LSU’s Orgeron faces many staff, Tigers’ roster decisions

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU coach Ed Orgeron faces several staff and roster decisions before the next time the Tigers play on Sept. 2 against Miami.

LSU wrapped up the 2017 campaign, Orgeron’s first full season as head coach, at 9-4 following a 21-17 loss in the Citrus Bowl against Notre Dame — meaning the Tigers can expect to drop from the No. 16 ranking they held after the regular season.

“We made some tremendous improvement over the season,” Orgeron said after the loss to the Irish in rainy Orlando. “Obviously, we’re very disappointed in this loss. I told the team to put it on me. I should have prepared them better. (There are) some things that we need to get fixed and we are going to fix them, especially in the areas that we didn’t perform.”

It was a tale of two seasons for Orgeron and the Tigers. After starting 2-0, LSU was dominated on the road by Mississippi State in their Southeastern Conference opener 37-7 and struggled to beat Syracuse a week later 35-26.

The low point of 2017 came at home against Troy, which beat LSU 24-21 and snapped the Tigers’ 49-game non-conference winning streak at home that dated back to Nick Saban’s first season at LSU in 2000.

The tumultuous week after the loss to the Trojans was followed by a closed-door meeting with athletic director Joe Alleva, Orgeron and coordinators Dave Aranda and Matt Canada.

That meeting seemed to right the ship for the Tigers, who went on to win six of their last seven games of the regular season. The run included a thrilling 27-23 victory at home against Auburn, the eventual SEC Western Division champion.

The lone loss during that stretch came on the road against Alabama, who defeated LSU for the seventh consecutive time despite the Tigers outgaining them in total offensive yards and winning the time of possession.

As he enters the offseason, perhaps the biggest dilemma facing Orgeron is the status of offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who has not fit in with Orgeron and his staff — philosophically or stylistically, as hoped.

LSU’s 411 yards per game ranked 54th nationally, and Orgeron refused to address Canada’s status for 2018 after the bowl game.

Once Orgeron has settled the offensive side of his staff, LSU will have to develop a new starting quarterback. Freshman Myles Brennan, the heir apparent to senior QB Danny Etling, saw limited action, completing 14-of-24 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown in six games.

Brennan’s biggest competition for the starting spot is expected to come from another freshman, Lowell Narcisse, who redshirted in 2017.

At least the new quarterback can expect to have a solid offensive line protecting him. The line is expected to be a full strength next season after two true freshmen — Saahdiq Charles and Ed Ingram — started much of the 2017 season.

After rushing for 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns, junior Derrius Guice has yet to announce whether he will enter the 2018 NFL Draft, as conventional wisdom dictates he should.

“Coach O and I just have to have a deep conversation about it and see where it goes,” Guice said after the bowl game.

With Darrel Williams graduating, if Guice also goes, LSU’s leading returning rusher will Nick Brossette, who gained 96 yards on 19 carries.

Seniors Russell Gage and D.J. Chark, the two starting LSU wide receivers, also will be replaced in 2018.

LSU’s defense will have high expectations next season. Sophomore linebacker Devin White, the leading tackler in the SEC, returns to anchor a squad that is expected to return as many as six starters.

Returning starters include freshman defensive back Andraez “Greedy” Williams, who led the Tigers with six interceptions, including one in the Citrus Bowl.