Once a year at Senior Bowl, the aristocracy of the football world travels down to Mobile, Alabama in search of solutions to their current problems. Like the royals of old, the aristocrats bring a wide range of personnel with a wide range of problems in their wake. Some are looking for the stars of the future, while others are hoping to make connections in order to find a job. Coaches, agents, scouts, players and everyone in between know that a solid week in Mobile can set up a solid year of success. For the players specifically, this week could potentially decide the direction of the rest of their lives.
In my opinion, the most unique part about the Senior Bowl from the players’ perspective is the amount of pressure that these young men are under. There may not be 90,000 people in the stands, there may not be championships on the line, but that doesn’t matter, because the Senior Bowl represents a different type of pressure than these players are accustomed to.
When you win or lose in college, you win or lose as a team. The individual is allowed to melt into the greater framework of the tribe, thus spreading the joy of success and burden of defeat across multiple shoulders. This week the situation is flipped on its head. The concept of team is pushed to the background while the success of the individual, or lack thereof, reigns supreme. When playing games in college, these players knew that win or lose, there would be another game next week. However, during this week these players know they are competing for their future.
Although the Senior Bowl is made up of the best veteran college football players in the country, less than 30% of the players competing will find themselves on 53 man rosters when the NFL season begins. This percentage provides us with some perspective on how tough it truly is to succeed in the League, as well as some context on what is on the line for the participants this week. The Senior Bowl is an excellent chance to kick start some positive momentum heading into the draft evaluation process. Because of the nature of the NFL, the higher you get picked, the better chance you have of making a roster. A solid week in Mobile can see you increase your stock from a late to mid round, mid to early round, and so on and so forth. This year is no different and the New Orleans Saints will be keeping an eye on the names rising up draft boards.
In my opinion, the Saints' priorities are the interior defensive line, interior offensive line, and linebacker positions. Thankfully there is no shortage of impressive prospects from which to choose. Alabama DT Jarran Reed is a name to keep an eye on as well as Sheldon Rankins from Louisville. Rankins specifically has been dominant in one on one pass rush through the first two practices winning nearly every rep.
As far as offensive line is concerned Kansas St Guard Cody Whitehair has stood out in both run and pass blocking and although I don’t expect the Saints to take him, Michigan St center Jack Allen has played very well at both center and guard despite being just 296 pounds and six feet two inches.
Finally, the linebacker position is flush with talent not the least of which is former LSU linebacker Deion Jones. Jones led the Tigers in tackles last season and has the speed that NFL defenses are falling more and more in love with at the linebacker position. Inside linebacker Jake Ganus from UGA has been a surprise as well as he wasn’t on many people’s radars yet has made play after play through the first couple of practices.
Half a week down, half a week to go. The cream will continue to rise to the top and it will be interesting to see which players will FORCE teams to pay attention to them.
What do you think? Should the Saints be focused on the offensive and defensive lines or would they be better suited searching elsewhere? I’ve heard rumor that the Black and Gold may potentially be in the market for a cornerback… smart move?
The New Orleans Pelicans are dead in the water, Alvin Gentry is a terrible coach, and Anthony Davis isn’t nearly as good as he was last year. These are the myths that the average New Orleans sports fan will try to sell you if you ask them their opinion on the State of the Pelicans.
Well my friends, have no fear because I am here to inject a bit of optimism into your basketball-hungry heart. First things first, in order for us to be able to have a logical discussion we must first lay out where our expectations for this team currently lie. Going into the year, most would have said 4th or 5th seed in the West and to make it out of the first round of the playoffs.
Unfortunately these sort of expectations were swept away in the terrible tornado of misery that was New Orleans’ 1-11 start. While it certainly isn’t ideal to readjust your expectations, it is merely the reality of the situation. If you can’t accept this, then I’m afraid we must agree to disagree. But if you are open to giving this team a second chance then please read on...
The Pelicans team you are witnessing this last month is wholly different than the one that began the year, both in personnel and success level. If you take away the 1-11 start, the Pelicans have been a .500 basketball team, which is good enough to make the playoffs in the Western Conference this year. However, I believe the Pelicans to be an above .500 basketball team when operating at full capacity.
