Kragthorpe gives up play-calling duties

Boy, some tough news for LSU and even tougher news for Steve Kragthorpe.

LSU coach Les Miles announced Thursday that Kragthorpe is stepping down as offensive coordinator after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Kragthorpe will stay on as quarterbacks coach and be in the booth for games, but offensive line coach Greg Studrawa will move into the role of offensive coordinator and call plays this season.

The first thing on anybody’s mind is Kragthorpe’s health. He and his family have already been through enough in the past year.

In fact, it was about this time a year ago that Kragthorpe, the former head coach at Louisville and Tulsa, stepped down as receivers coach at Texas A&M to help care for his wife, Cynthia, who was battling multiple sclerosis and also underwent heart surgery.

Doctors were able to get her heart condition under control, but her battle with MS continues.

Kragthorpe, 46, found out about his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis about three weeks ago, and he and Miles have been working toward a resolution ever since.

Ultimately, Kragthorpe felt it was best for everybody involved if he only coached the quarterbacks and said Wednesday that he hopes to still be coaching the Tigers’ quarterbacks for the next eight to 12 years.

The best news for LSU, and specifically senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson, is that Kragthorpe is remaining on the staff. Jefferson has raved about how much better he’s become fundamentally under the tutelage of Kragthorpe, who was hired in January to replace Gary Crowton as LSU’s offensive coordinator.

Even though Kragthorpe won’t be calling plays on Saturdays, he will remain involved in putting together the Tigers’ offensive plan each week. He and Studrawa will both be in the booth on game days, but Studrawa will be making the final calls.

Formerly the offensive coordinator at Bowling Green from 2003-06, Studrawa has been with Miles longer than any other current assistant on LSU’s staff.

Both are former offensive linemen, and they have a very good relationship. Their offensive philosophies are also similar, and while Miles probably gets a bad rap in how much he meddles with the play calling, he’s always going to be heavily involved.

Miles told the team about Kragthorpe’s condition on Wednesday night, and with the Tigers opening fall camp on Thursday, he made the announcement to the media following the morning practice.

Studrawa’s offenses at Bowling Green put up big numbers. Now, he gets his shot in the SEC with an offense that’s loaded with talent at the skill positions and returns four starters on the offensive line.

But it’s also an offense that went belly-up in the passing game last season.

No matter who’s calling the plays, the Tigers have to get better play at quarterback than they did a year ago if they’re going to make a legitimate run.

By all accounts, Jefferson appears primed for a big senior season. And if not, junior college newcomer Zach Mettenberger, who has one of the best arms in the league, is waiting in the wings.

Kragthorpe won’t be calling the plays as originally planned when Miles hired him. But one of the main reasons Miles chose Kragthorpe was because of his long history with quarterbacks and his track record of developing quarterbacks.

If the Tigers get the kind of play at quarterback this season that leads them to an SEC championship, I’d say Kragthorpe will have done his job (and more) without ever calling the first play on the Bayou.