Like many schools needing to reload, LSU cast an eye to Alabama football. To replace exiting Joe Brady, Coach O turned to a guy from the Saban coaching tree.
In case any Alabama football fans want to quibble with a word in the title – Orgeron said his Bengal Tigers are reloading. That is a nearly obligatory word for defending National Champions, so Coach O can’t be faulted.
Rebuild would be a more accurate word, given the LSU exits of Joe Burrow and nine underclassmen who chose NFL early-entry. LSU has returning talent on defense, particularly Derek Stingley Jr. On offense, there are few returning starters. A new quarterback must step up and take advantage of the tremendous talent of LSU wide receiver, Ja’Marr Chase.
LSU Offensive Coordinator, Steve Ensminger will have a new partner in Passing Coordinator, Scott Linehan. Linehan was out of football last season but he has a lengthy resume. Going back to 2002, he has worked for six NFL teams, mostly as an offensive coordinator. He also has considerable college coaching experience at his alma mater, Idaho, plus UNLV, Washington and Louisville.
Nick Saban hired Linehan to be his Miami Dolphins Offensive Coordinator in 2005. The Dolphins did improve that season, enough to propel Linehan into a head coaching job with the St. Louis Rams.
Linehan dropped back down to the assistant ranks, after his Rams’ teams went 11-25, in two-plus seasons. He was fired during the 2008 season. It is not unfair to categorize Linehan’s coaching career as checkered. His best run was three seasons working for John L. Smith in Louisville, during which the Cardinals’ offense was impressive.
No one will mistake Linehan for Joe Brady. Even with Linehan’s Nick Saban coaching tree cred, opposing defensive coordinators are expected to look forward to facing the Ensminger-Linehan duo.
While tempting, it is unfair to label Lineham a retread. He is not unfamiliar with spread offense and is knowledgeable with plenty of NFL offensive schemes. Early on, he quickly adopted Coach O’s party line.
We’re going to have a lot of fun finding guys to replace the guys we lost. You look at it like a reload, not a rebuild… I just want to add to it, you know, when I can, and I want to do the best job I can to continue exactly the same approach … and move ahead.
Practically, Linehan has little choice but to try and replicate LSU’s last season magic. To put it mildly, the Cajun Nation would be enraged if he said he was installing a new offense.
Orgeron had another big seat to fill in the offseason. Former LSU Defensive Coordinator, Dave Aranda left to become the Baylor head coach. O’s solution was to bring back Bo Pelini, who last coached in Baton Rouge in 2007.
Pelini and Linehan have some things in common. Both are in their mid-fifties and neither was a success as a head coach. Pelini had good seasons as the Nebraska head coach. But under him, the Cornhuskers never won a conference championship. When he was fired, his Nebraska record was 67-27 over seven full seasons. As head coach at Youngstown State, he had one great season in 2016. In his five-season run for Youngstown, 12 of his 33 wins were in 2016. Loose lips did him in, in Ohio.
He is probably still a good, defensive football coach. Fans of the Bengal Tigers will love his pugnacity. Consistent with not being unfair by labeling Linehan’s career ‘checkered’ – calling Bo Pelini a retread is also not unfair.
LSU fans and the LSU football program should pay heed to an established fact. As Alabama football fans know, getting to the top is not as hard as staying at the top.