This was a team drastically set back by a series of unfortunate events. Massive numbers of injuries, combined with personnel turnover, and the struggles in adjusting to a new head coach have seen the Pelicans go through some exceedingly rough growing pains. Its almost as if this young team is going through all the worst parts of puberty. Acne, cracking voice, and hairy ears and back; you name it and the Pelicans have got it. However, upon closer inspection I do think that this team is starting to turn the corner. They’ve learned to shave their back, it looks as if their skin might be clearing up, and their voice is developing into a pleasant baritone.
The Pels have currently won 4 of their last 5 games with their only loss coming at the hands of a red hot Grizzlies team by a mere two points. Also, Alvin Gentry’s team will play their next 5 games in a row at home in the Smoothie King Center. This is significant, seeing as how the Pelicans are MUCH better in New Orleans, actually owning a winning record of 10-9. Perhaps of more importance than the numbers is the simple fact that the team is simply more enjoyable to watch. An unrestricted Jrue Holiday combined with continued training in this Gentry system has the team learning and improving.
I recognize that the current state of the Pelicans is far from perfect, and I’m not telling you to blindly support a team, but I am telling you that things are not nearly as dire as the numbers or the majority of fans would have you believe. Anthony Davis is still averaging 24 and 10. He’s top 10 in the NBA in points per game, rebounds, and blocks. He is 6th in the League in player efficiency rating and is only getting better as the season progresses. In last night’s 115-99 domination of the Detroit Pistons Davis notched his 2nd 30 point game in a row and his 5th straight game scoring at least 21 points. The team as a whole is also closer than you might think seeing as how they remain just 4 games out of 8th place despite a 15-27 record.
Now that you have armed yourself with the power of optimism, why not give this team another shot? When I talk to people around town, many are telling me they are done with this team and seem content to wait until next year to see if they can improve. Well, the Pels are improving - only its happening RIGHT NOW. What's done is done, no one can change the past, but why not give this team a second chance in the future? Who knows, I have a sneaking suspicion we are in for a helluva ride in 2016.
When the news about the departure of Kevin Steele originally broke, I couldn’t help but think the firing had the potential to be a blessing in disguise. While there is always a certain amount of inherent risk in a coaching change, Steele didn’t have the success at LSU that many were hoping for, which is why it was so surprising to hear that Auburn wanted to take him out of Baton Rouge.
Now that LSU has hired Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, it is my opinion that the unexpected departure of Kevin Steele has undoubtedly worked out best for the Tigers of Baton Rouge in the end.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Coach Aranda will give his first interview on WWL Radio today on "Sports Talk" with Bobby and Deke at 5:20pm. Don't miss it on AM/FM and streaming at WWL.com.
Dave Aranda’s hire is the antithesis of the Kevin Steele hiring. Although Aranda was also interviewed for the job last year, the Tigers ended up settling on the more experienced coach. Steele didn’t have the best resume, statistically, but he had a ton of experience, was well connected and respected throughout the south, and was a former national recruiter of the year. In other words, he may not have had the most on field success, but he was an old, southern football coach who was well known.
Dave Aranda is the opposite in many ways. Hailing from Redlands, California, the west coast product has rocketed up the ranks thanks to an impressive resume filled with on field success. At 39 years old Aranda is a young up and comer who many have described as a “philosopher-coach.” Aranda has his own style and it doesn’t include appearing to have a brain aneurysm while yelling at his players (like so many of the coaches we see on Saturday).
Rather, Aranda prefers a more subdued approach, and that isn’t to say that he is any less effective. One of Aranda’s greatest strengths is his ability to communicate with his players and get his message across. His teachings originate in the mental side of the game and it is his unique mind side approach that I find so intriguing. This is a man who didn’t play football in college and barely got to play football in high school, yet he has always studied and consumed as much football as he could get his hands on.
This unique evolution has created a coach less fettered by the chains of bias, one whose ultimate goal is to maximize his players strengths while minimizing their weaknesses by crafting defenses around his team’s skill set. 3-4, 4-3, 3-3-5 - its all just labels to Aranda. He is going to field a formation and system that will work best with LSU’s personnel regardless of what the formation actually looks like.
I haven’t been this excited for a coaching change since John Chavis found his way from Tennessee to Baton Rouge. Before we go any further, I think it is appropriate to congratulate Joe Alleva and the LSU administration. After weeks of missteps and bad publicity, the Dave Aranda hire seems to be a step in the right direction. Allevia and company signed Aranda to a 3 year deal that will pay him 1.3 million dollars a year (750k raise for Aranda) and isn’t dependent on the employment status of head coach Les Miles.
