Billy Gomila is the managing editor of SB Nation’s LSU community And the Valley Shook. Gomilla spent time with us to cover some questions about LSU football and how the Tigers are preparing for Southern Miss after the recent firing of head coach Les Miles and the hiring of Ed Orgeron as his interim replacement.
1. I had a chance to watch quite closely when Ed Orgeron was interim coach at USC. Players loved him and his high-energy, upbeat style. Pat Haden was A.D. at the time and he chose to not hire Orgeron permanently. Do you think Ed has won over players and fans enough to become LSU's next permanent coach?
Not yet, but I do think he'll be given a real chance. Sadly, with the cancellation of the Florida game he's really only had one game to show what he can do. That said, the 42-7 win over Missouri was a heck of a first impression. If he can continue to get this team to play that well, he'll get a shot and I think he'll deserve it.
He's also been conducting a master class in program PR to get a lot of stakeholders in the program behind him as well.
2. In watching Danny Etling, it seems he has plenty of skill and his statistics have been decent however at yesterday's press conference, Coach O. essentially said they would limit Danny to short passes and the things he can do well. Do fans seem to agree with limiting Etling or do you think they would rather he be turned loose more?
Well, to date, Etling's really struggled throwing it down the field. With the offense changing coordinators, we're still seeing LSU's approach evolve. To be honest, being able to complete rudimentary passes is a nice change. We'll see if he can can build on what's worked so far.
3. The Danny Etling question is quite important because LSU's under-performances the past two seasons seems traceable to opposing teams loading up to stop the run and showing little regard for passing. Is that an accurate assessment and, if so, how do you think LSU can solve the problem?
There have been a number of problems, but quarterback has certainly been one. To date, the biggest change we've seen with Etling and Steve Ensminger has been a better-managed passing game that avoids third-and-long situations and doesn't ask the QB to do too much. We'll see if that can continue to be effective against the better defenses on the schedule, but the early returns have definitely been positive.
Orgeron's offensive staff have also changed up some receiver rotations as well, which have enabled Etling to spread the ball around a bit more. I believe that's also contributed to some success.
4. What players on the LSU team are not often mentioned but are likely to be difference-makers against Southern Miss?
Watch for wide receiver D.J. Chark, who has made a number of plays down the field since Etling took over at quarterback. Likewise, without Leonard Fournette playing, backup tailbacks Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams are going to get a lot of snaps. Both are very good.
5. What is your opinion of how this game will go and what factors will most determine the outcome? And, maybe throw in a predicted final margin if you can.
I think the biggest thing will be if LSU can replicate the enthusiasm we saw in Orgeron's first week against Missouri. If so, this one could get ugly fast. The Tigers are a bit banged up on the offensive line, but look for them to really try and push USM around early and get the running game on track, especially given that we've seen the Golden Eagles struggle there. Once LSU has a lead, its my hope they'll continue to use the opportunity to work on some things and keep improving, and maybe get some backups in. I'd be really surprised if this is close. Even with USM's gaudy numbers, the Tiger defense has only allowed five touchdowns all year, and actually seems to be getting better by the week.