They say good fortune is absolutely necessary for a team to ever reach a championship game, let alone actually win one. True story. The LSU Tigers suffered through tough breaks (the injury bug, bad calls, etc.) and close losses throughout last year, only to finish 9-4 with what one could argue as the toughest schedule in the nation. The Tigers did not fall subject to what is called "good fortune," whatsoever.
I was browsing WayangTimes.com the other day (what, it's not one of your regular Internet stops?) when I noticed something extremely significant about the Chinese calendar for the year of 2010: it's the year of the Tiger. The sheer weight of the collective commiseration toward LSU's 2008-2010 performance level wasn't lifted off of my chest, but it made me think about just how primed this team could be to attack, and how a little luck could make it a national title contender once again.
Given the program's overall success over the last decade, Les Miles and company will certainly turn it around sometime, right? It's awfully hazy at first glance though.
Last year was littered with play calling that Les Miles didn't agree with and a specific prime-time star the school should've used in a more non-secretive way (did anyone else find Russell Shepard this year during games other than the blowouts—because I seemed to be playing Where's Waldo? half the time.)
Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton is the key in 2010. LSU fans can only hope he steps it up, along with quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
The other side of the ball always comes to play though for the Tigers, and while you can teach technique and scheme, the better athletes typically dominate at the college level, and LSU without question will have plenty of play-makers on the defensive side of the ball next year.
The Tigers had the second-rated recruiting class (source: Les Miles) coming out of last year's signing day landing three five-star athletes and a total of 10 ESPNU 150 players as well. Of all of the talent, only Rueben Randle showed improvement and/or meaningful production. Whether that blame falls on the coordinators, the position coaches, the players, or the amount of four-star and five-star red-shirts, it was one of the most poorly-utilized freshman classes in recent LSU history, considering the amount of talent at their disposal.
The class of '09 will have its chance to redeem itself though, with the help of this year's class . Another year under the belts of the defensive and offensive coordinators should help to improve the team as a more cohesive unit as well.
Players to watch in 2010
Kevin Minter (FR, RS), Four-star LB
6'0", 231 lbs.—Suwanee, GA
Versatile, hard-hitting, and quick are all terms used to describe the person who I believe will have the biggest impact for the Tigers in 2010. Kevin is a highly-decorated recruit, and he has all of the skills in the world to back it up.
Craig Loston (FR, RS), Five-star S
6'2", 193 lbs.—Aldine, TX
Coming in at six-foot-two, just shy of 200 pounds is Mr. Loston. Eric Berry thought he was the best safety to ever come out of the SEC. Well, "not so fast," as Lee Corso would say, because this kid will light you up and lock you down all at the same time. Blessed with extremely quick feet, aggressiveness, and size, Craig Loston could've played any position in college football that he wanted (okay, maybe excluding linemen positions), but he chose to play at the safety spot next to Patrick Peterson. That's a scary combination, folks.
J.R. Ferguson (FR), Four-Star DE
6'3", 272 lbs.—Frederick, MD
"Ego" Ferguson adds some skill to a depleted defensive line that was pathetic in terms of getting to the QB last year. With an absurd amount of talent in the defensive backfield, J.R. should be left with plenty of time to put pressure on the passer. Considering the rest of the defensive line's inability to get to the QB last year, I wouldn't be surprised if J.R. Ferguson is the Tigers' leading sack-artist. "Coverage-sack" Ferguson could quickly become his new nickname in this scheme.
Armand Williams (FR), Three-Star WR
6'3", 185 lbs.—Slidell, La
Armand Williams. Get used to the name if new WR coach-extraordinaire, Bill Gonzales (former Florida WR coach), can teach this absolute man-of-an-athlete how to play. Williams posted a 4.45 40-yard-dash at one of his summer camps and has a 41" vertical jump; to put that in perspective—Vince Carter's vertical is 43". Alarmingly-good potential here, although he is still quite raw at the position.
Tyrann Mathieu (FR), Three-star CB
5'10", 170 lbs.—New Orleans, La
And it's time for the shot in the dark (but not really if you follow the Tigers as close as I do). Tyrann Mathieu wasn't a highly-recruited individual, but the kid ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.4X seconds at one of his summer camps and impressed all in attendance. Apparently, Tyrann covered with ease every Tennessee WR one-on-one the school could throw at him during the first half of a summer camp practice, and by the end of the day practically everyone knew his name. If he gets onto the field this year, you'll be impressed.
NOTE: Javier Arenas was a three-star recruit coming out of high school as well.
2010: Year of the Tiger?
It used to be a question of "when" the Tigers will return to dominance, now it seems to be "if ever".
The past two years have been a disaster given how much money and top-notch prospects LSU has landed and inked, and after another excellent recruiting class, who's really to say they can turn it around and ultimately break the pattern?
But 2010 is in fact considered by the Chinese to be the official, "Year of the Tiger", which certainly makes you wonder: how could over one billion people be wrong, right?