Essentially the administration put “golden handcuffs” on Aranda. A more Brando-esque way of putting it would be that they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The potential within this hire is enough to make your pulse quicken. If Aranda put together the number one scoring defense in the nation at Wisconsin, what will he be able to accomplish with the talent at LSU?
The LSU Tigers capped off a tumultuous year on a positive note when they thoroughly trounced the Texas Tech Red Raiders 56-27 in the Advocate V100 Texas Bowl. Before the game, I claimed that the future of LSU hung in the balance as the outcome of this game could have a massive impact on the entire program moving forward.
Fortunately for Tiger fans it looks as if the game against TTU will serve as the proverbial launching pad into what should be a championship contending year in 2016. In a season filled with massive highs and similarly monstrous lows the Tigers managed to finish with a dominant bowl win that essentially earns them a ten win season. This team is only losing five starters to graduation and doesn’t look as if too many eligible players will leave early either. Needless to say, the future looks bright for LSU.
The Offense Was Spectacular
The struggles of LSU’s offense in the month of November were well documented. In fact, the continued frustration with the Tiger O was one of the main reasons why Les Miles’, Cam Cameron’s, and Brandon Harris’ jobs were ALL under fire. The game against Texas Tech represented the perfect opportunity to right the ship going into the offseason and provide the LSU faithful with some confidence in the program moving forward.
When it was all said and done LSU racked up a stunning 638 yards of total offense. Brandon Harris overcame some first half struggles as he finished the night by completing 60% of his passes for 254 yards and scores both through the air and on the ground. I firmly believe Harris to be the long term answer at quarterback for LSU. This was his first year starting and he will only get better from here on out.
On the ground Leonard Fournette dazzled audiences across the country one more time this year as he scored an NCAA Bowl record FIVE touchdowns while gaining 212 yards on the ground on 29 carries (7.3 avg). I’m not entirely sure what I can say about Fournette that hasn’t already been said. The young man is simply astounding and I can’t wait to get to watch him again in 2016.
The Defense Passed a Massive Test
There aren’t many times in which an LSU defense will be happy about allowing a team 399 total yards, however when we are talking about an offense as explosive as Texas Tech’s, that 399 is in actuality an impressive number considering the fact that the Raiders ran 82 plays on the night. While the LSU offense rushed for an absurd 384 yard total the Tiger defense held TTU to just 29 rushing yards on 26 attempts. LSU averaged 9.6 yards per carry while Texas Tech averaged 1.1.
One of the biggest reasons for this dominance was MLB Kendall Beckwith. The Jr LB put on a show as he racked up 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss. It will be interesting to see if Beckwith decides to return for another season in Baton Rouge and convincing him to return must be at the top of the coach’s priority list.
Before we go any further I would be remiss to not bring any attention to Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes II. The sophomore quarterback is one of the most exciting players I have seen and Raider fans should be beside themselves knowing that he still has a couple years left in Lubbock. His ability to extend plays while keeping his eyes down field is among the best I’ve ever seen.
2015 was one of the most turbulent, volatile, and tempestuous years in LSU’s history. A season filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, yet when you look at the Tigers final tally I believe that this team deserves credit for a job well done. As I mentioned earlier, if we count the McNeese game as a win then this team basically won ten games this fall.
Really, the biggest legitimate complaint that fans have at this moment is that LSU lost to Bama once again, but besides that, If we are being honest and objective with ourselves, than most would agree that the ten win number is magnificent considering the youth of this team. For the vast majority of this offseason we did not expect LSU to be amongst the country’s elite. That changed right before the start of the season through a combination of LSU becoming the trendy playoff pick (thanks Herbstriet) and the unstoppable Leonard Fournette hype train. However, it would appear as if our original instincts were closer to the truth. This team was never the second best team in the country. They were an extremely talented, yet youthful team learning to play in the toughest conference in college football.
I am of the opinion that the adversity faced by this squad in 2015 will only strengthen them heading into 2016 and when you look at the returning talent the Tigers are sporting, what a year it could be.
Tonight LSU will play in its biggest post season game since the 2011 National Championship. While some may accuse me of falling victim to hyperbole, I firmly believe that the stakes in today’s Advocate V100 Texas Bowl are abnormally high.
