Nicholls, LSU and Saints prime for big-time success

Nicholls eyeballing turnaround in Southland
August 21, 2014
LSU ready to roar, despite inexperienced offense
August 21, 2014
Nicholls eyeballing turnaround in Southland
August 21, 2014
LSU ready to roar, despite inexperienced offense
August 21, 2014

All of the boredom has finally ceased. All of the waiting is just about over.

The 2014 football season is finally knocking on our doorsteps after the annual six-month hibernation period that is otherwise known as the offseason.

Sure, we have to wait a few more days before we kick off in games that really matter, but with practice pads popping, the new football season will be here before we know it.

And the best news of all is that 2014 just might be a banner year for LSU, Nicholls and the Saints alike. One can legitimately make the argument that all three of our local teams are in line to have a successful season.

Let’s start with LSU – obviously the team most near and dear to my heartstrings because they are my alma mater.

Most people are down on the Tigers’ chances in the fall because of their inexperience at the quarterback position.

Actually, I was one of those people. Over the summer, I struggled to find any scenario where LSU won more than seven or eight games in the massive SEC, which provides zero weeks off throughout the season.

But as I’ve read reports coming out of fall camp, I think that I am now sitting back aboard the LSU bandwagon for 2014. I now think that LSU can and will approach the nine or 10-win plateau, and could maybe contend for the last playoff spot in the new postseason format that is in place in college football.

The reason for my change in opinion. I’ll give you five words: Brandon Harris and Leonard Fournette.

I’m never a fan of relying on freshman players in the SEC, because it’s a recipe that rarely works. But I think that Harris and Fournette are special – both capable of collecting many accolades during their college careers.

When basing my opinions on LSU football, I often rely upon updates I receive from an equipment manager that I met while studying in Baton Rouge. I won’t name my source, but this dude is around the team every day and he knows his stuff.

When I asked him about LSU’s quarterback battle, he said that Harris is “light years” ahead of sophomore Anthony Jennings.

When I asked him just how good the freshman could be, he said “Jameis Winston good.”

Woah. I don’t want to put that kind of hype on the kid just yet. But if Harris is half the player Winston is, LSU can be massive in 2014.

And a lot of my optimism for that last statement is Fournette, who is hands-down the best high school football player that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

Everyone is high on Fournette’s ability and rightfully so. The kid is a beast. But I caution LSU fans to temper expectations. No Les Miles halfback ever gets 30-35 carries a game. That’s just not his style. But with Fournette’s talent, he can make his 12-15 carries count in a big way.

If he does, a once-maligned LSU offense suddenly becomes surprisingly potent and capable of winning big games in a watered down and weakened SEC with no clear favorite.

While LSU looks to stay on top, Nicholls is busy trying to ascend from the bottom of the Southland Conference to respectability after a handful of years away from prominence.

People in our community like to make jokes about Nicholls’ lack of success. Last year, I had a fan in our pick’em game forecast that Oregon would beat the Colonels by a 1,500-0 margin.

The jokes are deserved. The team simply hasn’t won enough to enamor our community into spending valuable Saturday afternoons in Thibodaux.

But this year, I think the joke will be on the naysayers and the Colonels will be much, much better.

I think that this will be Colonels coach Charlie Stubbs’ most talented team. I think that with a weapon like Tuskani Figaro on offense and a Football Bowl Subdivision talent like Kalen Henderson competing for time at quarterback, this will be the best offense that Nicholls has ever had in the Stubbs tenure.

I know it sounds like I’m talking out of my rear, but Figaro and Henderson really are top-notch talents. Last year, Figaro broke the Colonels’ all-time record for rushing yards in a season. He did so while not playing in all of the Colonels’ games.

Henderson’s season was shortened by a leg injury, but when he was healthy, he led the Colonels to a victory over an FBS foe – something that is rare in the history of Nicholls’ program.

I think that with those two and a new defensive coordinator and a simplified scheme, the Colonels will be more efficient on defense and less likely to allow 40-50 points per game – something they regularly did a year ago.

No one is ready to say that Nicholls will win 10-plus games and make a run for the national championship or even the playoffs in the Football Championship Subdivision, but I’d be willing to bet a couple of chicken wings that the Colonels will be a far more competitive team this fall than they’ve been in years past.

Of course, the Colonels need to stay healthy in the pre-conference slate for that to happen. That’s something that’s been a problem for the team in years past.

Then, of course, there is our NFL team – the offensive juggernaut that we like to call the New Orleans Saints.

Look, my relationship with the Saints is tattered at best. I’m not a fan of the franchise and never have been. I much prefer the purgatory that I’d like to call being a Dallas Cowboys fan.

But even with my allegiances aside, when I look at New Orleans objectively, I don’t see any hole on the team’s roster. Barring an injury to Drew Brees, I am not quite sure how New Orleans won’t be among the top two or three teams in the NFL.

The Saints’ offense will be loaded – they always are. Between Brees, Mark Ingram, Marques Colston, the rookie Brandin Cooks and Jimmy Graham, it’s just weapons galore in New Orleans.

All that and I didn’t even mention Pierre Thomas. Or Khiry Robinson. Or Kenny Stills – all players who figure to be a part of the team’s arsenal in 2014-15.

But defensively is why I think New Orleans might reach the top. The magician’s act that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan did in New Orleans a year ago is worth praise.

Ryan took over the worst statistical defense in NFL history and turned them into a star-studded group that was in the top-half of the league in total defense.

With a refined roster and another year in the system, these guys likely won’t be Seattle-good, but they won’t be that far off.

With Brees and company scoring all of those points, one can see a scenario where it might be a Black and Gold Super Bowl once more.

At the end of the day, it probably all comes down to if New Orleans can get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That surely was the difference last year, and it will likely continue to be the difference going forward for the Saints.

Of course, games are not played on paper, so all of these musings could erupt and turn to ash in the opening weeks of the season.

But we don’t expect that to happen.

We expect a fruitful season for all three of the teams we follow the most closely – a trio of seasons that could and should bring excitement and pride into our area.

That should be a much-deserved treat for our area’s football fans who are starved for some pigskin after the always dull and boring NFL offseason.

It’s back, my friends.

Enjoy it while it’s here.

By February, we’ll wonder why it’s all gone so quick and too soon.