The waiting game for LSU fans this offseason has been tough, meaning that fall camp could not have arrived sooner. Surely, if there were ever a sequence of numbers that Tigers fans could do without, it would be 8-5.
“Eight was unacceptable,” said head coach Les Miles on Wednesday. “[LSU] used to play, and are used to playing, for championships. We won 11 games my first year here, we won the [SEC] West, and we fell a little short. That is how it is.
“This program is designed to hang banners, and that is what we want to do.”
The returning talent, marked by leadership and experience on both sides of the ball, is surely in place. The defensive coaching staff – all newcomers – will be expected to return the unit to form.
What is left to ponder is the impact of the newcomers to the squad – a 2009 signing class that the Miles feels could make an immediate splash at a number of positions.
Offensively, the water cooler chatter has surrounded five-star prospects Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle.
“[Randle] is a very bright learner and talented man,” Miles said. “Of course, he will need to make strides. The two-a-day camps for the young ones, they don’t quite know what to expect.”
Shepard, however, has gotten used to the speed of the program, having been with the team since his early enrollment last January. Yet, what his role will be come Saturdays remains a mystery.
“If I knew, I would tell you,” Miles said. “We will find out. He brings ability to a number of positions. When camp begins, I will work him at quarterback.”
When asked if the Houston-native would line up exclusively under center, Miles responded, “I didn’t say that.”
Defensively, Miles said that he expects a number of signees to make their mark – though two Tigers still have academic obstacles in front of them.
“The only hurdle Akiem Hicks had was one class, and he got a B in college algebra,” Miles said. “He will be out at practice [Thursday], because there is some amount of time the Clearinghouse gives to student athletes when they appear to qualify.”
The story on Tahj Jones and Craig Loston, however, is not complete.
“Neither Jones nor Loston will be at practice, and neither is on campus,” Miles said. “We expect to hear more fully in a day or so about Tahj, but we are very optimistic. With Craig, we probably won’t know anything until school. He has [correspondence] class work that he is finishing.”
Thickening the plot, Loston’s injury status also remains up in the air.
“He had a hand injury last spring, but I am not informed if he has had an operation in the last ten days,” Miles said. “We would hope that when he gets ready, we could use him.”
With Sidell Corley – who left the team this past week for personal reasons - gone from the defensive line, what newcomers can work their way into the lineup?
“I see Chris Davenport and a number of guys that can step up and play,” Miles said. “Bennie Logan, Sam Montgomery, Mike Brockers – I see a number of guys that have that ability.”
The impact of all the new faces, Miles said, will go a long way in determining the level of success that can be achieved after an 8-5 run. Evaluation alongside his staff, Miles stressed, would be key.
“When you have a veteran team like we did, you know who would be in and what would be going on,” he said. “Little conversation needed to be had. This year, we are not going to go days without talking about personnel.
“Guys in the class can come to the field by need and by ability, and I think there is a lot of competition,” Miles said. “There is some talent on this team.”