Usually, a lesser known bowl against a 7-5 Texas Tech team would do little to heighten the average LSU fan’s pulse, however, given the recent drama surrounding Les Miles and this program, a convincing win is desperately needed in order to reassure fans that this program is heading in a positive direction.
Just a few weeks ago, there was a significant portion of both the LSU fanbase and leadership that wanted Les Miles run out of town. Citing a consistent four year decline, this group was willing to pay $15 million dollars just to have someone new at the helm in Baton Rouge. Yet, through a series of strategic missteps from the administration and deft handling of the situation by Coach Miles, the Mad Hatter was able to pull off his greatest escape yet as Athletic Director Joe Alleva announced that Les Miles will continue to be the coach of the Tigers following their season-ending victory over Texas A&M.
On the heels of this well publicized spectacle, LSU watched its number one recruiting class take a hit as multiple recruits decided to decommit from Baton Rouge. A win in today’s game will go a long way towards reassuring recruits that this program is on stable ground moving forward.
If LSU does indeed go on to defeat Kliff Kingsbury’s Red Raiders, it would give the Tigers a bowl win and a 9-3 record. This is sneakily impressive for Coach Miles and company because if you factor in the fact that the McNeese game was cancelled, you can make the argument that this was essentially a 10 win season, which is impressive considering the 2015 Tigers featured just 5 senior starters.
As positive as a win would be, however, a loss would be equally as devastating. If the Tigers fall to Texas Tech they will feature an overall record of 8-4 (on the heels of an 8-5 season) and will have lost four of their last five bowl games. This is hardly indicative of a team trending in the right direction. The splintering of the fanbase would be intensified as everyone who was in the “fire Miles” camp will shout from the rooftop that they were correct and that Les is not the correct man to lead this program. We have already seen the impact that a coach’s job security, or lack thereof, can have on the recruiting trail, and a loss in the Advocate V100 bowl game would re-ignite both a national and local conversation over whether or not Coach Miles is the long term answer for the Tigers.
LSU’s future is currently balancing on a knife’s edge. A win in today’s game could propel this team into a very bright future. Let's not forget that next year’s team returns a vast majority of their starters and, in my opinion, has the potential to contend for championships.
Sometimes, a big bowl win can erase the negativity of a disappointing year and provide momentum and confidence moving into the following season. In the same vein, a loss can demoralize a team. The cloud of negativity that will follow this team if they do fall to 7-5 Texas Tech could have dire consequences. Maybe it leads to more draft eligible players deciding to leave. Maybe it leads to re-newed calls for Coach Miles head. No matter what happens it has become increasingly clear to me that Tuesday's Advocate V100 Texas Bowl is not just another randomly named, mildly interesting mid-tier bowl, rather it is a game that has the potential to directly influence the future of the football program at LSU.
What an insane weekend for LSU football. While it started with most people around the state believing Les Miles’ was coaching his final game as the head coach of the Tigers, Athletic Director Joe Alleva firmly stated that Les Miles will remain the LSU coach for the foreseeable future. In an insane turn of events Coach Miles pulled his greatest escape yet as his assured demise was put to a stop due to a multitude of factors; not the least of which was the Tigers getting a big win. Later in the week I will explore how all the drama went down, but for now why don’t we take a look at how exactly the team managed to beat A&M. So sit back, relax, and enjoy some freshly baked Hot Takes.
The LSU Defense was spectacular
I need to eat a bit of crow here. I have been extremely critical of both Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele and this LSU defense throughout this season. Coming into the A&M game the Tigers had allowed at least 20 points in each of their games. Time and time again I have said that Steele has been a disappointing hire. On this night, however, it was Steele and the defense that carried the day. From the opening whistle this D seemed as if they were on a mission to prove guys like me wrong. Let me be the first to say, well done. Time and time again it looked as if the struggles of the offense were going to eventually cause this D to wear down, and A&M would take advantage. Instead, the Tigers held strong and were able to hold an offense that was averaging over 30 points per game to just seven. An offense that was averaging over 400 yards of total offense managed just 250 on this night. I still contend that there are issues with this defense, but on this night the the defense was simply spectacular.
