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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron speaks to the media during the 2021 SEC Football Kickoff Media Days on July 19,2021 at the Wynfrey Hotel,Hoover,Alabama. (Jimmie Mitchell/SEC)

HOOVER, Ala. — Going from an undefeated national championship season in 2019 to a 5-5 record a year ago that included a self-imposed postseason ban would reflect that LSU football is in free-fall mode under coach Ed Orgeron.

Orgeron sees it as more of a temporary roller-coaster ride, with his Tigers primed to make a rapid run back to the top.

"Obviously, you come off the 2019 season and you're feeling good because you had a great season, and all of a sudden, stuff hits," Orgeron said Monday as SEC Media Days opened at the Wynfrey Hotel. "But, you know, that's life. You've got to be prepared. I think that some of the stuff we were prepared for and some of the stuff we weren't, but we stuck together. As an administrative staff and as a staff, we fought through it.

"I think that shows when you go to Florida and you're a 27-point underdog and your back is against the wall and you have a freshman quarterback, but you beat them in The Swamp. You also beat a great Ole Miss team. I think that was an outstanding team that Lane (Kiffin) had, and then you have the No. 3 recruiting class, and 19 of your 22 starters decide to come back."

LSU is indeed poised for an impressive rebound, especially having lost to Alabama and Auburn by a combined 75 points, but will a turbulent offseason bleed into a new year that begins Sept. 4 with a showdown at UCLA? Late last month, Orgeron was added as a defendant to a Title IX lawsuit claiming he failed to report a rape allegation against former running back Derrius Guice.

When that topic came up, Orgeron said, "That's something I'm not going to comment on. It's an ongoing investigation, and I'm not going to comment on any of that. Thanks for asking, though."

LSU will have one of the Southeastern Conference's top storylines in preseason camp — a quarterback battle among senior Myles Brennan, sophomore Max Johnson and freshman Garrett Nussmeier. Brennan and Johnson are often referred to as the top two competitors, but Orgeron said "no one has pulled ahead of the other one."

Orgeron is more focused on the needed change he is seeing in a locker room. He refers to LSU as an "ascending program," and his players do not disagree.

"Any program that goes from national championship to 5-5, they're going to be put to the side a little bit," senior tackle Austin Deculus said. "If you don't produce, you're not going to get the love and you're not going to get the recognition, but that's really going to change after this season."

 

Welcoming the Tide

Three of the last six SEC championship games in Atlanta have involved Alabama-Florida matchups, but their on-campus pairings have been rare.

Gators coach Dan Mullen wouldn't mind that changing. The Crimson Tide will visit Gainesville on Sept. 18, marking their first encounter in the Swamp since 2011.

"I don't want to get the commissioner in trouble here, but I would love to maybe do away with the permanent crossover team so you get these type of games more often," Mullen said. "For the players and for the fan bases, I really think it would be exciting to see more of mixing up the teams from the West and playing two different teams each year instead of a permanent crossover.

"I think that's going to be an exciting day. It's going to be a great atmosphere. It's going to be a fun game to be a part of, and as you said, for 10 years we haven't seen it. We'd love to see that more."

Alabama demolished the Gators 38-10 during its last trip to Florida, with Trent Richardson rushing for 181 yards. Leading the Gators with 18 rushing yards was Jeff Driskel, the backup quarterback to John Brantley.

 

Beamer and the SEC

Frank Beamer, the father of new South Carolina coach Shane Beamer, spent 29 seasons at Virginia Tech before announcing his retirement in 2015.

Did he ever consider a position in the SEC?

"I can remember a couple times that the Alabama job came open and Alabama reaching out to him at Virginia Tech for sure," the younger Beamer said Monday. "My dad got his start in coaching at The Citadel down in Charleston, South Carolina, so he saw up close and personal what the potential of the South Carolina football program was and is.

'I can remember all those years growing up he always used to talk about South Carolina as a job that he thought had unlimited potential and had every resource you needed to be successful."

 

Odds and ends

The SEC Network announced that Paul Finebaum's contract has been extended through 2024. League commissioner Greg Sankey said that at least one athlete from all 14 league institutions will be representing the United States at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. Mullen on Georgia being the team to beat in the SEC East: "Didn't they say that last year?" Florida does not play an SEC foe in Gainesville after Oct. 9.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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