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2/14/16 5:50 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Some days there’s just not much to write about, and then there are days like today when, let’s see, LSU hired a new well-respected running backs coach, hosted a recruiting event where they received four (yes, four!) commitments, and won a huge basketball game against a ranked opponent. I’d say yesterday was a great day to be a Tiger, wouldn’t you? 

Starting with the football coaching news, LSU named Jabbar Juluke, a coach with strong ties to New Orleans and a reputation of developing record-setting running backs, as LSU’s running backs coach. In my opinion, this is clearly a slam dunk hire. Juluke comes to LSU after a brief stint at Texas Tech, which was preceded by three years as running backs coach at Louisiana Tech. Before that, he worked extensively in Louisiana high school football as a head coach at Edna Karr High School for nine years after spending time at Frederick Douglas, Brother Martin, and OP Walker high schools. Not only is Juluke known as an outstanding coach, he’s also an elite recruiter and there are very few people out there as qualified as he is to replace Frank Wilson as lead recruiter for the very fruitful New Orleans area and as running backs coach. As for whether Juluke will also assume the role of recruiting coordinator, which Wilson held, I would say that is unlikely. I suspect that honor will go to Coach Ed Orgeron, although that’s purely speculation as nothing has been announced. For more information on Juluke’s hiring and his impressive résumé, here’s the official press release sent out by LSU.

At the same time that LSU announced the hiring of Juluke, it was also announced that wide receiver coach Tony Ball will be leaving LSU to pursue other opportunities. Ball had just completed his first year at LSU. As of now, I haven’t heard of any official word on who Ball’s replacement might be. One name I would have thought would be a distinct possibility is Arkansas WR Coach Michael Smith, a Louisiana native known as a great recruiter, but he tweeted on Friday that he couldn’t be more excited about staying at Arkansas. I suspect LSU will act quickly to name a new wide receivers coach with spring practice starting in a about three weeks (March 7). 

Sticking with football, to say LSU’s Boys from the Boot recruiting event was a success would be an understatement as the Tigers came away with four commitments, two for 2017 and two for 2018. 

The commitments for the class of 2017 came from QB/ATH Jontre Kirklin (6-0, 166, Lutcher High) and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (5-8, 197, Catholic). Kirkland played quarterback at Lutcher and threw for 2,257 yards and 35 touchdowns in his junior season while also running for 1,081 yards and 17 scores. The word is that LSU offered him as an athlete and that he will likely play defensive back or wide receiver. Edwards-Helaire is a four-star running back from LSU’s own backyard (Catholic of Baton Rouge) who has a great relationship with not only Coach Les Miles, but also new running backs coach Jabbar Juluke who was recruiting him for Louisiana Tech. Kirkland and Edwards-Helaire join five-star defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin as LSU’s three commitments for 2017. 

As for the two new 2018 commitments, they are from current high school sophomores Kelvin Joseph (CB, 6-1, 185) of Scotlandville and Corione Harris (CB, 6-1, 170) of Landry-Walker. With their pledges, LSU now has five early commitments for 2018, putting their 2018 class at No. 1 in 247Sports’ team rankings for 2018. The other three LSU commitments for 2018 are athlete Justin Watkins of Citra, FL, wide receiver Devonta Jason of Landry-Walker, and pro-style quarterback Zadock Dinkelman of Somerset, TX. 

Now moving on to the hardwood… in a game they really needed, the LSU men’s basketball team (16-9, 9-3) used excellent free throw shooting and timely defensive stops late in the game to come away with a quality 76-71 win over Texas A&M. With the win, the Tigers remain tied for first place in the SEC with Kentucky and are still in good position for an at-large NCAA tourney berth. The Tigers return to the PMAC this Wednesday for an 8 p.m. contest vs. Alabama (SEC Network) in another game LSU really needs to win.

Here’s a quick recap of how the game played out: With Craig Victor on the bench in foul trouble, A&M was able to turn a 16-10 deficit into a 37-33 halftime lead. After LSU clawed back to grab a 53-50 lead, there were several lead changes, but with the Tigers down 58-60, they responded with an 18-6 run on nine free throws, a 3-pointer and three layups to seal the game with a 76-66 lead with 31 seconds remaining.

Yesterday, I noted the A&M game would tell us a lot about the determination and resilience of this team, and I think we saw that this team is able to find ways to win even when certain things aren’t going their way. We knew A&M would pose a big front court challenge for the Tigers, and that was the case yesterday as the Aggies dominated the points inside the paint for a 38-28 advantage. A&M also shot a sizzling 55.8% (29-52) from the field, but the Tigers were able to hold A&M to just six points from the 6:48 mark until 15 seconds remained. They did that with aggressive defense that forced three turnovers and held the Aggies to just 2-7 shooting from the field. That, combined with excellent free throw shooting (23-29 – 79.3%) and a 20-10 advantage on points off of turnovers, were the main keys to this impressive and much-needed victory.

