Friday, August 31, 2007

Let's get one thing straight: Saban didn't save LSU, Dinardo did

Lately all I've been hearing is this "Nick Saban took LSU to prominence" yada yada. Yeah, we won a championship with the guy, but we would have done that with Dinardo, I believe. Dinardo's work too often goes unnoticed when talking about restoring the luster to the Purple-and-Gold. The prized recruits didn't start with Saban, no it was Gerry Dinardo who brought in the big guns: Anthony McFarland from Winnsboro, Kevin Faulk from Carencro and Herb Tyler from the N.O. in 1995. The next year he brought in, to me, his most talented recruit and troubled, Cecil "The Diesel" Collins of Leesville. In 1997 he got Rohan Davey from Hialeah, Fla., Abram Booty (brothers of USC quarterback John David Booty, along with former LSU qb Josh) from Shreveport.
In 1998, Josh Reed was sheperded in from Rayne and Chad Lavalais from Marksville. Dinardo was ousted after the 1999 season (class of Bradie James, LaBrandon Toefield) and a Mr. Nick Saban was ushered in. Saban simply built on the foundation that Dinardo had set. Saban's 1st recruiting class was a worse dude than Dinardo's last. But by his second go-round Saban brought in a windfall recruiting class such as quarterback Rick Clausen from Woodlawn Hills, Calif., and Joseph Addai from Houston, Tx, and wideout Michael Clayton from Baton Rouge, Travis Daniels, Marquis Hill, Marcus Spears, aahhh, this is where the cement was set. We can't forget about a little known transfer by the name of Matt Mauck. But let's back up a bit: It was Dinardo that showed the LSU faithful that they too could bring the recruits like the Okahomas and Miamis of the world. It was Dinardo that showed the LSU faithful that they could have an embarrassment of riches at one position when it introduced a pick-your-poison backfield of Cecil Collins, Kevin Faullk and Rondell Mealey in 1997. Faulk was the super-producer and heralded veteran who became a possible afterthought after Cecil Collins showed he could produce in one half what Mealey and Faulk would take a game to get.(Collins was suspended for the 97 opener, and constantly in DiNardo's doghouse. Still, he was the nation's top Division I-A rusher — more than 8 yards a carry — before breaking his leg in the team's fifth game.) Actually it was at the hands of Dinardo that Saban first caught a glimpse of the SEC speed and power he would later craft into his own. At the end of the 1995 season, a 7-3-1 Tiger team rolled into Shreveport and made short work of Saban's Michigan State team, 45-26. It cemented in his mind then, that SEC speed, particularly a middle-of-the-pack team like LSU, might be a notch above the rest. Saban said about the game: "The one thing that impressed me the most, just being around the band and the whole school, you got the feeling that LSU was a high profile program. The way everybody responded to the fight song reminded me of what great pride they took in LSU. You could sense a real state pride." Lest we forget it was Dinardo that first beat a No. 1 team in Tiger Stadium (Florida in 1997, which effectively ended the Spurrier dominance of the SEC.). It was Dinardo that energized the state after the Curley Hallman years. And it was Dinardo that made it to the ever-elusive 10-win season in 1996. Dinardo was fired deep into the 1999 season and the university scoured the earth to find said Saban. He spoke about coming to Louisiana to big the big fish in the water and the "flagship" of the state, something his Michigan State Spartans never were, thanks to the maize and blue Wolverines. Saban meanwhile crosses the proverbial dirt in the sand by joining the Crimson Tide. Nov. 3 can't come soon enough, my friend.

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