A few weeks ago Drew Brees said he could see the similarities in LSU’s new spread offense to the Saints’ own system.
He even messed with the Tigers’ passing game coordinator, Joe Brady, a former Saints assistant, about it.
But the Saints influence on No. 2 LSU isn’t just in the playbook, as Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron said earlier this week that something he learned from New Orleans head coach Sean Payton has, unintentionally, become somewhat of a theme for LSU this year.
Orgeron spent the 2008 season as an assistant on the Saints staff and lessons he learned that year are evident throughout the Tigers’ record setting 2019 campaign.
“I remember being with Sean Payton,” he said. “It was my first NFL meeting. I had been in college for a while. I was a little nervous being in that meeting. I didn't know what to expect, coaching NFL players.
“This is what Sean Payton said: ‘It doesn't matter how you got here, you’re here. Now make the best of it.’
“I think that's what these players are doing and that's what I do.”
LSU’s Heisman Trophy candidate, Joe Burrow thinks that attitude is what has helped the Tigers be so successful this season. Burrow, who transferred to the Tigers from Ohio State after being beaten out for the Buckeyes starting quarterback job, said several of his teammates have had to fight through adversity just to put on the purple and gold uniforms. So, it didn’t surprise him that they are making the most of their opportunities.
“Lloyd (Cushenberry) was the last guy signed in his class, Thad (Moss) was a transfer, Justin (Jefferson) was a two-star guy, Clyde (Edwards-Helaire) was always too short, Coach O was fired...” Burrow listed. “I think that’s really helped us become who we are.”
Those players Burrow listed have helped the Tigers reach their first SEC Championship game since 2011, and some have broken records in the process.
Moss has had the most productive season of any tight end in school history, Edwards-Helaire has gone over 1,000 yards rushing and Jefferson is one of two LSU receivers to have broken the school’s record for touchdown receptions in a single season this year.
Orgeron’s players have seen that same attitude and approach in their head coach.
The Louisiana native’s previous stint as an SEC head coach ended with the Ole Miss Rebels going 10-25 under his leadership. But LSU defensive end Rashard Lawrence said Orgeron has learned from those mistakes and, while at LSU, he hasn’t been “stagnant.”
“He’s told us, personally and to the team, that he might not be the best head coach, there are a lot of good coaches out there. But he’s got the best assistants, he’s got the best players and he’s going to continue to get better and better,” Lawrence said.
For example, Orgeron went out and hired a coach that could help the Tigers transition to a spread offense in Brady and has readily adjusted LSU’s practice routine in order to give his players an advantage on Saturday’s, something he coincidentally also picked up while serving as an NFL assistant.
“I really followed, when I went to the NFL, one year to see how they practiced with a limited roster,” Orgeron said. “When I took over the roster at USC, we had a roster similar to the NFL because of the sanctions. So I practiced the same way. I've kept that.”
Orgeron said the team’s staff tracks how fast plays are moving and he uses that data to determine how to adjust the practice schedule.
“When we're starting to slow down, they tell me when we're slowing down, I start to cut back on practice,” Orgeron said. “It may be a drill or so, may be a couple of minutes. But every week we scale back on practice.”
Orgeron said the Tigers played the fastest they have all season in their win against Texas A&M.
With so much influence from his time in the pros it’s no surprise Orgeron said the Tigers are pretty close to being a professional style team.
“It's what we wanted,” Orgeron said. “Guys taking care of their business, guys coming to work early, doing their work, practicing hard, going home, resting. I mean, I couldn't ask for more from leadership, I couldn't ask more of a leadership team than we have right now.”