UCLA Football Preview: Ed Orgeron Rebuilding LSU Coaching Staff
While the Tigers are just two years removed from winning the national championship, Orgeron replaced five coaches coming into the 2021 season including both coordinators.
With Hawai’i now in the rearview mirror, the Bruins are now preparing for what may be the second biggest game of the year and the biggest non-conference game of the year. That’s right. This Saturday, UCLA will host the LSU Tigers.
Despite the facts that LSU is ranked 16th and UCLA is unranked, the Tigers are just a 3-point favorite over the Bruins. Of course, anyone who saw UCLA crush the Rainbow Warriors last weekend has a reason to be optimistic heading into this weekend. But, make no mistake, the Tigers will be a much tougher opponent than Hawai’i. That said, we begin our previews of this week’s game with a look at the LSU coaching staff and special teams.
You can’t talk about the LSU coaching staff without discussing Ed Orgeron. Of course, Orgeron is familiar to Bruin fans from his time with Southern Cal. In fact, you could argue that LSU fans owe UCLA a debt of gratitude because, when Jim Mora beat Orgeron while he was interim head coach across town, it set into motion the series of events that led to him landing at LSU in the first place and setting the Tigers up to win the national championship two years ago.
Of course, a lot has changed in Baton Rouge since the Tigers won the 2019 title. Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger retired from on-field coaching after the 2020 season and has been replaced by Jake Peetz. Peetz actually coached at UCLA as a defensive assistant under Karl Dorrell and DeWayne Walker back in 2007.
By the time Peetz joined the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012, he had switched to the offensive side of the ball. Since spending that season with the Jags, he has been an offensive analyst at Alabama twice. He was also an assistant with the Redskins in 2014 before joining the Raiders for three seasons. In 2019, he became the running backs coach for the Carolina Panthers where he helped develop Christian McCaffrey into an elite offensive player. Last season, he took over as the team’s quarterbacks coach.
So, what will Peetz do as an offensive coordinator?
It’s a good question since Peetz hasn’t worked at the coordinator level before.
Peetz isn’t the only new coordinator Orgeron has brought in.
Dave Aranda, who was LSU’s defensive coordinator for the team’s championship season, left the school to replace Peetz’s old boss, Matt Ruhle, at Baylor. To replace Aranda, Orgeron brought in former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. But Pelini’s defense gave up 96 points in his first three games and he was fired at the end of last season.
Pelini’s replacement is Daronte Jones. Like Peetz, Jones’ path to LSU also went through Westwood. In Jones’ case, he spent 2010 as a graduate assistant under Rick Neuheisel. After spending 2011 coaching for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL, Jones went even further west and spent the next three seasons coaching defensive backs at Hawai’i. He joined Dave Aranda as Wisconsin for the 2015 season before heading to the NFL where he spent two seasons in Miami, two more in Cincinnati and last season in Minnesota before being named as Pelini’s replacement in January.
So, interestingly, Orgeron has opted to hire a pair of coordinators who have not previously served as coordinators at the collegiate or pro level. It would seem to be a bit of a gamble, especially doing it together at the same time, but Orgeron appears to have built up enough goodwill after winning the championship in 2019 that he can take a risk like this.
But, make no mistake, this year’s LSU coaching staff is not anywhere as experienced as it was just two seasons ago. In fact, the Tigers have a total of six new members of the coaching staff heading into this season. The other newcomers are defensive line coach Andre Carter; linebackers coach Blake Baker; passing game coordinator DJ Mangas, though Mangas is returning for his second stint with LSU; and offensive line coach Brad Davis.
Let’s turn our focus to the LSU special teams.
Junior kicker Cade York made 85.7% of his field goal attempts last season. He missed just three of his 21 attempts. While his longest last year came from 57 yards, the ones he missed were from 54, 45, and 34 yards. That said, York proved to be very accurate last season. He made all 36 PAT tries.
He won’t handle kickoffs, however. Those duties look to belong to graduate student Avery Atkins who was the only Tiger to kickoff last season, when 46 of his 60 kickoffs went for touchbacks.
Meanwhile, the punting duties will belong to true freshman Peyton Todd, who is the only punter on the Tigers’ roster.
The Tigers’ top punt returner is Derek Stingley, Jr. If the Stingley family name sounds familiar, it’s because Derek’s grandfather was the late Darryl Stingley, who played wide receiver for New England until he was hit by the Raiders’ Jack Tatum in a preseason game which broke several vertebrae and left him a quadriplegic. His dad played professionally for several teams in Arena Football as well.
The youngest Stingley was LSU’s top punt returner last year. He totaled 97 return yards and his longest was a 48-yarder.
Speaking of dangerous return men, wide receiver Trey Palmer was the primary kick returner for the Tigers last season. He returned seven kicks including a 93-yard touchdown. With both Stingley, Jr. and Palmer, the Bruins cannot afford to have a mental lapse in the kicking game.