BATON ROUGE, La. – A little more than a year into his tenure as LSU coach, Ed Orgeron is at a crossroads. Following a 9-4 debut season, that may seem premature, but details of those four losses and a handful of unsightly public-relations hiccups have led to this point.
There was the most lopsided loss in the history of the Mississippi State series. Troy upset LSU in Tiger Stadium, ending the nation’s longest home non-conference winning streak. An uninspired bowl loss to Notre Dame and the program’s seventh consecutive loss to Alabama have many wondering if LSU can regain its status among the SEC’s elite under Orgeron.
There’s also the ugly public dismissal of Matt Canada, Orgeron’s hand-picked offensive coordinator, one year into his three-year contract. Taking a match to $1.7 million to make Canada go away had to be a gut punch for an athletic department that already is paying Les Miles $9 million not to coach its team.
That is why Orgeron choosing Steve Ensminger to guide his offense is even more perplexing. With a roster of blue-chippers and a seven-figure contract in hand, Orgeron could have scoured the nation for the brightest offensive mind to recruit and develop quarterbacks and bring LSU’s offense into this millennium. Instead, Orgeron never left Baton Rouge. Heck, he never left the Football Operations Building.
Orgeron conceded he “researched” candidates but apparently did not interview any. Asked specifically about USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin – whom the Los Angeles Daily News reported expressed interest in the job – Orgeron conceded he fielded a call but said, “I have my guy.”
Martin won a national title as Tennessee’s quarterback in 1998. That also happens to be the last time Ensminger was a full-time OC.
If you’re keeping score at home, Orgeron lost his quarterback, his top two running backs, his top two receivers, a fullback and three starting offensive linemen. In 2018, the Tigers play two of their first three games away from home against teams that played in New Year’s Six bowls this season. Later in the season, there are games against the teams that played for the national title. And the man he chose to lead his offense hasn’t done that in 20 years, a full seven seasons before Orgeron became coach at Ole Miss.
Talk about a leap of faith.
Ensminger, a Baton Rouge native and former LSU quarterback, certainly has his fair share of supporters. Derrius Guice called Ensminger a “genius” in an interview on 104.5 ESPN Baton Rouge.
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