SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts on LSU's Kragthorpe
LSU's Steve Kragthorpe
As LSU prepared for its first day of fall practice, head coach Les Miles announced that OC Steve Kragthorpe would step down due to illness. CFN's SEC Bloggers review the announcement and break down his successor, how the offense might change, and what impact this might have on the Tigers' championship quest
We at CFN would like to extend our heartfelt sympathies and prayers to the Kragthorpe family. As always, its moments like these that transcend the business, and pleasure, of sport.
Russ Mitchell: On Thursday's announcement
With less than a month to go until the opening kickoff of the 2011 college football season, LSU head coach Les Miles announced on Thursday that recently appointed Offensive Coordinator Steve Kragthorpe would step down due to his being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. In his place, fifth year LSU Offensive Line coach Greg Studrawa will assume playcalling and OC responsibilities.
Kragthorpe will still coach the quarterbacks, and according to the university will be involved with the program. Indeed, the LSU Athletics Department quoted Kragthorpe as saying he hoped to still be coaching quarterbacks 8-12 years from now.
However, the fact that Kragthorpe will spend Saturdays in the press box this fall rather than on the field or in the coach's box might reveal where many expect his priorities to be focused - and quite understandably so.
Nearly a year ago, Kragthorpe resigned his position at Texas A&M to spend time with his wife, Cynthia, who was undergoing treatment for Multiple Sclerosis. It has been reported that Cynthia Kragthorpe is doing well following that treatment.
Russ Mitchell: On LSU's new OC Greg Studrawa?
After Miles, Studrawa is the longest tenured coach at LSU. He arrived in Baton Rouge for the 2007 season and immediately made his mark in the Tigers' championship run. LSU's offense averaged north of 400 yards that year, including 214 a game rushing.
In his four years on the bayou, Studrawa has seen four of his linemen make All-SEC, including one first-team and one second-team All-America (Herman Johnson (2008) and Ciron Black (2009), respectively).
Before LSU, Studrawa was at Bowling Green from 2001-2006, serving as Offensive Coordinator starting in 2003. In his four years as OC, Bowling Green enjoyed some of the most dynamic offenses in not just the Mid-Atlantic Conference, but CFB overall. In 2003, the Falcons had the #3 total offense in the nation - a position they improved to #2 the following year.
Billy Gomila: On how the offense might differ with Studrawa calling the plays?
At this point it's difficult to know, given that we don't really have a point of comparison between Kragthorpe and Studrawa. However, at first guess, it's unlikely the differences will be vast.
LSU still has a veteran offensive line, a group of big and talented running backs and an uncertain passing game. That's not changing. Regardless of who is calling the plays, expect the Tigers' offense to reflect its personnel.
Moreover, given that practice began today with what appeared to be little noticeable change on the field, it's possible that Kragthorpe will still play as active a role in the day-to-day offensive designs and game-plans as he can (a belief echoed in Les Miles' remarks).
Promoting Studrawa allows for continuity within the staff along with a coach who has had success in the coordinator role, while simultaneously helping to alleviate Kragthorpe's responsibilities and stress. By all accounts, Kragthorpe isn't leaving Baton Rouge, and will still have a role in navigating the LSU offense. Studrawa will just be manning the actual steering wheel, and lighten Kraghthorpe's day-to-day role as coordinator.
Brian Harbach: On what this means for the Offensive Line?
The timing is a bigger issue than the change itself, because LSU isn't replacing a coach, it's shifting around responsibilities. Offensive Line coach Studrawa will take over the offensive play calling but remain in charge of the O-Line. On some coaching staffs that might be a concern, but this should end up being a non-factor for the Bayou Bengals.
First, LSU has the luxury a head coach who is a former offensive lineman and O-line coach. As such, the Tigers really have several eyes on the position.
Certainly it's never ideal to work all spring and summer and lose your OC on the doorstep of August, but here we are. LSU has Miles and a pretty experienced offensive line to pick up the slack with Studrawa spending more time on gameplaning and less time focusing on his linemen. LSU is lining up with two juniors (Alex Hurst and P.J. Lonergan), two senior (Josh Dworaczyk and Will Blackwell) and sophomore Chris Faulk, who was a top 50 player nationally coming out of high school. All of them redshirted. In fact, LSU returns nine of its 10 two-deep offensive linemen.
This isn't a squad full of freshmen that will need to be coached up and babied all season; the lion's share are seasoned vets, and Faulk may end up being the most talented of the group two years from now. Good coaches and seasoned players roll with the punches and move on. The line is still going to be good even with this change; it will still help protect whoever plays quarterback and open holes for its running backs this fall.
Gabe Harris: On what this does to the Tigers' chances in 2011?
Kragthorpe is no doubt a talented offensive mind, but the number one reason Miles hired him was to mentor quarterbacks. To date, LSU's senior QB Jordan Jefferson has not come close to reaching his potential, but all signs this offseason point to him having finally turned the corner. Kragthorpe has been given the credit for that turnaround.
Remember also that Miles has always had an influence on the direction of his offenses, and that will likely not change regardless of who is calling plays on Saturdays. Additionally, Kragthorpe staying on as QB coach and working with Jefferson (and others) will continue their development. That kind of continuity - particularly at the beginning of the season - is important.
Finally, perhaps in part given the criticism Miles has often faced from the national media, he and his team have worked to develop a strong bond - an "us against the world", family first mentality. Circling the wagons and keeping Krapthorpe on board could go a long way toward cementing that feeling.
If Kragthorpe had left the program today, it would likely have had a far more crippling blow to Jefferson's confidence. Fortunately for Tiger fans, that doesn't appear to have been the case; that fact alone is the most important one. Having Studrawa calling the plays will not adversely effect LSU's bid for the SEC Championship, and beyond.
Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellcfb, Brian Harbach @harbabd, Gabe Harris @gpharris and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.
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