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Why LSU got pushed around by Troy, despite signing tons of blue-chip linemen

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The Crootletter is your source for recruiting scoop, trends, and analysis.

NCAA Football: Lambeau Field College Classic-Louisiana State vs Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

I married into an LSU family. And I manage SB Nation’s recruiting coverage for a living. And LSU recruits really well. So I watch more LSU than most people outside of Baton Rouge.

And Saturday night, I found myself watching LSU get pushed around by Troy during a loss in Death Valley. Running back Jordan Chunn rushed 30 times for 191 yards. Troy’s running back ran 30 times against LSU, in Death Valley, for an average of 6.4 yards/carry. Yikes.

Let’s set aside the questions about Ed Orgeron’s inability to keep his promises not to micromanage every aspect of his program like he did at Ole Miss or avoid throwing his offensive coordinator under the bus.

LSU’s strength program didn’t just collapse, so the question I have is: Where did all the big guys LSU has signed go?

The 10 men starting for the Bayou Bengals along the lines (the offensive line, three down defensive linemen, and two outside linebackers) have an interesting mix of experience and youth: sixth-year senior (one), fifth-year senior (two), senior (two), junior (one), redshirt freshman (two), and true freshman (one).

On the surface, having all that experience up front seems like a great thing. But this is LSU.

When players have a shot to go pro early, they typically do so, perhaps more than anywhere else in the country. When I see fifth- and even sixth-year players in LSU’s starting lineup, it tells me LSU is having to start way too many guys without next-level talent. When LSU is at its best, it is dominating with a few of those, and a lot of second-, third-, and some fourth-year players. And this is where the lineup is lacking.

Looking through the 2014-15 classes, the problem is clear. LSU signed 15 linemen in that span, and only six are still on the roster. That means nine did not complete their eligibility at LSU. While one did go pro early, the other eight transferred, and five of those had significant discipline problems.

Some of the players who are no longer on the roster were really talented. While he was rarely healthy, academically eligible, and in shape at the same time, Travonte Valentine was very talented, as were Trey Lealaimatafao and the Teuhema brothers.

LSU’s 2014-15 linemen recruiting classes

Name Position Stars Status
Name Position Stars Status
Garrett Brumfield Guard 4 Started Saturday
Davon Godchaux Defensive end 4 5th-round draft choice, Miami Dolphins
Deondre Clark Defensive end 4 Still on roster, some snaps.
Will Clapp Guard 4 Current starting center
Jevonte Domond Tackle 4 Suspended, reinstated, transferred to UTSA.
Travonte Valentine Defensive tackle 4 Failed to qualify, qualified, dismissed, JUCO, re-signed, dismissed again
Sione Teuhema Defensive end 3 Suspended, transferred to Southeastern
Trey Lealaimatafao Defensive tackle 3 Multiple arrests, dismissed from program, sentenced to six years in prison for robbery
Maea Teuhema Guard 4 Academic suspension, transferred to Southeastern
Arden Key Defensive end 4 Time away from program, but still a starter
Chidi Valentine-Okeke Tackle 4 Transferred
Toby Weathersby Tackle 4 Starter, but injured and out currently.
Adrian Magee Tackle 4 Rotational player
George Brown Tackle 3 Transferred
Isaiah Washington Defensive end 3 Transferred

That’s really it. Many of the guys LSU should be depending on are not on the roster because they have been dismissed, failed out, or transferred.

Of the remaining six from those classes, four are starters, but one of the better players, tackle Toby Weathersby, missed the Troy game with an injury, as did a lot of other players.

LSU needs to reload its roster with quality linemen. Orgeron knows this:

LSU is more of a rebuilding situation than I realized.

Interim coaches are hired because the athletic department believes that the team is close to winning, wants to maintain some level of continuity, and believes the interim is the right person to keep the existing good elements, while bringing in some new.

But interim coaches are not afforded the luxury of a Year Zero, because they already understand what needs to be fixed by virtue of having coached the team as an interim.

You don’t promote an interim coach for a rebuilding situation. But after striking out on Jimbo Fisher and losing its game of chicken with Tom Herman, the Tigers might have done just that.

Will LSU have patience with Orgeron if it turns out LSU needs a true rebuild? I’m not sure that it will, or that it should.

Quickly

  • I am glad to see some in the non-recruiting media realize the problem with the NCAA’s rule change dealing with colleges and high school coaches. Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated tackled it last week:

Another part of the rule, however, did more pimp-enabling. Previously, football programs would pay high school coaches to work their summer camps. They can’t do that anymore if they want to sign one of that coach’s players in a two-year period. Did schools use the camp roles to reward coaches who might funnel them recruits? Sure. But at least those coaches were beholden to the high schools and municipalities that employed them. They had a powerful incentive to not sell their players or sell access to their players. Now? Programs will slip cash to random handlers who are beholden to no one and looking to make a quick buck off the best athletes in their communities. Those people will deliver the athletes to camps. It’s not nearly as juicy as a giant shoe company bankrolling a recruitment, but it’s all part of the same problem. The money isn’t going to the people it should go to, so it’s going to find a way to go somewhere.