LSU football prepares for challenging schedule

Dave Moormann
Former Dutchtown High standouts Eric Reid, left, and Eddie Lacy, right, meet in Tiger Stadium after the LSU-Alabama game last season. Reid, an LSU?defensive back, and Lacy, an Alabama running back will meet again in 2011.

LSU football coach Les Miles has never backed down from a challenge, and he’s not about to start now.

Anyone who can call the Tigers’ “schedule…a very fun one,” as he did at last week’s Media Day, is someone with a deep competitive spirit. Miles has that, and more. He may be unorthodox, but there’s nothing bizarre about his desire to match wits with the best. Great coaches and great teams willingly take on all comers, and the Tigers have been preparing to do just that.

National runner-up Oregon opens the season Sept 3. If that’s not difficult enough, LSU has only two Southeastern Conference Western Division rivals at home in Auburn and Arkansas. Far from giving himself an out should the Tigers stumble and fall short of their high expectations, Miles embraced what’s ahead. His enthusiasm is contagious. In the past, his players have done the same and it’s shown in their elevated performances.

Look only to last January when LSU dismantled Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, 41-24, with quarterback Jordan Jefferson throwing three touchdown passes after having tossed only four during the regular season. Oregon promises to be a more difficult assignment than Texas A&M, but, in turn, LSU figures to be that much better.

“Our guys are challenged by” Oregon’s ability, Miles was quoted as saying, “and I think that challenge will allow us to step up and compete. That will help us get the season started off. We’re ready to play at a high level.”

The Tigers will have to do just that if they expect to come anywhere close to their No. 4 ranking in the preseason coaches’ poll. Back-to-back road games at dangerous Mississippi State and West Virginia follow shortly thereafter. Alabama awaits later in the year on the road.

LSU plays six home games, including one against Florida, and if Miles had his way, the Tigers would play “nine or 11” inside Death Valley. “But I don’t know if I (can) get that,” Miles quipped. “Six may well be short, but again the Oregon game” is likely to be somewhat of a home game for LSU in Arlington, Texas.

“Everyone I see is telling me that they are going…to see us play” and needs tickets, Miles said.

If the fans aren’t travelling, they’ll at least be watching on television to get an idea of how the Tigers should respond this season.

There’s been a sense of urgency during summer drills simply because of the magnitude of the season opener in Cowboys Stadium, where LSU defeated Texas A&M.

Defensive coordinator John Chavis echoed Miles’ sentiments when he said the players were “excited about preparing for this schedule….During preseason, and two-a-days, that’s what we’re doing. We’re preparing for the entire schedule….What we’ve got to be concerned with right now is getting LSU ready to go play a long and demanding schedule. It’s one we’re excited about and look forward to.”

Injuries are bound to happen, and in that regard LSU is blessed with enough depth to withstand absences that might cripple other teams.

What the Tigers didn’t expect is the loss of its offensive coordinator to Parkinson’s disease. But even at that, the Tigers have been optimistic in their take on having offensive line coach Greg Studrawa replace Steve Kragthorpe as coordinator. Kragthorpe will continue to coach the quarterbacks.

The coaches are “making a strong transition” because of their serious work ethic and their “real cooperative commitment to get things right,” Miles said.

Things aren’t perfect, Miles said, but the coaches are making progress and using their time wisely to ensure that LSU will be in the best possible position to win once the season begins.

“The transition is going to be good,” Studrawa promised.

Even so, there is certain to be future second-guessing. Of one thing there is no doubt, though. LSU is ready to tackle anyone and everyone who comes its way.