LSU’s spring football game last week didn’t attract the throng that came to see Alabama play, but that’s OK.
Tiger fans are waiting for the real thing. When LSU opens the regular season against Oregon in Cowboys Stadium, expect support to be at least as great as it was for the Cotton Bowl in the same venue.
The spring game sandwiched in between LSU’s impressive 41-24 victory over Texas A&M, and its game with national-title participant Oregon, only served to whet people’s appetite for what is to come.
Fans may not have arrived in droves to the spring game, but by the time Sept. 3 rolls around, they’ll be whipped into a frenzy.
Hyping the highly anticipated season even more is having at least one Sporting News writer make LSU his preseason No. 1 team.
Matt Hayes’ theory is that LSU is “the best team in the best conference.” No doubt the Southeastern Conference is the best league in the land. Having Auburn win another national championship for the SEC only proved that again.
Whether LSU is the best team in the SEC remains to be seen. That’s what makes the coming season such a highly charged event. There’s good reason to think that LSU might be the best even if it did lose cornerback Patrick Peterson and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard.
LSU has so many returnees and such depth that absences which might cripple another program should not derail the Tigers.
A good amount of luck is needed to win a national title, but LSU will at least begin the year as a solid contender for the throne.
At the least, LSU is expected to have a double-digit win season. The pressure on the Tigers figures to be enormous, but Coach Les Miles loves such a challenge. It makes his competitive fire burn even brighter. The players follow the example of their leader and rarely wilt to external forces.
“I like the development of this team,” said Miles, whose optimistic spring outlook has only heightened expectations. “We’re running the football well and throwing the football better then we have. Defensively were are getting lined up, and we are making plays on the ball.”
Senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw four touchdown passes in the third scrimmage, alone, and by all accounts has improved immeasurably. That in itself is cause for joy.
Even with Jefferson producing substandard numbers last season, the Tigers still put together an 11-2 record. Imagine what LSU might accomplish if Jefferson increases his contribution.
“He continues to get better,” Miles said of Jefferson. “He is making much better decisions. He has clearly improved. He can describe what he sees, how he sees the play and his description. Steve (Kragthorpe) has done a great job.”
Page 2 of 2 - Kragthorpe is LSU’s new offensive coordinator, and if he can explain what he wants done in a clear manner, LSU should be that much better. Kragthorpe’s predecessor, Gary Crowton, had a keen offensive mind, but something seemed to get lost in the translation when Crowton delivered his message to Miles and the players.
That wasn’t the case with Joe Robinson, who was named national Special Teams Coordinator of the Year by Footballscoop.com. Thomas McGaughey replaced Robinson, who left for North Carolina, and McGaughey must also find someone to replace an outstanding punter and place-kicker and Peterson as an extraordinary kick returner.
As important as it is to have quality special-teams play, LSU is hopeful that it won’t have to rely so heavily on kicks and returns as it did last season. Rather, the special teamers merely will complement LSU’s offensive and defensive prowess.
“We have players on both offense and defense competing down after down trying to make an impression,” Miles said.
They’ve done that and more. So what if the spring crowd wasn’t what it could have been. If LSU is as well in the fall as the prognosticators predict, the people will come.