This spring when junior defensive tackle Chuck Wiley dubbed the Tigers' front four the Four Horsemen, he was not paying homage to Notre Dame's legendary backfield, whom he had never heard of, but to a tag-team quartet of professional wrestlers—led by Wiley's favorite grappler, Ric (the Nature Boy) Flair—who also use that nickname.
"Yeah, I guess you could say we're real big wrestling fans," says Wiley, speaking for himself and his linemates. "We watch the Nature Boy a lot. He's not the biggest guy in the ring, but he's in control. Everyone is intimidated by him. The Nature Boy is the man."
The 6'4", 274-pound Wiley is the man for the Tigers this season. With the loss of ends Gabe Northern and James Gillyard, who combined for 15 sacks last year, Wiley will be the leader of a defense that ranked sixth in the country in points allowed (14.5 per game) last fall. "You can't say we'll sack the quarterback as often with our defensive ends when we've lost guys like Northern and Gillyard," says coach Gerry DiNardo. "But we'll find another way."
That other way involves Wiley, a second-team All-SEC pick (seven sacks last season), and right tackle Anthony McFarland, an SEC freshman defensive player of the year in '95. The other two Horsemen are junior Kenny Mixon and sophomore Arnold Miller, who combined for 25 tackles and three sacks last season. Senior linebacker Allen Stansberry, the team's leading tackier last fall, will be cleaning up behind the Horsemen.
On offense LSU has eight starters back, including a pair of stellar sophomores: quarterback Herb Tyler and tailback Kevin Faulk. Tyler was 4-0 in games he started in '95, including a 45-26 win over Michigan State in the Independence Bowl, which topped a 7-4-1 season. Faulk, the SEC offensive freshman of the year, rushed for 852 yards in the regular season, then shredded the Spartans for 234 yards on 25 carries.
"Our attitude is, we want to go after everyone, even the big dogs," says Wiley, as if hyping a caged death match. LSU should contend seriously for a spot in the SEC Championship Game, and for the first time in a decade the Tigers may be the big dogs.