Discussion in 'The Tiger's Den' started by Atreus21, Sep 3, 2004.
Pretty neat. Like the first two paragraphs.
For folks with blocked access
This defending national champion hopes to look a lot better than the other one just did.
LSU begins defense of its share of the national title Saturday with a season-opening matchup with Oregon State.
The Tigers, the BCS champs after their 21-14 Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma, kick off the 2004 season one week after AP champion Southern California opened with an unimpressive 23-14 victory Virginia Tech. The Trojans trailed late in the third quarter against the Hokies, who had been 17 1/2 -point underdogs.
While USC was an overwhelming choice as the No. 1 team in preseason polls, expectations are not as high for LSU despite the defending co-national champ entering the season at No. 4 in the AP Top 25.
``We have a new mountain to climb now,'' said coach Nick Saban, whose Tigers closed last season with eight straight wins to finish 13-1. ``The challenges and the team are different. The problems that need to be solved are somewhat different.''
Quarterback Matt Mauck and top targets Michael Clayton and Devery Henderson went on to the NFL, leaving unproven Marcus Randall to throw to a mostly untested receiving corps.
``We want to find out what we're about this year,'' Randall said. ``This is a brand new challenge.''
The fifth-year senior is hoping a lot of practice and renewed confidence as a starter has made him a much better signal-caller than the one that struggled in place of an injured Mauck for half the 2002 season. He went 2-4 as a starter that year, but Saban claims that came against the toughest part of the schedule and Randall was very inexperienced.
``I was kind of nervous because I had never played in a college game,'' Randall said. ``Practice can get you ready, but it's nothing like games.''
Junior Skyler Green may be the SEC's fastest receiver and could be Randall's best option through the air. He had 48 catches for 519 yards and five touchdowns last season, but no other returning Tiger had more than 14 receptions in 2003.
The lack of experience in the passing game may result in the Tigers relying on what appears to be a talented tailback-by-committee, with Justin Vincent, Alley Broussard, Joseph Addai and Shyrone Carey all expected to get significant carries.
Vincent appears to be the best of the bunch. He was the Sugar Bowl and SEC title game MVP, finishing the season with 1,001 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.
``Nobody will be asked to do it all the time,'' Vincent said. ``These days in the SEC, you have to share the ball.
``There are no more Herschel Walkers and Bo Jacksons. It's good having the competition. Every back we have could start for another team.''
Saban, however, has been disappointed with the progress of the running game during practice and scrimmages, but he knows the quality of his defense may have played into those struggles.
``There's always a time when you've got to be able to run the ball,'' Saban said. ``It's a mental toughness thing, getting movement up front, executing like we need to. With the kind of runners we have, we should be able to do that effectively.''
Oregon State was carried by its rushing attack last season, specifically by Stephen Jackson, en route to an 8-5 record.
With Jackson leaving school early -- he was the St. Louis Rams' first-round pick -- fifth-year senior Dwight Wright gets an opportunity to carry the load after years of backing up stars Ken Simonton and Jackson.
Wright, who had 89 carries for 350 yards last season and two touchdowns, is a bit undersized and faces competition from sophomore Ryan Cole and redshirt freshman Yvenson Bernard.
``All of us are a lot smaller backs than Steve was, so it's kind of hard to take a big workload like that,'' Wright said. ``In my own mind, I'm ready for it.''
Senior quarterback Derek Anderson threw for 4,058 yards and 24 TDs last season, but has lost two of his best weapons in the passing game with the departure of tight end Tim Euhus and receiver James Newson to the NFL.
Oregon State, the only team to face both USC and LSU this season, has lost all three meetings with the Tigers -- the last of which came in 1982.
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Vincent appears to be the best of the bunch :rofl: