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Hobbs Column: ESPN gets inside scoop from LSU

Last Modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:22 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Surely just to remind you that football is never far from anyone’s lips in these parts, exactly three days after basketball’s Final Four, on the day the Masters began and on the eve of LSU’s most important baseball series of the season, on Thursday ESPN rolled the heavy artillery into the Tigers’ football operations building.

The familiar GameDay props were dispatched to the scene, with the big brass, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler, emerging from the flashy RV looking a bit like MacArthur returning to the Philippines, if MacArthur had learned to peel and eat crawfish upon his arrival.

Yes, surely that can mean only one thing — that football is in the air, that opening kickoff against TCU is now just a mere 142 days away.

It’s never too early to start fretting about it.

Someone wasn’t amused.

The ESPN celebs were greeted by much thunder and lightning, a biblical thunderstorm that forced their array of technicians and gizmos into the LSU indoor practice facility for a nice, daylong recruiting promo for the Tigers.

The weather was probably Nick Saban’s doing, as the University of Alabama hosted the same merry caravan earlier in the week and the next stop on this fact-finding mission will be at Texas A&M, where Johnny “Football” Manziel himself has reportedly agreed to make a rare on-campus appearance.

But the Worldwide Leader attacked the LSU offseason questions with a vengeance, most of it centered around the startling revelation that ESPN has lots and lots of hours to fill.

But the day on campus was not wasted. ESPN has learned that the Tigers will be missing 13 juniors who opted for the NFL draft.

Actually, I guess we already knew that.

But this was a rare opportunity, with ammo and firepower not available to the usual media, to finally get behind those closed doors, the ones LSU guard so secretly on the off chance somebody might learn who’s in the lead to be the backup deep snapper.

What secrets are they hiding now?

Well, Chris and Kirk emerged from their all-access fact-finding almost ashen-faced with the reports that LSU is hardly huddling, if at all, during these spring drills, and that the Tigers have a new offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron.

Under further cross-examination, head coach Les Miles admitted that the Tigers are now throwing the ball — direct quote —  “routinely.”

It could revolutionize football.

That wasn’t all.

We also found out, for instance, that quarterback Zach Mettenberger has a beard again, which probably means something, although the GameDay crew was unable to put their finger on exactly what it might be.

Under further interrogation, Miles was given the opportunity to bask in the afterglow of sending those 13 juniors on to the next level, turning a short-term negative into a long-time positive by noting that his staff recruits those kind of prodigies ready for early NFL duty, probably routinely.

It was also a convenient opportunity for Miles, just in case any interested recruits might be eavesdropping, to remind them all, citing examples, that freshmen are always welcome in his starting lineup, probably routinely.

The ESPN gang snooped around all day and came to the conclusion that, despite the heavy losses, particularly on defense, that LSU still has plenty of talent on hand and it might surprise people by simply reloading, probably routinely.

Herbstreit cited several examples of this happening in the past, pointing out that Keke Mingo and Eric Reid at some point were youngsters who had to replace NFL-bound veterans.

There’s a good chance it might happen again, he concluded, perhaps routinely.

But maybe the highlight came when Herbstreit, having uncovered glaring discrepancies in the SEC schedule, asked Miles point-blank: “Who did you anger in the SEC office?”

When Miles smiled and jutted out that famous jaw, you knew he was going to take the high road, no matter how much it eats at him inside.

No problem, he said, that Alabama gets Tennessee and Kentucky as its East Division teams while Miles gets Florida and Georgia.

Miles bowed up like it was an honor to be chosen for such a challenging mission.

“We’d like to think there’s only one team in the country that could go through that,” Miles said.

Good answer.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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