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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Coaching Moves

L.S.U.’s Search Takes Shape

The news that Gary Crowton had elected to take the same position at Maryland allowed L.S.U. to make a much-needed change at offensive coordinator, though the delight at having the opportunity to undertake this adventure will be tempered by the importance of the task. Les Miles and the Tigers truly can’t afford to miss, not when the team returns such a high level of talent — not when national title aspirations are alive and thriving as L.S.U. looks towards 2011.

The first name to surface was that of T.C.U.’s Justin Fuente, the co-coordinator — a title he shares with Jarrett Anderson — at T.C.U. This past season saw more of the same from the Horned Frogs, a balancing act that combined a physical and intimidating ground attack with a big-play passing game predicated on taking advantage of front-heavy defensive alignments.

Sounds like music to L.S.U.’s ears: the Tigers must be tired of facing eight-men fronts and lacking the wherewithal to take advantage deep, an issue that has plagued the Tigers for three consecutive seasons. While the quarterback situation needs to be addressed, an offense that runs the ball to set up the pass would play well to L.S.U.’s strengths — easier said than done, but it would be a start.

Also in the mix: former Tulsa and Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe, whose once-promising career has been derailed by his miserable tenure with the Cardinals and an unfortunate family issue that forced him to resign at Texas A&M prior to the 2010 season opener. His resume remains impressive, however, with his coaching history including a stint with the Buffalo Bills, a four-year period spent at A&M — from 1997-2000 — and one season at Boston College.

The lone drawback, if one were to be picky, is that Kragthorpe is a decade removed from his last coordinator position: his spent his last three years at A&M running the offense for R.C. Slocum. Not that Kragthorpe didn’t have a sizable hand in running the offense at Tulsa and Louisville, but perhaps L.S.U. would be best suited finding a coordinator with fresh ideas, one who can incorporate some of the newer offensive philosophies — the spread, for instance — to a more base offensive set.

Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst will be mentioned, but that’s not happening; if Chryst is leaving Wisconsin for anywhere, it’s to the N.F.L. — now that Texas has gone elsewhere, and not that the next level is really where Chryst belongs. L.S.U. may call, but I doubt that even the Tigers can entice Chryst to leave the great situation he holds in Madison.

The former pair, Fuente and Kragthorpe, are the only assistants to have been connected with the position. More will be coming: L.S.U. could be interested in Tennessee coordinator Jim Chaney, a holdover from Lane Kiffin’s staff who did a nice job piloting the U.T. offense through a quarterback change and various maladies to finish the regular season 6-6.

L.S.U. has done a nice job in the recent past nabbing up Tennessee assistants: defensive coordinator John Chavis, who has done wonderfully, was hired in Baton Rouge after Phil Fulmer was let go following the 2008 season.

Looking for more names? You can throw out any assistants you’d choose, considering the opportunity the job presents and the money L.S.U. can throw at the position. How about Troy’s Kenny Edenfield? Chris Klenakis, late of Nevada, currently at Arkansas? Southern Mississippi’s Blake Anderson? East Carolina’s Lincoln Riley?

The importance of this hire demands that L.S.U. do its homework, evaluating options across the B.C.S. and non-B.C.S. conference level. The potential of the 2011 team also demands that the Tigers not miss: any new hire might be an upgrade over what L.S.U. had in 2010, but a solid hire might mean the difference between 10-2 and 12-0, playing for the SEC title and another national championship.

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