Tiger defenders anxious to improve
LB Beckwith poised to star; DE Pittman looks to have impact
Monday, August 06, 2007
By James Varney
BATON ROUGE -- The LSU defense seems to have little left to prove.
Last year, it held nine of its 13 opponents to 17 points or less. It led the Southeastern Conference in six categories and was in the top five in total defense, scoring, pass and pass efficiency defense.
And yet, the Tigers' defense has more goals for 2007.
"To get better every day," junior linebacker Darry Beckwith said. "Last year we wanted to be better than the year before, and this year we want to be better than last year."
Beckwith, whose poised for a breakout season, might be one of those looking to improve.
It certainly seemed at times last year as if he'd already done that, finishing with 65 tackles, second best on the team. But a nagging ankle sprain took sidelined him after 11 plays in the Alabama game, kept him out of the narrow overtime win over Ole Miss and limited his effectiveness at Arkansas.
Consequently, he is established as one of the best defensive players at LSU but was overshadowed by the celebrated seasons of All-Americans Glenn Dorsey and LaRon Landry.
"I don't worry about that at all, don't think about that at all," he said after the second day of practice Sunday. "I can't worry about what the media writes or what people say. I'm just trying to improve as a football player every day."
Beckwith said he is at 100 percent going into the season -- "I may feel better than I ever have before," he said -- and isn't averse to saying a national championship is among the personal goals he has set for himself at LSU. Like his teammates, however, the Baton Rouge native shied away from making any statements or predictions about the upcoming season in which the hopes of the Tigers' faithful have reached stratospheric proportions.
"You hear it now and then from some of the guys around town, 'This is your year, this is your year,' " Beckwith said. "But you build toward that and, of course, we want to go to the SEC championship, go to the national championship, but right now we take it one day at a time."
A teammate who might have even more to prove but who is more taciturn about his goals is defensive end Kirston Pittman, a junior. Coming out of East St. John High School the 6-foot-4, 254-pounder was on a host of recruiting lists, including The Times-Picayune's Top 25 Blue-Chip List. Unfortunately, injuries have dogged him in his tenure as a Tiger, including a torn Achilles tendon suffered during an offseason workout that cost him the 2006 season.
Though Pittman declined to elaborate on his personal goals for this season, he was clear on the status of those set early.
"Unaccomplished," he said. Pittman has shown flashes of his capability, including three sacks and five tackles for losses in his 2004 sophomore season.
"I've got nothing to prove at all, because injuries are part of the game," he said. "I had a string of bad luck, but thank God I bounced back, came back strong from two injuries, and I'm here again competing and working."
He said he felt, "a little rust," on the first day, and he acknowledged that, "I really do feel I have to have a big year." But the specifics of that he declined to divulge.
"That's just personal, set up with myself," he said. "I really think this is my breakout year, and I'm expecting big things from myself."
Those expectations are based on a certainty he "has the ability to go out there and make things happen, make some plays." This year, if he can stay healthy, he hopes to start making the mark he always planned.
"I know a lot of people expect some things from me, and I know the coaches are expecting me to step up and maybe make some plays, and I'm looking forward to the challenge," he said.
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