LSU Flying Under The Radar, Right Were They Want To Be

Brian BertrandCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2009

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Les Miles (center) and the LSU Tigers celebrate after a 38-3 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on December 31, 2008 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

FROM 2008 to 2009 - FROM BAD VIBES TO GOOD VIBES AT SEASONS START

Oh, how the Tigers 2008 season was difficult for the LSU Tiger fanbase down on the Bayous. Heading into the 2008 season, many a Tiger fans had ample reason to scratch their head and have anxiety.

On offense, despite a loaded roster in 10 of 11 offensive positions, expected 5-star QB Ryan Perriloux was finally dismissed from the team, leaving the Tigers with 3 practically untested QB's on the offensive side of the ball. This was problematic for the 2008 season. Only at the end of the season, and a few moments along the 2008 trek, did LSU fans get to see the LSU offense live up to their huge potential.

On defense, this LSU fan, and most, were scratching their heads so hard they physically lost hair. After losing Muschamp a few years back after the 2004 season, and then Pelini as ace Defensive Coordinator after the 2007 season, and possessing 2 out of the last 5 BCS National Championship Trophies -predominantly due to the fierce LSU brand of defense - Coach Miles decided to conduct an experiment. He decided to give 2 assistant coaches (and not so good ones at that) the helm as Co-Defensive Coordinators. These two gentlemen proceeded to take an incredibly talented defensive roster and relegate them to a confused, undisciplined and tremendously under-performing defensive unit.

LSU giving up 50+ points to SEC rivals? WHAT?

Fast forward to Spring 2009........

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RESTORING THE LSU DEFENSIVE BRAND

For every bit of rightful anxiety everyone had going into the 2008 season, the exact opposite vibes are warranted coming into 2009.

Miles lured "Chief" John Chavis, an SEC veteran Defensive Coordinator who is known for discipline and getting his players to give him their best. He is also to be credited for nurturing a ton of LB's into the NFL.

Add to this his formidible defensive credentials at Tennessee in the SEC, in fact for the last dozen or so years, and the fact that Chief has faced LSU yearly-foes Alabama and Florida each and every year, and that adds to the relevance of his ability to lead LSU to the best preparation for those key games - and the season overall.

Add to Chief, Coach Cooper (from South Carolina) to coach the incredibly deep and talented LSU defensive backfield. Oh, and by the way, what Chavis has been to putting LB's into the NFL, Cooper has been in his college career for DB's. And LSU has arguably the best group of DB's, talent and depth-wise, in the history of those practicing on the Ponderosa, and playing in Tiger Stadium.

What if you could also boast the luring of Chicago Bears Defensive Line coach to help re-instate what LSU fans have come to call "D-Line-U"? I'll take that.

Finally, throw in a tremedously fast and talented defensive roster (FAR more than he has had to work with at Tennessee in the last few years), and Chief and his staff are sitting in a great position to make everyone completely forget the 2008 defensive debacle.

The LSU Brand of fierce, fast and blitzing defense will be much more akin to the staunch 2003 and 2007 defensive units than last years travesty. Take that to the bank.

Indeed, any media person making any reference whatsoever to the 2008 debacle is absolutely clueless - or are just trying to be provacative to get ratings, or to make a story.

As for the talent, Chad Jones, Patrick Peterson and Craig Loston are virtually certain 1st round (or at least 2nd round) NFL players down the road, and will anchor the LSU defensive backfield for 2009. Expect Loston to get on the field and earn significant playing time really soon. And keep your eyes open for Brandon Taylor, hard-hitting Ron Brooks, and Sophomore Karnell Hatcher, not to speak of returning SR CB Chris Hawkins (although this Tiger fan has his concerns over his inconsistency). Wow, is that a ton of talent. Oh yeah, Janzen who? (Lake Charles, La DB lost to Tenn in recruiting battle to "Bull Red Ogre"  -  hoown hoown hoown, LOL)

With the move of hard-hitting and highly instinctive DB Sr Harry Coleman to LB, combined with Sr Perry Riley and Sr Jacob Cutrera, Chief has significant talent and experience to work with. Look for hard-hitting Ryan Baker to make the most of his time on the field also. That kid can flat out play and watch his hits on special teams!

As for restoring "D-Line-U", Sr's Charles Alexander and Rahem Alem are strong and fast, and are joined by behemoth in Sr Al Woods to give Coach Haley his share of chances to do so. Drake Nevis will be a main stay also, and expect Sam Montgomery, Chancey Aghayere and Josh Downs to see their share of the field.

