I was asked recently which coaching staff does the best job of developing talent / having "the next guy up" ready to go. Without hesitation, I believe that LSU's staff does the best job in the country of roster development.
Every roster in the country has some strong points and some weaker points and logically LSU's has some of the same; but their depth throughout the roster is really something to behold. Let's take a quick look...
At quarterback they have their starter Zach Mettenberger who has been in this system for a year and who has another year in front of him. They have a Penn State transfer with another year of eligibility to add some seasoned depth. Behind these guys the Tigers have 4 other quarterbacks who each have 3 or 4 years of eligibility to go.
At running back they list 25 9 tailbacks and 6 fullbacks on the roster, including starting fullback J.C. Copeland a converted defensive lineman. When you run the style of offense that offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa likes to run in the SEC, you need a bevy of running backs; because they are going to touch the ball 30+ times per game. LSU routinely rotates in a fresh backs and each of them seems to take pride in both being able to outrun their opponents and being able to "truck" would be tacklers. It seems like every game it's a different guy making the big run for the Tigers. How many other teams would like to have Alfred Blue, Spencer Ware, Kenny Hilliard and Michael Ford all as available options?
On the offensive line, it seems as is every year the Tigers lose a couple of guys to the draft and one or two to injury (or something); but the next guy in just trots out there and opens another huge hole for the running game. It's really remarkable.
LSU is notorious for using multiple tight ends throughout the game. They might not have a pure All-American this year; but they've got a stable of guys who they have confidence in.
So that's a quick look at the offense which by itself is impressive...now take a look at the defense and just be blown away.
The defensive line has been the strength of LSU's team for a number of years now and they just seem to reload every year. Seems like year in, year out two guys get drafted and there is pre-season hype for two more guys...Those two guys live up to it; but there are three other guys that opposing coaches fear just as much. LSU is one of those programs that can bring four fresh defensive linemen in and still beat nearly anyone's offensive line regularly. Heck, there was so much depth at this position they moved Copeland to fullback. Really impressive.
If there has been one position group in recent history that hasn't overly wow'd everyone it would be linebacker (perhaps by design, or maybe they are simply overshadowed by the All-Americans in front of (DL) and behind them (DBs). I ran this point by a coach who played the Tigers earlier this season and he joking said, "There's nothing wrong with LSU's linebackers; but imagine if they played 5 guys with their hand in the ground and six of those nasty DBs all at once. It would be fun to watch and miserable to coach against." That is a scary thought; but really there's nothing wrong with the group of linebackers and they have loaded up on young talent. The Tigers have 20 linebackers on the roster and 10 of them are freshmen. Give Tommy Moffitt a year with these guys and we're all going to be looking at a bunch of grown ass men real soon cleaning up for the Tigers.
Now a quick look at the defensive backs. They call the place "DBU". There's really no need to elaborate. Seemingly every year one or two top guys go to the league and three or four new guys begin to make plays. The amazing part about these guys is that they play so early in their careers. All those names you know, they are freshmen, sophomores and juniors. Honestly, I don't even think they have a senior DB on the roster.
Oh, and their kicking game is just as deep and as good.
So, how does this all happen? It's a complete dedication to recruiting and player development. Les Miles and the coaching staff, particularly Frank Wilson (associate head coach / running backs / recruiting coordinator), get the public credit; but there are two other guys within that program that deserve a tremendous amount of credit for developing the roster and the players at LSU - director of player personnel Sherman Morris and director of strength and conditioning Tommy Moffitt.
Morris is charged with ensuring that there will never be talent gaps / holes on LSU's roster. He's the first guy in the office and he's always focused on how to bring the best, and the right, players to LSU. He's the first guy to take a look at needs of the recruiting classes "X" years out by position. He ensures that the coaches get the right information & video for the right kinds of players for LSU's system (no small task). Oh, and you know all of those great videos and websites that LSU football puts out...those things all come out of Morris' office. Working with Les, Morris dictates the message flowing out to future Tigers. Recruiting isn't something you do after the season or in the Spring...Morris is the guy who thinks about his team's recruiting needs 365 days a year.
Once Morris and the coaches get the players onto campus, it's Moffitt's job to help each player realize his potential. Want to know how good Moffitt is, take a look at these before & after photos of former defensive lineman Michael Brockers. Enough said.
There are plenty of other key pieces to the puzzle over at LSU; but Morris and Moffitt are huge assets to the coaching staff. If this isn't the best staff in the country at developing talent I'd like to see who is.
Scott F. Roussel - President - FootballScoop.com