PLAYER OF THE YEAR
DT Chad Lavalais -- His stats were strong and he became a stout force against the run and the pass, but the numbers still didn't always reflect his value. While Lavalais didn't always make the noticeable plays, the All-American often caused the problem that allowed his teammates to make the plays.
LSU was at its best throughout the season when it followed the old cliches and kept its focus on the task at hand, taking one game at a time. The one time the Tigers didn't do that it cost them a chance at an undefeated record. After beating Georgia 17-10 on Sept. 28 and whipping Mississippi State the next week, the Tigers got a little too caught up in their new status as a top-10 team and lost 19-7 to Florida at home on Oct. 11. That taught the Tigers a valuable lesson, and they used it to improve week by week and grow throughout the season. In the process, they cleared significant hurdles against Auburn, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Georgia, in the SEC championship game, to earn a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
Like most teams, the Tigers will lose some key seniors, including DT Chad Lavalais, guard Stephen Peterman, tackle Rodney Reed, linebacker Eric Alexander and free safety Jack Hunt. But the Tigers mostly got good news from their talented junior class, as defensive ends Marcus Spears and Marquise Hill, junior Corey Webster and center Ben Wilkerson decided to stay around for a shot at another national title. The offense, though, will miss QB Matt Mauck and receiver Michael Clayton, each of whom opted for the NFL draft. The Tigers have recruited well the past two years -- and are doing so again -- developing the kind of depth that allow them to stay at or near the top.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"He's not a motivational guy like Pittsburgh (Steelers) coach Bill Cowher, who's real energetic, who gets in your face, rah, rah, rah. He's more like the nerdy type. He does his best to get us motivated, but I just sit in the back and laugh. It's like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, though. When the game starts, he gets in this zone. He knows what the other team's going to do. He'll have us line up in the gaps where they're going to run the ball. Once the game starts, Mr. Hyde comes out." -- LSU defensive tackle Chad Lavalais on coach Nick Saban.
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