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The Étouffée Empire: Why LSU’s Bayou Bengals will be better in 2012

The state of Louisiana’s history is prominently rich. The same can be said for all that it inhabits. For example, you’ve got your good ole’ home cookin’ - rich in flavor and aroma. Then there’s the kind of music that is euphoric to one’s ears and soul.

The long list also includes top-notch athletics. But instead of harping on the past they are all about the future. Case in point: the Louisiana State Tigers.

Les Miles’ squad is on the verge of winning their third BCS National Championship in three tries. The majority of their undefeated regular season was in blowout fashion, and 9-6 overtime victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide have some wondering if they’ve already earned a share of the title, regardless of what happens in the rematch.

The Mad Hatter has a roster chalk full of top-tier talent and depth, an elite coaching staff, and a huge fan base at his disposal. The 2011 season seems too perfect. That must be a one-time gig, right?

Wrong. There is much reason to believe that LSU could continue its run as number one next year.

The scary thing about Miles’ roster is that it is dominated by underclassmen. And at the positions where the starters will leave after this season, it’s simple Next Man Up. Quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee will be gone, leaving behind erratic careers that ended on high notes. But their replacements leave little drop off.

Sophomore Zach Mettenberger and incoming freshman Gunner Kiel each come with their fair share of hype. What’s ironic is that LSU is lucky to even have them on their rosters. Mettenberger committed to Georgia in the 2009 class, but left because fellow ESPNU 150 recruit took hold of Mark Richt’s reigns. After a community college stop at Butler County he signed with LSU in 2010.

Kiel, the nation’s top-rated quarterback, lost a lot of people money in Las Vegas when he originally committed to Indiana. His brother Dusty is a quarterback there, for what it’s worth. Eventually, Kiel woke up and smelled the idiocy of his decision. He recently picked the Tigers over offers from every major college football juggernaut in the land.

Both are tall, pro-style offense leaders, so the possibility of a two-quarterback system seems less likely. This should benefit the Tigers.

I absolutely envy the amount of quality skill players for the Tigers. The sophomore trio of Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, and Alfred Blue each had over 500 yards rushing. These are grown men toting the rock. I watch Ware in high school, when he was a quarterback. He also played baseball for the Tigers. He was actually about to run away with the job, but while Miles was eating grass, he was smoking it (synthetic stuff). That opened the door for others, creating an awesome logjam.

Junior receiver Reuben Randle is your prototypical NFL receiver. On the other hand, freshman Odell Beckham and junior Russell Shepard are more of the Percy Harvin variety of receivers. But being compared to Percy Harvin is never a bad thing.

If any other team will have five of their top six rushers AND receivers like LSU will, then you can call me lazy for not doing my research and I’ll eat crow.

The offensive line that makes Ware and Co. so good will lose some of its starters, but Chris Faulk, P.J. Lonergan, and Alex Hurst return. Offensive coordinator and o-line coach Greg Studrawa may be the best in the business when it comes to teaching his big boys how to rack up pancakes.

On the defensive line, underclassmen - once again - hold many of the spots. Even backups like Barkevious Mingo proved to be nightmares for quarterbacks. Fellow sophomore Sam Montgomery was a brute, notching a team-high nine sacks. He - like many of the ends and tackles - has special written all over him.

The linebacker position might be affected the most, as the starting trio of Ryan Baker, Karnell Hatcher, and Stefoin Francois will be graduating. It shouldn’t be too hard to find replacements, though, as Miles frequently rotated his backers with all of his clever blitz packages.

The secondary. Um, good. Honey Badger, Mo Claiborne (if he doesn’t go pro), Eric Reid, Ron Brooks, Craig Loston, Ronnie Vinson, etc. No need for detail there. They take what they want.

And the cherry on top of the whole roster may be freshman punting sensation Brad Wing. I’m still in shock that they took away his touchdown against Tennessee.

Aussies don’t taunt, they just kangaroo hop.

In addition to the roster, there’s the schedule factor. The SEC recently released the 2012 schedules for all of its teams, and needless to say the a second consecutive running of the table is very possible:

Sept. 1 North Texas
Sept. 8 Washington
Sept. 15 Idaho
Sept. 22 at Auburn
Sept. 29 Towson University
Oct. 6 at Florida
Oct. 13 South Carolina
Oct. 20 at Texas A&M
Nov. 3 Alabama
Nov. 10 Mississippi State
Nov. 17 Ole Miss
Nov. 23 or 24 at Arkansas

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not want to sound like Tiger homer (My heart belongs to the Buckeyes, but please don’t stop reading). College football, as we all know, is the epicenter of pandemonium week in and week out. Anyone can beat anyone, at anytime (see: Appalachian State). But to me, next year’s schedule is far less strenuous than the one LSU had this year.

Alabama’s star lineup will be decimated through the draft, Auburn and Florida are on a gradual decline, and Texas A&M’s transition to the SEC would be hard enough without the Tigers on their schedule.

That leaves the regular season finale at Arkansas as LSU’s most losable game, but that shouldn’t matter. Maybe if college football was like horseshoes or hand grenades, then maybe I’d reconsider saying that they’ll go undefeated.

If I haven’t worn you out by now, then go check out the rest of the 2012 recruiting class. Typical SEC speed, with Les Miles power.

The 2011 season isn’t even in the books and I’m already looking forward to next year. I’m assuming most of Tiger nation is too, in some way, shape, or form. Many analysts may call that unprofessional. But with the talent Miles has to offer, it doesn’t really matter.


http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.tigerrag.com/wp-content/uploads/miles-celebrates.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.tigerrag.com/%3Fp%3D103792&h=300&w=400&sz=17&tbnid=D37RWDsnW_6__M:&tbnh=93&tbnw=124&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dles%2Bmiles%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&zoom=1&q=les+miles&docid=k8VaybH6tOLNFM&sa=X&ei=U1X9Ts7-GcP40gGi_JzpBQ&ved=0CEIQ9QEwAg&dur=1541



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