GTN writers Gary Laney and David Helman discuss issues around LSU football.
Question: ESPNU has been showing both LSU-Alabama games from last season. Looking back at them, what strikes you the most in retrospect?
Gary Laney: Just how badly the LSU offensive line was handled by the Alabama front. The Crimson Tide defense didn't just beat the LSU offensive line, they embarrassed the Tigers' front.
With that in mind, it was easier to wrap my arms around the failure to throw the ball more by LSU in the BCS championship game and the lack of desire to try Jarrett Lee. LSU couldn't block Alabama up front very well in either game, but particularly in the championship game.
Don't let this be an indictment of what was otherwise a solid year for LSU's offensive line. Alabama was just that good.
David Helman: Two things. First, it's been seven months and I simply can't believe that the Tigers' game plan centered around the option. I'm not sure anything would have worked against a defense that good, but LSU's best hope for success was essentially a gimmick play, and the Crimson Tide had five weeks to prepare for it after being burned by it in November. It was never going to work.
Secondly, it's amazing how quickly everyone forgot about Eric Reid's goal line interception on Nov. 5 -- most likely because LSU lost the rematch. That was easily the seminal play of the regular season, for my money.
Q: Les Miles said at SEC media day he wanted to settle on two running backs to carry the load. Which backs would they be?
GL: Obviously, it'll play out in camp, but on paper I'd go with Spencer Ware and Michael Ford. Ware looked really good early last season, but he broke down a bit physically. But we can't forget what he did in some impressive early games. And Ford is the best of your speed backs and if you are going to use a tandem, I'm in favor of a change-of-pace guy.
I get the feeling Alfred Blue will work his way in the mix at some point. Kenny Hilliard and Jeremy Hill are guys who can work into the fullback rotation if they aren't getting consistent tailback carries.
DH: Agreed that Ford is going to earn a spot in that tandem -- he's easily the best blend of power and speed among the RB's. Ware is going to be the favorite going into fall camp, especially after Miles emphasized that he's lost some weight since the season ended. But it's hard to forget how well Hilliard played down the stretch last season.
Using Hilliard as a battering ram, and then countering with Ford's speed is a pretty attractive combination.
Q: LSU has 21 committed players. If you had to guess on a final four to close out the recruiting class, who would they be?
DH: We're still six months out from national signing day. As Alabama has shown with its two high profile defections in the last two weeks, the odds the Tigers hold on to all 21 players are pretty slim. At least one or two guys might not qualify, and there's always the possibility of a decomittment or two.
With that in mind, I think Rashard Robinson (Pompano Beach, Fla./Ely Blanche) is a definite commitment. I think all the focus at defensive tackle shifts to Greg Gilmore (Hope Mills, N.C./South View) now that Scott Pagano (Honolulu, Hawaii/Moanalua) has declared for Clemson. Gilmore is going to get the full press to commit in August.
At least one, if not both of the local standouts -- Kendell Beckwith (Jackson, La./East Feliciana) and Tim Williams (Baton Rouge, La./LSU Laboratory) -- is a safe bet to join the class.
If the Tigers lose anyone in the meantime, there are some other names to keep an eye on -- Ricky Seals-Jones (Sealy, Texas/Sealy), Priest Willis (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos De Niza) and Adam Taylor (Katy, Texas/Katy) being chief among them.
GL: Gilmore, Beckwith, Robinson and Williams.
If LSU lands those four and stays put, to me it's a fantastic class, maybe a little better for team building than what it will appear to be in the rankings. Remember, two current commitments are junior college transfers who don't currently add star value to the class because juco players remain unrated by ESPN. And fullback Kennard Swanson (Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson) is a mere three-star in a class dominated by four-star recruits.
But the Tigers needn't apologize for any of the three because they all address a need. The juco players will make an early impact at positions where LSU will be young next season. And fullback is important in the LSU offense even if it's not a sexy position nationally. Even as a three-star, Swanson is the nation's No. 2-ranked fullback.
Sometimes, filling needs trumps star gazing.