HEADLINE

No. 20 LSU prepares for Tennessee change of direction

Sports Xchange

November 14, 2017 at 7:59 pm.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron knows what this week is like for Tennessee interim head coach Brady Hoke.

Orgeron was named interim head coach at USC in 2013 and the Trojans beat Arizona 38-31 in Orgeron’s first game. LSU named Orgeron interim coach during last season and the Tigers beat Missouri 42-7 in Orgeron’s first game.

Now Orgeron is on the other side as Hoke makes his interim debut when Tennessee hosts No. 20 LSU on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

“I’ve been there,” Orgeron said. “They can’t change much, obviously, but they’re going to tweak some things.”

The Volunteers fired Butch Jones last Sunday, one day after a 50-17 loss at Missouri dropped the team to 4-6 and 0-6 in the SEC. The Tigers, who named Orgeron full-time head coach after the team went 5-2 under him last season, are 7-3 and 4-2 this season.

Hoke, who previously was head coach at San Diego State, Ball State and Michigan, said he has a narrow focus for this week’s game and the regular-season finale at home against Vanderbilt next week.

“These last two games are only about one thing, and that’s the seniors on this football team,” Hoke said. “As a staff, we are going to coach our hearts out for the seniors. They’ve had a tough year, but they do deserve that recognition in these next two football games.

“I’m going to be who I am. We will tweak some things because of the comfort level that I have. There will be a couple different things with how we approach each day, but I’ve got to be who I am. If I’m not, that would be a fraud.”

The Volunteers need to win both of their remaining games to become bowl eligible.

“We have to understand that it would be great to take our seniors to a bowl game for their last year,” Hoke said.

Defensive tackle Kendal Vickers knows what to expect from Hoke, having had him for a position coach since the spring.

“He brings a lot of energy to the table,” Vickers told Knoxnews.com. “He’s going to push you. He’ll let you know when you’re doing good. He’ll let you know when you’re messing up.

“That’s a great quality he has. He’s a great motivator. He’s a great person, and I know he’s going to get everybody’s 100 percent game when the time comes.”

Tennessee has only two games to salvage something from this season, whereas LSU had seven and ultimately a bowl game after Orgeron took over.

“Everything is new, you don’t know how much the interim coach is going to change how we do things,” LSU center William Clapp told NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune. “LSU had done the same stuff for 12 years (under Miles). It all changed just like that.

“We all thought it was a good change, but you’ve got to kind of feel your way out, see what the new expectations are and how the interim likes to practice.”

LSU has a chance to finish this season with a much better record than seemed likely at the end of September.

Some critics were questioning whether LSU made a mistake when it named Orgeron full-time head coach. The Tigers were routed by Mississippi State 37-7 in their SEC opener and were embarrassed by a 24-21 loss to Troy in Tiger Stadium to drop to 3-2.

But since then, LSU has won four of five, handing No. 6 Auburn its only SEC loss and losing only to No. 1 Alabama 24-10 two weeks ago.

“I’m going to get after it, have a great mindset and lock in on to Tennessee to finish a great season — not a great season, a good season — one game at a time,” Orgeron said. “These kids deserve a finish to a real good season. And we’re going to work hard on that.”

Though LSU has had a much better season than Tennessee, no one will know how the Volunteers will react to the coaching change until Saturday night.

“We’re playing a team that hasn’t won an SEC game,” Tigers receiver DJ Chark told NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune. “You don’t want to be that team they win against.”

 

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