Pregame notebook: Orgeron faces a very different Missouri team

Baton Rouge’s favorite son takes on the Tigers for the first time since his first win as LSU head coach.
Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz prepares his team for their game in Knoxville, Tenn. on Oct. 3, 2020. SEC Media Portal

Ed Orgeron’s first game as LSU head coach was a resounding success, defeating Missouri — which was in a transition year under a new head coach — 42-7.

Four years and nine days later, with a national championship under his belt, Orgeron will face Missouri — which is once again in a transition year under a new head coach — for the first time since that game. The circumstances for the Missouri Tigers are exactly the same, but Orgeron knows that their offensive identity is not.

“Missouri on offense is very, very complicated,” Orgeron said. “Coach [Eli Drinkwitz] has a lot of shifts and motions. He will run the triple option; [that’s the] first time I’ve seen a pitch off of a dive in a while. They have a lot of different formations, so we have to play assignment football.”

Orgeron continued with more extremely football guy words, speaking in the heavy Cajun accent that has helped endear him not only to Baton Rouge but the entire country.

“[They’re a] boot and waggle team; they run a lot of nakeds,” Orgeron said.

In layman’s terms, this means Missouri likes to run play action to one side and roll the quarterback out to the other.

“They’re a good zone-blocking team, and they’ll cut you,” he said. “And they’ll also run some gap plays.”

Drinkwitz’s system showcases this complexity. It’s what he had hoped to bring to Columbia after replacing Barry Odom, a defensive-minded coach who roamed the sidelines during Missouri’s loss to Orgeron in 2016. Drinkwitz knows he will have a challenge on his hands when he puts on his headset against “Coach O” on Saturday.

“Coach Orgeron does an outstanding job as the leader of that program,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s got tremendous offensive and defensive schemes and special teams schemes. [He also has] great players, so it’s gonna be a tall task.”

Rakestraw looks to build on first two weeks

This past spring, cornerback Ennis Rakestraw helped his new coach go viral on National Signing Day when he committed to Missouri and Drinkwitz lost his mind in celebration.

Rakestraw saw that reaction and understood that it set expectations high for the young defensive back.

“When Coach Drink had that reaction, it was a good feeling to me,” Rakestraw said. “But everyone around the world had seen it because it blew up, so I knew it was gonna be a burden on my back. Like, ‘Why is this coach going after this three-star commit?’”

Through two games as a starter, Rakestraw has met those expectations. The first play of his college career was a pass breakup against future first-round pick Jaylen Waddle of Alabama, and he’s largely held his own from there. And Drinkwitz has noticed.

“He looks like he belongs,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s made a few mistakes, but he keeps coming back. He’s got a short memory; he’s a really competitive young man. He knows he’s gotta continue to improve, and we want to see that, but he’s playing well in a hard situation..”

Rakestraw said that the breakup against Waddle gave him confidence going forward, especially because he came very close to joining the Crimson Tide.

“I was pretty much committed to [Alabama] under the table,” Rakestraw said. “And it’s a confidence like, ‘I can play against y’all, I didn’t have to be on y’all’s team.’ It did give me confidence throughout the game because it really set the tone, got rid of the butterflies, and I just played ball after that.”

Another game, another elite return man

Two weeks ago, when Missouri special teams coach Erik Link was asked how he planned to slow down Waddle in the return game, he jokingly responded, “I don’t know, you got any ideas?”

It turned out that crowdsourcing wasn’t necessary for Link, because while Waddle dominated at receiver, he wasn’t given any opportunities to return kicks or punts. Link and company will have to bring their A-game again when they host LSU which features cornerback Derek Stingly Jr. as a dangerous return man.

“I mean, he’s really good,” Link said of Stingley, who has a case for being the best cornerback in the country. “It’s certainly a challenge.”

Stingley missed Week 1 with a non-COVID-related illness but came back in Week 2 and torched the Vanderbilt punt team for 92 yards on three returns, including a nifty hesitation move that went for 49 yards and set the Tigers up at the Commodore 20.

Link noted that not only is Stingley a threat, but the LSU punt return team features exceptional blockers.

“We gotta be very intentional with what we’re doing in our game plan and be able to execute at a high level,” Link said. “That’s always the difficult thing about punt. You gotta protect it, because that can be a huge momentum play against you, but then also when you’re playing a dynamic returner, you gotta be able to get the ball out and get guys out in coverage quickly and effectively.”

Edited by Maia Bond |

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