Countdown to camp: A new focus

GeauxTigerNation writers David Helman and Gary Laney break down the competitions, issues and talking points of LSU's August camp. Players report to campus Aug. 1 and we'll have a preview segment every weekday in July leading up to the day the players report:

Every artist needs a muse and if LSU's masterful 2011 regular season was indeed, a work of art, then Oregon filled the role of muse perfectly.

The Ducks were the Tigers' 2011 opening opponent, the preseason No. 3 team in the country and an opponent that could catapult LSU smack into national championship contention.

Anticipation of the Oregon game inspired a level of focus from the Tigers in August that transcended off-field problems. The diagnosis of Parkinson's disease that forced offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe to step down to quarterbacks coach (turning the OC duties over to offensive line coach Greg Studrawa) became an non-issue. Even a barroom brawl that resulted in the arrest and suspension of starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson did not keep the eyes off the prize.

The Tigers were ready once the season started, blowing away the Ducks in the third quarter of a not-as-close-as-the-score-indicates 40-27 win (Oregon scored a meaningless touchdown with 30 seconds left).

That set the tone for the entire season as LSU rolled to a 13-0 record that came tumbling down in the BCS national championship game, a 21-0 loss to Alabama.

Fast forward to now. August camp is here. LSU will again look to look for a productive August. It'll want all the little things worked on and figured out in time to be ready for its big season opener against ...

North Texas?

No, LSU doesn't have an Oregon on the early schedule. A Week 2 game against a Washington team that was 7-6 a season ago will be interesting, but it hardly provides the motivation of playing an Oregon team coming off a BCS title game appearance.

So what will be the motivation, the muse, for this team?

Just look at the last game out.

"I can tell you that our team had a great year and played 13 straight very, very good, quality opponents and won," head coach Les Miles said at SEC Media Days. "We didn't play our best in the last one. We understand that. That was last year.

"We also remember and we look forward to playing like we play. It's about us, some things we need to fix. I think our team sees that."

And there's your muse.

It's the understanding that for as good as last season was, it was a team with fatal flaws exposed at the end by the Crimson Tide and Nick Saban. If nothing else, that creates a sense of urgency in August to try to be one notch better than the August before.

For the Tigers, perhaps an appetite for a big first game isn't needed when the taste left from the last one is so bitter.