Too much time need not be spent reflecting on LSU’s 5-5 campaign a season ago.
On the heels of the greatest season in school history, the Tigers lost their roar due to a combination of mistaken hires, lack of leadership inside the locker room and on the field, injuries, and COVID-19.
LSU and its fans would like nothing more than to turn the page on last year, and SEC Media Days present an opportunity to start looking ahead. Only 45 days remain until the Tigers visit Pasadena to face UCLA at the historic Rose Bowl.
“One Team. One Heartbeat.”
Maybe after a season where no one could get the pulse of the Tigers, LSU is ready to show that heart still pumps as strong as ever.
Is the team up to that challenge?
“I don’t think of it as a challenge,” said junior cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. “If anything, I would say it’s motivation, and it gives everyone on the team a chip on their shoulder because we want to be one of the top teams, like we usually are every year. That’s what we’re coming back for this year.”
Offensive lineman Austin Deculus isn’t worried about having something to prove. The standard at LSU was set before he stepped on campus. He’s just trying to live up to it.
“Coming together as a team, just being able to be consistent where we weren’t consistent, just being able to just bounce back and show, not that we’re just going to play — we don’t play with a chip on our shoulder at LSU,” Deculus said. “We never have, and we never will. We’re always going to play to that LSU standard of performance.”
Over the past 20 seasons, that standard has included 11 10-win seasons, 12 bowl victories, nine top-10 finishes, and three national championships.
With neither of LSU’s top two quarterbacks making the trip to Hoover, it was left to Deculus to comment on the battle between senior Myles Brennan and sophomore Max Johnson.
“It’s amazing really because you have both of those guys and they are like human highlight reels because they’re fighting for everything,” he added. “They’re fighting for that spot. So they’re going to give their best every day, and regardless of who it is, they’re both going to do a great job for us, and, hey, at the end of the day, I’m going to block for both because I know both of them are going to get the job done.”
Whomever is named starter will once again have the ghost of Joe Burrow floating around as LSU tries to resurrect some of that 2019 offensive magic.
“When you compare both offenses from that 2019 season to the one [Jake] Peetz is bringing, you have both — both of those offenses are just highlight reel offenses,” said Deculus. “You’ve got dangerous running backs, dangerous receivers, two dangerous quarterbacks, whoever it’s going to be. But the thing is about both of those offenses that are similar is giving playmakers plays to make plays in space.”
The Tigers’ defense is also on the rebuild. New coordinator. New formation. New system.
Stingley is on his third defensive coordinator in three years, yet he remains one of the most highly-respected players in the country. With the famous No. 7 jersey now in his possession, and preparing for what is likely his final collegiate season, he’s excited about the possibilities for his squad.
“Coach [Daronte] Jones, he brings a lot of stuff from the NFL, and whenever he introduces something new to us, he breaks it down on an NFL level, and he shows how they did it when he was at the Vikings,” said Stingley. “He shows clips from that, or he shows clips from the Bengals and stuff like that. When we see that, we’re like, okay, we can do it. They’re making it look simple, so we can go out there and do it too.”
With LSU’s history of sending player after player to the NFL, having a coordinator with a professional background seems about right.
“When Coach Jones walks in the room, he just gives us energy,” added Stingley. “We all as a group from the front line to the secondary, we’re all hanging out, outside of football, interacting more, and it’s showing on the field, and it’s going to show this fall too.”
It’s encouraging to hear that the vibes that were missing in Death Valley a year ago are returning.
Hopefully, the victories do too.