LSU disappointing in the present but primed for a bright future

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T.J. Finley
Freshman quarterback TJ Finley during the first half of a game between LSU and South Carolina at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 (Photo by: Chris Parent / LSU Athletics).

Back in 1976, the movie Network was a popular one.

Peter Finch played the character Howard Beale, who was being put out to pasture as the evening news anchor. He began his famous rant during the news broadcast, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” He encouraged viewers to go to an open window and proclaim the identical statement in a loud voice.

Beale added, “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression.”

Fast forward to 2020. With COVID-19 and an incredibly active hurricane season, many can relate to Mr. Beale.

On the football front (although not nearly as important in the grand scheme of things), LSU fans have not had a release from all of this. Their beloved Tigers caused more griefs with a demoralizing season thus far.

LSU is getting national attention for the wrong reasons, called many the most disappointing and underachieving squad this season. They’re making all the wrong kinds of history pertaining to defending national champions.

Everyone is quite aware that the 2020 NFL Draft took a huge bite out of the Tigers’ roster with 14 players moving on to NFL. Eight of those had eligibility remaining – Justin Jefferson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, K’Lavon Chaisson, Patrick Queen, Jacob Phillips, Grant Delpit, Lloyd Cushenberry, Saahdiq Charles and Thaddeus Moss.

Add to that attrition 13 others, who were expected in most cases to be major contributors but are no longer on the roster due to opt outs, suspensions and transfer. That list includes Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Shelvin, Kary Vincent, Jamal Pettigrew, Ray Parker, TK McClendon, Nelson Jenkins, Apu Ika, Dare Rosenthal, Marcel Brooks, Justin Thomas, Travez Moore, Peter Parrish and Donavaughn Campbell.

That’s list of 22 players who could have had an impact on the field this season is no small matter. Many now filling those roles for LSU were ticketed to either be redshirted or perhaps fill out specials teams and scout team duties. Instead, most of those are starters.

Some Tiger faithful have written off the remainder of this season. With Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M looming, some are questioning if the next win will come in 2020. While LSU cannot run the table, I don’t think they lose out either.

The roster is not completely void of talent, particularly on offense. Much of the failings on both sides of the ball are the result of mental errors. Offensive and defensive schemes are one thing, but effort and individual decisions play into the problems, too. Those areas can show improvement, perhaps soon after this unexpected double bye.

The 2020 Tigers desperately needed spring practice and as many team reps as possible to get all new players up to speed. That was eliminated by COVID-19.

From the perspectives of players and coaches, it’s time for a self-evaluation and deep soul searching. Time to look into the mirror. Address the present.

The remainder of this season will be no easy task but now is the time to strap it up and play to the standards and expectations you accepted when you came to compete at LSU and in the SEC.

However, it’s also time to put one eye on the future.

The elephant in the room is the quarterback position. I don’t expect the current depth chart to remain for the 2021 campaign. Someone is going to get itchy feet and seek greener pastures. Myles Brennan will be back as the starter while T.J. Finley and Max Johnson will be true sophomores wanting playing time somewhere.

A 2021 recruit, Garrett Nussmeier, is expected to be a part of the equation next fall.

By early June after spring drills, we’ll get a clearer picture of what LSU has behind center moving forward. Will whoever is listed third on the depth chart at that time stick around?

The Tigers will receive an infusion of talent through top notch recruiting and perhaps via the transfer portal. It’s all about how a player envisions his role and how he fits into the program. You’ll never know when the next Joe Burrow-type impact player, regardless of position, will fall into your lap.

Opportunities for any incoming player to jump right into the fray and seize a role for 2021 are clear. You either improve your current roster or get better players. There is s reason that LSU is ranked third nationally by 247 recruiting, slightly trailing Alabama and Ohio State for 2021. Prospects far and wide are attracted to the LSU brand and the short term issues present the increased chance for early playing time for top recruits.

The Tigers hold 22 verbal commitments although I can see at least a couple of them ending up elsewhere while LSU fills the gaps with other targets. It’s the nature of the business.

I don’t think that LSU will land them all, but here are the players the coaching staff likely covets the most:

-5 star DT Maason Smith (6-5, 316), Terrebonne

The nation’s top rated defensive tackle is down to LSU, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. All arrows point to a Tiger advantage. Assistants Bill Johnson and Greg McMahon are on the case.

-5 star DE Korey Foreman (6-5, 265) Corona, Calif.

The top ranked player in America missed half of the 2019 season due to a knee injury but he’s healthy now. Foreman is a dominating presence. Bill Johnson and Bo Pelini are recruiting him hard. The stars maybe aligned for the Purple and Gold. The finalists include LSU, Clemson, Georgia and USC but it appears to be a Bengal Tigers-Trojans final tug-o-war in the making.

-4 star WR Brian Thomas (6-4, 185) Walker

Big framed athletes tracks the ball and is a great run-after-catch wideout. He is a legitimate prospect in both football and basketball (offers from Florida and Texas A&M on the hardwood). Thomas is similar to Terrace Marshall and Michael Clayton. Tigers assistant Mickey Joseph is trying to seal the deal. LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M are his top options.

-5 star OT Tristan Leigh (6-6, 275) Fairfax, Va.

Rated the third best tackle in this class and the 11th overall prospect, Leigh could be a plug-and-play lineman for the Tigers. Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma are in the mox but LSU appears to be in the lead.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

CCS/Fox Sports/ESPN/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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