The talk around Baton Rouge over the offseason was focused quite a bit on what kind of boost new offensive coordinator Matt Canada would provide LSU’s offense. It turns out the coordinator on the other side of the ball had a statement of his own to make in the team’s opener too.
The Tigers reloaded defense under Dave Aranda looked just as fierce and talented as previous editions on the Bayou — and maybe even better — as Ed Orgeron’s full-time season debut as head coach resulted in LSU clamping down on BYU in dominating fashion for a 27-0 win. To call the game one-sided would almost be an understatement, and that’s not even getting to the home field advantage aspect of the ‘Texas Kickoff’ being moved from Houston to New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Harvey.
The Cougars failed to make it past midfield on the night, ran only 38 total plays and converted just two 3rd downs. The Tigers, meanwhile, managed to rush for 294 yards and controlled the ball for over 41 minutes. BYU may have be independent but somehow managed to look like an early season FCS squad the way they were stymied on just about every offensive series.
Quarterback Tanner Mangum managed to throw for just 102 yards and was picked off once on an ill-advised pass. He was also sacked three times by that tough LSU front seven — and yet was about the only life the team had moving the ball as running lanes were non-existent (-5 yards on the ground).
As rough of a night as it was for the visitors, it was a nice debut of the budding Derrius Guice Heisman campaign. The star Tigers’ tailback hardly played down the stretch and had a big role in putting the game out of reach early, rushing for 120 yards and two scores before giving way to backup Darrel Williams.
The fact that those two ran well was probably not a surprise but the biggest development on the night might have been the quality play of signal-caller Danny Etling. The numbers weren’t eye-popping by any stretch (14/17, 173 yards) but he was efficient and didn’t turn the ball over. Even more encouraging were several throws that he made that didn’t come so easy a year ago.
In the end, a statement was made in one of the season’s most through dismantling of a major opponent. Perhaps the most surprising thing to fans of LSU came that one was made on each side of the ball.
That certainly didn’t last long.
Tuesday, after the first day of spring practice, Lane Kiffin revealed that Chris Robison had been indefinitely suspended from the Florida Atlantic football program for unspecified violations of team rules; one report had the suspension connected to skipping a mandatory tutoring session. At the time, the second-year head coach indicated that the suspension was day-to-day and could be lifted at any time.
As it turns out, Thursday was that time as the quarterback returned to the practice field with the rest of his FAU teammates.
“He came in [Wednesday] and actually thanked me for it,” Kiffin said according to the Sun-Sentinel. “He said it really kind of embarrassed him nationally and humbled him that things could kind of be taken away. It was good to see.”
A four-star member of Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class, Robison was arrested in April of that year for public intoxication; four months later, OU announced that Robison had been dismissed from the football program. In August of last year, Robison announced his decision to transfer to FAU and ended up taking a redshirt for the 2017 season.
Robison and De’Andre Johnson are expected to compete for the starting job vacated by Jason Driskel, who announced earlier this offseason that he was retiring from the sport. Johnson missed most of the 2017 season after blood clots were discovered in one of his arms.
In the end, it appears to be much ado about (mostly) nothing.
Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his left (throwing) hand. It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.
Wednesday, it was reported that the injury was believed to be just a sprain and that Tagovailoa could return to practice soon. That report proved prophetic as Tagovailoa was indeed back at practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis.
The quarterback was not doing the normal drills with his teammates but was off to the side working with head athletic trainer Jeff Allen. It looked like they were testing Tagovailoa’s ability to grip the football since the injury was suffered on his throwing hand. He replicated a few play-action roll outs with the ball in his left hand. At one point, he rolled over toward where Jalen Hurts was standing and they high fived.
Until Tagovailoa is fully recovered, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.
The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are entrenched in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp. That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.
Greene is turning orange. Well, Jalen Greene is at least.
The former USC wide receiver who announced he would pursue a graduate transfer earlier this month announced on Twitter that he would be heading East to play at Illinois in 2018. He will be immediately eligible to play for the Illini.
Greene was originally recruited by the Trojans as a dual-threat quarterback but eventually made the move to receiver. He caught eight passes for 98 yards at USC last season as a partial starter and added another eight receptions for 116 yards the year prior.
Illinois has already begun spring practice and has been trying several new players at wide receiver in the process to find a good complement to Mike Dudek on the outside. It seems Greene could find himself in the mix to be one of those guys when he arrives in Champaign.
There are a ton of interesting storylines as spring practice begins across the country but one of the most intriguing programs to watch might be in Orlando as UCF looks to simultaneously follow up an undefeated season while also transitioning to a new coaching staff.
ESPN’s Andrea Adelson wrote a good story on the Knights changing some things up under head coach Josh Heupel the past few months like eating with players during meals, new strength and conditioning regiments and the usual offseason stuff you typically wind up season. However there was one interesting nugget about the team’s playbook that the coach relayed:
In other areas, player input has kept a few things unchanged. Take the offensive playbook, for example. Heupel and (Scott) Frost share enough offensive concepts that the new staff has adopted the terminology that players already know on the plays they have in common. So in theory, that should allow the offense to hit spring practice, which started Tuesday, with much more familiarity than another program that has completely changed over its staff.
As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In Heupel’s first head coaching gig, it seems he’s taking that to heart.