The LSU Special Teams were much improved… sort of
LSU special teams were by no means perfect against the Aggies, however there was much more good than bad. Time and time again this season I have written about the Tigers’ inability to cover kicks, but in this game they were dominant. LSU forced one fumble (arguably two) and repeatedly stopped A&M before they reached the 20 yard line. This was the success we expected this unit to have all season, and through said success LSU was able to set their defense up in advantageous positions throughout the night. The Tigers return teams were stellar as well with Derrius Guice busting out one of the most impressive runs I have ever seen in a tackle football game. I recognize that Trent Domingue struggled and missing three FGs is abysmal, HOWEVER that is more of an individual problem than a team one. The TEAMS part of the special teams were much improved, and it had to be a validating note for embattled Coach Bradley Dale Peveto and his players to end the regular season on.
Brandon Harris Regressed
I don’t know what the issue with Brandon Harris has been the last couple of games, but he has struggled. During the beginning of the year it appeared as if Harris was improving every week, and I was legitimately excited about his future as the long term LSU quarterback; but much like the team as a whole, November has not been kind to Harris. He has made a plethora of errors the last few games. The most disappointing part of Harris’ against the Aggies game was his inaccuracy, which is also the most perplexing part of his struggles. Number six was missing on throws that he had no problem completing earlier in the year, and there is no obvious reason why. I still believe that Harris can be a quarterback that LSU can rally behind, but in order to do so he is going to have to weather a storm of criticism and bad press that will permeate throughout this entire offseason.
What an absolutely insane day. A bit later in the week I will write a piece as to how the Miles situation developed, but for now my advice to LSU fans would be to enjoy the win. LSU improved from last year’s 4-4 SEC record to 5-3 and more importantly ended the season on a high note. The number one recruiting class in the nation now has a good chance of remaining committed to LSU, and this is a team that will only lose 5 starters to graduation. It feels as if the clouds have parted, and out of all the doom and gloom a ray of hope has emerged. Maybe with a bit of distance we will see that these last three weeks had people acting out of emotion, not logic. Then again, maybe the test of time will reveal that Les Miles is no longer the long term answer at LSU. For now though, I would tell Tiger fans to just relax and enjoy the win! There will be PLENTY of time to debate, discuss, and pontificate on the correctness of Saturday’s timeline. Trust me when I say that we will do so. On a personal note, I am happy that the school didn’t compromise itself by paying someone 15 million dollars not to work, while the academic side struggles financially. My hope is that an unintended side effect of this entire ordeal could be a renewed effort to help set LSU’s academic finances back on the right path. Perhaps it will, perhaps it won’t. Only time will tell, and it appears as if Les Miles has all the time in the world.
Sometimes what we want most in life we just cannot have. With reports swirling that jobs were on the line this week, Coach Les Miles and the LSU football team desperately needed a win Saturday, yet when the final scores were tallied the Tigers ended up with their 3rd loss in a row for the first time since 1999.
The Ole Miss Rebel Black Bears avenged last year’s field rushing upset by thoroughly trouncing their hated rivals 38-17. With the loss, LSU’s transformation from punishing contender to hapless pretender has been completed. The last three weeks have seen the Tigers lose to their three most hated rivals by a combined score of 99-47. How in the world did it all go so wrong?
The Team is in Shambles
When discussing a blowout loss such as the one witnessed in Vaught-Hemingway stadium yesterday there is no one area of the game that you can point to and hold responsible for the struggles of the team. In fact, it is almost impressive how the Tigers have managed to have nearly every position group make just enough mistakes to claim their stake in the responsibility of the loss. LSU was inferior in all three phases of the game; offense, defense, and special teams.
For the second week in a row the Tigers found themselves in a massive deficit halfway through the second quarter as Ole Miss rushed out to a 24-0 lead. The manner in which LSU started this game was embarrassing. On the offense’s first drive it seemed as if the purple and gold received more penalties than they ran plays. Holding, false start, delay of game… nothing was off limits as the Tigers struggled to get out of their own way in their first couple of drives. As for the defense, this looks like a group that has had their confidence utterly crushed. The school formerly known as DBU watched in horror as the Rebels seemingly scored at will led by a dominant performance from QB Chad Kelly.
Remember, the outcome of these games are a two sided affair and Kelly’s 280 yards passing, 81 yards rushing, and 4 total touchdowns were some of the main reasons Ole Miss was able to keep the Tigers at arm’s length the entire afternoon. LSU’s own quarterback recorded his first ever 300 yard passing game, but it did not translate to points as the Tigers continue to suffer through an identity crisis. The last two games Brandon Harris has thrown the ball 35 and 51times respectively. This 86 throw sum nearly matches the whole of the first five games of the season combined in which Harris threw the ball a total of 89 times.
