NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - College football is back, and these are good times for the game in the state of Louisiana. A number of programs have reason for high hopes as preseason practices get underway.
In Baton Rouge, LSU is reloading with a number of talented young players. Freshman running back Leonard Fournette out of New Orleans's St. Augustine has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson. Personally, I see more of Herschel Walker in the young man - a player who ran roughshod over all comers as a freshman at Georgia in 1980.
Coach Les Miles welcomed Fournette and 103 other players to practice Monday. And, stand by for a little wrinkle at the end of practices. Something Miles is going to employ is the "emphasis period." It's geared to help young players battling for depth chart positioning to be better prepared. That includes sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris who are duking it out in the hopes of replacing departed senior Zach Mettenberger.
Said Miles of his new included drill: "We're not going to have contact. We're not going to have tackle football. But, we are going to have competition. And, the emphasis period is going to be viewed as close to game-like conditions as possible, and do it routinely throughout every practice. And so that will kind of give those young guys that are getting snaps in game-like situations, starting in the first practice, even though it's not with the pressure of contact. I think both guys (Jennings and Harris) have a good, solid base premise, but it's going to be that time in the game where you have the opportunity to extend the play and make a play. Their self interpretation at some point in time will be, in my opinion, the criteria by which you pick the starter."
LSU is ranked No. 13 in the USA Today preseason coaches poll, one spot ahead of the Wisconsin team the Tigers will face in their season opener Aug. 30 in Houston.
In Uptown New Orleans, the third year of the coach Curtis Johnson's regime has begun at Tulane. The Green Wave opens play on the 26th at Tulsa before unveiling their new on campus Yulman Stadium digs in the Georgia Tech game Sept. 6.
Good experience coming back. Good competition at quarterback between Tanner Lee and Nick Montana, for example. Speed to burn on the outside.
The Wave rides a take-away oriented defense featuring the likes of senior safety Sam Scofield. With experience and familiarity, the game slows down for the guys, allowing them to play faster and with heightened confidence.
Said Johnson of his first day's practice: "What we're doing is taking our time. It's a lot of walk through. That's another thing. We did a whole lot of walk throughs today. I thought it paid off big, big dividends. But, it is slowing down guys knowing what to do. It was good. It was a good practice."
Over in Lafayette, There are great expectations for UL as the Ragin' Cajuns got in their first preseason day of practice Monday. And, why not?
Coach Mark Hudspeth is returning 14 starters from last year, including preseason sunbelt conference player of the year - quarterback Terrence Broadway.
And, there's Hudspeth himself. Three years on the job, three trips to, and wins in the New Orleans Bowl with 9-4 records each time. The U of the bayou opens at home versus Southern on the 30th. Talk about champing at the bit.
Said Hudspeth: ""(We) had some of those dog days of summer when you just didn't think the season would ever get here, even some of the fans have told me that like 'coach, can't wait for the season to get here.' Well, it's here. Now, we're, I think, 26 days away from the opening kick so that puts a lot of sense of urgency on our plate to make sure that we're preparing."
And, lest I forget to mention a fine Southeastern Louisiana University program in Hammond. The Lions, coached by Ron Roberts opens their season on the 30th, Hosting Jacksonville at Strawberry Stadium. There is no reason to think the team can't have a fine season with senior quarterback Brian Bennett running the show. Bennett is on the Payton Award Watch List.