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Accountability theme boosts morale at LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Travin Dural knew his own mistake contributed to an interception just before halftime against Alabama, and he admitted as much to his teammates in LSU's offensive film review session a couple of days later.

"If I'd have been more physical and more aggressive on my route, I'd have never fell and they would have never caught the pick and they would have never gotten in good position to kick a field goal," said Dural, a sophomore receiver.

Quarterback Anthony Jennings has confessed to mistakes like "an interception that I've thrown that I maybe should have went to the other side of the field or maybe on a run check, I should have went to the other side."

Running back Terrence Magee has stood up in the weekly meeting and told fellow Tigers that he blocked a play incorrectly. Tight end DeSean Smith has fessed up for dropping a pass against Wisconsin and leaping too early when a high throw was coming his way against Arkansas. Offensive lineman Evan Washington has told teammates that he overstepped on pass blocks or came out of his stance too high while blocking an opponent.

In fact, go down the roster. Every regular on LSU's offense has come forward about mistakes at one time or another -- which was part of the reason offensive coordinator Cam Cameron instituted the practice during film sessions at the start of the season.

"It's just giving us a taste of what it's like in the NFL," said senior running back Magee. "Coach Cam said when guys mess up in the NFL, they stand up in the film room and they admit that they messed up and talk about what they're going to do to correct it. It just shows the team that you're accountable for your mistakes and you understand the mistake you made and you're going to try to go out this week in practice and fix it."

Longtime NFL coach Cameron has preached accountability to his young and inexperienced offense this season, consistently reminding his players to focus on doing their jobs correctly instead of worrying about their teammates' assignments. He reinforced that message by asking players to diagnose their own errors during film review without having a coach do it first.

It was an entirely new way to analyze the game for most Tigers.

"It's been very different. I know for me personally in my career, I've never had a coach do that. And I like it," redshirt freshman receiver John Diarse said. "It teaches you not only to accept your mistake as a player, but as a man, as well. You're standing up or speaking up on your behalf and letting the team know that, 'Hey, this is my mess-up and this is what I'm going to do better.' "

When the offense gathers in the team meeting room each Monday to review the previous game with Cameron, the offensive coordinator sometimes calls on players while watching a specific play and asks if they should have done something differently on that down. If they believe they executed their duties correctly, they say so. And if they fell short, they're supposed to own up to the mistake.

Sometimes players even speak up about their mistakes without prompting from the coach.

"We're just all men," Washington said. "They're going to coach us like men and we're going to stand up and tell our mistakes like men."

Entering Thursday's game at Texas A&M (7-4, 3-4 SEC), this has hardly been the typical winning season at LSU (7-4, 3-4). The young offense has struggled for most of the fall and is ranked 11th in the SEC in total offense (373.6 ypg) and 12th in scoring (28 ppg).

It would be easy -- and perhaps expected -- for the locker room to fracture after disappointing outcomes like LSU's 123-yard disaster in its last game, a 17-0 loss to Arkansas. And yet that's where Cameron's accountability policy has come in handy.

The Tigers say they stuck together through that disappointment because of the focus on identifying their own shortcomings and how correcting their individual errors can better the whole.

"Sometimes when you struggle like we have offensively, you get guys that want to point fingers. With this offense, we've had not one guy pointing fingers at everybody," Magee said. "Me, I think it's due to the fact that each guy stands up and owns up to the mistakes they make and holds themself accountable to the whole team."