Coming out of the holiday, we turn our attention to the Tigers.
Coach: Steve Kragthorpe
Position: Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks
Experience: He's entering his first season on the LSU staff. Kragthorpe, 46, took last season off after resigning from his job as receivers coach at Texas A&M to care for his wife, who was battling health concerns. Kragthorpe was previously the head coach at both Tulsa (2003-06) and Louisville (2007-09). He was fired at Louisville after going 15-21 in three seasons. At Tulsa, he was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 2003 after engineering the biggest turnaround in college football. The Golden Hurricane improved from 1-11 in 2002 to 8-5 during Kragthorpe's first season in 2003. He became only the second coach in Tulsa history to lead the Golden Hurricane to three bowl games. Kragthorpe also spent some time in the NFL as the Buffalo Bills' quarterbacks coach from 2000-01. He was the offensive coordinator and receivers coach at Texas A&M from 1997-2000 before joining the Bills' staff. And before that, he spent a year on the Boston College staff as the quarterbacks coach in 1996. He also served stints at Northern Arizona and North Texas and began his coaching career at Oregon State in 1988 as a graduate assistant.
Of note: In his second season on the Bills' staff, Kragthorpe helped Drew Bledsoe set a franchise record with 4,359 passing yards on his way to earning Pro Bowl honors. ... While at Boston College, Kragthorpe tutored future NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. ... Kragthorpe started his playing career at Eastern New Mexico and than transferred to West Texas State, where he threw for 1,980 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior in 1987. ... Kragthorpe's brother, Kurt, is a sports columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune.
His challenge: Kragthorpe's first job was getting senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson up to speed after Jefferson struggled to find any success in the passing game last season. By all accounts, Jefferson showed marked improvement in the spring in terms of his accuracy, throwing to the right receiver and getting rid of the ball on time. Kragthorpe emphasized fundamentals, but he also emphasized playing and throwing the ball with confidence. Jefferson got better in both departments, but the real test will come this fall. Kragthorpe's long history with quarterbacks was one of the big reasons he was hired. The Tigers also brought in talented junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger, who will be hard to keep off the field this season. But regardless of who's at quarterback, Kragthorpe's No. 1 job is making sure the Tigers are better across the board in the passing game than they were a year ago after finishing with just 10 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. LSU should be solid in the running game once again with four returning starters on the offensive line and promising sophomore running back Spencer Ware. But keeping defenses honest will be the key, which means the Tigers will have to throw it and catch it better than they did last season, not to mention make a few more plays down the field.