If Coach Ed Orgeron needed a blueprint for what to fix this offseason, all he has to do is flip on the tape of LSU’s Citrus Bowl matchup with Notre Dame.
The Tigers lost to the Irish on Monday – a painstaking defeat that showcased everything that LSU needs to do to get back in the upper echelon in college football.
Let’s start with the offense.
In Matt Canada’s final act as LSU offensive coordinator, the Tigers gained 399 yards and possessed the ball for 37 minutes of the game.
But in the red zone, LSU was stale and bland, settling for (missed) field goals, which loomed large and cost the team the win.
Quarterback Danny Etling was good statistically, completing 19-of-33 passes for 229 yards and two scores. But Etling missed too many throws down the field – par for the course.
On some of his completions, his inaccuracy limited LSU’s yards after the catch, which also blew up several plays and drives.
The Tigers threw short of the sticks on far too many third downs and Etling lacked the pocket presence to consistently beat Notre Dame’s rush and blitz packages.
That has to be fixed for LSU to take a step forward in 2018.
Be it Myles Brennan, Lowell Narcisse or someone else, the Tigers MUST find a quarterback who can play at an elite level next season.
That’s not a knock on Etling. He did the best he could given what he’s able to do with his skillset. But to be an SEC Champion again, LSU has to be able to fully maximize the talent it has around the field and that’s impossible with a quarterback as limited as Etling.
Matt Canada is leaving the program and Orgeron must decide what he wants in terms of offensive style and then he must execute a successful hire who can deliver on all of those things.
Canada’s gimmicky spread offense isn’t what Orgeron wanted, which is fine, but which also begs the question of why Canada was ever chosen in the first place?
Away from the offense, LSU must also fix its special teams.
The Tigers muffed kicks, missed short field goals and did just about everything wrong on special teams against Notre Dame – a fitting end for a hapless group that’s been painstakingly bad for all of 2017.
When Orgeron took the job in Baton Rouge, he opted to not hire a full-time special teams coach to avoid going over the limit for coaches on staff.
That was a huge mistake.
LSU needs a special teams guy. Orgeron has already admitted as such, telling reporters after the game that he will hire a full-time coordinator in the coming weeks.
There’s no margin for error.
In the first month of 2018, LSU will face Miami and Auburn – both in games outside of Tiger Stadium.
In SEC play, the Tigers will face the usual SEC Western gauntlet, as well as a date with Georgia.
On paper, LSU’s schedule may be the hardest in the country.
Fix the above-mentioned woes and heck, maybe LSU can navigate that schedule in stride and have a successful year.
But if not, things could get ugly in a hurry.
Time will tell.
But at least now, we all saw firsthand exactly what needs to be done.
Image: Sean Gasser