One coach's opinion

Saturday night in Louisiana was a tough thing to watch. The Wildcats went in as underdogs and did themselves no favors by giving LSU every early advantage. Now they have to recover from the blowout loss and try to turn things around. I have my own opinions about what has to happen, but I also spoke with an expert about what he would do.

I had the privilege of speaking with former Wildcat coach Larry Smith and got his opinions on what comes next. He and I agree that this is a setback, but by no means a killer loss for the Wildcats. He feels that the season still has 10 games and this was one that no one really expected to win.

He actually came away from the game more positive than I did. Having coached in Baton Rouge three times he said that after spotting them 17 points in the first quarter, there was no way Arizona was going to be competitive.

He felt the defense did okay, considering LSU played most of the game with a short field. He is concerned about the offense, most notably the offensive line. He was quick to point out that he does not feel that play calling was the problem, execution is. He stated that Willie Tuitama is "going to be a great player" but that he is "essentially a freshman". He was also quick to point out that at one point in the game there were seven freshmen, sophomores of first year players on the offense.

One place we differed is in how much better LSU is than Arizona from a talent standpoint. We agree that LSU is a potential national title team but he said it was the level of execution, not talent that made the difference. I must admit that although Arizona has closed the gap since 2003 with LSU, there is still a huge difference in talent between the two clubs.

He said that the only thing he would do with the game film is watch it to identify the players who competed throughout the game. In Coach Smith's opinion he would bench those who did not show fight and promote those who did. After that he did not feel that the game film would be of much use.

His style is to work the players hard in practice this week. Not to punish them but to make sure a game like the one Saturday night does not occur again.

I mentioned that I would make the Stephen F. Austin game essentially an open tryout and he agreed. He said it could be time to let some new players play and see what they could do.

What he felt was most important was simplifying the offense. He said he would find five running plays and 10 passing plays and work them over and over until they were second nature. He felt one of the reasons Tuitama was so successful a year ago is that he had an abbreviated playbook and played as much on instinct as anything else.

In Coach Smith's opinion, the Cats should take the more basic game plan and attempt to run it to perfection against Stephen F. Austin and get confident with those plays and strategies. After that more things can be implemented.

In terms of the offensive line, Coach Smith told me he thinks the group has a lot of talent. He said watching them in the spring and fall he thinks there could be as many as four future pros out there. He said they need to get better chemistry and if they continue to struggle maybe they need to alter some of the blocking assignments.

Overall, Coach Smith is fairly optimistic about the team and thinks they can still have a good season but they have to fix the offense in a hurry. He feels that getting an effective running game is vital to doing this and it will benefit the passing game as well.

In another story I'll discuss what I think needs to happen.

Wildcat Authority Top Stories