Tigers report, to start two-a-days Thursday
They came to LSU on Wednesday, the veterans and the newcomers, the coaches too, all drawn magnetically to the thrill of a new football season now just one month away.
Some are looking to take the one last step that was denied them last season. Some are looking for a chance to make their mark on a program that has in so many ways become a purple and gold standard in college football over the last decade.
Some are looking for a fresh start. Into the latter category falls Rob Bolden, the former Penn State quarterback who reported to campus as one of the 103 on the LSU roster.
As one of the Tigers.
LSU signed a quarterback in its 2012 recruiting class, Jeremy Liggins of Oxford, Miss.
But Liggins came up short academically, a non-qualifier who will instead play this fall at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. That created a need for LSU and an opportunity for Bolden, a junior from Orchard Lake, Mich., listed by his new school as 6-foot-4, 208 pounds.
The Tigers settled for silver in Bolden’s recruitment two years ago, but as Bolden slid down the Nittany Lions depth chart and unprecedented NCAA sanctions loomed, he reached out to LSU a couple of months ago through his high school coach, LSU coach Les Miles said.
The LSU coach said he was hesitant to appear as though he was raiding the besieged Penn State program, but in the end was satisfied with the circumstances that brought the Tigers and their new transfer together.
“I would feel a little awkward about it unless it had been a real positive for both,” Miles said as he met with reporters at the LSU football complex.
“We happened to have a specific need once Jeremy Liggins didn’t qualify, so it happened to fit us extremely well. I want things to go well for Penn State. This is not without regard to that school.”
Miles didn’t specifically speak to the one issue on the minds of many Tiger fans — that he not allow the quarterback position to turn into a two-man drama again with Zach Mettenberger and Bolden playing the parts of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.
The coach did give strong indications, however, that Bolden will be battling with redshirt freshmen Stephen Rivers and Jerrard Randall for the backup post.
“I didn’t tell him anything,” regarding Bolden, Miles said of Mettenberger. “I think Mettenberger has got his business and his work. He’s in position to do some wonderful things here. He shouldn’t look back, he should look forward.”
Chief among the hurdles Bolden has to clear is his lack of familiarity with the LSU offense, despite having been a 16-game starter during his two seasons at Penn State (Bolden has two seasons of eligibility remaining over the next three years).
“He doesn’t know how to call cadence,” Miles said. “He doesn’t know the names of the plays. He doesn’t know nomenclature. He’s got a long way to go. But he will be talented and given every opportunity to compete.”
By day’s end it turned out that Bolden wasn’t the only quarterback transferring to LSU. Quarterback coach Steve Kragthorpe’s son, Brad, is coming from Idaho State and will be a freshman with four years left to play four.
Bolden will wear No. 1 — same as junior safety Eric Reid — while Kragthorpe will take No. 16.
Two other LSU newcomers are not coming — not just yet. Freshman wide receiver Avery Johnson, younger brother of former Tiger All-American cornerback Patrick Peterson, and junior college offensive lineman Fehoko Fanaika are not yet cleared to practice.
Miles said Johnson is awaiting a test score, while Fanaika is awaiting a grade. He expects both to join the team soon.
The 2012 Tigers gathered Wednesday afternoon for the first time as a team, watching as banners dropped from a wall in the indoor practice facility celebrating LSU’s 2011 Southeastern Conference and SEC West championships.
Thursday, the work begins to capture the one championship that eluded them last season, with the first set of two-a-day practices (veterans in the morning, newcomers and selected returning players in the afternoon).
“I think we’ve had a more productive summer,” Miles said. “I think the culture in this room is pretty well defined. I know how we work. We practice hard. We work hard. We expect to win. We know how to play in tight quarters. The philosophy behind that is something that continues to grow and build.
“I think I did that a little better this summer.”