LSU Notebook: Championship or Bust

About to enter his third season as the Head Coach in Baton Rouge, Les Miles has positioned LSU as the odds on favorite to win the SEC and as one of the hot pre-season picks to contend for the BCS Championship this fall. Read inside for all the details from LSU's slot at this week's SEC Media Days.


Despite a loaded roster taking the field this fall, one player LSU will miss this year is JaMarcus Russell – the top pick in the 2007 NFL draft. Considered by many the best team in the country at the end of last season, LSU must try to improve on something that was almost perfect – their record. Road losses to Auburn and Florida, the eventual national champions, was at least one loss too many.

When you have an average quarterback and an average backfield, how does one compensate? Easy, LSU is ranked near the top of the nightmarish SEC in every other category.

Seeing a Southern Cal vs. LSU match up to end the season would surprise no one.

Miles on Nick Saban's return to the SEC:

"I've given some thought to that. We really have enjoyed the accomplishments that coach had while he was at LSU. He left, went by way of another stop, now is back in the conference. I can tell you that's one game on our schedule, no more than one. I can tell you that we really have not changed anything. There will be no bearing on what we do that's different. We look forward to getting to that game."

Miles on the popular perception that LSU was the real #1 team in the country in 2006:

"Well, they'll figure it out when we open the season. They'll all wait. They'll understand.

Miles on quarterback Matt Flynn:

"Any time you have a quarterback that starts in really his first season as a starter, there will be some period of adjustment. I think it will be minimal with Matt Flynn. Matt Flynn is a guy who is really deserving, really has competed for the opportunity to play against a quality quarterback in JaMarcus Russell, and now it's his turn. He has done great job in leadership.

In my opinion, we're all looking forward to seeing him to play. Again, this is his first year. He may not play just perfect, but we'll like how he plays and see if he can't help engineer a tremendous season."

Offense:

Everyone thinks JaMarcus Russell's exit leaves a tremendous void under Center. Does anyone remember the Peach Bowl in 2005? Russell couldn't play due to a variety of injuries so third year quarterback Matt Flynn led the Bayou Bengals to a 40-3 victory over Miami. He threw for just under 200 yards and connected on two touchdowns.

Now a fifth year senior, Flynn has a thorough understanding of the offense and should have no problem being a leader.

No one in the backfield posted astonishing numbers for the Tigers, but that's because there were four guys who carried the ball effectively.

As for the receivers donning the purple and yellow, things are looking good. Even after losing Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, the spot is still rich in burners, most notably Early Doucet. You may remember him from the Sugar Bowl. He was the guy grabbing everything out of the air for 115 yards. He's a home run threat whenever it's thrown in his direction.

"It's always great to be thought of in such a high manner. We never really get into the preseason hype," says wide receiver Early Doucet, "We're just going to get together this Friday and report for fall camp and take those three or four weeks to get better as a team. We're just looking forward to opening up against Mississippi State."

Les Miles is as excited about the new blood as Doucet, "Young receivers. Brandon LaFell, kind of the veteran that would return, in my opinion, is going to do a great job for us. Had a great summer, very strong, capable player," says Miles, "The two Mitchell's: Jared Mitchell and Chris Mitchell, both guys that are fleet footed, could step in there and make plays. I wouldn't be fearful to send Terrance Toliver in there after he knows what to do, a true freshman."

"I think the receiving corp, even though we graduate two first round draft picks to the NFL, will be very talented," added Miles.




Defense:

This is the proverbial "cherry on the cake" for LSU. It starts with Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson up front. Find a way to get past those two and now your facing all three starting linebackers from last season. After that it's two of the premier cover cornerbacks in the nation with Jonathan Zenon and Chevis Jackson both returning.

Needless to say, offenses won't be very happy when LSU rolls into town.

"My coaches have prepared me for everything. Since the scheme changes so much in games you have to be prepared and you can't go into the game just prepared for double teams," says Glenn Dorsey, "At practice we work on every block possible so we can be ready in the game. Our coaching staff does a great job preparing us for whatever the other team throws at us."

If Flynn falters and the average backfield remains only average, the defense should be able to pick up a lot of the slack. LSU is loaded with veterans on defense and does not feel pressured whatsoever.

"There's no pressure. We really don't get involved in the polls. We have a long season to go, and we take every game one at a time," added Dorsey, "It's good to see LSU get respect, but we really don't get involved we are going to control what we can control and everything else will fall into place. "

In Conclusion:

Though Miles' first two teams have been considered among the nation's best, this year's squad may be the team holding up that shiny crystal football at the end of the season. It takes a lot of luck to win the national title, but a whole lot of talent sure picks up the slack.


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