It has been interesting to see all of the mixed reviews about the season opener for the LSU Tigers this week. While I must say, the first half was a bit disappointing, this game overall gave me several hints of positive things to come.
Let's take a quick reality check here folks. LSU has brought in a new defensive coaching staff and installed a new scheme. But they still have mostly the same players, so they are learning on the job. Same goes for quarterback Jordan Jefferson...and what I saw from him was poise and smart decision making.
He simply wouldn't take a sack or force the ball into coverage. What a refreshing sight after watching season highlights that were littered with "Pick 6" plays going the other way all of last year.
WR Brandon LaFell continues to baffle me with his butter fingers. Fortunately, Terence Toliver appears ready to take on the role of go-to guy this year. At least his 117 yard, two touchdown performance would suggest that is true.
The offensive line did very well in pass blocking, but I expect a great deal of improvement from them overall. Otherwise, I may have to abandon my sick Chad Scott infatuation that carried me through last year's disappointing season.
The special teams looked great. How many games have you seen where a lesser team stole a cheap win with a kick return or a couple of takeaways on special teams? It's crucial for that unit to perform well, and perform well they did!
Finally, the defense, though a work in progress, showed some real improvement over the "fall down in man coverage" disaster we dealt with in 2008. Look for the Tigers to be the most improved pass defense in the SEC this year.
That's how much they've upgraded at the defensive coordinator position with John Chavis, who kept the Tennessee Volunteers among the elite SEC teams versus the pass for several years heading into 2009.
One more point of perspective: the Tigers faced a vastly improved University of Washington Huskies team under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, whom you may remember as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for some talented USC Trojans squads in 2007 and 2008.
Jake Locker is a solid quarterback with a great future, and I was very impressed with Chris Polk and the team's ground game. Their defense is also a lot better than in 2008 with the addition of ex-USC defensive coordinator Nick Holt.
So a Tiger team adjusting to a new defensive approach and a new quarterback goes on the road to Seattle, WA to play a late night game against a seriously improved Washington team. Sure, it was close, but that garbage touchdown at the end of regulation made it a lot closer than it actually was.
The Commodores had better be ready next week. What I saw in the second half is a harbinger of positive things to come. Keep the faith Tiger fans.