Harris: Drama lacking from LSU’s preaseason

By MATTHEW HARRIS

mharris@theadvocate.com

By the time the third week of preseason camp rolls around, the drama and intrigue tends to peter out, and the remaining plotlines tend to be better suited for short stories than novels.

No better example exists than LSU.

Since players checked into the West Campus Apartments, there’s been a scouring about for spoilers or hints about how Les Miles’ program is working through the rejuvination process.

Say this much, there’s been an absence of ready-made melodrama: No quarterback controversy. August’s legal snarl was untangled on Day 1 of camp. Position battles weren’t necessarily protracted. And matters go so desperate we milked five days out of TCU coach Gary Patterson’s potshot at Miles’ handling of disciplining running back Jeremy Hill.

Let it be said, though: There’s still time for some ill-fated weekend night excursion into Tigerland. But the fact that Shady’s recently shut its doors could be read as a literal removal of temptations that can come with undergrad life at the Old War Skule.

Unless you’re living and dying with the duel between Ethan Pocic and Elliott Porter at center to succeed P.J. Lonergan, the intrigue around 29 preseason practices has been minimal.

Even The Associated Press poll robbed us of talking points. Over the weekend, scribes pegged LSU at No. 12, and it’s hard to quibble with that slotting in the early pecking order.

For a program of LSU’s repute, voters appeared inclined to grant Miles the benefit of the doubt. That defensive coordinator John Chavis is reliable enough to replace seven lost starters. That new offensive mastermind Cam Cameron can coax the best out of quarterback Zach Mettenberger and a unit tripped over its own feet last season.

There’s also wiggle room for those casting ballots, at least according to history.

Over the past 10 years, half of the teams slotted in that spot for the preseason poll finished the year ranked between No. 7 or No. 19 when the dust settled, with 11 victories as the ceiling. As for the other five teams, they finished unranked and scrounging for eight victories.

So the statistic can work for optimists and pessimists in equal measure.

LSU’s position in the poll is a prime base camp for a quick ascent. Its schedule is dotted with five opponents inside the top 20, with Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and Florida inside the top 10.

Brutal, yes, but rife with opportunity.

After using SEC media days as a bully pulpit to push for overhauling the conference’s scheduling policy, Miles’ amended his message this month: He only controls how LSU prepares for its foes, not future slates. Asked Saturday about LSU’s poll position to start the season, the ninth-year coach’s reply contained a strain of that logic.

“We’re so driven by who we play, and we need to earn (our ranking), and how we’re suited going into the season,” Miles said.

Essentially, only LSU’s results on the field will stir intrigue, and answers won’t flesh themselves out until Miles stirs his team into a froth at exit to the tunnel in AT&T Stadium.

Nothing over the next 11 days can do anymore to provide evidence for either side of the argument. Four months from now, though, boring could turn out to be the best theme all along.