Remember the fast and furious FLA DE's against OSU in the 2006 NC Game? That is the kind of speed, grit and physicality LSU will bring to the table in 2009 on defense.

MAXIMIZING THE AMAZING TALENT ON OFFENSE

Everyone wants to talk about the QB position when discussing the offensive unit, and rightfully so...

But I want to draw your attention to the other 10 positions first

Starting with the RB corp.

Can you imagine having 3 experienced and talented Seniors healthy and ready to go for you as an SEC team? What if these 3 players were Sr Charles "the Truck" Scott, former "Lousiana Mr Football", who had himself quite the year in 2008, and turned down a likely 1st or 2nd round NFL selection to return for his Sr campaign. There is too much love for the Triplets of College football (McCoy, Tebow, Bradford) to mention Heisman for Scott. But, equally a reason why Charles will struggle to get mentioned, is the amount of talent in the LSU backfield and offense overall, and only 1 ball to go around for "Wizard" Gary Crowton.

Additionally, Keiland Williams has emerged into the Pro-caliber RB everyone thought he was when LSU and USC fought to obtain the 5-star RB a few years ago. Just ask VaTech and other teams what "Mr Calf Muscles" himself can do to your defense (the hurdling TD run against VaTech was amazing - and you should see those calj muscles in person - OMG)

Now, how about throwing in the fastest player in college football in Sr Trindon Holiday. "Mighty Mouse" is as electric as they come, and LSU fans want so bad to get him and incoming QB/WR/RB Russel Shepard in the backfield at the same time..Ew, baby!

Speaking of Shepard, this elequently-speaking, good-hearted, electrically-fast and elusive player and natural leader from Houston has some saying he is a blend of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. That is a tall order, no question, but once you see this guy play, and see him interviewed, you will quickly see what folks are talking about.

At the receiver position, Brandon LaFell - who has the quintessential NFL receiver physique/size and speed -  bypassed the NFL to return to the wide receiver corp for his Sr campaign. Former 5-star receiver. JoJo is the bomb.com, that is for sure.

Terrance Toliver out of Hempstead, Tx, has the potential to make good on his comparison to the smooth-running, fast and elusive Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. I know, I know, that is a probably a bit much, but watch him as the season unfolds and see if this comparison has any merit in your own estimation before, discounting the comparison. As a Jr, who indeed also wears #80, he will start, and finally have his chance to show what he is capable of.

Now, we come to incoming Phenom Rueben Randle. WOW, WOW, WOW. Think Bama's Julio Jones on this one.

As for TE, Richard Dickson is one helluva TE, and the Sr brings athleticism and lots of spirit and leadership to the team.

As for the Offensive Line, this is mostly a good situation, but there is one area to keep an eye on - Center. Former New Orleans Saint Bobby Hebert's son "T-Bob" appears to be in the mix as a redshirt Freshman, along with his redshirt freshman team mate Patrick Longeron, so this all-important area is an area for a bit of potential concern. The talent is certainly in place with these two, but a freshman leading the Oline is a valid concern.

The LG position is also an area with 2 Sophomores fighting it out, and replacing Herman Johnson is a tall order, pun clearly intended (Johnson was 6' 7"). These 2 dudes are very strong and talented though. Can they do what Ciron Black did as a Sophomore when he manned the 2007 national championship Offensive line? It''ll surely be an area to watch closely.

Otherwise, LSU has the good-hearted citizen and fierce competitor Sr Ciron Black, also turning down a certain 1st or 2nd round NFL selection, to return as a Sr to lead the LSU offensive line.

Jr RT Joe Barksdale and Sr Lyle Hit also add stong experience, so you have 3 players with plenty of experience and seniority to help the OLine gel and become an strength. Add in second year starter Joe Barksdale, and this will go a long way in off-setting the talented, but young, center position, as 4 out of 5 Oline starters have significant experience for the 2009 season.

All in all, the schedule should set up very nicely to allow the Offensive line to be a strength as the season rolls into the key October and November schedule.

But, everyone knows you are only as good as your field marshall.

It is funny to listen to the national media claiming LSU has such a huge question mark at QB, and justifying LSU's #11 rating due to this, while ignoring the same for Alabama and USC and ranking them much higher. Whatever...money is involved in the media hype and "prognostication" on that one...without a doubt

Jordan Jefferson certainly is somewhat of a question mark with only starting 2 games under his belt, and Jarrett Lee had a problematic freshman campaign......

