Last Modified: Saturday, August 24, 2013 8:01 PM
OK, gather around here. But let’s keep this orderly. No pushing and shoving. We’ll try to get to everybody.
LSU’s football season starts in less than a week and I know you have a lot of questions. Please raise your hands and remain calm.
Question: Why isn’t LSU in the top 10 of the most of the preseason polls?
Answer: Because most of last year’s starters, especially on defense, are now battling for spots in the NFL.
Q: Can they replace them?
A: Of course they can.
Q: Don’t the pollsters know that?
A: The poll voters only know to pick Alabama No. 1 in preseason and then start guessing the rest. I’ve been there. It’s hardly an exact science.
Q: It’s a lot of new faces, right?
A: Most of the new starters have played a lot at LSU. John Chavis, the defensive coordinator, uses a lot of players. Most of these “newcomers” would have started at a lot of places in the SEC last year. But with the kind of talent the Tigers stockpile, sometimes you have to wait your turn. Lack of returning starters — the key element, it seems, in preseason rankings — does not necessarily mean inexperience.
Q: Is that’s a lot of players to lose to the NFL?
A: Look, LSU’s talent is fine. The Tigers aren’t lacking for players, OK? Sometimes a little youth can be a good thing. The season will come down to the same thing it always does with talent being a given: what kind of leadership emerges and what kind of team chemistry develops.
Q: What does Les Miles say?
A: He says he likes this team, likes where it’s at.
Q: What did you expect him to say?
A: That he likes this team, likes where it’s at.
Q: What’s the biggest area of concern?
A: Probably defensive line. Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson give LSU as good a pair of tackles as anybody — and neither was technically a starter last year — but Chavis really likes to keep fresh bodies there and some others have got to step up. Defensive end is a little dicier. Jamauria Rasco has shown flashes, but has to do it play in and play out. Danielle Hunter, on the other side, has Barkevious Mingo-type athleticism, but has to prove he can bring it to the field.
Q: And the defensive strength?
A: Linebackers. All of a sudden the place is swarming with them. Lamin Barrow will be this year’s Kevin Minter, the tackling machine, but there’s seven or eight more who will demand playing time depending on the situation. Everybody assumed that Barrow would move from outside linebacker into the middle, but apparently D.J. Welter and Lamar Louis are doing fine there. The defensive strength has definitely shifted from the line to the linebackers.
Q: The secondary?
A: They don’t call it DBU — Defensive Back U. — for nothing. They’ll be fine there.
Q: But most of the buzz is about the new offense, right?
A: Yes. That’s just the way fans are.
Q: Is Miles going to stay out of Cam Cameron’s hair and let him run the offense?
Q: But isn’t he always meddling and …?
A: That’s an old wive’s tale. He’s the head coach. He has a say in the offense, yes. And every head coach has veto power. But watch him on the sidelines sometimes. It doesn’t look like he’s always butting in or putting his coordinators in a Greco Roman headlock.
Q: So what’s the biggest difference we’ll see in Cam Cameron’s offensive genius?
A: Probably not much to the naked eye.
Q: But they ought to throw it more, right?
A: Miles has always said he wanted to throw it more — and he has when he’s had the proper tools.
Q: But Zach Mettenberger has the arm, right?
A: He did over the final third of the season, really from the Alabama game on until he had a relapse in the unexplainable Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Clemson.
Q: But what will Cameron’s input be?
A: Hopefully they’ll spread the field a little more. It’s hard to get much of a passing game going when you’re only sending two receivers into a pattern. A lot of that last year was due to the patched-up offensive line and a stationary quarterback. They didn’t trust Mettenberger to get rid of the ball. This has a chance to be a really good offensive line.
Q: Biggest key there?
A: Probably redshirt freshman Jerald Hawkins grabbing the right tackle spot. It allowed them to move big Vadal Alexander to the left guard spot where he won’t be lunging at defensive ends all game.
Q: What about Jeremy Hill, back from suspension?
A: I’ll be shocked if he plays against TCU this week.
Q: Will they need him?
A: At some point in the season they will. But Alfred Blue was having a monster season last year before he was hurt.
Q: Where will the biggest improvement be?
A: Wide receivers. They were talented but inconsistent last year.
Q: What will be the biggest surprise on offense?
A: Probably how much this true freshman, Anthony Jennings, plays as a dual-threat quarterback.
Q: Isn’t using two quarterbacks a bad thing?
A: Not if using Jennings on occasion replaces the Tigers’ comical attempts at a Wildcat offense.
Q: What else does Cameron need to junk?
A: That jumbo package for short yardage, the one where all five offensive linemen are bunched up in a line about 6 feet across.
Q: So can LSU win the SEC West?
A: Sure it can.
Q: What do they have to do?
A: Just beat Alabama. I didn’t say it was going to be easy.
Q: So that’s the key game again?
A: No, the key game will be the last Saturday in September at Georgia. Sneak out of Athens with a win there, and LSU is right back in the national championship discussion.
Q: So you think it can be a special season?
A: I wouldn’t put it past them.
• • •
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at email@example.com