Strong ‘want’ fuels defense

LSU’s Kevin Minter stops Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins. Show caption
LSU’s Kevin Minter stops Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins.

The dominant play of LSU’s defense in the first three games of the season has naturally invited comparisons, but coach Les Miles said he doesn’t like comparing this defense to others that he’s had.

“I am the LSU coach, and I love every one of those teams,” Miles said. “I can tell you that this defense is one of the fastest teams that I’ve had. There are more big-time plays made on this defense than I’ve been around for a while. If the defense continues to play with that intensity, it has the opportunity to be a special defense.”

Miles said he expected this defense to be very good, so “there is no surprise here.” One of the keys to continued improvement, Miles said, is maintaining the high level of intensity the Tigers have shown in the first three games.

“You can coach it and insist on it, but there comes a natural intensity that this defense seems to bring,” Miles said. “There are some guys that take the field that just can’t wait for the next play. That is a wonderful piece for a defense. Just line the offense up so that we can get one more play in. That kind of want is pretty special.”

Safety Brandon Taylor said one of the reasons so many Tigers are always around the ball is defensive coordinator John Chavis’ punishment for not doing so.

“He gives you an ‘L,’ and ‘L’ stands for loaf,” Taylor said. “If you get an ‘L,’ you have to get in the middle of a circle and do up-downs (exercises). Nobody really wants to do that. That’s why we stay around the ball.

“Doing up-downs after practice is no fun at all.”

Taylor said he hasn’t had to do any, “and I don’t plan on doing any,” he added.

Claiborne has high goal

Cornerback Morris Claiborne said his goal coming into this season was to become the best cornerback in the country, which was fitting because he was replacing Patrick Peterson, who many thought was the best corner in the country last season. Claiborne is off to a start consistent with his goal, and he’s coming off a two-interception game at Mississippi State last week.

“When you actually see somebody on your team that’s doing it, you realize that it’s not impossible to do,” Claiborne said of his lofty goal. “It just keeps you working and keeps you grounded and keeps you going.”

Miles was asked to compare Claiborne and Peterson, the fifth pick in the NFL draft.

“I think Mo is as fast and athletic as any,” Miles said. “Patrick was equal to Mo’s athleticism, fluidity and ball skills, but bigger, stronger and more explosive. I would certainly like to have Mo at either corner and Patrick at any corner as well.”

Cradle of coaches?

Miami of Ohio is often called the Cradle of Coaches for the greats who played or worked there, such as Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Bill Arnsparger, Sean Payton and Paul Dietzel.

The state of West Virginia could make a similar claim.

A number of famous coaches have ties to the Mountain State, including:

• Nick Saban: The former LSU and current Alabama coach is a native of Fairmont, W.Va., the same hometown as Olympic gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton.

• Lou Holtz: The former coach at Notre Dame, Arkansas and South Carolina is from Follansbee, W.Va.

• Jimbo Fisher: Florida State’s head coach and LSU’s former offensive coordinator is from Clarksburg, W.Va., and played at Salem (W.Va.) College.

• Bobby Bowden: He was offensive coordinator at West Virginia from 1966-69 and head coach from 1970-75 before going to Florida State in 1976.

• Rich Rodriguez: The former Michigan coach hails from Grant Town, W.Va., played for the Mountaineers from 1981-84 and was WVU’s head coach from 2001-07.

• Bob Huggins: West Virginia’s current men’s basketball coach is also a Morgantown native.

• Ben Schwartzwalder: A native of Point Pleasant, W.Va., he played football at WVU and became the winningest coach in Syracuse history.

Louisiana native

West Virginia has no players from Louisiana, but Shannon Dawson of Clinton is in his first season as an assistant on Dana Holgorsen’s coaching staff.

Holgorsen hired Dawson to coach West Virginia’s inside receivers after Holgorsen was named the school’s offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting late last year. Dawson played for Holgorsen at Mississippi College and later Wingate.

Before joining the West Virginia staff, Dawson spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Stephen F. Austin, where he helped the Lumberjacks win back-to-back Southland Conference titles. Earlier in his career, Dawson served as an offensive assistant at Southeastern Louisiana under Hal Mumme from 2003-04.

Dawson was a star quarterback for Silliman Institute in Clinton, making four all-district teams. He passed for 1,495 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior in 1995.

Other West Virginians

Among the other famous people who hail from West Virginia are:

Baseball great George Brett (Glendale), author Pearl S. Buck (Hillsboro), pro football hall of famer Sam Huff (Morgantown), Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson (Clarksburg), country music artist Kathy Mattea (South Charleston), basketball hall of famer Jerry West (Chelyan), test pilot Chuck Yeager (Myra) and actor Don Knotts, who has a street named after him in his native Morgantown.