But they were freshmen, for Pete's sake !!

Look for these two Sophomores to combine like Matt Flynn and Ryan Perilloux did in 2007. LSU will need both of them as the season unfolds. Throw in Russell Shepard for some "WildTiger" play under the direction of the Wizard Gary Crowton, and LSU will be vastly improved over the 2008 campaign at QB.

With a vastly improved defensive team, look for the LSU offense to have much better field position, so that adds to offsetting the pressure at QB also.

To win the SEC and National Championship, you don't need a super star QB, you need a QB who can avoid mistakes and manage the game, and maximize the talent around them...Witness Matt Mauck in 2003 and Matt Flynn in 2007 (note: although the frequently-injured Matt Flynn did not showcase his best in 2007, he had some strong moments, and he is doing quite well as the Green Bay QB #2, beating out the much higher drafted Brian Brohm for that spot).

Jordan Jefferson showed a lot of composure, pocket presence, scrambling and accurate passing as LSU dismantled the favorite GaTech in post-season bowl play in ATL.

That is a lot to build on, both experience-wise and confidence wise.

He'll need all of it for 2009.

And while certainly warranted, don't be the one counting out the arm of Jarrett Lee. He has an NFL arm and quick release as good as most currently in the NFL, and he has 3 full seasons in front of him to rise to his potential after a tough freshman campaign. Don't write this dude off.

Note: This Tiger fan actually thinks the best long-term QB in purple and gold will be Freshman Chris Garrett. However, he may have to go the Matt Flynn route and exhibit a lot of patience before he gets his chance.

OVERALL PROJECTION

The talent is amazing.

The Hat, Coach Les Miles, knows how to get his team game-ready, and when he has great Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, as he does this year, he is one of the best at getting out of their way and empowering them to work their magic.

Speaking of magic, Gary "Wizard" Crowton has the absolute best grouping of talent to work with since arriving in Baton Rouge 3 seasons ago.

Remember that VaTech game on Saturday night in Death Valley when the #1 ranked VaTech defensive team called him a monster in loosing to LSU 48-7? Look for this type of description to be used several times in the 2009 campaign.

Charles the "Truck" Scott, Keiland "Mr Calf Muscles" Williams, Trindon "Mighty Mouse" Holiday, Brandon "JoJo" LaFell, Terrance Toliver, Russel Shepard, Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee, Richard Dickson, Rueben Randle.

There is an amazing amount of Offensive WOW power right there! Best ever of any LSU team? An argument could be made for that.

And don't forget my personal favorite, Steven Ridley. If he can get on the field, he will remind a lot of folks of another #34 from the 90's...LSU fans know exactly who I am talking about in that former controversial and amazing talent. Trust me on this one.

On defense, if they stay injury-free, I would be shocked if at least 3, and as many as 6 of the DB's on the LSU roster are not playing on Sundays in the NFL in the next 4-6 years. That is how talented the backfield is for Coach Cooper, who is one of the best at getting kids into NFL secondaries. I'm a bit excited about this one, as DB's are essential in contending for SEC championships.

Indeed, the talent is in place.

Indeed, the defense will be vastly improved,

Indeed, the offense will score a ton of points.

Indeed there are a minimum of 3 (Scott, Black, LaFell) Sr leaders, who passed on a 1st or 2nd round draft selection, to provide leadership to the 2009 squad. Add in TE Dickson and a the 3 Sr starting LB's to that leadership formula also

Indeed, Coach Les "The Hat" Miles will have these Tigers fired up

Indeed, any media person projecting the 2009 season based on the vastly different Defense and QB situation, is ...Well, indeed clueless (or agenda-filled).

The early season sets up well as the Tigers prepare for the gauntlet, first on 10/3 at UGA "between the hedges", and then the next weekend when the winners of 4 out of the last 6 BCS Trophies, as well as Hiesman winner Tim Tebow, square off on national tv on Saturday night in Death Valley on 10/10 in what might be a major determining factor in whether LSU and FLA will be able to claim 5 of the last 7 BCS national Championship trophies next January in Pasadena.

Will Tim Tebow cry in joy, or defeat, as he did exiting the battle field in 2007 in Baton Rouge? Time will tell..

Look for LSU to be on the very short list in 2009 of National Title Contenders.

Fear Chief and the restored and storming LSU D.

LSU will roar back onto the scene in 2009.

Fear the amazing offensive talent.

Fear the Sr-laden leadership.

Fear the Tigers in 2009!

Fear the Hat.

GEAUX TIGERS !!!