Bad News and more bad news for LSULately the news surrounding LSU football has been bad or near misses. Wide receiver Chris Tolliver who worked hard and had all the potential in the world will never play another down of football thanks to concussions suffered mostly in practice. LSU has a connection with Willie Lyles. So far, that is a near miss since LSU paid the advertised rate for state junior college video, recruited players on the video from each of the two states, and was successful in signing only one of the junior college players. Had LSU been more successful recruiting, ironically that may have thrown up a red flag. The fact that all star quarterback recruit Zach Mettenberger is still listed as 3rd string and not practicing with the veterans is a red flag. LSU is on probation because of recruiting violations surrounding junior college recruit Akiem Hicks. Reports from practice one day pointed to Hicks becoming a real force on the d-line but then for no clearly explained reason, Hicks had fallen down the depth chart list and never saw a single down as an LSU Tiger. After seeing the quarterbacks in the Spring game, I am wondering why coaches are insisting Jordan Jefferson is the hands-down starter and why Mettenberger is listed at 3rd string. I hope that this is not a precautionary move by LSU reminiscent of the handling of Akiem Hicks. I also hope that LSU's recruiting problems are imaginary this time. To add to the bad news about Chris Tolliver and the Lyles concerns, SEC media days brought the surprising news that team role model, spokesperson, and starting wide receiver - Russell Shepard was absent because of personal issues that turned out to be potential housing violations. Shepard has taken care of business and I am pleased to report that this one was a near miss. About the same time LSU fans learned that MaxPrep #1 wide receiver recruit Jarvis Landry has a broken foot and will probably not be available for a few weeks. Landry is an incoming freshman and a broken foot is not usually a career ender so LSU fans should enjoy seeing Landry for several years. LSU is loaded with talent a wide receiver so the Landry news is disappointing but it is just a temporary set back.
The news for LSU coach Kragthorpe is even worse
Sadly, the most recent bad news is really bad news. New Offensive Coordinator Steve Kragthorpe informed coach Miles three weeks ago that he has Parkinson's disease. Coach Kragthorpe took off from coaching last year because his wife, who has MS, needed coach Kragthorpe to help her recuperate from heart surgery and to take a larger role in home and parental duties with the Kragthorpe's three sons. I am a religious man and I have always struggled with living the charge of James 1:2 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, . . . ." When I think of what the Kragthorpe's are going through, I cannot imagine the kind of faith that it would take to consider these trials pure joy. I am including the Kragthorpe in my prayers and hope that you will too.
From a professional perspective this hiring was supposed to provide coach Kragthorpe an opportunity to redeem himself from a dismal showing as Louisville's head coach. I had confidence that coach Kragthorpe was on track as LSU's new offensive coordinator to that redemption. Clearly, now that coach Kragthorpe has stepped down from the LSU OC position, that redemption will have to take a different path. But, you know what, I think now that coach Kragthorpe has changed positions to become LSU's quarterbacks coach, he will have an opportunity to focus on having a more concentrated impact. Kragthorpe's forte is coaching quarterbacks and now he can complete his career coaching quarterbacks. Coach Kragthorpe has a real opportunity and I bet LSU will be an even bigger winner from the opportunity. More importantly, because of coach Kragthorpe's character, how he handles these extremely difficult personal problems will teach volumes. Jordan Jefferson needs to grow as a leader. Zach Mettenberger exhibited poor judgement at Georgia and may need some lessons in maturity and character. Coaches do not always get the opportunity to really teach the most important lessons. Coach Kragthorpe may have no choice but to really teach these important lessons simply by the way he lives his life. As I said before, my prayers are very much with the Kragthorpes.
So what is next for LSU's Offense?
In the press conference where coach Miles and coach Kragthorpe discussed coach Kragthorpe's situation, Miles announced that offensive line coach, Greg Studrawa, has been given a battlefield upgrade to offensive coordinator. Whether or not coach Studrawa will be an effective offensive coordinator or not is without question a secondary concern to the more important problems that coach Kragthorpe faces. Still, Tiger Nation deserves to know that promoting coach Studrawa to OC is not a knee-jerk reaction or poor decision.
Offensive line coach/Offensive Coordinator Studrawa
Coach Studrawa may turn out to be one heck of an OC if his background is any indication. Coach Studrawa served as both offensive line coach and offensive coordinator for Bowling Green from 2003-2005 and was promoted to Assistant head coach and offensive coordinator in 2006. Coach Stud has been with LSU since 2007 which makes him LSU's senior offensive coach.
