Redshirt freshman reflects on 2008 season

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 22, 2009

BATON ROUGE — Stevan Ridley has had some time to reflect back on his first season playing for the LSU Tigers, and he likes what he’s seen.

He started on special teams and was the runner-up for most valuable special teams player, got his first college tackle against North Texas and scored a touchdown against Tulane.

He ran for 92 yards on 12 carries with no losses in 13 games for LSU and averaged 7.7 yards per carry.

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Still, the fullback from Natchez’s Trinity Episcopal wishes he could have done more in his redshirt freshman season for the Tigers.

“I set goals every year on what I want to do,” Ridley said. “I was expecting to be in the running back rotation a little more than I was, but when Charles Scott developed as he did as the year went on, I can’t complain. I really feel I have a better shot next year.”

LSU’s depth chart is based mainly on seniority, Ridley said, and everyone has to wait his turn to get a shot.

The system is something he respects, even if it’s not optimal for him right now.

“No matter how good you might be, if they’re not desperate at a position, they’re going to play their older players,” he said. “I know that when I’m older, they’re going to stick with me. I don’t like it now though; I’m hungry to play.”

That hunger showed through for Ridley in the Tigers’ 35-10 win against the Green Wave, when he scored on a 2-yard run with 1:18 to left in the game.

That touchdown was special, Ridley said, because he did not expect to get a touchdown in his first year playing.

“The stadium was empty by the time I started carrying the ball,” he said. “But anytime you score a touchdown in Tiger Stadium the fans go nuts, whether it’s the first one or the last one. The stadium was rocking. It was so loud when I scored, and there were only maybe 10,000 people in there. I’m still a little bit hungry to score when the stadium’s full.”

He’s also hungry for a better season.

The Tigers went 7-5 this past season — a disappointing season to nearly and Southeastern Conference team, much less the defending BCS national champions.

Although LSU pulled out a surprisingly convincing 38-3 win against Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31, few LSU players — or fans — are very satisfied with the year.

“It was a great ending to a horrible season. There’s no other way to put it,” Ridley said. “LSU hasn’t had a record like that in years, and I’ve never lost five games in a season in my life.

“A lot of schools would be satisfied with that record, but at LSU we expect nothing but the best. That’s the LSU way down here. Now we really can’t hang our heads. All we can do is move on.”

Ridley said the Tigers took the first step toward an improved 2009 season with the win in the Georgia Dome. He said the team knew the night before the game that they would be victorious — they felt it, he said, as soon as they realized they weren’t respected.

LSU and Georgia Tech players and coaches were in a conference the night before the game, and a reporter asked the coaches how they’d been preparing their teams.

Miles said the Tigers had been practicing tow to three hours a day, but Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said he had been backing off his team, practicing 45 minutes to an hour a day.

“That was like a slap in the face to us,” Ridley said. “We thought, ‘This team doesn’t respect us at all.’ I was really confident then that we were going to win that game. We were going in there on a mission, and we finally put together a complete game the last game of the year.”

Ridley said for most of the season, either defense would play strong and offense would be weak or vice versa.

A lot of fans blame that on quarterback Jarrett Lee, who threw 16 interceptions this season, but Ridley, his roommate, said they should give him a break.

Jordan Jefferson, who played well against Arkansas and won the Georgia Tech game, did not have to go through the tough part of the schedule that Lee did, Ridley said.

“Everybody’s down on Lee because of the mistakes he made, but Jarrett was a freshman that had a lot of pressure on him,” Ridley said. “I don’t want people to doubt Lee’s potential because he’s a great quarterback as well. You could see Jordan’s talent toward the end of the year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see lee fighting for the starting spot next season.”

Ridley, who said he still keeps in touch with Trinity coach David King and the Saints’ teams, said he is looking forward to next season as well, when he expects more playing time and a bigger impact on the games.

His favorite part of LSU football games in Death Valley, after all, means more when you actually get out on the field.

“Going out there for the first time, running out the tunnel as a freshman, it was awesome experience — and I knew I wasn’t even going to be touching the field,” Ridley said. “Going out there when you know you’ll be playing is three times that feeling. Just to hear all those fans go crazy when you do something good is unreal.”

And now that Ridley has both state and national championship rings, he’s already looking forward to the next big thing.

“I feel I started my career off with a bang, and I have a lot of things planned for me next year,” he said. “I’m kind of greedy, and my next goal is to get a Super Bowl ring.”