LSU’s Orgeron denies dissension, meets with team leaders

LSU coach Ed Orgeron reacts as his team continues to fall behind to Troy last Saturday in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU coach Ed Orgeron hasn’t lost his sense of humor yet.Then again, if laughter relieves stress, it could be survival instincts kicking in.

LSU’s recent results have raised the possibility of a first losing season since 1999. A stagnant offense and discombobulated defense have resulted in a 30-point loss at Mississippi State on Sept. 16 and an upset loss to Troy last weekend — the first non-conference loss in Tiger Stadium since 2000 after 49 straight victories in such contests.

Next for LSU (3-2, 0-1 SEC) comes seven straight Southeastern Conference games, starting Saturday at No. 21 Florida (3-1, 3-0).

On local sports talk radio or internet message boards dedicated to LSU football, there has been no shortage of fans suggesting that Orgeron be fired.

Yet, when asked Monday how he deals with calls for his ouster just five games into his first full season on the job, Orgeron allowed a wry smile and responded, “I hadn’t heard that. Thanks for telling me.”

Orgeron went on to explain that his daily schedule doesn’t afford him much time to follow happenings outside LSU’s football headquarters.

“I go to work, show up at 6 o’clock in the morning, say my prayers, drink my coffee, watch film,” Orgeron said. “I stay in the office all day, call my wife two or three times a day, text my boys, go to practice, go watch film, go home and I put my head on the pillow and go to bed.”

Orgeron also made an unusual addition to Monday’s schedule — an early afternoon meeting with players in leadership positions.

“I’ll be very positive with this football team — believe in them, expect them to get better,” said Orgeron, adding that he also expects the impending return of key injured players, such as defensive linemen Rashard Lawrence and Ed Alexander, to help. Orgeron characterized top running back Derrius Guice and starting offensive tackle Toby Weathersby as “questionable” this week.

There already has been a players-only meeting after Saturday’s 24-21 loss to Troy. Senior safety John Battle did most of the talking, according to teammates.

Battle wanted “to see who can step up and be a leader in a time of need,” sophomore linebacker Devin White recounted. “Most people will put their head down after a game like that because it was a tragic loss. But we needed people to be leaders.”

Senior defensive end Christian LaCouture said players “let their frustration out. … Guys were upset. It was a hard loss.”

Time will tell if the loss to Troy unifies or fractures a team that started 2-0 and appeared on the brink of being ranked in the Top 10, only to fall out of the AP Top 25 .

Orgeron rebuffed questions about possible dissention between him and first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada . Orgeron said he has avoided meddling in Canada’s offense, but made an exception last week because two freshmen were pressed into service on the offensive line.

“I wanted to simplify only the shifts and motions,” Orgeron said. “That’s all I’ve ever done. This is Matt’s offense. He runs it. He calls it. He scripts the plays. This is his offense.”

After LSU failed to score in the first half against Troy, Orgeron said he abandoned his plan to minimize pre-snap motion and gave complete control of the offense back to Canada.

Orgeron also dispelled the notion that Danny Etling’s starting quarterback job is under threat from freshman Myles Brennan, who saw action in the past two games.

“We’ve never planned to play Myles in one of the SEC games,” Orgeron said. “We’re just preparing Myles in case Danny got hurt, that he has some snaps and can perform.”

Orgeron said he’s changed very little about his approach since last season , when, as interim coach, he went 6-2 with both losses coming in close games against Alabama and Florida. He added that, as a Louisiana native who grew up rooting for the Tigers, he doesn’t have to be told how disappointed LSU fans are these days.

“I’ve been on that side; I get it. But you know what? It doesn’t faze me at all,” Orgeron said. “The reason it doesn’t faze me because I’m strong enough mentally to attack work every day, focus in on the task at hand and do what’s best for this football team.”

Orgeron still appears to have support from veteran leaders such as LaCouture, who called any suggestion that the coach be fired “disrespectful” and “absurd.”

Added White, “There’s only so much that the coaches can do. They’re up here working countless hours. They’re putting the plan in. So it’s up to us to execute. It’s up to us to play hard and it’s up to us to want it more than the other team.”