ramblings as we close in on SEC Media Days…
Regardless of how LSU
coach Les Miles comes across at times or is portrayed in the media, one thing
you can’t argue about is the guy knows how to rally the troops.
Point in case is how
well the Tigers coaches have recruited since National Signing Day when some
folks insisted that LSU’s 2012 class was less than spectacular. Whether it was
top-5 or top-10 or whatever, I saw nothing wrong with the Tigers’ haul because
it addressed need more than dazzled with bells and whistles. Two or three years
from now when the task of reshaping the offensive line and linebacker corps is
high on the to-do list is when I think the value of the 2012 class will be
Anyway, with the hounds
out after the national championship game loss and the recruiting haul, Miles
and Co. have bounced back strong. The net has been cast wider nationally, and I
think that’s vital because there are clearly a small pocket of in-state coaches
intentionally driving recruits away from LSU and towards other schools– something I
don’t get and never will.
So what the Tigers
coaches have done effectively in my opinion is make sure the in-state stars
know they have a place at LSU but have also invested time in out-of-state
players who have shown reciprocal interest.
Don’t get me wrong: I
will always believe you build a great program from your own state first (even
Tulane seems to understand that now) and will always place importance on
fortifying the roster with players who grew up wanting to be Tigers. There’s
just something special to see a kid who has wanted to wear purple-and-gold go
out and perform for his team.
But I’m also realistic
and know that you can only beat your head against a brick wall so often. That’s
the case in a lot of walks in life and recruiting is no different. Do the best
you can with the players who have a sincere desire to be with you, then spread
your wings and find kids who want to be at LSU no matter where they hail from.
Motivation for Miles and Mettenberger?
I am a proud
contributor to Athlon’s pre-season football magazine and have been for years.
Doesn’t mean I always agree with some of the aspects of the publication.
I just thumbed through
my SEC-centric version and a couple of things jumped out.
First, Miles is nowhere
to be found on the list on the “Top 10 coaches in college football.”
Unless there was automatic
disqualification for being quirky/goofy at times or for public speaking polish,
I can’t think of any list of criteria that could legitimately leave Miles out
of the top 10.
In the toughest
conference in the country, Miles wins at a better clip than any of his peers. He
recruits well. He represents the school well. He cares for players and they
play for them. Players graduate and a greater percentage stay out of a trouble than
at a lot of power programs.
I’m sure that somebody
would throw out the argument that Miles should win with the talent the Tigers
accumulate every year. How is that a negative when it seems to be a positive
for most of the other coaches on the list?
The second thing that
caught my attention is that besides a few mentions about Zach Mettenberger directly
in relation to LSU, he didn’t get much attention as an elite quarterback –
either in the SEC or nationally.
Am I nuts to believe
that this guy has a chance to be as special as anybody in the country? What
sticks out in my mind is that Mettenberger was neck-and-neck in the battle for
the starting job at Georgia before he got in trouble. Now Murray is regarded as
the SEC’s best signal-caller.
Other than those two
glaring things, Athlon’s was solid. LSU was pegged as having the best RBs,
defensive line and secondary in the SEC. The Tigers backs were lauded as the
country’s best group as were the d-linemen, with the DBs second behind Texas.
The magazine also
predicts LSU to win the SEC and play USC for the 2012 BCS National Championship
– neither of which will surprise me at all. I do think the Tigers will lose one
game in the regular season – not Alabama – and I think that will be a good
thing in terms of keeping a veteran team grounded.
New sources of
One thing Miles has
often done is to control the message to some degree by managing which players
are more accessible to the media than others. Can’t say I agree with it 100%,
but I do understand why he does it.
What that means this
season, at least early on, is that there likely won’t be a lot of media
availability with Tyrann Mathieu, Sam Montgomery or Russell Shepard.
The LSU lineup for SEC
Media Days is Mettenberger, Odell Beckham Jr. and Eric Reid – three safe
options in terms of guys who aren’t going to stir the pot a whole lot.
I would also expect to
see more governance of players’ Twitter accounts early in the season to avoid
stuff like the incident that popped up between Mathieu and Alabama quarterback
My old-school side is
perfectly OK with that.
|Kenny Hilliard: After a strong finish in 2011, the big back could be the Tigers' bell cow in 2012|
One question that
invariably comes up in radio interviews I do about LSU is who the No. 1 running
back will be.
I’m not sure there’s a
tangible answer to that because I have a hunch it will be a lot like last year
when that could change from week to week and maybe even possession to
For some reason,
though, something in my gut tells me Kenny Hilliard could emerge as the bell
cow for the Tigers this season. Does that mean more carries than anybody else?
More yards? Maybe both, and I would bet he winds up with most short-yardage
scoring carries as well.
I don’t get many
questions about the receivers, but my answer there would be I think Beckham
will be LSU’s leader in receptions and catches for first downs with Jarvis Landry leading the way in receiving yards and touchdowns.