Monday, August 6, 2007

No Worries, Mate, Part I

Actually, there are worries. This is the first of a multi-part series on the things I worry about when I think of the 2007 LSU football team.

We have a very good team, a team that looks like it has a genuine shot at running the table all the way to the National Championship Game. That's not to say it will happen, but we have a real shot at it. But what could go wrong? Several things can go wrong. This team, despite all its strengths, has some serious weaknesses that have not been corrected despite years of effort.

One of the big rule changes this year is the new rule moving kickoffs back to the 30 yard line from the 35, meaning there will be fewer touchbacks and more runbacks on kickoffs. This has LSU fans salivating waiting for another electrifying return from Trindon Holliday.

Don't forget, however, that the opponent has a kickoff returner too. There are several really good return men in the SEC. Felix Jones at Arkansas almost burned us with a kickoff return last year. Javier Arenas at Bama was dangerous. Raphael Little at Kentucky was dangerous. And those are just some of the ones on our schedule. Mikey Henderson at Georgia is as dangerous as anyone, and everyone in the SEC has someone capable of returning the ball a long way.

This means that the team should be spending a lot of time focusing on covering kickoffs. It may also be a good idea to put more of the best players on kickoff coverage as well. Les Miles, like a lot of coaches, uses a lot of young players on special teams, which helps get these players experience. Some coaches, like Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, actually put their best players on special teams and rotate the young players into regular plays to give his best players a rest. Miles should consider doing the same thing, at least on kickoffs.

Any time you get a special teams touchdown, it dramatically increases your chances of winning, but any time you give up a special teams touchdown, it dramatically decreases your chances of winning. Because LSU has not recently been particularly good at kickoff coverage, and because the rules have changed to benefit returners, this is a spot to worry about in the upcoming year.

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