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20 LSU With former minor leaguer Matt Mauck back and throwing strikes, the Tigers will contend in the SEC West

Aug. 11, 2003
Aug. 11, 2003

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Aug. 11, 2003

College Football 2003

20 LSU With former minor leaguer Matt Mauck back and throwing strikes, the Tigers will contend in the SEC West

After quarterback Matt Mauck tore ligaments in his right foot
during a 36-7 win at Florida last October, a season that had
started so promisingly (5-1) for the Tigers unraveled. Yet that
injury might prove to be a blessing for LSU this year. To protect
Mauck's healing foot in spring practice, the coaching staff
ordered the gifted runner not to scramble. Instead Mauck, a
24-year-old former minor league catcher who is still a junior in
football eligibility, remained rooted in the pocket, and he
emerged from the spring as a more polished passer. "Matt always
had that built-in safeguard that he could get out of trouble with
his legs," says coach Nick Saban. "Sometimes guys like that abort
the passing option too soon. Matt had that choice taken away from
him."

This is an article from the Aug. 11, 2003 issue Original Layout

Mauck's development in the pocket will make the Tigers' offense
more effective this year. He has excellent receivers in junior
Michael Clayton (104 receptions for 1,503 yards over the last two
seasons), senior Devery Henderson (who caught the last-second
Hail Mary touchdown pass, dubbed the Bluegrass Miracle, against
Kentucky) and speedy sophomore Skyler Green. Mauck will be
protected by an offensive line that Saban calls the best he's had
in his four seasons at LSU. Four starters return, led by guard
Stephen Peterman, an All-SEC pick who last season allowed only
one sack and was whistled for a single penalty. An improved
passing game will take pressure off junior tailback Joseph Addai
(438 yards, 5.5 yards per carry in 2002) in his first season as
the featured back.

The 6'2", 217-pound Mauck spent three years playing catcher in
the Chicago Cubs' organization, alongside such future big
leaguers as Corey Patterson, Juan Cruz and Carlos Zambrano, but
Mauck hit only .221 before giving up on his major league dream in
2000. He keeps in e-mail contact with his baseball buddies, but
the Jasper, Ind., native now feels comfortable as the starting
quarterback on the Bayou. "I'll be much better prepared this year
than I was last year," he says.

And to think that snapped ligaments have something to do with
that. --P.M.

COLOR PHOTO: TRAVIS SPRADLING/THE ADVOCATE MIRACLE MAN Henderson, who averaged nearly 20 yards per catch, is part of a speedy, experienced corps of wide receivers.

FAST FACTS

2002 RECORD 8-5 (5-3, T1 in SEC West)
FINAL AP RANK NR
RETURNING STARTERS 16

KEY RETURNEES (2002 stats)

WR Michael Clayton (Jr.)
First Tiger with 700 rec. yards in first two years

CB Corey Webster (Jr.)
Tied team mark with three INTs against Florida

QB Matt Mauck (Jr.)
Nine TD passes, just two INTs before injury

LG Stephen Peterman (Sr.)
First Team All-SEC selection

DT Chad Lavalais (Sr.)
Had two sacks and 21 QB pressures

TELLING NUMBER

7-2
LSU's record in the nine games in which quarterback Matt Mauck
has appeared; last year the Tigers lost just once when he played.

SMART MOVE

LSU's gleaming new $12 million Academic Center for
Student-Athletes helped reel in a consensus top-three class last
February. "If a guy who's an average student sees he's going to
get the best help available," says coach Nick Saban, "that goes a
long way toward his comfort level in choosing a school."

SCHEDULE

AUG. 30 LOUISIANA-MONROE
SEPT. 6 AT ARIZONA
13 WESTERN ILLINOIS
20 GEORGIA
27 AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
OCT. 11 FLORIDA
18 AT SOUTH CAROLINA
25 AUBURN
NOV. 1 LOUISIANA TECH
15 AT ALABAMA
22 AT MISSISSIPPI
28 ARKANSAS