Media Day notebook

Position changes - strength and conditioning - gearing up for Southeastern Conference wars.<br><br>These were the hot topics LSU head coach Nick Saban and his players shared their thoughts on Media Day, just 20 days before the Tigers start the 2003 season.

Clayton will be a factor on defense

Junior wide receiver Michael Clayton raised eyebrows when coach Nick Saban turned the 6-foot-4, 200 pound all-SEC wide receiver loose in the defensive secondary in LSU's 35-20 loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

He was not in the secondary trying to snare a pass; he was looking to lay a lick and did just that.

Clayton debuted as a nickel back last Jan. 1 and made quite an impression proving he is the hardest hitter on the team. Saban said he may or may not see action in the fall as a safety or nickel, but it appears he may very well do just that.

"If I was a selfish offensive coordinator, I would say I need him on every play on offense," offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. "But I can't do that because I know sometimes we need him to play on defense sometimes."

Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has no problem with the notion of borrowing Clayton from the offense from time to time. Not only will his services be a welcomed sight, Muschamp has no worries about Clayton's grasp of the defensive schemes.

"He is probably the best player on our team that could play receiver, defensive back or linebacker," Muschamp said. "He is an outstanding player and has all the intangibles of a great player. Football comes very easy to him. When you talk to him in football terms, he understands what you are saying. He is a very easy guy to coach from that standpoint and that helps him to play wide receiver and play DB occasionally when we need him."

Muschamp on Adrian Mayes

Senior Adrian Mayes, like sophomore Bull Hurley, has already been faced with a position change in the first week of fall camp.

The Houston native was listed as the starting strong safety coming into fall camp. However, the LSU coaching staff feels Mayes, a physical specimen in the secondary, may be better suited as a linebacker and has been shifted into a Will linebacking spot.

Mayes (6-1, 211) has struggled to see playing time in his lengthy career with the Tigers. An excellent special teams player, Mayes has been lost in the shuffle as coaches have had problems trying to find the right fit.

"Norman LeJeune was an all-conference player for us last year and Adrian was playing behind him most of the year last season," defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. "He is now a guy that we feel needs to be in the right place and needs to be on the field."

Clayton weary of expectations Many a Tiger player and fan will tell you the 2002 season was a year set up for letdown due to the expectations that were heaped upon the shoulders of the LSU football team and staff.

Fresh off a Cinderella season in which the Tigers claimed the SEC title and won the Sugar Bowl, injuries and attrition coupled with three lopsided defeats deflated the sails of fans and players alike.

Junior wide receiver Michael Clayton said the team will not allow expectations to get in the way this year.

"Coach Saban taught us not to set expectations," Clayton said. "Expectations can be a bad thing sometimes. They can hurt you. What we do is go out there and play for 60 minutes, as hard as we can, win or lose we come off the field with the attitude that we gave it our all and that is all we can do."

One group of players saddled with expectations is the LSU receiving corps. Stocked with talented returnees such as Clayton, Skyler Green, Devery Henderson and Bennie Brazell, the Tiger wideouts have plenty of speed.

Now they have size.

With the acquisition of true freshmen Dwayne Bowe (6-4, 205), Craig Davis (6-3, 185) and Amp Hill (6-3, 200), the Tigers receivers have that balanced mix of size and speed that could make them one of the top groups in the SEC as well as one of the better corps' in the nation.

"They have come in here with a lot of talent," Clayton said. "They bring a lot of speed and size to the receiving corps. They have great hands and great size."

Like Clayton, could one or all of three of these freshman play in their first year on campus?

"All three of them, Dwayne, Amp and Craig, are very physical and will be able to help us this year," Clayton said. "They just need to settle down and take it slow and bring along for a smooth transition from high school to college. But once they grasp everything up at this level, there is no telling how good these guys can be."

Spears invites tough, yet exciting schedule

There is no doubt LSU has one of the toughest schedules in the country, playing in the Southeastern Conference.

The Tigers may also have one of the toughest (and exciting) home slates in recent years, as they welcome nationally-ranked Auburn, Georgia and Florida to Death Valley.

Every SEC team faces stiff competition and junior defensive end Marcus Spears invites the challenge of the leagues top teams coming into Baton Rouge.

"That is the type of competition that you want to play," Spears said. "That is why you come to LSU and that is why you want to play in the SEC to play the Alabamas and the Georgias that are out there. To play Auburn and Florida at home and even the away games, there is nothing like it being in front of 92,000 people. It is something going to battle with someone who has just as much history and tradition that you have."

As a member of the 2001 SEC championship team and last year's squad that reached the Cotton Bowl, Spears has experienced a number of big games and enjoyed all of them.

"All the years that I have been here, we have had great battles just by being in the SEC," Spears said. "But that is how it is won every year, with heart, character and desire."

Webster attributes good shape to hard work over the summer

Just by attending practice, you notice LSU has one of the more physically fit teams it has had in recent years.

Players are bigger, faster, stronger and more cut than they have appeared in the last couple of seasons. Head coach Nick Saban commented Sunday about the team's excellent condition, and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp complimented strength coach Tommy Moffitt on an excellent job of getting the players ready for the season.

"I would like to recognize (strength and conditioning coach) Tommy Moffitt and the outstanding job the staff did," Muschamp said. "Our kids really came in, in great shape. That is really important when you are reporting and installing your schemes on offense, defense and special teams. The kids are able to retain more information; they are not just enduring the practice. That's the big thing to me that our kids are in really good shape right now."

While the coaching staff has a great deal to do with getting the players in shape, it is the players themselves who must strive to get better. Senior defensive back Corey Webster said there was a total team effort this summer committed to improving.

"We had more people participating in the offseason programs," Webster said. "We had almost 100 people here over the summer working hard, lifting and running trying to get better for the upcoming season. Lots of guys went to summer school to stay on top of their schoolwork and a lot of the freshmen came here to get a head start. The team is in better condition, physically and mentally this year than any other year."

Webster complimented memebrs of the freshman class and their desire to get on campus and get to work.

"A lot of them have been here working out with us throughout the summer, so they are catching on pretty quick," Webster said. "They are learning the positions well and several of them can help us when it comes time to play."

Tiger Blitz Top Stories