Last month, Les Miles had two messages for his LSU football players:
First, here are your national championship rings. Wear them with pride. You earned it.
Second, forget it. Move on. As far as this year is concerned, it never happened.
“We’re not defending (the Bowl Championship Series title),” Miles said last week at SEC media days. “Come see the trophy, it’s in our trophy case. We’re not defending it, it’s there. We got a brand new team.”
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That depends on how you look at it. Yes, the Tigers lost seven players to the NFL draft — including No. 5 overall pick Glenn Dorsey and quarterback Matt Flynn. But this season’s version is built like a typical LSU team: loads of defensive talent, a big offensive line and good skill position players.
The big question is at quarterback. Ryan Perrilloux, who split time with Flynn, was dismissed from the team in the spring and ended up a Gamecock (a Jacksonville State Gamecock.). That left just three scholarship quarterbacks, including true freshman Jordan Jefferson.
Junior Andrew Hatch (who transferred from Harvard last year) and redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee are the favorites for the starting job. The Tigers appear to be looking for more of a caretaker quarterback who won’t make mistakes.
“All three of them are going to have to deal with consistency,” Miles said. “The most consistent performer, the guy that makes the play, the guy that is least likely to turn it over, least likely to make poor decision — that will be, in my opinion, the first (thing) that will allow them to get on the field.”
Otherwise, the Tigers seem to be in good position. They had eight players picked to the preseason All-SEC first- or second-teams. That was second only to Auburn, which also edged LSU in voting as the favorite to win the Western Division.
In a fitting bit of irony, LSU opens the season against Appalachian State, which pulled off the improbable upset of Michigan last year. Miles, a Michigan alum, resisted overtures from his alma mater in the offseason and will now have his own shot at the Mountaineers.
It’s also a good bit of unintentional genius in scheduling: There is no danger of LSU overlooking this opener.
“We know what happened to Michigan last year,” said senior defensive end Tyson Jackson, a preseason All-SEC first-team pick.
But do they remember what happened to LSU last year? Why would they want to forget?
“We’ve got to. 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,” center Brett Helms said. “You’ve got to start over, and keep the things that got us there last year: working hard, and dedication and stuff like that.”
Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.