Football Final Report Card
Handing out season-ending grades for 2010
The emergence of Drake Nevis, pictured left vs. ULM, as an every-down terror on the defensive line was a big part of LSU’s defense staying near the top of SEC rankings all season long (photo by Gail Chisum).
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Editor
A number of things fly from your consciousness when the football team you cover is in the midst of a coach watch/search.
That is most certainly the position LSU found itself in toward the beginning of last week. Also, just for good form, the team lost two juniors to the NFL Draft and an offensive coordinator to Maryland - all in a span of four days.
With the winds of insanity circling at full gust, your Tiger Rag editor (focused firmly elsewhere) didn’t get to fire off a 2010 season-ending report card on the year that was until after much of the purple and gold dust had settled.
Now that we’re in more of a holding pattern (as I say this, the karma gods will probably send down a new offensive coordinator and I’ll be whisked away once more), it’s time to share with you my final grades for the 11-2 Tigers of 2010.
As always, feel free to agree, disagree and give your grades below in our “Comments” box.
After all, as many of us probably thought in class at some point or another in our life, what the hell does the teacher know?
The sustained running game - primarily courtesy of Stevan Ridley and in lesser part due to the offensive line - kept this grade from sinking lower. The fact that Jordan Jefferson rebounded to have good games in three of his last five outings kept the offense’s final mark from dropping even further and flirting with failure. That’s how bad the passing game and quarterback productivity was for two-thirds of 2010. But the offensive outfit for LSU didn’t shoot itself in the foot as often as it did the past two seasons. It also rode Ridley’s legs (1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns) to the nation’s No. 27 running game, averaging 187.5 yards/game on the ground. Finally, Jarrett Lee came to the rescue during the middle of the season, helping secure wins vs. Tennessee and at Florida.
Here’s a list of things you can say about LSU’s 2010 defense: It was markedly better than the season before, coordinator John Chavis’ first in Baton Rouge. It featured at least one All-SEC caliber player on all three levels - Drake Nevis, Kelvin Sheppard and Patrick Peterson. It finished the year the NCAA’s No. 11 scoring defense (second in the SEC) giving up 18.2 points/game. In short, it was the program’s best overall ‘D’ since the 2007 BCS champion, at least. What was originally billed as a thin but quick unit showed speed outweighed everything else. Losing freshman defensive end Sam Montgomery against Tennessee curtailed the pass rush, but defenders from Tyrann Mathieu to KeKe Mingo to Ryan Baker were mainstays in opponents’ backfields. This group kept LSU in every game and won quite a few of them itself.
When penning Tiger Rag’s weekly “Matchups and Prediction” portion of the magazine, it always seemed easiest to decide who had the advantage in the special teams department. The answer, each and every game without fail, was LSU. Placekicker Josh Jasper (28-34 on field goals, 3-4 from over 50 yards) played Mr. Reliable in so many ways - booming home three-pointers, pooch-punting to perfection and even executing fake punts and field goals all three times when called upon. Then, there were the exploits of Patrick Peterson (29.3 yards/kick return and 16.1 yards/punt return as well as two punt returns for six), who showed NFL scouts he’s more than just a lockdown corner. Throw in a boatload of Ron Brooks’ downed punts inside the 20, and this group’s only glaring weakness was the kick return touchdown given up at Florida.
Depending on which part of the season I had to grade this category, the answer would’ve varied. Obviously things didn’t look promising at the head of the command ship after the Tennessee near-debacle. And with the way the team floated around for awhile, winning games seemingly more by chance than merit, one had to question the lead decision-makers. All that talk came to a screeching halt, though, after the Alabama masterpiece. Outcoaching Nick Saban was Les Miles’ biggest coup of the year. It brought a large chunk of the fan base around to the mentality the players had all along - namely, that they believed in their coach. Other things which bumped this grade up: the coaches played freshmen frequently, the passing game did actually improve toward season’s end and LSU continued to “go for it” in situations where a lesser team simply wouldn’t.
Editor Ben Love reports on LSU football and men’s basketball for Tiger Rag. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.