Nov 4, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron walks back to the sidelines after a time out against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium

USA Today Sports

LSU fans approach the Spring Game with skepticism, worry

Is this program headed in the right direction?

Seth Dunlap
April 20, 2018 - 8:34 pm
Categories: 

Ask LSU fans what they’re excited about.  Most will stop and talk about Will Wade, Naz Reid, Emmitt Williams, and the Tigers’ basketball program.  Many will talk about Paul Mainieri's young LSU baseball team.  D-D Breaux and LSU Gymnastics may get some love.  

Nary a peep about LSU football.  That's not supposed to be how it works in Baton Rouge.

That’s not to disparage the great things that Wade is doing.   There is genuine optimism around LSU hoops, with four top-50 recruits among the incoming freshman class, tied for most in the country.   The quick resurrection of a once dormant program has everybody around campus talking basketball right now – in the offseason, after yet another season without an NCAA tournament bid.

Breaux and Maineri are doing similarly fabulous jobs with their programs.

However, the LSU athletics deparment isn't judged on the success of the gymastics program, or NCAA basketball tournament appearances.  As goes LSU football so goes the perception of the entire department.  That's how it works here, in Louisiana, in the heart of football-crazed SEC country. 

LSU Football is an institution not only here, but around the country.  No program has churned out more NFL recruits the past decade than LSU.  No program in the country outside of Alabama or Ohio State is more profitable.  If you live and breathe Purple & Gold you are supposed to live and breathe LSU football.  

As we approach Saturday’s Spring Game there is more worry and skepticism around the program than there is actual excitement and hope.  

Mike Scarborough, publisher at TigerBait.com, echoed those sentiments when he joined me on “Double Coverage” last night.  Scarborough told us that he’s seeing troubling signs from the fan base.

“I’d like to think I have a pretty good pulse on what the fan base is thinking,” he said.  “I’ve never seen an offseason where you have an LSU fan base that just doesn’t believe that LSU is going to be anything close to what LSU is used to being.  Most fans think the gap between LSU and Alabama is the widest it’s ever been.  Last week ESPN put out their little formula where they predicted LSU to have 6.5 wins, or whatever the number was.  You’ve got the tour stops this spring where they only have three stops, where you usually have five or six.  TAF donations being down.  A slew (Tiger Bait) subscribers who are season ticket holders didn’t send in their checks.”

I’ve talked to Mike a lot over the past year, and the dejected tone in his voice was noticeable to me.  I asked him about it.

“I said it three years ago . . . you kind of saw there was going to be some personnel issues going into the 2016-17 seasons, post Derrius Guice.  I mean it was all laid out.  When they didn’t get (Cam) Akers.  They didn’t get (Travis) Etienne from Jennings who went to Clemson, you could see how it was all going to play out.”

Scarborough’s recruiting frustrations are certainly shared by many LSU fans.  The program is going through one of the biggest recruiting dry spells of the past decade.

“I kind of mapped out some doomsday scenarios, and I try not to be that way,” he explained. “But a lot of the scenarios the way I mapped them out came true.  So, it’s like, one man’s 8-4 can look different than another man’s 8-4.  Just because of the outlook of the program, people believing in what’s being built.  I mean look at basketball, look at Will Wade, ok. Certainly they exceeded expectations.  But let’s say they would have finished the way everybody predicted, in the cellar of the SEC this season.  People would have still been excited because they would have seen all of those great basketball recruits they had committed in the early signing period.  They could see what’s being built.”

That’s the difference right now.  Tiger faithful believe in Will Wade, and what he’s building with the basketball program.  You can’t find many people who think the same thing about Coach Ed Orgeron and LSU Football.

Can that change?  Absolutely.  Orgeron’s one full year at the helm of this ship is way too soon to be judging the final destination.   

Saturday night at Tiger Stadium is another big moment in the Orgeron Era, but it won’t define it.  Those judgements will be made after the season opener against Miami.  After Nick Saban and Alabama come to Tiger Stadium in November.  After fans get a look at what Bowl game the Tigers have earned a spot in.  Certainly, after they see what LSU’s recruiting class looks like during a historic year for players coming out of the state of Louisiana. 

Yes, those ultimate judgements should wait, but there’s a chance that the pessimism currently engulfing the program could capsize this ship mid voyage.   That’s what Scarborough, and so many others, are worried about. 

Listen to Scarborough’s full interview on “Double Coverage” in the podcast below.

Mike Scarborough talks LSU football with Seth Dunlap

Mike Scarborough, publisher at TigerBait.com, talks about the skepticism surrounding the LSU Football program as the Spring Game approaches

Comments ()