Time Out: Les East column for August 2, 2012
August 06, 2012
The LSU football team reported uneventfully Wednesday for the start of preseason practice.
It would be good for the Tigers if that’s the start of a trend.
Even the loss of one recruit — quarterback Jeremy Liggins, who didn’t qualify academically and enrolled in a junior college — was offset by the arrival of former Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden.
Coach Les Miles allowed that there’s plenty of time for the appearance of “smooth weather” to change, but chances are this preseason camp will go more smoothly than last season’s. Last summer, wide receiver Russell Shepard was scratched from the Southeastern Conference Media Days when an eligibility issue arose that ultimately caused him to miss the first three games of the season.
On the first day of practice it was revealed that offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe had Parkinson’s disease and would be relegated to quarterbacks coach as offensive line coach Greg Studrawa took over as coordinator.
Then a couple of weeks into camp, an annual ritual in which many players celebrate the end of two-a-days by breaking curfew and going out to a bar near campus got out of hand. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns were arrested and temporarily suspended, though Johns was never charged and Jefferson was charged with a misdemeanor and not a felony.
All that turmoil took place amid the specter of one of the most challenging openers in school history against preseason No. 3 Oregon.
To the Tigers’ credit, they overcame each distraction. They didn’t miss Shepard, the offensive staff functioned normally, and Jarrett Lee stepped in for Jefferson and helped LSU beat Oregon to jump-start an undefeated regular season.
Miles said he hopes “there is less distraction in the perimeter,” but noted that his first preseason camp was disrupted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, adding, “I always expect that there will be some sort of crisis along the way.”
But things appear different this year, at least at the outset. The only eligibility issues involve two recruits — freshman wide receiver Avery Johnson and junior offensive lineman Fehoko Faniaka — and Miles said he’s optimistic both will get the final grades they need to be eligible.
The transition for the offensive staff was completed long ago, and Lee and Jefferson are gone. There’s no uncertainty at quarterback even with Bolden’s arrival — Zach Mettenberger is the unquestioned starter.
LSU no doubt still feels a sense of urgency to be primed for its opener, but the prospect of North Texas coming to Tiger Stadium on Sept. 1 isn’t the attention getter that traveling to Dallas to play the talented Ducks was last season.
“We want to catch the same speed we did prior to playing Oregon,” Miles said. “The need to prepare like we did is certainly there, too. There will be plenty of motivation for this football team to come to work.”