Posted: 9:00 a.m. Thursday, July 11, 2013
By Chris Fuhrmeister
Auburn's first road test in 2013 is a doozey, as the Tigers travel to Baton Rouge to take on the Tigers from LSU. To get a read on the how the other Tigers are doing right now, we got in touch with Poseur, who writes for SB Nation's LSU blog, And the Valley Shook.
College and Magnolia: One of the popular narratives floating around the world of SEC football right now is that LSU is down. Do you think that's accurate, and what exactly is "down" for the Tigahs at this point?
Poseur: If I had a dollar for every preseason prognosticator in the past four years who stated that LSU is in decline, I'd be writing this from my personal yacht. The preseason narrative on LSU has been so consistently wrong that it no longer even bothers me. I expect to see a bunch of columns on why LSU will disappoint, followed by the general hyping up of another contender and then, at the end of the year, LSU will have 10 wins and be sitting in first or second in the West. Heck, remember that LSU finished tied with A&M; in the West and won the head-to-head matchup? A&M; made a DVD, LSU fans loudly complained. Such is the burden of expectations.
"Down" for LSU apparently is winning 10 games and finishing one play away from the SECCG, if our fanbase's reaction to last season is any indication. That's an absurdly high standard, but LSU is measuring itself against Alabama right now. You may have noticed that Alabama's been pretty good. I like the high standards mainly because that means the team is really good, but I don't like the constant complaining over a performance almost unmatched by any program in the nation not located in Alabama over the past few years.
CaM: It's Cam Cameron's first season as offensive coordinator. What do fans think of Cameron? Since LSU was already a pro-style team, and Cameron is coming from the NFL, do you expect much of a change in the attack?
P: Steve Kragthorpe's surprising diagnosis with Parkinson's derailed his career right from the start. The offense never quite clicked under Krags, and there was an understandable problem with the chain of authority. Krags could not physically do the job, and Miles was left scrambling to figure out how to accommodate his staff. So the biggest thing about Cameron is not philosophy or anything, but just a guy who is the final authority and able to put his personal stamp on the offense. I think we're all excited to see Studwara give up his co-OC duties and slide back into just coaching the line. I like him him a positional coach, but not as a co-OC. And pretty much all LSU fans still break out into hives over the mere mention of dual coordinators.
Cameron is an NFL guy with a solid track record. I think we're excited to have a guy like that, but I can't speak for the whole fanbase. But mainly, it just seems like we're putting the drama of Kragthorpe behind us. He never got a chance to be our coordinator.
CaM: LSU has won with its defense in recent years, but the Tigers lose a lot on that side of the ball from the 2012 team. Will the D be able to continue to play at a high level with several new faces? Who do you expect to stand out?
P: LSU played more freshmen than anyone else in the country last year, partly by design and partly due to the team scrambling due to injuries and suspensions. That should pay dividends this year, as the secondary goes from a question mark to a strength. The team will miss Kevin Minter, who had the best season for an LSU linebacker in about two decades, but the linebacking corps is deep, talented, and experienced. The big question is on the line, where LSU has always used a deep rotation to get lots of guys action. I'm not too worried about the lack of returning starters on the line because the team does return four or five guys who have seen meaningful snaps.
Also, despite their immense talent, Montgomery and Mingo didn't get that much consistent pressure on the QB last season. Replacing their actual production isn't that tall of a task. Eric Reid was a massive disappointment last year as well, working more on trying to make highlight plays than playing good defense. Replacing Minter is impossible, though.
Who to watch for? Freak Johnson was third last season on the team in tackles for a loss and he will anchor the line with Ego Ferguson. LSU is back to building from the defensive tackle position. The two Jalens, Mills and Collins, were the team's best corners last year as underclassmen, and now will be called on to anchor the defense. I love our linebacker corps, but there is no one single standout player, just wave after wave of talented guys.
CaM: As an Auburn fan, I used to absolutely despise Les Miles because I thought he somehow won games in spite of himself (the 2007 AU-LSU game comes to mind /smashes keyboard). But I must admit, he's become a pretty lovable character. What's your favorite Miles moment form the last few years? What's your worst Miles-induced nightmare?
P: I love Miles because unlike a lot of coaches, he coaches to win, not to minimize criticism. There are still LSU fans who complain about the call in that 2007 Auburn game, and that play WORKED. He's a guy who just seems to actually enjoy the game of football and wants his players to enjoy the game as well. He puts his players in position to make plays, and then he expects them to come through. I love that. Even though we lost the game, I think last year's Alabama game was the definitive Les Miles game. He trusted his beleaguered QB to make plays, and Mettenberger responded with the best game of his career. He seized momentum and then tried to get more with an onside kick. Instead of running out the clock late, he called for a pass play that, if completed, ends the game right there. Alabama was a far more talented team last year than LSU, especially once LSU lost so many players to injury and suspension, but he dictated that game. Teams seem to play scared of Bama, and he practically spit in their eyes. Sure, it didn't work, but it was a fun game to watch. It wasn't like the team left anything in the tank.
My worst nightmare is still the BCS title game. LSU had the best single season a team had, maybe ever. LSU beat the champion of two BCS conferences, and beat three of the top five teams in the nation. And all anyone will remember of that season is an offense that couldn't cross midfield. And how on earth does Lee not even get into this game? I mean, mix things up. The gameplan clearly wasn't working.
CaM: In 2012, a really good -- maybe not by LSU standards, but by general college football standards -- LSU team barely escaped Jordan-Hare Stadium with a two-point win over the worst Auburn team in six decades. What do you think about this year's matchup? Are you confident because the game is in Red Stick? Does the return of Gus Malzahn's offense worry you? I know it's early, but how do you see it shaking out right now?
P: LSU was real fortunate to play its first SEC game against a pretty bad Auburn team last year. LSU fans, myself included, thought the offense would improve simply by getting rid of the Two-Headed Dumpster Fire and completely underestimated the adjustment period Mettenberger would require. He improved a great deal over the course of the season, but that first SEC game, on the road no less, was just ugly. He won't play that poorly again, as he's a better quarterback now.
I am worried by Gus Malzahn because he's an outstanding coach. I think there will be an adjustment period and LSU shouldn't have another nail biter against Auburn, but I also don't think it will that long before we are back to LSU-Auburn being an annual slugfest decided by some insane play in the final minute. I'm hoping we get one easy win over Malzahn before he gets Auburn back to the first tier in the SEC.
CaM: Finally, what will a successful 2013 season look like for LSU?
P: A return to the SEC title game. Alabama may have won two consecutive national titles, but no team has won consecutive SEC titles since Tennessee in 1997 and 1998. We stand as the bulwark against the disaster of an Alabama repeat. You're welcome.