I was getting ready to write about how encouraged I was with LSU sports over the last few months, and then I read this: http://theadvocate.com/sports/lsu/12689249-123/lsu-qb-anthony-jennings-two
I’ll talk about why that’s especially upsetting when I talk about the football team later, but first I wanted to talk about sports that actually competed in intercollegiate athletics recently.
It’s only been a few months since basketball ended, so I’ll start there. It would have been nice to have had a win in the NCAA tournament, but even making it was a big step forward for the program. Without an injury, NC State may well have been an Elite Eight team, so losing to them by one point was nothing to hang our heads about.
Nothing ever went quite how it was supposed to go under Trent Johnson, but it definitely seems on track with Johnny Jones, especially given that LSU got a few big recruits to come onto the team for next season.
I’m not a big follower of women’s sports, but although track and basketball were disappointing (only because those were until recently two of LSU’s best programs of either sex), I was happy for the softball team, which made it to the semifinals at the Women’s College World Series.
I was very impressed by the end results of the last three major men’s programs: golf, which won the first national championship in 60 years; men’s track, which finished fourth in both the SEC and the nation; and baseball, where LSU won its first game at the college World Series since winning the whole tournament in 2009.
This was the best combined finish in a single year by the LSU baseball and softball teams. Both made their respective CWS’s in 2004, but LSU baseball did not win a game in Omaha that year.
I’ll reluctantly shift gears to football. I didn’t lose any sleep at all over John Chavis’s departure. I appreciate what he’s done at both LSU and Tennessee over the past couple of decades, but it was probably best to look toward the future anyway.
From the moment I heard about it, I wanted us to find a way to bring in Ed Orgeron, which we managed to do. Orgeron isn’t the defensive coordinator, but I have confidence Steele will do a good job. Anyone with a bigger name may not have felt comfortable being potentially overshadowed by an assistant.
Some criticize LSU for taking Alabama’s leftovers (Steele was demoted from DC at Alabama when Saban decided to call the plays himself), but I couldn’t find much fault with any of the defensive performances in Steele’s tenure. Alabama’s problem in 2007 had been offense, not defense. They did have a little bit of trouble in an early win over Arkansas (giving up 38 points), but Arkansas’s offense was pretty good that year. LSU also put up big numbers against the Tide that year (41 points), but that so happened to be the last LSU team that won a national championship. Steele was also an assistant under Saban at LSU in 2004, also coaching alongside Will Muschamp, Auburn’s new (and old) Defensive Coordinator.
Speaking of unsuccessful head coaches, Steele never won more than three games as Baylor Head Coach, and Orgeron never won more than four games as Ole Miss Head Coach, but I think they both learned a thing or two about recruiting.
Steele had also served as Clemson’s defensive coordinator for four seasons. After being in the top 20 in total defense in 2009 and 2010, he had some problems in his third season there and the beginning of his fourth; but Clemson only allowed 3 of its last 7 opponents in 2012 (one of them LSU) to score 21 points or more and only 1 of those 7 scored 28 or more.
So why was that article I posted at the beginning so upsetting? What LSU has been missing for many years under Les Miles has been a reliable quarterback. Ryan Perrilloux should have been one, but that didn’t happen. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee never seemed to reach their potentials. Zach Mettenberger had some success (as a transfer) in 2012 and 2013, but then Anthony Jennings had some hiccups last season.
One of the things I was encouraged with was Anthony Jennings. One of the things I was NOT impressed with was Brandon Harris, who mostly looked about as effective during the spring game as he had during the season.
Harris ran well in the spring game, but he only looked proficient as a passer when he was with the white (primarily first-string) team. That was mostly because of good plays by receivers and openings in the secondary you could drive a tank through.
I did not see the whole game, so I don’t know if last year’s third-string QB Brad Kragthorpe (who scored the apparent touchdown that was denied against Notre Dame) even played. LSU successfully recruited three-star QB Justin McMillan, but I would be surprised if he’s ready to lead the offense anytime soon either.
I do think the white defense was good and even parts of the purple offense looked good, I will be worried about the defensive secondary late in games though since the depth doesn’t seem to be there.
I expect LSU can have among the best rushing games, run defenses, and pass rushes in the country, but having a quarterback you can count on (which certainly makes running the ball easier) and having depth in the secondary (which can make the line and linebackers irrelevant) are two important areas.
I’m not saying Jennings is the answer to LSU’s problems or that he would have been had he not been arrested, but he certainly looked like the best hope at the position for next season. It won’t require greatness, but it will require some accuracy and good decision-making. Obviously the latter needs to take place off the field too.