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Orgeron, LSU look to remain in the national hunt

HOOVER, ALA. -- When Les Miles was coaching at LSU, it was always expected he'd have a lot to say at SEC Media Days. He may be gone, but Ed Orgeron has picked up right where Miles left off when it comes to talking.

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The interim tag is gone for Ed Orgeron.

"I obviously am excited about the upcoming season. I want to talk to you about each unit coming up," he said. And he did -- for nearly 17 minutes, non-stop.

It would suffice to say Orgeron is excited about the 2017 season. But with 11 starters gone from last year's team, a lot of observers of the program feel the Tigers may take a step back from last year's relatively disappointing 8-4 season, which included a Thanksgiving hammering of a reeling Texas A&M. Orgeron thinks otherwise, and points to his coordinators as two major reasons why.

"On our offensive staff, we are very excited to have Matt Canada as an offensive coordinator. Matt runs a very diverse offense, a lot of shifts, motions, use of personnel, fly sweeps," Orgeron said. "He makes it difficult to defend, but the thing I like best about Matt was he talked about being a team player, and he talked about running a balanced offense, 50 percent run and 50 percent pass."

That comment may be viewed by LSU fans with a mix of relief and terror, as Miles' Tigers were run-heavy, but LSU has what could be the best running back in the nation in Derrius Guice. Orgeron made sure he soothed the nerves of the Louisiana faithful by saying Guice would be option one for the offense.

"Everything that we do is going to be based around our best player, Derrius Guice. We feel we have one of the best running back and one of the best offensive players in the country coming back," he said. "Derrius is a great player. He runs the ball like Warren Sapp played the defensive line for me at Miami. He runs with an attitude."

While Guice is set as the starting running back, the Tigers have yet to make a choice on who will start at quarterback. Danny Etling, who took over early last season, is the incumbent, but his position is by no means secure.

"Right now if we were to play, Danny would be our starter. And by the way, Danny loves the competition. He loves that we made it a quarterback competition. Actually he thrives in it," Orgeron said. "So to answer the question about the quarterback competition, there's still a competition there, but right now Danny is the leader."

The Tigers only return five starters on defense, but they do return two keys: OLB/DE Arden Key -- who Orgeron said could be as good as A&M's Myles Garrett -- and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who did a solid job in his first year in Baton Rouge.

"I'm very excited to have Dave Aranda. You guys know we have one of the best defensive coordinators in all of football. We're glad Dave is back with us," Orgeron said. "He's a great coordinator. He is a great position coach, outstanding recruiter, and even better man. I think he did a great job of shifting from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense."

The Tigers will have to replace five starters in their front seven, but some of the names mentioned as replacements will cause Aggies to shudder -- former commits Christian LaCouture (defensive end) and Corey Thompson (field linebacker) and longtime target Michael Divinity (field linebacker).

LSU has plenty of young talent to put out on the field, but Orgeron said he expects growing pains early on as the inexperienced group is tested. But, he said, overall expectations remain high.

:We feel that we have a very good defense. We are going to be young. We have to go through some growing pains at the beginning of the season. I know Dave Aranda will have them ready."