Marcase: LSU struggles reminiscent of Auburn under Chizik

John Marcase
Special to the Town Talk

The second coming of Pete Carroll?

Or, the second coming of Gene Chizik?

LSU football fans may be asking themselves that question about Tiger football coach Ed Orgeron.

Up until two months ago, Orgeron was the most popular person in Louisiana.


Coach Oeaux may be glad he hired Bo Pelini to replace Dave Aranda as defensive coordinator. Only Pelini is drawing more heat than Orgeron after the defending national champion Tigers are off to a 2-3 start.

When you look at the schedule still ahead of it – Alabama, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Florida – a losing record is staring at LSU one season removed from a perfect 15-0 campaign that may have been the best in college football history.

Opinion:This one is on LSU's offense, not Bo Pelini

How does this happen?

Well, ask Auburn.

Gene Chizik was the toast of college football in 2010.

He rose to fame as defensive coordinator under Mack Brown at Texas, helping the Longhorns upset Carroll and USC Trojans to win the 2005 national championship. Chizik departed for Iowa State, where he won five games in two seasons.

Nov 26, 2011; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gene Chizik prepares to lead his team onto the field against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium.  The Crimson Tide beat the Tigers 42-14.  Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Somehow, he was favored by Auburn boosters to replace Tommy Tuberville.

Chizik hired Gus Malzahn as his offensive coordinator. Malzahn was a former standout Arkansas high school coach who had three years’ experience on the collegiate level when he arrived in Auburn.

After an 8-5 first season at Auburn, Chizik rode his hot offensive coordinator and a transfer quarterback, Cam Newton, to a 14-0 season and the 2010 national championship.

Sound familiar, LSU fans? The purple-and-gold Tigers rode a hotshot passing game coordinator, Joe Brady, and a transfer quarterback, Joe Burrow, to last season’s national title.

Following Auburn’s title in 2010, it went 8-5 and 3-9 the next two seasons and Chizik was fired. Malzahn replaced him, and despite leading Auburn to a national runner-up in his first season, he has bounced on and off the hot seat ever since. That seat is currently cool thanks to last Saturday’s 48-11 thumping of Orgeron and his Tigers.

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron is seen on the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against the Missouri Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

So, is Orgeron more Chizik or Carroll, his ex-boss at Southern Cal? Carroll was a longtime assistant in the collegiate ranks before moving to the NFL. His first head coaching job lasted one season, going 6-10 with the Jets in 1994. The Patriots hired him for the 1997 season to replace Bill Parcells. Carroll went 27-21 before being fired after three seasons.

He spent a year out of coaching before Southern Cal hired him. Hardly anyone could have predicted he would lead the Trojans to 97 wins over 8 seasons and two national championships.

He left USC in January 2010 under less than ideal circumstances as the NCAA would later strip much of the Trojans’ success due to violations under Carroll’s watch, but the Seattle Seahawks didn’t care. They hired Carroll, paid him $33 million and Seattle has won a Super Bowl and been one of the more consistent winners in the NFL outside the Patriots.

Before any LSU fans put Orgeron in the Chizik category, please note the circumstances he and the Tigers have been battling, namely the COVID-19 pandemic.

LSU went through a high turnover of players and staff following the 2019 season. An SEC record 13 LSU players were drafted into the NFL, headlined by Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner and first pick in the NFL draft. Brady is now the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.

There was no spring football to help the offense adjust to Brady’s replacement, Scott Linehan, or to assist quarterback Myles Brennan before he took over for Burrow.

There was also no adjustment period for Pelini, who changed schemes to a 4-3 defense.

Two key players the Tigers were counting on – star receiver Ja’Marr Chase and defensive tackle Shelvin Tyler – opted out of playing this season due to uncertainty concerning COVID and to protect their lofty NFL draft status.

What you are seeing on the field is an inconsistent product. It also hasn’t help Brennan has been out due to injury.

It is too early to tell which way the Tigers will head in the coming years.

The best thing LSU fans can do this season is have patience, hoping the 2020 season is an aberration and not a sign of things to come.

John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.