BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS
2006 RECORD: 11-2; SEC: 6-2
Won Sugar Bowl vs. Notre Dame 41-14
LOCATION: Baton Rouge, La.
STADIUM: Tiger (92,400)
HEAD COACH: Les Miles
OVERALL: 50-25 (6 seasons)
AT LSU: 22-4 (2 seasons)
It was amazing that the Tigers not only failed to win the Southeastern Conference last season, they did not even make it to the championship game with the Arkansas Razorbacks representing the West Division. Nick Saban did not leave the cupboard bare and new headman Les Miles appears to be adding some talent of his own. Miles was 11-2 in each of his first two seasons, however if he fails to win the conference title this year the moaning and groaning will be loud in Cajun Country.
WHEN THE CATS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Gary Crowton (1st Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: JaMarcus Russell, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Justin Vincent, Brian Johnson, Alley Broussard (Quit Team)
Remember when Peyton Manning left Tennessee and the Vols won it all, well the same thing can happen at LSU. Like Tee Martin, Matt Flynn is not nearly the pro prospect his predecessor was, nevertheless he is an excellent college player who is more than capable of winning games and leading the way. His go-to guy will be speedy senior Early Doucet, who can stretch the field and he excels after the catch, a nearly impossible one-on-one cover. With two receivers gone and playing in the NFL, they will need sophomore Brandon LaFell to step up opposite Doucet. Another key component that will make Flynn’s life easier is an improved running game, with a pair of highly touted sophomores in Keiland Williams and Charlie Scott ready to break out. They each bring size and speed to the table, which is why they were both productive in limited duty as freshmen. The line returns four starters and as a group -- they should be better for the experience they gained last season. Guard Herman Johnson and tackle Ciron Black form a mammoth left side (676 pounds).
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Early Doucet (SR), 2) Herman Johnson (JR), 3) Ciron Black (SO), 4) Jacob Hester (SR), 5) Will Arnold (SR), 6) Brandon LaFell (SO), 7) Richard Dickson (SO), 8) Keiland Williams (SO), 9) Charles Scott (SO), 10) Matt Flynn (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM THE HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Bo Pelini (3rd Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: LaRon Landry, Jessie Daniels, Daniel Francis, Chase Pittman
Very few teams can rival the type of talent the Tigers possess along their defensive line. All-American Glenn Dorsey would have been a first round pick had he declared, however much to the dismay of SEC offensive lineman, Dorsey is back for another season of domination, as he will command double teams all season long. That could spell trouble as Tyson Jackson is a stout end who can also get to the quarterback, while Marlon Favorite and Al Woods, among others, expect to play bigger roles this season. All four could eventually be first round picks in the NFL sometime over the next few seasons. Ali Highsmith and Darry Beckwith are their top two backers, the overlooked but solid portion of this defense. Corners Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon form one of the top pairs in the country, with safety the most unproven position on the team. Not a starter, senior Craig Steltz has some starting experience, but it will be impossible to replace all that LaRon Landry could do.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Glenn Dorsey (SR), 2) Marlon Favorite (JR), 3) Tyson Jackson (JR), 4) Ali Highsmith (SR), 5) Darry Beckwith (JR), 6) Chevis Jackson (SR), 7) Jonathan Zenon (SR), 8) Al Woods (SO), 9) Craig Steltz (SR), 10) Charles Alexander (JR)
At Alabama: almost as if fate was the schedule maker, the Tigers season could come down to their trip to Tuscaloosa to face ex-coach Nick Saban, who just a few seasons ago brought a National Championship to Cajun Country. With Virginia Tech, as well as South Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Arkansas all coming to Louisiana, the Crimson Tide are easily LSU’s toughest road foe. The only thing worse for Coach Miles than falling short of another SEC title is if Saban’s squad is the reason why, while everyone in the state dreads the thought of the Tide toppling their Tigers. Bama is a sleeper in the SEC and an upset of LSU could be the springboard they are looking for.
Less sizzle, more steak. The Tigers were among America’s flashiest teams last season, especially on offense. No one could match JaMarcus Russell’s freakish abilities, flicking the ball around the field with utter ease, with a relay team running routes and getting open for him. Flynn is not nearly as exciting as Russell was, as their passing game will not be nearly as high octane as it was in 2006, but it will be steady with even fewer mistakes. In addition, expect a much more physical offensive brand of football this season, with Flynn doing his job as a game manager, just as he did two years ago against Miami in the Peach Bowl.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
How talented were the Tigers last season? Well…how many teams do you know that could lose their quarterback, who just happened to be the number one overall pick in the draft, as well as two first round picks at the receiver position and a safety who was selected in the top ten AND comeback as a consensus top five team in America? Miles has a great record here, but has something to prove under pressure. Each year they lost an early season game, seemingly taking them out of the national title picture before they took off. Furthermore, they lost their biggest game over the last two years, when an underdog Georgia team pulled off the upset, 34-14, in the SEC Championship game in 2005. It is BCS Championship game or bust for the Bayou Bengals.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #2 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown