By Scott Rabalais
September 03, 2012
Personally, I can’t stand surprises.
Sure, they can be nice in an “A new car!” game on the “Price is Right” sort of way, but generally surprises aren’t positive. In general, “nasty little surprise” pummels “a nice surprise” in a seven-game series every time.
Maybe that’s why the start of this most highly of anticipated LSU football seasons is inspiring more anxiety than excitement as it draws near.
It hasn’t been as disquieting an offseason as there was in 2011, when you had a bar fight, player arrests, coaching illnesses and an NCAA investigation (remember that one?), but it’s getting louder.
What was a tranquil and perhaps welcome respite after the stunning result of LSU’s BCS national championship game loss to Alabama has become increasingly troubled. There has been the departure of Tyrann Mathieu — whether he is gone for good or simply banished for one season is a matter of how you read the tea leaves and who you talk to — which was a serious jolt.
Mathieu’s actual ability to play a dependable brand of cornerback may be in dispute, but his uncanny knack for the big play isn’t, and that will be missed by LSU. The Tigers forced 30 turnovers last year and committed 10, a remarkable ratio powered (in large part) by Honey Badger. The Tigers may end up as a favorite in every game they play this season; but if they can match those turnover marks this season, it will be an upset.
Monday, LSU coach Les Miles acknowledged running back Michael Ford, the Tigers’ top rusher from 2012, and projected starting strongside linebacker Tahj Jones, are both facing academic appeals to try to maintain their eligibility for this season.
And, oh, yes, this guy named Isaac is lurking just offshore, and I’m not referring to the bartender from “The Love Boat.”
Tie it all in with the player personnel concerns, and LSU’s top-shelf, top-notch preseason rankings are starting to look a little shaky.
Certainly this LSU team possesses considerable — one could even say overwhelming — remaining reserves of talent. But some of the talent that is going to have to be on display this season is starting to look awfully green.
On the depth chart LSU released Monday, 22 players (including special teams) are redshirt or true freshmen. And freshmen are locks to start in two key roles: at cornerback (Jalen Mills or Jalen Collins) and deep snapper (Reid Ferguson, who enrolled in January).
Of course, every team has its issues, including the other prime national championship contenders. USC is talented but paper thin depth-wise at certain spots because of scholarship restrictions. And Alabama lost Trent Richardson and a slew of playmakers on defense.
But an earthquake hasn’t rocked Heritage Hall yet. And Bryant-Denny Stadium seems to be far from Isaac’s path for now.