LSU Football: Tigers turnaround in 2017 is thanks to a former player

LSU football's Ed Orgeron (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LSU football's Ed Orgeron (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

LSU football’s turnaround in 2017 is thanks to a former Tiger.

On September 30, 2017 there were plenty of folks who thought LSU football was dead.

And how could you blame them?

LSU, who had promoted Ed Orgeron from interim head coach to permanent head coach at the end of 2016, was 3-2 and had just lost at home to Troy.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken mocked the Tigers after their loss to Troy on September 30, tweeting “Yesterday a CFB coaches agent called me. All he said was ‘LSU hired Ed Orgeron.’ We laughed for a few minutes.”

That loss, however, was the beginning of something special for LSU.

The Tigers would go on to win six of their final eight games that season, including the next week against No. 21 Florida in the Swamp.

LSU would win 10 games in 2018. In 2019, the Tigers would go 15-0 and beat Clemson in the national championship game.

The loss to Troy was the turning point.

And it was a former LSU player that was the catalyst for the turnaround.

Former LSU football linebacker gives the Tigers a reality check

After the loss to Troy, Coach O had a meeting with LSU athletic director Joe Alleva. The message was essentially that Orgeron needed to let offensive coordinator Matt Canada run the offense.

There was a lot of tension among the coaching staff and the team at that point. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see the Tigers collapse the rest of the season.

Orgeron, however, wasn’t going down that easy. He brought in former LSU linebacker Duke Riley to speak to the team.

According to Coach O, it changed everything.

Here’s an excerpt from Orgeron’s book with Bruce Feldman that was released this week (via The Athletic).

"“Y’all know who I am,” he started out. “I run with y’all. I’m going to keep it real with you. I’ve been watching you. This ain’t LSU. Who are you freshmen, not picking up your trays after y’all eat?! Who do you think you are? I’m watching you, defense! You’re not running to the football?! Coach O can’t take the blame for everything. This is not LSU. You’re LSU, and this — this — is not LSU!”That talk changed my team around. Duke called them out. He saw someone parking in the handicapped spot. He called him out in front of everybody. Called players out for not wearing their gear properly. He stood up and put it on them. Every eye was on him. He talked about accountability. Taking responsibility. They respected Duke. He was a real team captain. One of the toughest guys who has played at LSU. He came after them as players."

Now, obviously more went into the turnaround than just Riley’s speech. But I think it’s clear from Orgeron’s telling of that story that Riley’s speech to the team was what really sparked the team to get it together and start moving in the right direction together.

Since that speech, LSU is 33-7 with a national championship.

And amazingly, Dan Wolken’s tweet hasn’t been deleted.

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Who knows, maybe Coach O calls up other coaches and has a good laugh at Wolken’s expense every now and then.