I do not think that Harris is a bad quarterback, in fact, I look forward to his continued improvement into next season, however LSU is not a team that can win through the air. Going into the Alabama game one of the main keys I had laid out for the Tigers to find offensive success was remaining true to who you are - the problem now is that I don’t think this team knows who they are anymore. What happens to a head coach that loses his team?
What Should Happen to Coach Miles
Let us address the giant elephant in the room. Going into this weekend's game the storyline that Les Miles was coaching for his job in these final two games grew to black hole proportions. In fact, despite my best effort, fans had no desire to discuss the matchup itself against Ole Miss, rather they wished to debate whether Coach Miles is or is not the long term answer at LSU moving forward. So, which is it? Should the Mad Hatter be pushed towards greener pastures or should he get another shot to bounce back next season? Allow me to give you my OPINION.
I believe that Les Miles should remain the head coach of LSU heading into to 2016-17 season. This isn’t to say, however, that the calls for change don’t have legitimacy. Quite the opposite in fact. It is now abundantly clear that LSU is in a conference tailspin following the heights of the 2011 season. With the result of the Ole Miss game the Tigers are now 13-10 in the last three seasons of SEC play. Combine this with the facts that you have lost to Alabama 5 times in a row for the first time since the early 80s, you got dismantled by Arkansas in back to back years, and you have just dropped three consecutive games for the first time since Y2K was considered a reasonable threat (1999) and you have fertile ground in which to plant the seeds of change.
Perhaps the most damning part of all is the performance that the Purple and Gold put on display in Oxford Saturday. With their backs against the wall and their head coach pushed into the corner the Tigers looked wholly unprepared and put together one of the sloppiest performances of recent memory. Even beyond the 13 penalties that the Tigers committed, the play that summed up the story of the game was when LSU comes back from a timeout only to fumble the ball because Leonard Fournette and Brandon Harris weren’t on the same page. With this in mind how could I possibly say that Miles deserves to remain at the helm? The price tag for such a change is just too damn expensive.
Anytime you make a major coaching change there is a large measure of inherent risk. Perhaps you hire a coach that will have more success than Miles has had or perhaps you hire someone who will fall short of that goal. I believe that when you look at it statistically from a probability standpoint, the chances of finding a lesser coach are greater than that of finding a better one. Coach Miles has been an elite coach during his time at LSU and to assume that anyone could come in and match his historically solid success levels is more unlikely than not in my opinion.
However, this alone is not reason enough to retain Coach Miles services. At a certain point the risk of searching for a new coach is outweighed by the need for change. No, the biggest hurdle I have to calling for Les Miles’ job is the 15 million dollar buyout that LSU would be on the hook for if he is terminated before January 1st. While I recognize that the number would be lessened if he accepts another job I still don’t believe the price tag to be justifiable.
LSU’s budget struggles are well documented. The flagship school of Louisiana almost had to declare academic bankruptcy earlier this summer. What then does it say about an alumni base that would be willing to raise 15 million dollars to pay someone NOT to work, yet struggles to raise those same funds for the main focus of the school, education. After all, these are STUDENT-athletes right? The education is supposed to come first and football second. With that mantra in mind how could we possibly justify this cost?
I am not going to tell people how to spend their money, however, given the platform that I currently have I cannot in good conscious declare that it is worth it to pay an employee 15 million dollars NOT to work when that money could be spent in vastly more meaningful and impactful ways. If the two parties eventually do decide to split ways I believe it would be embarrassing on a national level to have our priorities so blatantly exposed. Athletic Director Joe Alleva and his advisers created this contract, now they should have to confront the safeguards that they themselves put into place.
In my OPINION with the aforementioned inherent risk of a coaching change coming at such a high price both monetarily and morally I cannot support a coaching change. While the team may not reach the championship levels that fans always aspire to next season, there can be no doubt that the Tigers will still be good. Tough times don’t last - tough people do. LSU football will be fine. I know that the last three weeks have injected rocket fuel in to our desire for change, but I hope that we don’t lose sight of our objectivity in our passion to “fix things.”
A decision this large should be made with a level head, and the emotions that I am witnessing pour out of the Tiger fanbase are anything but. So, while I recognize all the multiple valid reasons why Les Miles should no longer remain the LSU head coach, in my opinion the price just remains too damn high.
