Monday, January 14, 2008

SUNDAY (OK, Monday) SOAPBOX: Impressions of a Champion

Looking back on the season, what factors leap to mind that help define this team and season and sets them/it apart from previous years?

The Seniors

First, there's Glenn Dorsey, who passed up almost certain immediate wealth to return to the Tigers for his senior season to lead his team to the national championship. A household name across the college football nation who makes you proud to be a Tiger fan. Matt Flynn, the fifth year senior QB who patiently waited for his turn at the helm, fought through two injuries, watched his talented understudy start and win the SEC championship game, and proved that poise and self-possession can elevate modest physical talent to win a national championship. Jacob Hester, the relentlessly reliable and deceptively talented athlete who got props for his 1000 yard rushing season but in reality did so much more for the Tigers - blocking, tackling, special teams play, ball control. Craig Steltz, All-American safety with a nose for the ball and a physical presence on the field. Ali Highsmith - beast. Kirston Pittman. Carnell Stuart. Kieth Zinger. Mitt Cole. Shawn Jordan, beast of a FB. Chevis Jackson - extremely strong cornerback. Jonathan Zenon. Luke Sanders. Patrick Fisher, who got LSU out of many bad field position situations with booming punts from his own endzone.

The senior leadership on the team has been fantastic this year.

The Coaches

Wahooooo! Damn Strong Football Team! Have a Great Day! Les Miles has been a pleasure all season long. He's taken lots of chances on 4th down, faked field goals and I think at least one punt, and gone for the win when some thought he should've kicked a field goal. He's had some fantastic moments with the media, and he continues to work "The Hat" into modern LSU mythology. Can't argue with his record, either. 34-6. He's crushed three decent teams in big bowl games. He's got a BCS championship and an SEC championship.

Bo Pelini did a fantastic job at LSU leading his defenses to number 5, 2 and 3 finishes in the last 3 years. This year, LSU had a phenomenal nation-leading turnover ratio, thanks in large part to Pelini's defense being ready to seize opportunities, gaining 34 turnovers. Of course Pelini is now the Nebraska head coach and the Tiger faithful wish him well. Current rumors predict a co-coordinator team of Peveto and Mallory, two current Tiger assistants.

Gary Crowton 's offense has to be one of the most complex and exciting to watch in the country. And LSU had the talent to make it successful. For a team whose defense was supposed to be it's trademark, the LSU offense was surprisingly potent and resilient this year. Crowton deserves a lot of credit for that. Maybe one of LSU's biggest positives on offense goes back to the turnover ratio. LSU just did not lose many fumbles this year. Ball protection and control was a key feature of this team.

Tommy Moffitt may be the least recognized but most valuable coach on LSU's staff. The Tigers amazing stregnth and stamina are due almost entirely to Coach Moffitt's programs. LSU should raise his salary immediately and continue to do so as long as there's any chance of keeping him in Baton Rouge.

Penalties and Timeouts

Not everything was puppies and roses with the 2007 Tigers. This team was paralyzed at times by penalties. Personal fouls, illegal procedure, offsides. It seems that the complexity of the Crowton offense contributed to some of these penalties, as well as an abnormal number of timeouts early to save delay of game penalties. However, here's the thing. Even with a heinous number of penalties this season (I think the most in the SEC), the Tigers won the SEC, won the national championship, and were "THIS CLOSE" to an undefeated season.

Never Quit

How many times this year have the Tigers found themselves struggling and been able to pull themselves up and overcome? Perhaps the defining character of this team is the lack of quit. The resiliency to take punches and counter-punches and hit right back. I give a lot of credit to Matt Flynn, Jacob Hester, Glenn Dorsey and the other seniors. And of course to the coaches.


Right along with the never-say-die attitude, the 2007 Tigers overcame what seemed like a LOT of injuries to key players this year. Matt Flynn was injured twice, Early Doucet hurt for a long time. Dorsey played hurt much of the season. Ali Highsmith was injured. Craig Steltz. The list goes on. Few teams could have so many starters in key positions get hurt. But LSU's depth is obviously phenomenal.


Overall, I think the first factor - the 2007 Seniors - made the greatest contribution to the season. Jacob Hester alone created an amazing highlight reel full of moments where his contributions made the difference between a good season and a national championship season. He's just one.

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