I feel compelled to say something about the basketball team, but what is there to say? Another second half collapse; another disappointing loss. I guess if there was ever a chance that LSU would make the NCAA tourney without winning the SEC tournament, those dreams are over.
I didn't actually watch the game or listen on the radio, but it looks like it was pretty ugly. Instead, I'm going to talk about Spring Practice again.
As Spring Practice begins, troubled LSU running back Alley Broussard appears to be... well... even more troubled. The big, fast, talented tailback who tantalized us in 2004 with an excellent campaign and a record breaking performance against Ole Miss has had another setback in his quest to be a productive running back and to get to the NFL after suffering a devastating knee injury shortly before the 2005 season. This setback appears to be self-inflicted.
Alley Broussard has been suspended from the team for one week for violation of team rules. Miles' comment: "It's our team. If you want to be a big part of our team or your team, it's important to practice and prepare. He's not in a position to do that now." Ouch.
It's no secret that Alley has had a hard time coming back from his injury, not just physically but mentally. He missed the entire 2005 season, supposedly almost quit the team once or twice, was overweight and out of shape for the entire 2006 season, and now appears to "not be in a position to [want to be a big part of the team]." Rumor also has it that he remains out of shape. Top that off with the fact that he is finishing his career with a coach other than the one who recruited him.
I don't know if Broussard's problem is aggravated by a poor relationship with Les Miles, but it is apparent that there is a disconnect between Alley Broussard and the people who run the team. They cannot seem to motivate him to put in the time in the weight room to get in shape and to "want to be a big part of our team". I don't mean this as a knock against Les Miles, nor am I saying that Les Miles is to blame. Frankly, Alley needs to understand that his shot at the NFL rides on his ability to get himself ready to play.
Alley Broussard was part of an excellent class of running backs who joined the team as freshmen for the 2003 National Championship season. All three of them appear to be ending their careers at LSU in disappointing fashion. Justin Vincent never lived up to the promise he showed in his 2003 campaign, which saw him post over 1000 yards and earn MVP honors in both the SEC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl. In that SEC game, he had one of the most electrifying runs from scrimmage I have ever seen by an LSU running back, when he stiff-armed a Georgia defender who had an angle to tackle him in the backfield, then broke it for 60-some yards. Though he eventually became a team leader, especially in the aftermath of Katrina, he never again brought that level of production to the LSU backfield.
Barrington Edwards transferred to North Carolina after a promising freshman season that saw him fall behind Vincent and Broussard. He'll be going into his senior season at UNC this year. Last year, he was second on the team in carries and yards, with 91 carries for 330 yards, both totals down from the previous year. UNC's leading rusher graduated, so he is the top returning rusher. And oh yeah, UNC was 3-9 last year, and one of the worst teams in the ACC.
Then there's Alley, who, if not for the knee injury, would be long since gone to ply his trade in the NFL. Instead, he's fighting to get mentally back into football. Even though he was the biggest of the three running backs from 2003, he was also the fastest. He could power his way through a tackle, then outrun the rest of the defenders. He was a little behind Justin Vincent in development, because Justin had the benefit of spending a year after high school at a prep school, so Alley didn't see a lot of action in meaningful games in 2003. His breakout year was 2004, when he averaged 6.1 yards per carry (phenomenal for a running back) and scored 10 touchdowns.
He entered Fall Practice in 2005 with a new coach and thoughts of competing for the Heisman Trophy and entering the NFL draft as a junior. Then came the knee injury. Then came the subsequent infection. Then came the difficulties in the mental part of the game. Then came the 2006 season with Alley overweight. Then came Keiland Williams and Charles Scott, both eager to be the #1 running back. Football is a tough, competitive game, and if you don't bring 100% effort, there will be someone behind you ready to pass you up.
Reading between the lines, my guess is that Alley will end up transferring to a Division II school. If so, I wish him well and hope he can get it together. Broussard, despite all his problems, showed flashes of brilliance last year. He was visibly overweight, and not as fast as he had been, but still managed to be our third leading rusher behind Keiland Williams and Jacob Hester, despite not touching the ball in three different games. He still has the talent, and if he can get his mind and his body right, he STILL has a chance to make the NFL.