SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On LSU's New OC
Will the real Kragthorpe please stand up
CFN's SEC Bloggers give you five different perspectives on Les Miles' hire to run the LSU offense: Steve Kragthorpe
Gabe Harris: On the choice
Steve Kragthorpe is back on the sidelines after a year away from the game. He was hired to be Texas A&M's receivers coach for the 2010 season but stepped away due to his wife's illness.
Highly thought of coming out of Tulsa, he quickly fell out of favor at Louisville as he was unable to come even close to Bobby Petrino's record. Kragthorpe's reputation is based on developing quarterbacks, and that's the one thing that's been holding back the Bayou Bengals. So you'd think it'd be a good fit (more on that below).
It's no secret that Les Miles wants to get back to a pro-style offense, and given what we've seen of Kragthorpe, he should be able to do just that. Crowton was never a fit at LSU, and evidently not with Miles either. Whereas Kragthorpe and Miles know each other well, having both been head coaches in the state of Oklahoma at the same time. Miles has said he often used the Tulsa/OU game tape when preparing for his contests against the Sooners.
Kragthorpe is a coach with just one bad stop, and that as the head man. He is a good offensive coach who will be able to utilize the many talents LSU has and turn the Tigers back into a functional, consistent offense.
Brian Harbach: On Kragthorpe's coaching history
Steve Kragthorpe is one of the more interesting figures in college football from the last decade because of how fast his star rose and fell after his move from Tulsa to Louisville. Kragthorpe did a great job as the head man for the Golden Hurricane after spending a couple years in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills.
He won 29 games at Tulsa from 2003-2006 averaging 30 points a game, the job he did at Tulsa was a miracle after the team won two games the previous two seasons. He took the team to a bowl in 2003, their first since 1991. He tried to parlay his success in Tulsa off at Louisville where Bobby Petrino had a great run with the Cardinals and a great offense. Somehow Kragthorpe turned a Cadillac offense into a Geo Metro.
In three seasons he never took Louisville to a bowl game, he never got any offensive success from his players and he was fired after a 34-14 loss at home to Rutgers. Kragthorpe was known as a developer of quarterbacks, he did it in the NFL as well as college but that never materialized in Louisville which was his biggest reason his Cardinal teams were not successful.
Russ Mitchell: On what he has to work with
One absolutely crazy fan base, that's for certain. Crazy good, they'll tell you down on the Bayou. But outside of Tuscaloosa, there are few places in the south possessing more outrageous expectations for their football team.
Course, asking your Offensive Coordinator to put your talent-laden team somewhere in top 100 isn't really all that unreasonable.
So, what toys does Coach K have in his chest? What's exactly is the talent that Gabe mentioned above?
Starting out in the all important trenches, the Tigers return four of five starters, from a unit that finished in the top third of the conference in rushing offense. That's not including senior-to-be Will Blackwell – a first string guard injured on the first play of the season (ankle), but returned to start in the Cotton Bowl. There's a lot of experience behind that lot, including seniors-to-be T-Bob Hebert and Greg Shaw. Toss in arguably the nation's best high school tackle in La'El Collins and three more highly-touted linemen, and this looks to be an area that Kragthorpe need not worry about for a while.
At running back, the Tigers are loaded. Yes, they lose 2nd Team All SEC Stevan Ridley to the draft, but as we saw in the second half the Tigers can rely on a stable of young backs - including redshirt sophomore-to-be Michael Ford, sophomores-to-be Spencer Ware (10/102 in the Cotton Bowl) and Alfred Blue, and redshirt freshman-to-be Jakhari Gore (he of the Florida Gores – not the Al "hanging chad" Florida Gores, but rather the Frank "NFL-49er-hanging curveball killer" Florida Gores). Add to that mix one of the nation's projected top ten backs in Kenny Hilliard, and all should be fine here.
