Sept. 3, 2004
By Brian Curtis
Senior Editor, CSTV
(CollegeSports.com) -- My travels ten days ago took me to Los Angeles and USC, where I witnessed up close the speed and athleticism of the defending national champions. But it seems like déjà vu. Here I am in Baton Rouge with the defending national champions watching speed and athleticism. I guess that's why they were "co-champions".
LSU practiced in 90 degree heat on Thursday in preparation for their opener against Oregon State. Coaches are never satisfied, and I think Nick Saban and his staff wish they had more time to prepare. This LSU squad is much different from last year's, particularly on offense. There is no more Matt Mauck at QB and NFL first round pick Michael Clayton is gone. They are replaced by senior quarterback Marcus Randall and sensational freshman Early Doucet, who joins Skyler Green as an impressive receiving tandem. Doucet is one of the top freshmen in the nation and now I know why. Quick, smart and great hands. Randall takes the helm--for now. Backup JaMarcus Russell looks impressive and imposing. At 6"5, 236, he has a gun for an arm. The first misstep Randall makes, fans will be clamoring for Russell. Don't be surprised if Russell sees some snaps. Fortunately for offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, running back Justin Vincent returns and he will have to carry the brunt of the offense.
The strength of this LSU team is the defense, no surprise to anyone. Marcus Spears looks healthy and maybe even lost a pound. Corey Webster is in phenomenal shape and helps teach the younger players in the secondary. Sophomore LaRon Landry, who was instrumental last season, has added muscle and hits harder. The new starting additions are E.J. Kuale, a linebacker and Claude Wroten, a defensive tackle. Wroten was one of the top junior college players in the country last year and tips the scales at 315 pounds.
With kickoff tomorrow, the coaches, players and city seem to be anxious. There is a lot of pressure on this team to repeat their success last year but there shouldn't be. As Saban has repeatedly told his players since the spring, they are defending nothing. Last year has nothing to do with this year. Oregon State will be a good test. They have an impressive offense and a defense that is getting better. The game will be much closer than people might think, although I believe LSU will pull it out.
The city of Baton Rouge is ready. Everybody wears a purple and gold shirt and every storefront has some sort of LSU merchandise. Seven hundred women turned out yesterday for the "Bengal Belles" luncheon and hundreds more are expected for the Gridiron Club today. They love their football down here and September 4th could not have come fast enough.
Next week's stop: College Park, Maryland.
Brian Curtis will serve as an analyst and insider in all of CSTV's football programming and is the Contributing Editor for football to CollegeSports.com. To ask Brian a question or comment on his column, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian's previous column: Thursday Thoughts: Wild Weekend Watch