LSU preview

You know a program is loaded when the most celebrated search on campus is for a new mascot. The recent death of Mike V leaves the LSU Tigers without the real-life tiger mascot they've had since 1990.

Head football coach Les Miles did a little searching during the spring but not as much as you'd expect of a coach who just lost four 2006 starters in Round 1 of the National Football League Draft.

Replacing quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the draft's first pick overall, was no big deal. Remember how Matt Flynn, coming off that brilliant performance vs. Miami in the 2005 Chick fil-A Bowl, was supposed to win the first-team job in 2006? Well, Flynn couldn't beat out Russell but he should do fine. He isn't as talented as his heralded predecessor but he isn't as mistake-prone, either.

Miles also conducted a brief search for a couple of receivers to replace first-round picks Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis. He found Early Doucet, who caught 59 passes for 772 yards last fall, and Trindon Holliday, a world-class sprinter who recently clocked a 10.31 in the 100 meters for the LSU track team.

The other first-round draft pick, safety LaRon Landry, will be missed. In fact, finding his successor might be even more difficult than finding Mike V's successor.

Still, LSU may have even more talent in 2007 than in 2006. Flynn is solid at quarterback. Jacob Hester returns at tailback after leading the team in rushing last fall. Doucet ranks among the South's finest receivers and All-SEC guard Will Arnold anchors an imposing line.

Defensively, the Tigers are just as talented. Tackle Glenn Dorsey might be the NCAA's premier defender. Ends Tyson Jackson (8½ sacks last season) and Tremaine Johnson (3 sacks in the spring game) are quality pass rushers. All three 2006 starters return at linebacker, led by all-star candidate Ali Highsmith. The return of starting cornerbacks Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon – both seniors – helps offset the loss of LaRon Landry. Jackson broke up 14 passes last fall. Zenon broke up 12 passes and intercepted four more.

In addition to losing the four first-round NFL Draft picks, Miles lost three assistants since the 2006 season ended. Longtime offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher left to take the same post at Florida State. Offensive line coach Stacy Searels left to take the same job at Georgia and receivers coach Todd Monken joined the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.

No sweat. If the new coaching staff jells quickly and Flynn stays healthy, LSU should claim the SEC title and contend for the national championship. That's the way things are supposed to work out when your biggest worry is replacing a dead mascot.

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