance to us. Jay Ward was out of practice for two weeks. We didn’t know he could even play and he played a lot of snaps. I thought he did a fairly good job. Obviously, he was a little rusty. It was a combination of being short on corners, not having Derek hurt us and we had a game plan that we were going to play man and we thought we could man up with the receivers. We should have make a couple of adjustments during the game.”
On performance by junior defensive end Ali Gaye
“We have seen it at practice. He came and started making improvement every day. During COVID, he didn’t go home. He stayed here, learned, studied and worked out on his own. In camp he just kept coming and coming. I didn’t know he was going to have that type of game. I thought he had an excellent game. He had a lot of pressures, some batted balls. He played the run very well. I think he’s going to have an excellent year for us.”
On team’s response to loss
“(Message to team) Stick to together, don’t panic and believe in each other. We’re not going change anything drastic, but we’ve got tighten up on some stuff. We have to play with more energy. We have to play with more desire. We’ve got to make plays. We’ve got to coach better. Hey, the (national) championship’s over. This is a new season, a new team and we knew that. Now we definitely know that. Hopefully our guys can start from Day 1 today, focus on one game at a time with Vanderbilt. My job is to get this team as well as we possibly can and play to the LSU standard of performance. Obviously, Saturday night was a big disappointment to me and everybody else and I understand that.”
On any discussions with defensive coordinator Bo Pelini
“Fantastic. He was the first guy to come see me in my dressing room. He said `Coach, I should have done a better job.’ He was hurt just like everybody else. We went over the film, he saw some of the things he did well and the things we must improve. He’s eager. He’s an outstanding coach.”
On development of connection between Myles Brennan and Terrace Marshall Jr.
“I like the long ball. I thought Brennan threw the long ball very well. Now he missed a couple down the pipe. The (TD) catch that Terrace made was outstanding. One thing Steve (Ensminger) stresses is taking shots and one of Myles’ strengths is his arm and throwing the ball downfield. Terrace is an outstanding receiver. He dropped a ball or two, he made some mistakes on a screen one time. He knows he can do better. Hopefully, those guys can have a big-time connection throughout the year.”
On youth of secondary
“Our corners are three (years) and out (to the NFL) here. We have a lot of young guys, a lot of young guys played for the first time. There was a lot of one-on-one situations. You have to give credit. Mississippi State’s receivers came to play, their quarterback was on fire, coach (Mike Leach) had a great scheme putting our guys in some difficult situations. Some time they did and sometimes they didn’t. When they didn’t it was touchdown. One of things we’ve got to get better at is on third down. We’ve got to stop them. Those young guys are going to grow up. That’s who we have. I believe in those guys.”
On keeping team up despite negative talk swirling around them
“Block out the noise. My twitter machine’s off. I’ve got to focus in on the task at hand. The game’s over. The season last year is over. What do they say, ‘one year wonder’? That doesn’t bother me. This is about our football team. It’s kind of good to batten down the hatches a bit. Really focus on beating Vanderbilt. That’s all we can do right now and that’s going to be the focus of our football team. One thing I want them to understand is when they win, I give them the credit. When we don’t win, I take it. But it’s my job to fix it and I guarantee you we’re going to start fixing it.”
On Vanderbilt allowing no fans in its stadium
“I’d love to have fans in there. I’d love to have Tiger Stadium full because it would be a big-time advantage for us. I want to praise the fans that were there. They got loud at the end. I could hear them. I’m sure the Vanderbilt fans are disappointed they can’t go. It’s what we have to deal with. During the week I will talk to them about being no fans there, but we’ve got to create our own on energy. Mississippi State created their own energy. We’ve got to create our own energy.”
On the adjustments of helping Myles Brennan throw from the pocket
“They were dropping into the short windows. They figured we were going for the short, easy throws to be able to get him comfortable. I thought they had a really good scheme on defense. We’ve got to make better adjustments. We’ve got to spread them out. When we stop at the line of scrimmage and look over and know what the defense is in, we’ve got to make better adjustments. He needs to get rid of the ball a little bit quicker. He was a little bit hesitant in the pocket. Have better pocket presence and make better decisions.”
On play of first-year players such as Arik Gilbert and Jabril Cox
“I thought they played great. Arik made some mistakes. He dropped the first one. I talked to him, he was nervous. That play he made in the end zone was phenomenal. We’ve got to target him more. For the most part I thought Jabril had a very productive game. He had the interception for the touchdown, running around making plays. Assignment wise, gap responsibility there are some things he can get better at. I thought Elias Ricks did some good things, getting the pick, but there are things he can get better at. Typical first game.”
On Ali Gaye’s potential
“I have to give (safeties coach) Bill Busch credit. He recruited him, just like he recruited Joe Burrow. He believed that he could play. It was one of (defensive line coach) Bill Johnson’s first days and it may be been like 20 degrees or something up there (Garden City, Kan.). Bill came back and said, `Ali ran well, let’s take him.’ Ali’s come and worked hard. I think he’s going to be a high (NFL Draft) pick. A first, second, third round pick. He’s got the size. Hopefully he stays for two years. Don’t get too good.”
On opening-game loss helping fuel team’s fire for Vanderbilt game
“It puts a fire in me I guarantee you that. We’re going to have a fire. This is a big game for us. We’re going to take them one at a time. We’re going to play with some fire, we’re going to play with some energy. That energy was not there for some reason of another and we need to get that done. I’m going to have to make my mask more to scream. I felt a little muzzled.”
On Myles Brennan’s makeup after watching film
“Myles is humble. He made two good throws, but he was inconsistent. We’ve got to protect him. When Myles feels pressure he wants to scramble to the side. He needs to stay in there but sometimes he can’t. It comes to the protection, the easy throws where he can make decisions, put our play-makers in space and let them make plays. And also take shots. Once we get that rhythm, we’ll be fine.”
Among the things that went wrong Saturday, anything surprise you the most
“The yards passing, the yards after the catch. I saw an outstanding defense in camp. We had pressure on the quarterback, but the busts on the wheel route going 75 yards the field, the crossing routes, the third downs. Those things surprised me because we were excellent in camp against our offense. I was surprised they gained that many yards on us.”
On decisions Myles Brennan goes through in the pocket
“Myles knows what he’s looking at. It’s a matter of making decisions. What Joe did was make a decision quick and let go of the ball quick. I think he has to let go of the ball quicker. I think he has to learn how to avoid the rush instead of going on the outside. Stepping up in the pocket like (New Orleans Saints QB) Drew Brees does. Be patient and let his receivers come open and when he does see a receiver open, pull the trigger and throw the ball like any great quarterback would.”
On whether he and anyone of his staff had gone through a game like that
“I haven’t seen it. It’s a breakdown of the passing game on defense … one on ones, missed assignments and they had a good scheme. We should have made some better adjustments throughout. We know not having Derek there really hurts. He’s a force, a great player and our guys not being healthy – I’m not making any excuses for them – really hurt us. It gives me hope for this football team. When we get Derek back, we get our guys healthy we’ll be fine.”
On offensive philosophy
“We want to be 50-50 (run-pass) and we were close to it. We came out the second half and needed to establish the line of scrimmage. You can’t drop back and pass every time and not run, especially with the three great running backs we have and a fourth I think in Tre Bradford. Last year we ran the ball very well. We had one running play, an inside zone and Clyde (Edwards-Helaire) made everybody miss and would make plays. This is a different year. Not to say that we don’t have that running back but we have to find things that this year’s team does well.”