The start of the college baseball NCAA tournament is a reminder that the spring sports are winding down and we’re only 3 months away from the start of college football.
The big news of late is that Jim Tressel will not be at Ohio St., so while I’m writing, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts about that. He did win an especially mythical national championship in the 2002 season, but I think there was something missing between getting good athletes and having them put forth the best effort at getting another. Maybe the compliance problems were related, maybe not, but hopefully Tressel’s departure is a step toward Ohio St., who I expect to continue to be a major program in college football, being a better representative of the sport.
Of course, most of my attention (to the extent I’ve been paying attention to football at all) has been directed toward the Fighting Tigers of Louisiana State University. More of this attention was available than usual in the spring due to the disappointing basketball and baseball seasons at LSU.
This will be QB Jordan Jefferson’s senior season, and he will be guided by new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe, known for his offenses at Tulsa and his ill-fated head-coaching tenure at Louisville. The Tigers have two other quarterbacks who could capably step in if needed. There will be some options missing in the running game, but in recent years, LSU has so many good options that it was hard for the coaches to allow them to establish a rhythm without denying playing time to deserving athletes. Spencer Ware (the star of the spring game despite focusing on baseball in the spring), Michael Ford, and Alfred Blue should have it under control.
I’m expecting a more balanced team. The defense (which held opponents to 18 points per game last season) and special teams shouldn’t have to carry as much of the load, and that should make up for the new kickers and the absence of Nevis, Peterson, and the like. Russell Sheppard (who can line up almost anywhere on the field), and Rueben Randle are the main receivers returning on offense. The Tigers will have a few experienced tight-end options as well. The only other spot that needs to be filled on offense is one of the tackles, so the passing game and the offense in general should improve significantly one way or the other.
The Tigers have 15 returning starters, which places them in the middle of the SEC, but neither kicker returns. Taking out the kickers, 15 is a tie for second behind only Vanderbilt. Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, and Mississippi St. (with 15 total as well) would be the other teams in that tie.
This gives a nice run-down of new players who could be difference-makers this season: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/635185-lsu-tigers-2011-football-recruiting-which-recruits-could-start-in-2011.
The three months I mentioned before are the only time the new players will have to adjust before LSU returns to the House that Jerry Built (the same place they ended last season) to face Oregon, the national runners-up last year. I don’t think the promoters of that event could have planned it much better if they chose the teams after last season. I’m certainly looking forward to it.
I’m sure I’ll come up with something else to say before the season starts. I usually manage to do at least some type of preseason rankings, and I might do a recap of last year. It’s funny how much you forget in a few months, particularly if you’re like me and watch a wide variety of sports.