By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
Through a week and change of camp, LSU just can’t catch a break.
Scratch that. They did catch one break – a broken leg, to be exact. Add in two knee injuries, a transfer, and yet another off-field obstacle in the form of rising flood waters in Baton Rouge, and you have a recipe for yet another tumultuous August in the LSU Football Operations Building.
Tumultuous Augusts seem to be the norm for the Tigers, for whatever reason. Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Les Miles’ first season, set some sort of weird tone for his tenure in Tiger Town. Just five years ago, LSU lost its starting quarterback on the final day of camp in a brawl.
The next year, LSU lost its Heisman Finalist, Tyrann Mathieu, who was booted from the team for multiple failed drug tests, allegedly.
Year after that, its leading rusher, Jeremy Hill, found himself in legal trouble during fall camp over a fight caught on tape.
Come 2015, Cam Cameron’s bout with prostate cancer caused Les Miles to close practice to the media early and left LSU to use Skype video calls to coordinate with its offensive coordinator.
It’s almost expected now that distraction or disaster will find LSU in the fall.
Last week’s rash of injuries, even before the influx of rising waters from The Great Flood of 2016 and the transfer of former five-star receiver Tyron Johnson, served as this year’s first dose of distraction. Christian LaCouture and Isaiah Washington each succumbed to season-ending knee injuries, depleting the depth on the defensive front. Corey Thompson’s broken leg days later sidelined yet another member of LSU’s front seven.
“That’s the tragedy of the game,” says Miles. “The tragedy of the same is that you bust your tail, do everything you possibly can, put yourself in position to have a great year, and injury can occur. Even if you might like to deny it or withdraw from it, it can happen in the most mundane circumstances.”
LaCouture, in particular, fits the billing above. He spent the summer doing as many as four workouts a day – boxing, LSU’s summer program, workouts at Traction Center for Sports Excellence in Baton Rouge, and sandpit workouts with his father. He dropped 12 pounds in preparation to move from 4-3 defensive tackle to 3-4 defensive end, sacrificing no strength in the process.
“It was hard,” LaCouture said days before his injury. “It was a long process. I had my family and coaches in my corner, making sure I made the right decisions…You know how Louisiana weather is in the summer. I feel like I’m in great shape, I’m prepared, and ready for a great season.”
All that work went to the wayside in practice. Worst of all? LaCouture suffered his injury during non-contact drills. “The most mundane circumstances,” as Miles said.
But if there’s any good news to be had from LSU’s injuries, it’s the timing of them. First, the earlier an injury occurs, the more time Miles has to develop depth. The addition of former No. 1 defensive tackle recruit Travonte Valentine late last week makes developing that depth easier. He’ll slide to nose guard, bump Davon Godchaux out to end, and give LSU a still formidable front.
Behind Thompson and Washington, freshmen like Michael Divinity, Ray Thornton, and Sci Martin will get more first team reps, which will prove vital come season’s start.
Second, and most critically, early injuries leave the door wide open for redshirt opportunities, even for a senior like LaCouture, which become more difficult once game play begins.
Asked if he was taking a glass-half-full approach to the earliness of his team’s injury woes, Miles answered in typical Milesean fashion.
“It’s the only glass you can partake of,” he quipped.
“You have to realize,” he continued, “for instance, I said to Christian, ‘What happens if this happens in the second game, third game, that exact injury happens?’ What happens [now] to a guy like Christian LaCouture is that he gets to put himself in great shape, gets to put himself in a great position to either, one, come back, or two, go on to the NFL. He’s got to recognize that should that [injury] have happened five games in, there was one of those options he would not have. He wouldn’t have the opportunity to come back.”
Historic Floods affect LSU
It remains to be seen how much the flooding in Baton Rouge will affect the LSU football team.
So far, Sunday’s media day and fan day were cancelled, but practice was set to continue on Monday, despite the closure of the university.
On a less urgent note, LSU also had to revise its fall intercession course schedule. Remember that Valentine must pass an intercession class to remain eligible for the fall, but be assured LSU will take every step required to get him on the field.
Ross Dellenger of The Advocate reported LSU strength coach Tommy Moffit was one of the many residents helping rescue evacuees from flooded homes over the weekend. LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette boarded a boat in an attempt to rescue former Voice of the Tigers Jim Hawthorne, who was missing from Saturday evening until contact was made Sunday afternoon. Another boat rescued Hawthorne first, but Bonnette picked up several others in need while out searching.
LSU basketball players posted video of waters rising around apartment complexes on the north side of campus. The water was said to be waist-deep on 7-foot center Elbert Robinson.
The LSU fieldhouse was opened Monday as an emergency medical shelter for individuals with special needs, and a website, LSU.edu/floodrelief, was set up as a resource for the campus and community.
“One of the things that makes LSU such a special place to work, learn, and grow is the deep bond of community that binds us together,” President F. King Alexander said in a released statement. “We are strong; we are resilient; and together, we will recover. You are not alone.”