HOOVER – LSU fired coach Les Miles after a last second-loss to Auburn on Sept. 24. Miles was just 2-2 in the four games he coached. Ed Orgeron took over and led the Tigers to a 6-2 record, finishing 4-2 in conference.
However no matter the coach, LSU struggled in close games all season.
The Tigers lost four games last year by a combined 23 points. All four of those losses came to teams ranked in the Top 25 at the end of the season. However, LSU had a strong finish, winning its last two games against Texas A&M and Louisville, by 35 combined points.
The Tigers return 14 starters from last year’s Citrus Bowl-winning team, including SEC leading rusher Derrius Guice.
Guice is one of the best running backs in the country and a Heisman Trophy candidate. He averaged 115.6 rushing yards per game on the way to 1,387 rushing yards. Alongside leading the SEC in rushing, Guice set two LSU rushing records. He set the single-game rushing record against Texas A&M, with 285 yards, and against Arkansas he ran 96 yards for the longest rushing play in school history.
“We have we have the best running back in the country,” Orgeron said Monday at SEC Media Days. “He runs the ball, like Warren Sapp played defensive line for me at Miami.”
Danny Etling returns as the favorite to start for the Tigers at quarterback, according to Orgeron. Etling led the team in passing with 2,123 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016.
Last season LSU looked to be the team that had a chance to end Alabama’s streak of consecutive SEC championships. However, the two-point loss to Wisconsin to open the season seemed to dash those hopes. When the Crimson Tide came to Death Valley, LSU shut Alabama’s offense down, allowing just 10 points, which were all scored in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers failed to score at all.
LSU opens its season against BYU in Houston on Sept. 2.
Head coach: Ed Orgeron
2016 record: 8-4 (5-3 SEC)
Returning starters: 14
Toughest question Orgeron faced: Do you have something to prove, not only to yourself, but to the people that I can be a head and I can be successful at this?
Orgeron’s reply: I know this, I understand the expectations of the LSU (fans). I was born in Louisiana, and they’re very high. But we have the same expectation of our staff and our self. I don’t feel the pressure, but I do acknowledge that it’s out there. And I still need to prove that now I’m the head coach and we need to win, and I get that.
You need to know: LSU lost its second leading rusher, Leonard Fournette, to the NFL draft, leaving Derrius Guice to be the main rusher this season. Guice finished with 1,387 rushing yards, to lead the SEC in rushing. The Tigers also lost its two leading wide receivers, leaving D.J. Chark to be the main target. Chark was the third leading receiver a year ago, with 26 receptions and 466-yards.
Best player quote: “The fact that I can say that I am really good friends with my head coach. I can go talk to him about anything. I can go in his office; his door is always open. From peewee ball to high school to college to pros, a lot of guys a lot of guys don’t get that relationship with their head coach. If I’m on the field, I never feel pressure to make a mistake, because I know if I do make a mistake, he’s going to have my back. It is a very confident feeling.”
-Junior wide receiver D.J. Chark, on head coach Ed Orgeron.