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LSU faces serious hurdles for title repeat

LSU coach Les Miles speaks to the media Wednesday at the SEC football media days in Hoover, Ala.
LSU coach Les Miles speaks to the media Wednesday at the SEC football media days in Hoover, Ala.

HOOVER, Ala. — There are no action photos, player portraits or collages on the front of LSU’s media guide.

The only thing gracing the shiny silver cover is a picture of the crystal football the Tigers took home on the short drive from New Orleans to Baton Rouge following their 38-24 victory against Ohio State in the BCS national championship game.

Yet, LSU coach Les Miles is ready to turn the page on that championship season.

“The ‘08 (season) is where we’re at,” Miles said Wednesday on the first day of the SEC’s media days. “We’re not defending. We’re not dealing with rankings. This is a brand new year. If we’re defending, come see the trophy. It’s in our trophy case. We’re not defending it. It’s there. We’ve got a brand-new team.”

It’s a team that once again is a preseason top-10 pick despite losing six players to the NFL draft and seeing its starting quarterback kicked off the team for repeated off-the-field issues.

Many of the important cogs from the ‘07 team are missing, including the Tigers’ leading rusher (Jacob Hester), passer (Matt Flynn), receiver (Early Doucet) and three leading tacklers (safety Craig Steltz, linebacker Ali Highsmith and defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey).

Ryan Perrilloux, who led the Tigers past Tennessee in the SEC championship game last year when Flynn was injured, also is gone after Miles booted him in the spring following repeated rules violations.

Given the exodus, maybe Miles has the right idea when he hopes players will exercise select amnesia when it comes to last year’s title.

“We’ve got to,” center Brett Helms said. “If we don’t, people are thinking that the way we played in the championship game is the way we’re going to go into Appalachian State (the Tigers’ opening-game opponent).

“You’ve got to start over, and keep the things that got us there last year: working hard, and dedication and stuff like that.”

Miles likes the makeup of the team, saying it has “very significant leadership” and “great character.”

But character alone will not win 12 games.

The Tigers have to find someone to fill the void left by Perrilloux, who will play for Jacksonville State this year.

“No one on the team wanted to see him get kicked off the team,” defensive end Tyson Jackson said. “But it’s only human nature that we had to move on.”

The Tigers will move on with one of three candidates at quarterback: strong-armed redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee, Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch or freshman Jordan Jefferson.

Jackson believes the Tigers have enough play-makers surrounding the quarterbacks to ease the transition for whomever wins the job. Tight end Richard Dickson was a second-team pick on the coaches’ preseason all-SEC team, while receiver Brandon LaFell and running back Keiland Williams were third-team selections.

As usual, the Tigers are stacked defensively, particularly up front. Ends Jackson and Kirston Pittman and tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, who missed most of last year, may be better collectively than the ‘07 unit led by Outland Trophy winner Glenn Dorsey.

“If anybody else had lost Dorsey in this conference, they’d be in real trouble. LSU just puts another one up there,” Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said. “Tyson Jackson is really an outstanding player. I know whoever they put out there is going to be a great player. But I’m still glad Dorsey is gone.”

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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