In 2003, coach Studrawa's first year as Bowling Green's O-line and OC coach, Bowling Green only lost to two teams and both losses were to top 20 teams. One of those two losses was to then #6 Ohio State at Ohio State by only one touchdown. In 2003, OC Studrawa's Bowling Green team beat #13 Purdue at Purdue, scored more than 30 points in 8 games, more than 40 points in 4 of those games, and top the 60 point mark in two games. Bowling Green went 11-3 and beat Northwestern in the Motor City bowl in 2003 - coach Studrawa's first year as an offensive coordinator.
In 2004, Bowling Green went 9-3 with one of those three losses coming to Oklahoma at Oklahoma. Oklahoma had a pretty good team in 2004. In the previous game, Oklahoma had just ended with a 21-14 loss to LSU in the BCS National Championship. Oklahoma only lost one game in 2004 - a 55-19 loss to Southern Cal in the 2004 BCS National Championship. Bowling Green managed 24 points against Oklahoma. Including USC, only three teams managed to score more points against Oklahoma that year. In five games the 2004 defense managed to hold their opponents to one touchdown or less, four of those games include fewer points than a single touchdown, and the OU defense completely shutout two teams. In 2004, Bowling Green's QB, Omar Jacobs, set the NCAA division 1-A record for touchdown-to-interception ratio with 10.25 touchdowns for each interception. Jacobs threw for more than 4000 yards with a 66.9% completion ratio. The next year Jacob's was injured but still managed 2590 yards with 60.7 completion ratio. Jacobs backup, Anthony Turner, added 492 yards passing with 61.2 completion ratio. In 2005, Bowling Green only went 6-5 but managed to score 40 or more points in 5 games including 42 points in a loss to a strong 10-3 Wisconsin team that defeated Auburn in the Capital One bowl by a score of 24-10. In 2006, offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Studrawa was promoted to assistant head coach/offensive coordinator and Bowling Green suffered a 4-8 season. Bowling Green's starting quarterback, Anthony Turner, still completed 57.1% of his passes for 1596 yards, 11 touchdowns to 5 interceptions, and rushed for another 482 yards and 5 touchdowns. After a 4-8 season Bowling Green assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa took a position as LSU's offensive line coach.
Coaching at Bowling Green is not in the same league with coaching at LSU, however; I trust you noticed the fact that Bowling Green faired well when they played LSU caliber teams like Oklahoma, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Nobody would have thought twice if any of those teams had shutdown Studrawa's Bowling Green offense. This year, LSU will face no team where they will be the kind of underdog that Bowling Green must have been in those games. I have certainly had a year or two where I wondered privately if coach Studrawa might be on the hot seat but this year is an opportunity for coach Studrawa to show what he can accomplish as LSU's offensive coordinator. If LSU has the kind of success that Bowling Green had with Studrawa as offensive line coach and offensive coordinator, OC Studrawa may be more than a temporary battlefield promotion. If that happens, I would hope LSU would be careful not to ever promote coach Stud to assistant head coach. ;)
Questions Still Remain
LSU suffered a horrible time with co-defensive coordinators in the recent past and we can hope that coach Miles is wiser from that experience. In the press conference it sounded like coach Kragthorpe may still maintain some of the OC responsibilities like devising a game plan. On the other hand, it seems clear that with the depth of experience among LSU offensive coaches that sharing responsibilities may not be a huge departure from current standard operating procedures at LSU. We can hope that Miles will carefully consider what strengths coach Studrawa utilized in his success in performing the dual roles of offensive line coach/offensive coordinator at Bowling Green. I have to believe that Miles has had and will have many long talks with coach Studrawa to get the most of his offensive experience.
Sadly, we have to wonder about the "hows" and "whens" of coach Kragthorpe's limitations due to illness. Coach Kragthorpe looked incredibly under controlled during what must have been a difficult press conference announcing his illness and coaching change. Maybe his doctors have found a really good combination of medications to help manage his illness. Once the right combination of medications have been discovered, I have been told that Parkinson's is very manageable. I trust LSU will continue to rally around and support coach Kragthorpe.
Let's hope that this marks the limit to the bad news that Tiger Nation will have to endure this season. We have now met our quota of bad news. We will now only receive good news for the remainder of the year and possibly through the end of next year.