FEINSWOG: LSU's good..and they shoould be

The late Bear Bryant had it down to an art, badmouthing his team and telling anyone who would listen how tough things would be for Alabama, no matter who the opponent. Lou Holtz subscribed to that school of thought, too, downplaying his team's chances and blowing smoke like you couldn't believe about whomever his squad was playing.

Which is why it was so refreshing last week to visit with Les Miles and hear the second-year LSU head football coach say simply that his team will be very good.


Very good on defense.


Very good on offense.


And why not? LSU should be good. Last week, the Tigers came in at No. 9 in the USA Today coaches poll. That's the kind of respect a team gets when it finishes 11-2, punctuated by that Peach Bowl whipping of Miami.


That's the kind of respect a top-level program gets despite losing leaders like Kyle Williams, Skyler Green and Andrew Whitworth.


And therein lies the key to this season:




LSU excelled in that area during a 2005 season that was unlike any other. The talent of the players it lost can be replaced. But LSU has to replace a level of maturity and focus rarely seen in college-age athletes like the team the Tigers had in 2005.


Hurricanes Katrina and Rita made for uncharted waters for the coaches and players in a world where everything they did was turned upside down. For weeks after Katrina, there were LSU players who simply didn't get their sleep or eat properly and were drained from the family responsibilities. It's truly amazing they did so well.


But in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sports world, who will step up in 2006? The good news is the coaches aren't concerned.


As we interviewed offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and then Miles, all pointed toward a fantastic offseason in which players worked hard with great attitudes.


Neither Fisher nor Miles seemed concerned about their impending quarterback battle (it's JaMarcus Russell's job to lose), running-back woes (who knows about the real health of Alley Broussard?) or an offensive line that has to plug a few holes.


Pelini is super encouraged about a defense led by safeties Jessie Daniels and LaRon Landry and Pelini and Miles are obviously stoked about the potential of junior defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. And neither seemed concerned about the rebuilding at linebacker.


Bottom line: All three were upbeat and confident. Not cocky, but confident.


When you think back to the guys like Bryant and Holtz you would always shake your head when you heard them tell you how tough it would be when they played Sisters of the Poor.


Interestingly, Miles went to Iraq this summer on a trip that included Holtz, one of the more interesting guys the game's ever seen.


Miles beamed when he talked about representing LSU and Louisiana in a situation to be with our troops to tell them how proud he was of them and laughed about being cornered by enlisted LSU fans demanding scoop.


He also enjoyed being with Holtz, a man with a long lifetime of football coaching success. Hopefully, he imparted some knowledge.


Luckily, telling us how bad his teams are didn't rub off on Miles, who has a lot to be excited about.




Lee Feinswog is a Baton Rouge sportswriter and host of the television show Sports Monday. Reach him at (225) 926-3256 or lee@sportsbatonrouge.com. His book, "HoopDaddy" is available at www.HoopDaddy.net.

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