Ed Orgeron’s first preseason camp as LSU’s football coach, which begins Monday morning, will not be seen by the media, as the program announced all practices will be closed.
But with players reporting for camp Sunday, Orgeron led off his first news conference of the preseason with some reassurances for the group of reporters assembled in LSU’s team meeting room. And practices won’t be closed forever, reverting back to what was done when Orgeron took as interim coach last season.
Orgeron said practices will be reopened Aug. 21 and potentially sooner, depending on when LSU completes offensive installation under new coordinator Matt Canada. Orgeron wanted privacy as the Tigers try to master an offense that’s vastly difference than its predecessor.
“We wanted that time just to have us and the team,” Orgeron said. “If we feel that during camp that we’ve accomplished the things that we need to accomplish as far as installation – we finish the things that we need to finish – we’ll have more individual (drills) where we can let you in.”
Orgeron opened up roughly 30 minutes of practices to reporters last season and will continue to do that once the season begins. Aug. 21 is the same day classes begin and is also the date when LSU will begin preparation for its season opener against BYU on Sept. 2 in Houston, Orgeron said.
LSU’s fall camp, which is beginning earlier due to NCAA rule changes that included the elimination of two-a-days, is being designed like an NFL preseason, Orgeron said. Four scrimmages, or “preseason games,” will be sprinkled into camp on Saturdays. Preseason practices will start without much contact for the first few days. Morning meetings and walk-throughs will be critical for a team installing a new offense.
Fall camp will also be important to a team splitting up special teams responsibilities amongst five coaches. Former New Orleans Saints special teams coordinator Greg McMahon is serving as the Tigers’ special teams analyst but can’t do any on-field coaching.
Afternoon practices will continue to be up-tempo and relatively short, though Orgeron said preseason practices will be a tad longer than they will be during the season.
Orgeron’s announcement about media accommodations wasn’t the biggest news to come out of the roughly 17-minute session he had with reporters. In a position group lacking depth, one of LSU’s signees for the 2017 class will not enroll at the school.
Offensive lineman Seth Stewart, a West Virginia native, left the team after spending “a couple of days” with the program this summer. Orgeron and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes were unable to persuade him to return to the team.
“As far as we know, he’s decided not to play football,” Orgeron said. “We don’t know that for sure, but I know that he’ll not be in camp. We wish him the best.”
With Stewart’s departure, Orgeron admitted that he is concerned about offensive line depth heading into the season and is asking other incoming freshmen linemen, like tackle Austin Deculus and guard Edward Ingram, to emerge in camp. Backup center Lloyd Cushenberry and backup guard Donavaughn Campbell are also competing for playing time on a line that’s returning four starters.
Reserve tackle Adrian Magee will be participating in camp, but Orgeron said his status for the season is up in the air due to an April arrest for simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling.
“Everything is still unknown with Adrian,” Orgeron said. “He’s going to be in camp, but we’ve got to figure out what his status is going to be throughout the season. That’s something that’s yet to be determined.”
Orgeron also said nose tackle signee Tyler Shelvin, a Lafayette native, is close to finishing his course work and could join the Tigers in the second week of preseason camp. Shelvin’s summer course work must also be cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse before he can begin practicing.
“I don’t expect him to be back this week at all,” Orgeron said. “Hopefully, we can get him back within the second week, unless something happens a little quicker.”
The only player Orgeron would confirm is not practicing Monday is edge rusher Arden Key, who is expected to be held out of most, if not all, preseason practices as he recovers from a shoulder surgery. Key has gained roughly 30 pounds in the offseason, currently weighing in over 265 pounds. Orgeron wants his playing weight to be at 255 pounds.
“He’s a guy that heals fast,” Orgeron said.