Lots of questions and response in the wake of today’s column on former U of L running back Anthony Allen, now at Georgia Tech. I’ll summarize the most frequent.
Q: Why write this story now?
A: Anthony Allen is one of the highest-profile players to transfer out of U of L in recent years. And we really hadn’t updated his status. It’s pretty much as simple as that.
Q: Why so one-sided? Why let Allen’s dad take a shot at U of L coaches?
A: In terms of published material, Allen said only one thing that could be construed as critical of U of L coaches — his quote that Kragthorpe had not inherited “a bad team,” and that reading things like the coach has had to “clean house” made him sad. Those statements by Amos Allen weren’t attacks or accusations. They were in response to a message put out by the U of L program itself. If you’re going to use vague language in talking about the number of off-the-field issues the team faces, even legal issues, and point to the number of departures as evidence of setting things right, then you have to understand that you are impugning a number of people both within the program and who leave the program. Some of them are bound to answer back, and, frankly, if they are willing to do it for publication, I think they deserve that opportunity. It’s there for what it is. One man’s opinion. Certainly, you have to consider the messenger — the parent of a son who has left the school. It is what it is. It’s how the man feels. Again, I don’t see this as a charge being leveled at U of L’s coaches so much as a response to some messages coming out of the program.
Q: Why did you include his opinion without commenting on it?
A: My position on these things has been in print — and by that I mean in my column, not just on this blog — more than once. Here’s what I wrote in December: Kragthorpe said there were “legalities” involved in discussing (off-the-field issues) further. Maybe he doesn’t want to further alienate players that he’ll need to win back. Maybe that’s reasonable. But if that’s the case, he shouldn’t have cast aspersions on them, the program and (Bobby) Petrino by acknowledging them publicly in the first place. The reality can’t be worse that the rumors. My guess is that if people knew what Kragthorpe is dealing with, they’d most likely be more supportive of his actions.
Beyond that, the purpose of this column was to give a glimpse of how Anthony Allen is moving forward and what affect last season’s experience had on him. I really don’t foresee doing this kind of update on others who have left, because none of them have the profile that he had here. But given that it’s still a topic of high fan interest, and the response to this column proves that it is, whenever there is another voice chiming in on last season, I feel like it’s worth listening to.
And frankly, I think it’s still a discussion that interests fans. We’re getting the subtle message that the high point in U of L’s football history to date, the Orange Bowl victory, came while the program was doing some things the wrong way. But I was there. I covered that season. And when questions about the way Petrino was doing business (more with media issues than player issues, which we were largely kept away from) were brought up, he had plenty of defenders. It’s a natural thing, I think, to try and figure out how this all adds up.
Q: Enough of this stuff. Is U of L going to be any better this season?
A: Well, that’s the toughest question of the day. As I’ve been saying, if they simply line up in the right spots and tackle people when they make contact, the defense will be at least as good or better. Even with the gaping holes at linebacker and in the secondary. And the offense should be solid — maybe better than that. You’re going to see a more innovative attack with Kragthorpe and Brohm putting things together, and I think you’ll see this offense produce more yards and points than the Cardinal offense a year ago. The problem is that they’re awfully thin on both sides. The program can’t sustain and perform despite injuries like it has in the past. The exciting thing for U of L is that with the number of early home games, it has a chance to build some big early momentum and put a lot of these discussions to rest. But that is in no way a given at this point.
It’s interesting how these things work. If you’re winning — even if a coach, apparently, is letting some things go on that he shouldn’t — everybody is fine. But if you’re losing, the coach — even if he’s doing a lot of the right things with players — isn’t going to satisfy anybody. The bottom line is that it’s been a long time since U of L had to experience losing in football, and I think it caught everybody — fans, media, coaches, players, administrators — off guard. And you’ve seen the result.