BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – When senior offensive tackle Ciron Black announced that he was bypassing the NFL draft and was returning for his senior season it immediately provided a spark to the Tigers.
Sure, Charles Scott announced on that same day that he was also returning then three days later Brandon LaFell declared his intentions of returning for his senior year.
But make no mistake about it: Black’s decision was big for LSU in many ways.
It’s not every day that a college team has a four-year starter at left tackle which just happens to be every LSU quarterback’s blind side. The 6-foot-5, 325-pounder has started every game of his college career since redshirting as a true freshman and that adds up to 40 consecutive starts.
After Black received positive feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board – late first to second round potential – he took some time to ponder his future. He finally gave Tiger fans the news they were looking for in January and he has no regrets as he reflected on that choice at SEC Media Days on Friday.
“We did a lot of praying and a lot of thinking about it,” explained Black. “I realized I had a lot more to do. I have a lot more to work on becoming a better player, a better all-around player. When I made the decision it felt like a great decision and I haven't regretted it one bit.”
In Black, LSU now has a rock on the left side of a line that will feature three returning starters from last season. After helping to pave the way for a Tiger running game that finished fourth in the conference with 166.8 yards a game, Black is now projected as a first round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft and is the third ranked offensive tackle on Scout.com’s early NFL draft projections.
As important as it is to have Black return because he is such a force on LSU's front, though, the leadership that he will provide on and off the field is just as critical.
Some will say that one of the reasons LSU slipped to an 8-5 finish last season was due in part to a lack of leadership. However, Black feels there was much more to it and it showed when the Tigers throttled Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, 38-3.
“The leadership was there but our mindset just wasn’t right and things fell apart on us and we started getting bogged down late in the season,” he said. “It kind of wore on us then we had that break and it just came together. All of the practices kind of built us back up and it was a one-game season that helped us going into the spring and coming into this season.”
Black credits head coach Les Miles for rallying the troops after the regular season finale against Arkansas which tacked on their fifth loss of the year and tied a record for the most losses in a season during Miles’ eight years as a head coach on the collegiate level.
“Coach put it all on him,” said Black. “Every loss and he always put it on him. Whenever something went wrong he always put it on him. That’s the kind of coach he is.”
“Us as players know that it wasn’t him,” added Black. “We were the ones playing on the field and we were the ones who didn’t show up. He took that as a great coach and he fixed the problem. We came out in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and he sat us down and said we’re going to change things up and we’re going to fix the problem. We figured out what the problem was and we all came together as one and played as one.”
Black feels that the Tigers have corrected the problems that hindered them in 2008 and he sees a different mindset with this year’s squad. According to the fifth-year senior, those who witnessed the Tigers dismantle Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve will see a team that is just as determined when it reports for fall camp on Aug. 5.
“Right now we're really hungry,” stated Black. “We ended the season on a great note with the Chick-fil-A Bowl but that wasn't enough.
“We came into the summer ready to go to work, ready to run,” he added. “Coach Moffitt was trying to kill us but he wasn't going to break us because we were ready for it. We're going to camp ready to play, ready to get back into the season, ready to get back into the swing of things.”
With his final year at LSU quickly approaching, Black has several goals that he set for himself back when he was still a senior at Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, Texas. Of course, some of his goals have been amended and others have been added to his list. But in the grand scheme of things his expectations for his final go round at LSU are about what one would expect from one of LSU's senior leaders.
“Honestly, I just want to go out a winner,” he said. “I want to win on the field and win off the field. I want to graduate and get my degree. I want to be a good player and an example to the younger guys on the team, just be a great player. On the field, I’m trying my best to be dominant, to finish blocks. To do everything I didn't do last year.”