LSU notebook: 2 starters out; offensive identity crisis and redshirts
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU will be without at least two starters on defense and possibly a third for the penultimate game of the regular season.
Cornerback Kristian Fulton and defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko were deemed out for the final home game against Rice, LSU coach Ed Orgeron announced on Monday. Safety John Battle was tagged with the “questionable” label leading into Saturday.
Fulton was injured late in the second quarter in the Tigers’ 24-17 victory at Arkansas last weekend and did not return in the game. Freshman Kelvin Joseph replaced Fulton at left cornerback. He and sophomore nickel Kary Vincent Jr. are candidates to start against Rice.
There is no timetable for Fulton’s return.
“He's out,” Orgeron said during his Monday press conference. “I don't know how long he's out, but he's going to be out for awhile, I believe.”
Fehoko missed his second game of the year against the Razorbacks with an undisclosed injury. The junior defensive end was a game-time call and did not play in LSU’s game against Mississippi State on Oct. 20. He sported a brace on his left arm during pregame warmups.
The former Texas Tech transfer played in the 29-0 loss to Alabama and sat against Arkansas, though he did travel with the team. Fehoko will not play against Rice, but could return for the regular-season finale against Texas A&M on Nov. 24.
“John Battle may be able to play this week,” Orgeron said of the senior safety. “Fehoko will not be able to play this week. We might have him for the Texas A&M game, but I'm not sure yet.”
During LSU’s 6-1 start to the season, the offense was a well-oiled machine. The unit averaged 32 points per game and scored 30 or more points five times in that stretch, including a 45-spot against Ole Miss and wins against a trio of top-10 foes in Miami (No. 8), Auburn (No. 7) and Georgia (No. 2).
Since then, that production has teetered off. LSU has averaged 14.3 points per contest in its last three games, including a shutout at the hands of top-ranked Alabama. The offense is averaging almost 140 yards fewer per game and has turned the ball over in each of those outings. In contrast, LSU managed to turn the ball over six times in the first seven games to open the season and lost the turnover battle only twice.
LSU currently sits No. 104 in the county in total offense and No. 86 in scoring, an issue Orgeron has self-diagnosed as overthinking the game plan.
“Some how, some way, we lost our identity since the Georgia game,” Orgeron admitted. “We're trying new things, maybe we're trying to get a little too ... put too much in. We need to simplify (things). I asked Steve (Ensminger) to go back and look at the game and figure out what we did right there because we were clicking pretty good that game and let's look at the things that we did, I think it's more or less to simplify.
“We're putting too many things in and we’re trying to cover up some things that are some weaknesses. Maybe sometimes we feel like we're handcuffed, we can't get as many receivers out as we want to or something like that because of protection or whatever it may be … Today we're going to do a lot of that stuff and look at what the guys are doing to us on defense, the defenses that are giving us problems, have answers for those defenses because we're going to see them again.”
Curry won't play, but Brennan could?
A showdown with Conference USA’s Rice will serve as a change-of-pace on the schedule for the Tigers amid a six-game stretch of SEC opponents.
At 8-2, a 10-win season in its grasps and the possibility to earning a bid to a New Year’s Six bowl has the attention of the coaches and players. So does the likelihood of a lopsided affair come Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
The NCAA’s new redshirt rule stipulates that players can appear in upward of four games in a season and still be allotted a redshirt for the year. Orgeron and his staff have paid close attention to as much and have taken roll on who could get their first crack at playing this weekend, if LSU is able to jump on the Owls early.
“We know there might be an opportunity for those guys to play, but listen, man, we learned our lesson last year and that's not going to happen to us again,” Orgeron said, referring to last year’s 24-21 home loss to Troy. “So we're going full bore against these guys.”
“We have several players that haven't played yet,” he continued. “We have some players that has played four games already. We do have guys that haven't played yet and we're going to give them a chance to play in any game that there's an opportunity.”
Who has not played yet in 2018?
**Dare Rosenthal, OT
**Dominic Livingston, NT
**Dantrieze Scott, TE
**Nelson Jenkins, DE
**Cameron Wire, OT
**Jarell Cherry, OLB
**Jaray Jenkins, WR
**Zach Sheffer, TE
Who remains eligible for a redshirt?
**Chris Cury, RB (4 games)
**Davin Cotton, DL (1 game)
**Travez Moore, OLB (3 games)
**Tae Provens, RB (1 game)
**Cole Smith, OL (1 game)
**Justin Thomas, DL (3 games)
**Donavaughn Campbell (2 games)
**K’Lavon Chaisson (1 game)
Who has already played in four or more games?
**Kelvin Joseph, CB (10 games)
**Terrace Marshall Jr., WR (10 games)
**Ja’Marr Chase, WR (10 games)
**Damone Clark, LB (10 games)
**Micah Baskerville, LB (5 games)
**Chasen Hines, LG (7 games)
**Kenan Jones, WR (10 games)
**Damien Lewis, RG (10 games)
**Badara Traore, OT (10 games)
Among those that have played in four games already is freshman running back Chris Curry, who Orgeron indicated is not in the team’s plans for this week’s tilt.
Reserve quarterback Myles Brennan, who has served as Joe Burrow’s back-up for the entirety of the season, is among those still eligible to redshirt and could play this coming weekend. Brennan’s last action came as a freshman on the road at Kyle Field toward the end of convincing victory over Texas A&M. That was 12 months ago, and in between, there have been multiple meetings featuring Orgeron, Brennan and his father about redshirting and taking an extra year of eligibility for his future.
“Myles was great. He's an LSU Tiger. We talked about some things we'll get better at, need to work on,” Orgeron said. “Myles experienced a minor injury that was hampering his throwing throughout the year. There was one game he could have went in, but I didn't think he was healthy or ready to go and he didn't want to go in that situation and I don't blame him. I asked him to go and I talked to him and his father about it. Now, it seems like he's going to redshirt, which is great for him and it's great for our football team.
“I believe Myles is a championship quarterback and he will be a great quarterback at LSU. He has a tremendous arm, he's gaining weight, he's getting better, he's healthier. So, I think this year has been beneficial for him and the future of our program.”
18 seniors to be honored
Before kickoff against Rice, LSU will honor 18 of its seniors around 6:08 p.m. on Saturday. Of those seniors, six have already earned their degrees and the remaining dozen are all on track to graduate in the spring.
I know our fans are going to be out there to support them. These guys have poured their heart and their soul out for the Tigers,” Orgeron said, “and that's why you come to school and get a great degree from LSU. I'm proud of these seniors. They have done so much for our school, so much for myself and they're great young men.”
Here is who will be honored:
**Ed Paris Jr.