Editor’s Note: The following column was written by my late father in the winter of 2012, as Tiger fans around the nation reeled against the 21-0 loss to Alabama in the National Championship rematch. It shows that growth takes time, and seemed appropriate as LSU works through a coaching carousel, among other issues, in present day 2020.
The Tigers won this one, though.
While LSU fans get over their shock at the repeat of history with Alabama’s “revenge game,” (It also happened in the 1960 Sugar Bowl loss to Ole Miss by the same 21-0 score), let us amuse ourselves with happier thoughts via two excerpts from previous columns. They cover the quality of the LSU program as it exists today and its connection to the coach who just beat us:
Published Oct. 6, 2011
... the kind and quality of athlete now taking the field for LSU football, especially on defense, is not only far superior to any LSU team in the past, it is far superior to almost any other college football team in the present. That, and a victory over Alabama, will get the home team in the conference championship game, and probably the national championship game as well.
But before worrying about that little trip to Tuscaloosa, let us revel in the talent now being put on the field by Head Coach Les Miles and his supporting staff.
It has always been difficult for me personally to assess the athletic talent of a player in any sport just watching on television. I learned very quickly as an average high school athlete to spot the guys on the other side who were better. I can still do it.
And let me tell you after watching the first two home games that the LSU defense is loaded. In particular, the defensive line. There are four basic positions in the D-line. LSU is playing at least 10 men rotating in and out of those four positions. And all 10 of those men, from freshmen to seniors, have a chance to play football professionally.
Some, like Sam Montgomery, the starting right defensive end, came to LSU from North Carolina as a nationally recognized recruit. Others, like Bennie Logan from Red River Parish between Alexandria and Shreveport, came to LSU as diamonds in the rough, known only to in-state recruiters. Together, they form a defensive front for Coordinator John Chavis unmatched in college football. Not even mighty Alabama can rotate as many first-class D-linemen as LSU can this season.
LSU defensive backs and linebackers are almost as good. Among the four or five starting defensive backs, all have a chance at a pro roster. And that list includes the incomparable sophomore Tyrann Mathieu who has already dazzled Tiger fans with his big plays both at home and on the road.
The offense, of course, is an altogether different story. After three years of struggle, however, the Tigers have put together an impressive scoring machine during the first five games, and that without starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson. Jefferson, now returned, will surely regain his starting role before the Alabama game, but back-up Jarrett Lee, a fifth-year senior, has performed well in Jefferson’s absence.
Still, Jefferson is obviously the coaches’ choice, and just as obviously won the position over Lee both last year and in this pre-season. The much-ballyhooed Zach Mettenberger, a quarterback signed out of junior college, is talented, but not ready to face a hostile SEC crowd on the road in Tuscaloosa.
That’s the challenge for LSU football this year. Win at Alabama. Jordan Jefferson, a running threat as well as a passing threat, gives the Tigers the best chance to win that game. Therefore, he will start soon.
Published Dec. 4, 2011
To pinpoint just when the LSU football program, and therefore the LSU athletic program, moved from the middle of the pile to a major contender is easy. It was the day the LSU Board of Supervisors did something right. They hired Mark Emmert as Chancellor.
Emmert eventually departed for his alma mater, the University of Washington, and is now the President of the NCAA. But he left a huge mark on LSU when he took over direct charge of the Athletic Department that at the time was reeling under successive failures by football coaches Jerry Stovall, Curley Hallman and Jerry DiNardo. The Tigers had been unable for 20 years to find an established replacement for Charles McClendon.
Emmert announced the retirement of Athletic Director Joe Dean, who had hired both Hallman and DiNardo. He then let DiNardo go, and announced that he would not hire a new AD until after he, Emmert, had personally hired a new football coach.
This marked a bold and unprecedented move not only for LSU, but for major college football programs. The normal procedure was for the Chancellor or President to hire an Athletic Director, who then hired the football coach. This procedure had the happy by-product of providing a layer of protection for the Chancellor. A bad football coach was always the Athletic Director’s fault, not the Chancellor’s.
Emmert would have none of it. He recognized football as a major potential asset for a state university with no in-state competition and a wealth of domestic athletic talent. He also recognized that a successful football program raised money for the academic side of the university as well as the athletic side.
Emmert took personal responsibility for finding a new football coach for LSU. He first got the money commitments he needed to have from contributors. He then took the pot of gold and went straight to the most successful conference in the United States at the time, the Big Ten, and stole a coach from Michigan State.
Jeff M. David was publisher of the Livingston Parish News from the time of his father’s passing in 1977 until his passing in 2015.