LSU staff adjusts to coach's illness

Steve Kragthorpe's diagnosis with Parkinson's disease prompts Les Miles to change the offensive staff and shift Greg Studrawa to the role of acting coordinator and play caller. Kragthorpe will stay on the staff as the quarterbacks coach.

LSU opened work for the 2011 football season with surprising news Thursday when coach Les Miles announced that there would be a major staff change because first-year assistant Steve Kragthorpe has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Kragthorpe was hired in January as the Tigers' new offensive coordinator and worked in that role throughout the spring. But three weeks ago, he went to Miles to tell him about the diagnosis.

In response to Kragthorpe's condition, Miles has elevated offensive line coach Greg Studrawa to a role as acting coordinator and play-caller. The 46-year-old Kragthorpe will remain on LSU's staff to work with quarterbacks and will still be involved in offensive game-planning.

"Certainly we're concerned for the diagnosis," Miles said. "It's certainly much more pertinent to Steve and his family. He's hopeful, and we are as well, that he'll have to coach for a number of years and be at LSU and continue the things he's gotten started here."

"With the desire and want to make sure there's uninterrupted leadership irrespective of what could be temporary lapses of health, we've had to appoint Studrawa as the play caller and acting coordinator. This would be a battlefield promotion, one that certainly gives us reason that we would feel that we'd not miss a beat and continue on."

According to www.azilect.com, "Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive disorder of the brain and central nervous system that causes a variety of movement problems such as shaking, muscle stiffness, and difficulty walking."

Kragthorpe, a former head coach at Tulsa and Louisville, spoke briefly after Miles broke the news.

"First of all I want to thank Coach Miles for letting me come here initially and I want to thank him for the opportunity to stay here," Kragthorpe said. "This is obviously a little bit of a blow to myself, but by the same token, we're a family of great faith and we know that we're going to be exactly where God wants us to be and that's at LSU.

"I hope for the next 8-10, 12 or 14 years I can be here at LSU coaching the quarterbacks. It's a place I love. I love this team, I love this staff, I love working for Les."

This isn't the first health issue Kragthorpe has had to grapple with since he was fired from Louisville following the 2009 season.

His wife, Cynthia, has fought an ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis and a heart problem stemming from MS. That prompted Kragthorpe to walk away from a job at Texas A&M last season.

Now he'll deal with his own health battle.

The immediate course of action won't affect Kragthorpe, and he was on the field Thursday for LSU's initial practice session of the season.

"As it was described to me, there's a short-term medicine issue and once they reach a plateau and a threshold, he's going to receive some really strong health [benefits] and for an extended period of time," Miles said.

Added Kragthorpe, "From a day-to-day standpoint, it's more of a nuisance for me than anything else. I felt like at this point and time it would be best for me to take a role where I can coach the quarterback every day and get him ready to play."

None of that will change, Miles said.

Kragthorpe has been credited for having an immediate impact on senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson, the Tigers' third-year starter under center.

"First, Kragthorpe is going to be in every huddle, in every play call and in the press box and will assist fully in the game plan," Miles said. "The passing game will be called with his and (receivers coach and passing game coordinator Bill Gonzales') thumb right on it and Studrawa will understand how to get that done.

"The enjoyment for me is I have a very talented coach in Kragthorpe. He'll mentor and grow those QBs as well as it can be done and then I have a veteran staff that understands pulling together and making it work. I've watched how they've operated without official titles and I'm very comfortable with the way the offense is headed."

Miles said Kragthorpe's role won't change other than he won't orchestrate the offense from the press box on game days. The other aspects of being a coordinator – writing up a weekly plan and then calling plays – will fall to Studrawa. But the long-term duties for Kragthorpe will remain the same.

"It's really the preparation and the things that he would take the lead in with the staff haven't changed at all," Miles said. "What it will be is the opportunity to arrest some of the duties that might be most taxing."

"His involvement is every snap. There's a potential glitch in health and you don't want to be in a spot where you need a specific call and have there be an unanticipated but possible glitch in health."

Studrawa isn't a novice as a coordinator and play caller.

He was the Bowling Green offensive coordinator in 2003-06 after operating as the Falcons' o-line coach under Urban Meyer for two seasons.

With Studrawa calling Bowling Green's offense, the Falcons ranked second nationally in total offense in 2004 with 5-6.3 yards a game, and third in passing with 338.3 yards per contest.

The year before, BGSU ranked third national in total offense and finished 11-3.

"We're very fortunate to have an experienced coordinator and play caller and I feel very comfortable with where we're headed," Miles said.

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