LSU football has been at the forefront of New Orleans sports consciousness this week as reports emerged that Head Coach Les Miles will be coaching for his job in these final two games of the season. This conversation evolved into a swirling maelstrom of debate, as throughout the week all anyone could talk about is whether or not Coach Miles should remain the coach at LSU. The discussion got so large that the game itself against Ole Miss seemed to get lost in the shuffle.
The irony of all of this lies in the fact that the Ole Miss game is all we should be talking about, seeing as how the result of this matchup will have a major impact on what will happen with Coach Miles moving forward. So, while we acknowledge the fact that Coach Miles is in the corner going into these final two weeks we must also acknowledge that this LSU team can erase any doubts surround Miles’ future with a solid performances. Now, what will be the keys if the Tigers are going to accomplish this feat?
Can Kevin Steele Restore the Fanbase’s Confidence in this Defense?
For all the talk of Les Miles’ job security swirling around this week I believe Kevin Steele’s current situation is much more intriguing. The hiring of Steele this summer was met with a lukewarm reaction from the Tiger fanbase. Steele’s recruiting pedigree is impressive but his defensive coordinator resume leaves a bit to be desired. The hope going into the year was that this Tiger defense would be the most talented squad Steele had helmed meaning that he would produce his best results.
Unfortunately, the season has slowly but surely seen that hope erode as the defense continues to struggle in multiple facets. Perhaps none worse than the Tigers penchant for allowing big plays. Currently LSU has given up 80 pass plays of 10 yards or more in their first 9 games. In order to provide you with some perspective, the Tigers allowed 80 all of last season and therein lies the most damning case against Kevin Steele - in comparisons to last year’s John Chavis led defense.
Despite having similar (arguably better) talent than last year’s defense, the results have been vastly different. LSU was the SEC’s top D statistically whereas this year’s squad is 6th. The struggles in and of themselves aren’t the most frustrating part of the equation, rather it is the manner in which they have struggled. The Tigers problem doesn’t appear to be talent related. They aren’t getting beat one on one, rather they have been plagued by a plethora of mental mistakes which have resulted in the aforementioned big play struggles. Kevin Steele is in no danger of losing his job as he is still a successful recruiter and is only in the first year of his contract, however he could benefit greatly from a couple positive late season showings to provide the fanbase with some confidence moving forward.
The Offense Needs to Re-Discover Their Confidence
The last couple of weeks have been devastating for this Tiger offense. LSU has scored a total of 30 points and rushed for just 122 yards in their last two games combined. This fact is made all the more disappointing by the fact that the offense was on the steady incline throughout the first 7 games of the year. Going into the Bama game LSU was 2nd in the SEC in scoring offense and was averaging 300 yards rushing per game. Following the Tigers consecutive losses the Purple and Gold rank 4th in the SEC in scoring and average 253 yards rushing per contest.
While scouring the internet for the cause of LSU’s recent offensive struggles I believe I stumbled upon an answer thanks to Marcus Rodrigue of The Advocate. Rodrigue went diving into some numbers and figured out that the Tiger O has been wholly ineffectual on first and second down these last two weeks. 12 of the Tigers 25 third downs the past two games have been ten yards or longer. In total, the Tigers have averaged 3rd and 9.7. When I read this my jaw hit the floor. That is a recipe for disaster as far as any offense is concerned and the numbers bear it out.
The Tigers have converted just 36% of their third down attempts these last two weeks and the struggles to stay on the field and move the chains is affecting the team as a whole. It is demoralizing as a defense when you manage to do your job and force the offense off of the field only to be thrust back into the action a couple minutes later when your own offense goes three and out. LSU needs to do everything in their power to start gaining some traction on first down even if it means avoiding taking big shots. Just get yards and the rest will folllow. When LSU is at 3rd and 5 or shorter they are converting on 75% of 3rd downs.
If the Tigers can accomplish this then I believe you will see the offense as a whole begin to rediscover their confidence and its at this point that they will once again resemble the offense that torched the very talented Florida defense.
What a difference two weeks can make. Back at the beginning of November the South Louisiana sports scene was bursting with potential. A veritable Renaissance was taking place as sports fans believed their teams to have turned the corner and were once again going to be relevant in national conversations. The Pelicans were only 0-4, the Saints had won three games in a row and were poised to go above .500 by vaulting over the Titans, and the LSU Tigers were the nation’s 2nd best college football team. It was a time that seems wholly unrecognizable when you look at recent events.
