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LSU Not Geauxing Anywhere

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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A historic amount of talent, for LSU, is on the way out. An unrelenting standard remains.

Gone, from the national champions, are the Heisman Trophy winner, fresh off arguably the greatest season by a quarterback ever, the Thorpe Award winner, a first-team All-SEC running back, the league's receptions leader, the defensive MVP of the national championship game, their star edge-rusher, a legacy playmaker at tight end, the tone-setter for an offensive front that won the Joe Moore Award, numerous veteran leaders and two of the nation's premier coordinators, the revolutionary reigning Broyles Award winner included.

A historic amount of talent, for LSU, is on the way out. An unrelenting standard remains.  

The immediate aftermath of the Tigers' national championship triumph over Clemson has been a proverbial after-party; once the celebration subsided, the big names started to leave. Some of the brightest stars in all of college football have either finished their collegiate eligibility for LSU or decided to enter themselves into the upcoming NFL Draft. Though such a post-title exit is nothing new, the sheer amount of ability leaving Baton Rouge is simply extraordinary; also worth noting, it's exemplary as well.

Reaction to the Tigers' mass exodus has often been one of concern for the future. Quite conversely, it should be one of appreciation for the past. A 15-0 national champion with seven wins over top ten opponents and a 52-point combined margin of victory in two College Football Playoff games, LSU's 2019 team made a strong case as one of the best the game has ever seen. Countless players made their mark by making history, leaving a legacy that will forever come with an all-time distinction. Memories will forever follow like shadows.

Literally and figuratively, those walking away from the program do so in a parade.

Looking ahead, there is no replacing stars like quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, receiver Jordan Jefferson and safety Grant Delpit, among many others, or coordinators Joe Brady and Dave Aranda. The show, however, goes on. Head coach Ed Orgeron has built has built a championship program on the foundation of confidence and conviction. His expectations won't change, even as those around him do. In Orgeron and the players and coaches who are returning, there is still plenty of momentum in place. 

While stories will long be written about the star power that must be replaced, the talent that is coming back is worth showcasing as well. For all that is moving on to the next level, LSU, first and foremost, returns two of the top four or five players in all of college football and the top two players in the SEC in wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr. The nation's top returning duo, with Chase winning the Biletnikoff Award and Stingley having, perhaps, the best true freshman season by a cornerback ever, will set a tone of maintaining the status quo.

Both Chase and Stingley know what it takes to win at the highest level as they were two leading reasons the Tigers just did.  

Chase rewrote the national record books as Burrow's big play target. He ranked number one in the nation with 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns, slotting fourth with 21.2 yards per catch. Notably, Chase caught nine passes for 221 yards and two scores in LSU's national championship victory over Clemson. His 52-yard touchdown catch against the Tigers was his eighth grab of 50 yards or more, an NCAA record he now holds by two. Chase is the only receiver this millennium with at least 1,500 yards and 15 scores at 20 yards per catch, totals he more than tops across the board. 

All of the hype around Stingley, a heralded five-star recruit, wasn't even able to properly predict his unprecedented introductory success. Stingley was college football's best cover corner, earning that title against some of the nation's premier playmakers. He led the SEC with 21 passes defended, the most in the league since 2012 and the most in Power Five football in 2019, and six interceptions. At "DBU", Stingley proved, right away, to be the next-in-line. A consensus All-American, he is the modern prototype at 6'0'', 190 pounds. 

Including those two superstars, LSU brings back four standouts who earned All-SEC honors a year ago, adding safety JaCoby Stevens and kicker Cade York; for point of reference, that is the same number as Alabama, twice as many as Auburn and as many as Florida and Georgia combined. Offensive tackle Austin Deculus, linebacker Damone Clark, defensive linemen Neil Farrell, Glen Logan and Tyler Shelvin, receiver Terrace Marshall and Cornerback Kary Vincent, Jr. are among those set to be part of the rising leadership core. 

Beyond just their league, the Tigers are still one of the nation's most heralded teams.

Given LSU's recent recruiting success, even more next-level talent is ready to be displayed. Furthermore, the Tigers, as a team, have a "next man up" mentality. Whether it's quarterback Myles Brennan, running back Tyrion Davis-Price or John Emery or a new name yet to be established from the program's recent collection of top-tier recruits, the standard, for LSU's next wave, has clearly and uncompromisingly been set. Incoming blue-chip prospects understand exactly what they have just signed up for. So, too, does every new coach.  

Orgeron's passion and pride is the starting point for so much of what the Tigers do. His ever-expanding finish line will keep LSU pushing forward. The Tigers, nor Orgeron, got to where they are by settling. Trophy in hand, the process very much continues. As usual, Orgeron, up before the sun, stands strong and tall out in front. He leads the top-ranked team in the land, a group still with even more left to prove.   

Go ahead, write off LSU. Overlook them when squinting into the future. Such was the case a few short years ago, with the end result being a run very few saw coming. With the hardware comes extra pressure and the Tigers, see recent trends, will be well-prepared. Their most recent spotlight, they turned into rings. 

LSU is the defending national champion; even with a new look, the Tigers are coming back defend. This program isn't geauxing anywhere.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports