Thursday, May 2, 2013
LSU's top offseason storylines
By Gary Laney
BATON ROUGE, La. -- At LSU, the offseason is not the same as a "slow" season.
The Tigers are always good for offseason news and, as recent events tell us with the off-field arrests of Jeremy Hill and Tharold Simon (on his way to the NFL), the news isn't always good.
Things never get boring on the bayou. Here are five storylines to look out for prior to LSU starting August camp.
Jeremy Hill's arrest and suspension puts LSU's offensive fortunes in flux.
1. The Hill issue: LSU's leading rusher from the 2012 season has been suspended from the team indefinitely after being charged with simple assault following a bar fight, an arrest complicated by the fact that Hill was already on probation.
The questions are many. Does Hill face a serious legal problem given his probation? If he does, will he still be available at the start of the fall semester?
If he doesn't face a serious legal issue, might he face a discipline issue from Les Miles and, if so, what might that be?
The Tigers have just four scholarship running backs, including Hill. Losing him before the first August practice could hurt LSU's power running identity.
2. The Leslie situation: What might cushion the blow of either losing Hill or seeing him serve a lengthy suspension would be improvement to the Tigers' sometimes anemic passing game.
The Hinds Community College sophomore needs to finish coursework at his junior college to be eligible to join the Tigers this summer. If he makes it, the hope is he gives LSU the big, downfield threat it's looking for. LSU has plenty of experience back at receiver, but all of the top receivers are around 6-foot tall. Leslie would add something the Tigers currently lack.
The hope was that Leslie would graduate at the end of the fall of 2012 and join the team in the spring semester. That did not happen and he had to return to junior college to finish his degree requirements. Reports from his juco have been good, but Leslie still has to finish.
3. Scheduling: LSU seems to be in the minority in being unhappy with the SEC schedule format.
The Tigers are stuck having to play an annual game with Florida as its "permanent" cross-division rival while the other SEC West kingpin, Alabama, gets to play Tennessee, which has struggled in recent years.
LSU's preference would be to eliminate the permanent cross-division rivalry or, possibly, add a ninth SEC game. Neither idea seems to have much traction as the conference members, for the most part, are content with their league schedules. But LSU will try again in both fronts at the SEC spring meetings later this month.
4. Youth is ready?: We usually think of a new recruiting class beginning to compete for playing time in August.
In reality, it starts much sooner than that. Eight members of LSU's recruiting class enrolled in spring and several made pushes to be on the two-deep. The rest of the class will be on campus in June, ready to go through the offseason workout program.
By the start of August camp, we might already have an idea who is ready to push for time based on what we're hearing about their offseason work.
5. Pursuing the 2014 class: Given an unusually strong year for talent in Louisiana, LSU has a legitimate chance at a No. 1 recruiting class nationally.
The Tigers entered May with nine commitments and are on the short list for several uncommitted players in the ESPN 150. Starting with LSU's late-May "Bayou Picnic" for top prospects and continuing with a pair of summer camps in early June and mid-July, the Tigers will have a series of recruiting events that traditionally have yielded the Tigers dividends in its recruiting classes.
This year, LSU will hope to use the camp to land some big names from the state and the region in a year where Louisiana has the nation's top prospect (running back Leonard Fournette) and its top offensive lineman (tackle Cameron Robinson), among several other top recruits.