Orgeron has mixed emotions about No. 13 LSU's opener vs BYU
NEW ORLEANS (AP) LSU coach Ed Orgeron has collected fond memories in the Superdome.
The Louisiana native will have a chance to add another on Saturday night, when he coaches his first regular season opener for the No. 13 Tigers against BYU.
Yet Orgeron has mixed feelings about playing this game in the home of the Sugar Bowl, where he once celebrated a national championship as an assistant coach with Miami nearly three decades ago.
The Tigers were eager to play in Houston, where the contest originally was scheduled before Hurricane Harvey forced its relocation . Texas is an important recruiting area for LSU, whose coaching staff has fostered many relationships with people living in Harvey's flood zone. LSU's roster includes about a dozen players from areas between Houston's western suburbs and Port Arthur, along the Louisiana border. They include freshman edge pass rusher K'Lavon Chaisson and junior starting offensive tackle Toby Weathersby, who was fretting earlier this week about his grandparents' refusal to evacuate their neighborhood as floodwaters rose.
''It hurts to see on TV the people struggling,'' Orgeron said. ''It hurts to see our players from Houston worried. ... You can see the strain on their faces.''
Orgeron said that as far as he knew, all of his Houston-area players' relatives are OK, even if their property might not be.
But of all the places to which the game could have been moved - Nashville and Orlando were also considered - the best scenario for the Tigers was in their home state, just 80 miles down the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge.
''Obviously, playing in the Superdome is something we want to do at LSU,'' said Orgeron, who played in high school in 1976, and also coached there as an assistant with the New Orleans Saints in 2008, as well as with Syracuse in 1996.
Meanwhile, BYU's first meeting with LSU seems more like a road game than the neutral site contest it was meant to be, but the Cougars weren't about to feel sorry for themselves while they were so keenly aware of the suffering in Houston.
''People come first,'' BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. ''A lot of our players and our team and myself - we have a lot of friends and family in that area. So that's just the main thing is concern for that greater Houston area.''
Some other things to watch in the BYU-LSU match-up:
BACK BETTER: LSU senior quarterback Danny Etling says offseason back surgery has improved his throwing mechanics. Since his recovery, Etling said, he is better able to ''move around in the pocket and able to transfer some of the weight in my throws.''
Receiver D.J. Chark said Etling is able to put more velocity on his throws, but ''the big thing is the consistency that he has now. He's getting it there all the time.''
MENACING PRESENCE: BYU's Sione Takitaki could give opposing QB's fits this season. In a victory over Portland State last weekend, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound defensive end had seven tackles - three for losses, including two sacks. Another defensive standout for BYU is linebacker Fred Warner, who had 10 tackles last week and is eager to see how his squad matches up against the Tigers.
LSU is ''a team that you grow-up watching ... an SEC powerhouse school,'' warner said. ''But I'm confident that we have just as good athletes and that we can compete.''
GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Big things are expected of QB Tanner Mangum, who already owns BYU freshman records for yards and TDs passing. As a recruit he was known for being co-MVP of the Elite 11 High School camp along with current Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston. Mangum didn't have his most productive day last weekend, however, going 16-for-27 for 194 yards and one TD against a defense from the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision.
NEW OFFENSE: The game marks Matt Canada's debut as LSU offensive coordinator. Players have said there has been a lot to learn. The scheme is designed create defensive confusion and mismatches through a variety of alignments and pre-snap motions. It didn't always go well during initial installment in the spring, or during the spring game against LSU's defense. But Orgeron asserts that Canada's unit, led by star running back Derrius Guice, is more refined now.
''Being unpredictable in formations, running a spread offense - I know all those things are going to be there,'' Orgeron said. ''Our guys are going to improve throughout the year.''
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