Between the Pelicans continuing to be plagued by injuries and losses, the Saints losing back to back games in embarrassing fashion, and the Tigers looking hapless en route to losing to their two main rivals the South Louisiana sports scene now resembles that of the French Revolution rather than the Renaissance.
There was a period during the French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror in which almost 17000 people were executed by guillotine alone. The French people wanted change and in their haste to make it so, much unneccesary blood was spilt along the way. I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t in danger of falling into the same trap.
Rob Ryan’s was but the first head to roll. Normally when a coach is fired the fanbase feels as if change has taken place and their concerns have been addressed. What makes this situation unique is the fact that instead of satiating the mass’ appetite for action it merely spawned more questions about who else is responsible and who should be sent to the guillotine next.
This week’s shows have consisted of constant debate over whether or not it is time to move on from Les Miles, Sean Payton, and Alvin Gentry. I believe these conversations to have merit but I do think we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves when we start discussing the situation in certain terms because the sports scene in this town right now is anything but certain. The story of these team’s seasons are not yet written and there is still so much that could happen.
LSU could win out, the Saints defense could improve, and the Pelicans could get healthy and actually win some games. This isn’t to say that these seats aren’t warming, because they are, however I would just also like to bring to light the fact that if these teams buckle down and finish strong we will all look pretty foolish with some of the statements we have been making.
Now, let me be clear that I am not criticizing anyone involved in these discussions because I believe them to be valid. In fact, I believe all the outrage is a compliment to the passion of this region. We are a town that has become accustomed to winning and will accept nothing less, but I don’t want us to lose our objectivity in our fervent desire for change. The Pelicans are too injured to really hold anyone’s feet to the fire, the Tigers still have the potential to have a very successful season, and if the Saints’ defense improves there are plenty of bright spots going forward on this team.
In closing, I think we should continue to embrace our passion, refuse to lower out expectations, but let us also give each group a fair shot to finish strong.
What a difference two weeks can make. Back at the beginning of November, the South Louisiana sports scene was bursting with potential. A veritable Renaissance was taking place as sports fans believed their teams to have turned the corner and were once again going to be relevant in national conversations. The Pelicans were only 0-4, the Saints had won three games in a row and were poised to go above .500 by vaulting over the Titans, and the LSU Tigers were the nation’s 2nd best college football team.
It was a time that seems wholly unrecognizable now. The Pelicans continue to be plagued by injuries and losses, the Saints lost back to back games in embarrassing fashion, and the Tigers looked hapless en route to losing to their two main rivals. The South Louisiana sports scene now resembles that of the French Revolution rather than the Renaissance.
There was a period during the French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror in which almost 17,000 people were executed by guillotine alone. The French people wanted change and in their haste to make it so, much unneccesary blood was spilt along the way. I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t in danger of falling into the same trap.
Rob Ryan’s was but the first head to roll. Normally when a coach is fired, the fanbase feels as if change has taken place and their concerns have been addressed. What makes this situation unique is the fact that instead of satiating the masses’ appetite for action, it merely spawned more questions about who else is responsible and who should be sent to the guillotine next.
This week’s shows have consisted of constant debate over whether or not it is time to move on from Les Miles, Sean Payton, and Alvin Gentry. I believe these conversations do have merit but I do think we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves when we start discussing the situation in certain terms because the sports scene in this town right now is anything but certain. The story of these team’s seasons are not yet written and there is still so much that could happen. LSU could win out, the Saints defense could improve, and the Pelicans could get healthy and actually win some games. This isn’t to say that these seats aren’t warming, because they are, however I would just also like to bring to light the fact that if these teams buckle down and finish strong we will all look pretty foolish with some of the statements we have been making.
Now, let me be clear that I am not criticizing anyone involved in these discussions because I believe them to be valid. In fact, I believe all the outrage is a compliment to the passion of this region. We are a town that has become accustomed to winning and will accept nothing less, but I don’t want us to lose our objectivity in our fervent desire for change. The Pelicans are too injured to really hold anyone’s feet to the fire, the Tigers still have the potential to have a very successful season, and if the Saints’ defense improves there are plenty of bright spots going forward on this team. In closing, I think we should continue to embrace our passion, refuse to lower our expectations, but let us also give each group a fair shot to finish strong.