The LSU freshmen class had until 1 p.m. to report to the LSU campus and took part in their first team meeting at 1:30. Saban said he isn't ready to issue a judgment on these players based upon his first look at them - the Springfield conditioning test that requires each player to run ten 40-yard dashes with 15 seconds rest between each one.
"Not many of them know what it takes to college football players relative to conditioning and working out on their own," said Saban.
Saban will accompany the freshmen to the practice fields Wednesday for their first workout. As to which players might contribute in 2002, the coach said the Tigers are in need of depth at linebacker and on the offensive line. A freshman who shows he is ready to contribute at one of those spots could see action right away, while players at positions with better depth will be challenged to get into a game.
"With our freshman, none of them can fail," said Saban. "What we tell them is the only thing you can fail at is if you do not give your best effort to do the best that you possibly can. From a maturity standpoint I think that is probably the key thing that determines whether or not they can contribute as a freshman. It is usually their ability to be able to stay focused on the process and not get so result-oriented."
There are three would-be Tigers who are waiting on the NCAA Clearinghouse to find out if they will be qualified to play as true freshmen. Running back Justin Vincent of Lake Charles, offensive lineman Paris Hodges of Vacaville, Calif., and wide receiver Junior Joseph of New Orleans can practice with the team unti school starts on Aug. 24. If their status remains unresolved, Saban and each athlete will then have to decide if the player will be a partial qualifier. The Southeastern Conference allows two partial qualifiers per scholarship class.
The NCAA has cleared Nate Livings, the three-time LSU signee from Lake Charles, according to Saban. It was Livings who reportedly received tutoring from LSU's Academic Center for Athletes in order to gain his eligibility, but the university claimed that Livings was unaware that such assistance violated NCAA rules. Livings has since donated the cost of the tutoring, $40, to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.
Saban said Livings, who hasn't played competitive football since the 1999 Louisiana High School All-Star Game, will be given a first look on the defensive line. If he doesn't take to the position, he will be moved to the offensive line.
There are currently no other freshmen who have changed positions, but Saban said the possibility exists with a few depending on how each individual performs in practice and overall team needs. Ryan Willis of New Orleans will start at defensive end but may be capable of helping the Tigers at tight end, according to the coach.
Skyler Green, a quarterback who was projected as a college running back, will stay at wide receiver after working at that position over the summer. "He seems to be happy and doing well there," said Saban.
Saban will keep Dominique Owens, a running back from Houston, at his original position, but Owens could wind up at wide receiver or cornerback if he doesn't develop in the offensive backfield.
With kicker John Corbello entering his final year of eligibility with the Tigers, Saban plans to take a close look at two walk-on freshman kickers before offering scholarships to current high school recruits. Jim Hall, an honorable mention Class 5A kicker from Hammond, and Andre Boagni, who earned the same honor in Class 4A, are among the eight walk-ons who reported this afternoon.
The freshman making the longest trip down to Baton Rouge is offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski of Vancouver, British Columbia. Saban said he has been a long-time advocate of recruiting Canada, dating back his days as an assistant at Michigan State. The Spartans lured offensive lineman Tony Mandarich from Ontario, who was the No. 2 overall NFL draft pick in 1989.
Saban says the connections he made at Michigan State allow him to continue to recruit Canada. Plus, LSU offensive line coach George Yarno has roots in the Pacific Northwest, which Saban says helped in the recruiting of Dyakowski.
Although Saban says the Canadian style of football pales in comparison of the quality seen in Louisiana and other states, the country consistently produces a few players who are capable of playing major college football.
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