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LSU will do without a special teams coach for now

Greg McMahon spent last season as Sean Payton's special teams coordinator on the Saints. Bill Feig/AP Photo

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU has a special teams coordinator. His name is Greg McMahon, and he spent the previous 11 seasons on the New Orleans Saints' coaching staff.

But at least until the NCAA expands its allowable total of on-field assistant coaches from nine to 10 -- a move that could come this year -- McMahon will advise the Tigers only in an off-the-field role.

In the meantime, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron plans to divide responsibilities between five assistant coaches -- Tommie Robinson, Dennis Johnson, Corey Raymond, Mickey Joseph and Jeff Grimes -- with McMahon overseeing the group.

"Greg can only coach the coaches. He will not coach on the field. He will not coach in the meeting room, but he has done a tremendous job," Orgeron said. "It is amazing to see what a guy with 11 years of experience at special teams coordinator, the knowledge and the amount of technical expertise that he has brought to our special teams. I expect a tremendous improvement in our special teams."

LSU has only one direction it can go after an abysmal season on special teams under previous coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto, whom Orgeron fired last November. According to ESPN's special teams efficiency ratings, LSU ranked 119th out of 128 FBS teams last season with only two Power 5 teams (West Virginia and Arizona) scoring worse than the Tigers' 32.4 on a 0-100 scale.

Not only were the Tigers surprisingly mediocre in the return game, they were not especially aggressive, either. LSU did not attempt a single onside kick last season, nor did it block a single kick. Same for 2015. In fact, LSU's only blocked kick in the last four seasons came from Ego Ferguson on a short field-goal try against Ole Miss in 2013.

Orgeron wants that to change.

"I want to be aggressive on special teams," Orgeron said. "I want to block punts, block kicks and return for touchdowns. We have changed our whole special teams philosophy. Hopefully it will be a lot better. Personnel will be changed, schemes will be changed and the coaching style will be changed. Everything we do on special teams will be brand new."

At least a couple of jobs will be wide-open this year. Longtime punt returner Tre'Davious White was a senior in 2016, as was place-kicker Colby Delahoussaye. The kickoff return job will also be up for grabs after Derrius Guice and Donte Jackson split time there last year to average results.

As to the men coaching them, Orgeron did not specify the responsibilities for each assistant who will be involved with the kicking game.

"It will be an outstanding, cohesive effort between our staff," Orgeron said.

Orgeron will split responsibilities for the various specialties -- punt, punt return/block, kickoff coverage, kickoff return, PAT/field goal and PAT/field goal block -- between the aforementioned group of coaches, which is no way a unique strategy.

While the vast majority of FBS programs have a special teams coach -- a rare few even have a dedicated special teams coordinator who does not also coach a position -- some split duties between coaches the way LSU will this season. The Football Writers Association of America directory listings for each FBS coaching staff show that 17 programs lacked a designated special teams coach in 2016-17.

Once the NCAA approves the 10th on-field assistant, perhaps Orgeron will elevate McMahon as an official assistant coach dedicated to special teams. However, he does not expect any such move to happen soon. Although the new rule expanding football coaching staffs was initially expected to go into effect in April, the proposed change could be delayed until after the season following pushback from some smaller programs.

Until then, count on LSU dividing special teams responsibilities between multiple staffers.

"It's gone back and forth," Orgeron said of the proposal. "We were hoping it will be in April, but now it's looking like December. I hope it gets approved soon. I don't think it will be in the season. The formula we have now is what we will do going forward."