Youth no longer an excuse in college football
Written by Ben Love, Editor Tiger Rag
Tuesday, 04 September 2012 09:52
The refrain from LSU Nation has been the same for months.
2012 better be the year because the team will be young in 2013.
Talk to any die-hard Tigah fan about the prospects of the program’s near future, and it will be nearly impossible to sidestep the above sentiment.
Even with only one game in the rearview this fall, many are already anticipating - and some are lamenting - a drought of sorts by the time LSU kicks off its next season.
The pillaging of the team’s roster is expected to happen in April.
The culprit will be the National Football League.
It’s a given that LSU will lose seniors Drew Alleman, Chase Clement, Josh Downs, Josh Dworaczyk, Lavar Edwards, Alex Hurst, P.J. Lonergan and Russell Shepard, all starters or rotational players.
Where the real thinning of the herd will occur is with the underclassmen who decide to declare for the NFL Draft.
There could legitimately be seven or eight non-seniors on the 2012 roster who test pro waters after this season.
The most likely candidates, in no particular order: KeKe Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Eric Reid, Tharold Simon, Bennie Logan, Chris Faulk and probably at least one of the junior running backs. Then there are also possibilities like Zach Mettenberger, Kevin Minter and Brad Wing, a redshirt sophomore.
With all this proven talent potentially gone, some are prepared to go into bunker mode. They refuse to believe a cast of second- and third-year players can keep LSU afloat at the highest national level.
I call B.S.
What fans and a national television audience saw Saturday night versus North Texas is what those of us in the local media have witnessed for almost a month.
LSU, and just about any other top-flight program worth its salt, ain’t afraid to throw the youngsters in the fire early and rely on them.
That’s how it goes down in college football in 2012, an age where players are suspended, booted from the team and off to the professional ranks faster and more frequently than ever.
Use ‘em while you got ‘em.
Consider that LSU listed 12 true freshmen on its participation report for the season opener.
Now, being the 27-year-old curmudgeon that I am, I’m claiming 11 as I never for one second saw safety Jerqwinick Sandolph out there. (Bill Martin, if I’m wrong, the next beer’s on me.)
Still, that’s a staggering number.
The Tigers trotted out four newbie linebackers (Alexander, Feist, Jones and Phillips) as well as rookies at safety (Thompson), corner (Mills, who started), offensive tackle (Alexander), tight end (Gordon), punter (Keehn), long snapper (Ferguson) and kick coverage (Hunter, a defensive end).
On top of that I counted no less than 15 second-year players, six of whom started or are in the first-team rotation, who took the field against the Mean Green.
Clearly youth is no longer hidden or camouflaged in major college football.
It’s prepared early because it has to perform early.
The only thing that has to change now is people’s expectations for what teams injected with talented tenderfoots can do.