Editorial: Is LSU football on the decline?


Is LSU football on the decline? This is the question being debated right now by media types, fans, and everybody in-between. It is a question where reasonable people, and unreasonable people can and will disagree. And believe me, as one who peruses the myriad of LSU football message board posts, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, there is an insane number of people in that latter category.

As to the myriad numbers of mainstream media people and bloggers who cover the LSU Tigers, it would appear to be a mixed bag as to whether LSU is a program in decline. I’ve seen everything from “LSU will be okay” to the most “Chicken Little-sky is falling” prognostications. I won’t post links to any of those here, lest I drive up their page views.

LSU’s record in the SEC starting with 2011 looks like this: 8-0 in 2011, 6-2 in 2012, 5-3 in 2013 and 4-4 in 2014.  That sure looks like a declining trend, and it’s what most people look at in formulating their opinion.

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Before going any further, my argument is no, LSU football is not on the decline, at least not yet. That said, my caveat – let’s see what transpires in 2015. If we see another season like 2014, my stance will change. Right now, I am willing to give Les Miles and LSU the benefit of the doubt. My main reasoning is this – the cumulative losses to the NFL over the past couple of years that lead to the number of young players that had to grow up quickly in 2014. Just check out lsusports.net to view the successes of former LSU Tigers in the NFL.

In a perfect world, an elite team such as LSU would be able to plug-in replacements right away, thus mitigating the loss of graduating players, and those declaring early for the NFL draft. On one hand, there are those who argue that if Alabama (or insert name of another elite program) can do this, why can’t LSU. On the other, college-age players are not machines, and it’s not quite that simple.

So back to the question. In order for LSU football not to fall into the “program in decline” category, Les Miles has a very important offseason in front of him. Several issues must be addressed:

  • The quarterback – I’m not going to beat this one to death. LSU fans know the drill here. The quarterback position has been problematic since 2008, when Ryan Perrilloux was kicked off the team. Ever since then, with the only exception being Zach Mettenberger in 2013, it seems that Miles and staff have done their collective best to hide the quarterback, for fear of whomever is behind center will make mistakes. The question heading into 2015 – who will be the starting quarterback? Miles MUST fix this problem if LSU is to contend next year. The youth issue in 2014 cannot be an excuse in 2015. Plus, as great a kid as he is, Anthony Jennings is not the answer. Either Brandon Harris steps up, or the Tigers find a JUCO player (or maybe Braxton Miller?) who can step in right away.
  • The defense and defensive coordinator position – In what has to be considered the unexpected, DC John Chavis bolts for Texas A&M. The reports indicate a contract issue; who knows, maybe there was more at play here that factor into why Chavis left. Miles must hire a new DC that is more than just competent and talented – hopefully a candidate with a great track record, perhaps an up-and-coming name, or a combination of both. The defense going into 2015 must be at least on the same level as it is now. I’d like to think maybe Chavis leaving is a blessing in disguise. I, for one, was never enamored with his end-of-game schemes.
  • Special teams and the kicking game – Notwithstanding the flubbed kickoff in the Alabama game, it does appear that some attention be given to the kicking game. All of a sudden, LSU doesn’t have placekicker that can be relied upon. Colby Delahoussaye was once as close to automatic as they come, then suffered a late-season slump. Replacement Trent Domingue is likely not the answer (see blocked FG attempt vs Notre Dame).
  • The Alabama/Nick Saban problem – Fair or not, Miles will always be compared to Saban. It is what it is. I would like to say, though, LSU football is now ten years removed from Saban. Sure, Saban resurrected LSU football and had a great run from 2000-2004, including the 2003 BCS championship. While it is time for many of the LSU faithful to let go of Saban once and for all, there will always be the stigma for Miles as the man who replaced Saban. Miles has defeated Saban multiple times, but the 2011 BCS loss, combined with late-game collapses in 2012 and 2014 have left a bad taste in the mouths of Tiger fans. Let’s hope 2015 brings an LSU victory over this SEC West rival.

I don’t believe that Les Miles is on the hot seat right now. Another season like 2014, without addressing all of the above and he will be.

Fortunately, there are a number of positives heading into 2015. These include the emergence of one Leonard Fournette (who should most certainly be in the 2015 Heisman discussion), a great corps of talented receivers (they just need a QB who can get the ball to them), most of the OL returning, and most of the defense returning (including Jamal Adams and Kendell Beckwith, both stars in the making).

In closing, LSU football is not currently in decline. Let’s see how things play out in 2015 before believing this to be the case.