Current LSU football staff a vast departure from national championship season
It is less than 16 months removed from when LSU completed a magical run to an unbeaten season and national championship, culminating with a 42-25 win over Clemson in the title game in New Orleans on January 13, 2020.
While the memories of that phenomenal season and accomplishment will linger and last a lifetime for Tiger fans, the memory of contributors to that championship is fading quicker than expected.
Of the key contributors, virtually all have graduated, moved on in life or are now playing in the NFL.
Then, there is the matter of the coaching staff.
In just 15 months, a total of seven coaches who were part of the best season ever in LSU history have departed.
Gone from the 2019 staff are Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers coach Dave Aranda, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks coach Steve Ensminger, Passing Game Coordinator/Receivers Coach Joe Brady, Safeties coach Bill Busch, Defensive Line coach Bill Johnson, Assistant Head Coach/Recruiting Coordinator/Running Backs coach Tommie Robinson.
Now, offensive line coach James Cregg, who was abruptly and perhaps surprisingly dismissed on Wednesday, has been added to that list.
Cregg, who had extensive NFL experience with the Raiders, Broncos and Chargers, arrived at LSU in 2018.
In 2019, when the Tigers won the national championship, Cregg’s offensive line was voted the best in the country, winning the Joe Moore award given to the top unit in the country despite not having real star power.
While three of his starting offensive linemen were drafted, none were first or second round picks.
Lloyd Cushenberry (third pick of Denver), Damien Lewis, (third round pick of Seattle), and Saahdiq Charles (fourth round pick of Washington) were drafted while Adrian Magee and Badara Traore were undrafted.
It is easy to make the argument that his offensive line maximized its potential in the 2019 season.
You can make the argument that the LSU offensive line in 2020 performed below expectations but you could say that about virtually every aspect of the 2020 Tigers, couldn’t you?
Perhaps LSU’s lack of landing an elite offensive lineman in recruiting had an impact on the decision to make the move.
As is always the case, there are varying reasons for the changes.
Success breeds interest from others.
Brady had to depart, given an opportunity to run an NFL offense. Ed Orgeron turned to Brady connections this season in an effort to rediscover the magic.
Aranda left to become the head coach at Baylor.
Of course, after Brady and Aranda departed, Scott Linehan and Bo Pelini were hired.
They are already gone after the highly disappointing 2020 season for LSU.
Orgeron was so eager to dismiss Linehan and Pelini that he convinced those in charge to pay both the remainder of their contracts, a hefty total. Busch also departed and was still owed money by LSU.
The LSU defense was awful, allowing 34.9 points and 492 yards per game last season. Only Corey Raymond remains from the defensive staff of a year ago.
Ensminger and Johnson both retired from active coaching following the 2020 season.
Robinson left LSU for a similar job at Texas A&M, replaced by former Tiger great Kevin Faulk.
Where Orgeron is concerned, he has enjoyed big hits with his hires and clear misses, most notably Pelini, Linehan and Matt Canada.
While no one is expected to hit it big on every move, to be consistently successful, you must hit most of the time.
All eyes will be on new Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz, Passing Game coordinator DJ Mangas, Faulk, Defensive Coordinator Daronte Jones, Defensive Line coach Andre Carter, Linebackers coach Blake Baker and Recruiting Specialist Mason Smith, an LSU graduate.
In the world of sports, you only as good as your last game.
In the SEC, you are only as good as your last season.
LSU had many great games and fantastic season in 2019.
The Tigers had many bad games and a failed season in 2020.
Will LSU return to glory in 2021 or split the difference between the two vastly different seasons?
The guess is clearly that the Tigers will be better than a year ago.
How much better remains to be seen with the vast infusion of new coaches certainly playing a large role in determining the final outcome.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…