Just because LSU coach Ed Orgeron preaches to his players to block out the noise doesn't mean he doesn't hear it or isn't aware of it.
He most certainly is.
"Last year there was negativity. People didn't know what type of football team we were going to have," said Orgeron at Southeastern Conference Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, on Monday. "Now this year they say we're going to have a really good football team, and I do believe we're going to have a really good football team, but we have to get back to work. We have to get back to the true grit, the fundamentals it takes at camp and block out the noise. I know our team's going do that with tremendous leadership."
The noise is definitely surrounding Orgeron and his LSU team this year. The Tigers are considered favorites in 11 of their 12 regular season games with the only exception being Alabama, and most analytics services like ESPN's FPI and Bill Connelly's S&P+ have LSU as a top 10 team.
LSU is coming off a strong season, winning its first New Year's Six Bowl since the format began in 2014 and finishing inside the top 10 for the first time since 2011. However, there were times LSU felt they left things on the table.
"First of all, last year I felt we had a good season," Orgeron said. "We were two players away from being 12-1. We've got to expound on that this year. We cannot make the mistakes we made against Florida. We had opportunities to win the game at Texas A&M. Those are the two things we need to look at."
Despite the tough losses to Florida and Texas A&M by a combined 10 points, LSU took some surprising steps forward. It had wins over Miami, Auburn, Georgia and UCF, but LSU's season always boils down to one game — Alabama.
The Tigers were throttled 29-0, and nothing went right for the then-No. 3-ranked Tigers. After years of being stuck in neutral, LSU finally seemed to be taking steps forward last season, and Orgeron believes he has a contender in Baton Rouge.
There's a resounding confidence stemming from the coaching staff and players. It's based around an expected high-flying offense with senior quarterback Joe Burrow at the helm, a deep and talented group of receivers and a trio of talented running backs. There's still questions about the offensive line, but Orgeron remains confident in four returning starters.
Then there's the defense. Orgeron made it clear he thinks junior safety Grant Delpit is the best defensive player in college football, and LSU's defensive backs are the best he's coached.
And lastly, Orgeron's confidence in himself has become validated. He's no longer viewed as the guy who failed tremendously at Ole Miss or the fun uncle who comes and saves things but isn't the guy you want around in the long run.
He's established himself as a big-time coach with a strong coaching staff and a wildly talented roster behind him.
"I'm much more comfortable being head coach of LSU," Orgeron said. "I do believe we have our players in. I believe last year was a pivotal year. We've proven we can win.
"Having a ten-win season is good. It is not great. It puts us in position to take the next step at LSU, for what LSU deserves."