The Oregon Ducks know all about discipline (top ten Fulmer Cup finishes in 2010 and 2011!). Sometimes their players leave them no choice on the matter and they have to be let go. Players like Jeremiah Masoli and Cliff Harris did things that just couldn't be excused.
Yet throughout the process, throughout the expulsion of critical players, Oregon has kept on winning conference championships. How?
Great coaching. The system in Oregon has generally been stronger than the individual talents. It's the same in every big program. Chip Kelly's scheme trumps the loss of individual talents. Plug a new player in who can do the things required by him to succeed (play fast, execute fast), and the Ducks can just keep on chugging.
This is why Oregon can survive dismissing most dynamic playmaker on defense and their supposed leader on offense. The recruiting is good enough to find players that fit into the system with minimal difficulty. Cliff Harris was inconsistent all season, and De'Anthony Thomas ended up plugging in as the new return man while Terrance Mitchell emerged as the new corner in town. Masoli ended up getting replaced by Darron Thomas, who might end up being one of the most successful signal-callers in Duck football history. And he might have turned pro because he knew there was a possibility that Bryan Bennett or Marcus Mariota would have pushed him for starting reps. The system trumps the players, at least up to this point.
LSU has a similar apparatus, although it's far more of a talent issue than anything schematic. The Tigers probably are one of the top-five teams talentwise on a yearly basis, so they're one of the few teams that can afford a loss at the position. LSU has very inexperienced guys they might have to end up replacing Tyrann Mathieu with, but it's not like a downgrade that Washington would experience if they went from Keith Price to Nick Montana. The Tigers also might have the best defensive line in football, so the talent is there to succeed.
So when LSU fans quickly turn their eyes downward on their season projections, remember that sometimes it's better to let go of a player that could cause further disruptions that ripple through the program. It's actually been a pretty quiet off-season for the Ducks with regards to off-the-field issues. Considering how strong Oregon is looking coming into this year, it has to be a rather scary thought for the rest of the Pac-12 to have to deal with a fully-stocked Ducks team at almost every position.
Who knows. Maybe down the road in January, LSU and Oregon will believe the short-term pain could still result in big-time rewards.