Out wide, Kragthorpe has an embarrassment of riches, starting with two former Parade All-Americans in juniors-to-be Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard. With two years under his belt at the position, SEC fans hope for more excitement from Mr. Shepard, who has yet to live up to his potential. The men behind those two might be just as good: Kadron Boone, James Wright, Armand Williams and Chris Tolliver, and all but Tolliver will just be sophomores. And here come Jarvis Landry and Tiger legacy Odell Beckham, Jr. – both considered by most recruiting sites to be top ten in the nation.
How is it again that this offense has been so inconsistent?
Ah, which leads us to quarterback. With time to prepare, senior-to-be Jordan Jefferson has proven he's a lion-killer. His stats in bowl games, first games of the season and coming off bye weeks is impressive. Without time to prepare, he's frighteningly pedestrian. This would be Jefferson's third season as a starter, so everyone is familiar with him: big kid, big arm, mobile… Just can't string it all together. His backup Jarrett Lee is a great pinch-hitter. We saw ice water in his veins coming off the bench in key spots against Tennessee, Florida and Alabama. But Lee's been even less consistent, without the upside.
We all know the stats: LSU ended the season dead last in the conference in Passing, and as a result, ahead of only Vandy in Total Offense. LSU's quarterbacks posted just 10 TDs against 11 INTs, and were at (many) times truly painful to watch. Former OC Gary Crowton was known more for building good game plans against specific defenses than for developing quarterbacks. Kragthorpe is perhaps the opposite of that. With former Georgia Bulldog Zach Mettenberger already on campus after leading Butler Community College to the JC National Championship game (he threw for 32 TDs on the season), spring practice should be even more interesting at the position.
Two things are for certain: one, there's definitely a lot of talent in Red Stick. And two, without good QB play, the Tigers will not win the SEC West.
Barrett Sallee: On the fit (?)
Is this a tailored fit? Well, right off the bat we're assuming Steve Kragthorpe isn't Gary Crowton's alter-ego, so it's addition by subtraction. But is LSU getting the Kragthorpe that helped build Tulsa into a Conference USA power or the Kragthorpe that led former Big East power Louisville into Big East anonymity? It's probably somewhere in between.
In a column from January 21, I likened the hire to a long single rather than a home run. There's potential, but certain things have to fall in place for Kragthorpe to really be considered a great hire.
What has to happen? First, LSU has to find a quarterback, and that more than any other reason is why Kragthorpe was brought in, for he's known as a coach that stresses quarterback fundamentals. Veterans Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee will be joined by junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger in the quarterback battle this spring. If Kragthorpe can find consistency in just one of those players, the fit will be great. If not, LSU's offense will remain stuck in neutral, as it was for the first nine games of the 2010 season.
Billy Gomila: On an LSU O under Kragthorpe
Look for a return to simplicity for the LSU offense.
As Les Miles said last week, "I'm a guy who needs execution. I don't want to say ‘Boy, that was a good idea.' The good idea that is not executed looks like an ugly play." Gary Crowton stressed innovation and unpredictability to the point that fundamentals were lost.. Spread-option, I-formation, pistol - Crowton tried them all, but the constant shifting left the Tigers more confused than opponents at times.
Look for Steve Kragthorpe to return LSU to more of what we think of as a pro-style offense. One- and two-back sets with a commitment to the run and play-action passing. Fundamental over fancy.
Kragthorpe is versed in a conceptual approach to the passing game learned from the likes of Dan Henning and Kevin Gilbride, built around a simple foundation of plays and the classic pass route tree. He's also built a reputation for stressing the basic tenants of playing quarterback, like footwork and arm mechanics, two things that Jordan Jefferson could clearly use some work on.
With four starters back on the offensive line, a strong No. 1 target in Rueben Randle and a collection of big running backs, Kragthorpe's approach should fit LSU well. Jefferson will have his chance to keep the starting job, with the quarterback of the future Zach Mettenberger clearly breathing down his neck. It should all make for a fun spring practice.
Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.