Although he struggled from the field (4-11), Ben Simmons had a gutsy performance with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists. Craig Victor was a huge difference maker as well with 16 points, and he helped get key defensive stops down the stretch. Keith Hornsby (15) and Antonio Blakeney (10) were the other two Tigers in double figures, but Tim Quarterman also made key contributions with nine points, five rebounds, and three assists. Poor field goal shooting (24-57 – 42.1%) and 3-point shooting (5-18 – 27.8%) prevented the Tigers from running away with this one, but they did out-rebound the Aggies 31-30 to improve to 14-1 when out-rebounding their opponent. 

All in all, it was an outstanding signature win for the Tigers and a very exciting game to watch.

In softball, LSU wasn’t as fortunate as they suffered a stunning 2-1 loss to Pacific in the second game of yesterday’s double header. In the first game, which was against UConn, the Tigers won 13-2 for the third consecutive run-rule win of the early season. The highlight of that game was a grand slam homer by Savanna Jaquish that came in a very productive third inning for LSU in which the Tigers scored 13 runs on six hits. In the late game, however, LSU was only able to muster one run on five hits and committed three errors. Fore more on the two games, including video highlights, see this article on LSUSports.net. The Tigers will get a chance to avenge last night’s loss today at 11:30 when they play Pacific once again in the finale of the Tiger Classic.

That’s it for today’s extra-strength daily dose of Tiger News, but as always I’ll leave you with a good read to go along with your Sunday morning coffee. This one is by Ross Dellenger of the Advocate and is called, “‘One-stop shop:’ IMG Academy, rapidly becoming a mecca for college football recruiters, is unlike any other high school in the world.



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2/13/15 5:55 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Yesterday I heard from a ton of you about Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ address Thursday night in which he stressed that Louisiana is facing a nearly $1 billion budget deficit this fiscal year and a $2 billion deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Gov. Edwards scared a lot of Tiger Fans when he suggested the unthinkable, saying that if if the legislature fails to act and they are forced to proceed with planned cuts, there could be serious ripple effects including no college football this fall. My take is that the Governor’s words represented a very unlikely worst case scenario and were meant to grab Louisianians’ attention, which they obviously did. This is a serious matter, but I’m not at all worried about there not being any college football in Louisiana this fall. Lawmakers know what a economic engine football is in Louisiana and what political suicide it would be to let that happen. The two things I’m most concerned about, purely from an LSU sports perspective, are 1) the state of Louisiana’s TOPs program, which is very instrumental in funding scholarship-restricted sports like baseball, and 2) what effect the Governor’s words might have on recruiting, as you know out-of-state recruiters will surely use them against LSU until there’s some assurance given that the state has a solution to this problem. This site has never been about politics and never will be, so I’ll leave it at that, but will be sure to keep you posted on any new developments that relate directly to LSU sports. 

Now on to our normal order of business… the start of LSU softball went about as well as could be yesterday, as the Tigers opened the season with a pair of 9-0 run-rule wins. In Game 1 against Ohio State, Carley Hoover earned the win in the circle by pitching a 2-hit, complete-game shutout. Offensively, the Tigers were led by junior Sahvanna Jaquish, who went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs, and Emily Griggs, who went 2-for-2 with three runs scored and a stolen base. In the nightcap game, highly heralded freshman Sydney Smith, who was 54-1 in high school, lived up to the hype by pitching a 1-hit complete game shutout with eight strikeouts. The offensive highlight of that game came from the bat of senior infielder Jenna Kreamer who notched LSU’s first home run of the season with a grand slam to give LSU a 4-0 lead in the third. It was Shreveport native’s first home run in a Tiger. Way to start, Tigers!

Just one week from today we’ll be recapping LSU’s first baseball game of the season, and that reminds me that Coach Mainieri has announced his starting rotation for the weekend series against Cincinnati. Junior left-hander Jared Poché will start Friday night, sophomore righty Alex Lange will start Saturday, and senior southpaw John Valek, a transfer from Akron, will start Game 3 on Sunday. One interesting tidbit I saw from Big Ten Baseball freelance writer Chris Webb is that when Valek was at Akron he faces Cincinnati in 2014 and was hit hard, surrendering eight runs (four earned) on nine hits in four innings pitched. Of course that was nearly two years ago and Valek has reportedly really blossomed under the direction of LSU pitching coach Allen Dunn.  

In football recruiting news, Chris Allen (LB/DE, 6'4", 222, Southern Lab, No. 2 on our list of Top LA Prospects for 2017) spent a lot of time on LSU’s campus, according to this report by Jimmy Smith of Nola. You might recall that last weekend Allen visited Alabama and then promptly named the Crimson Tide his leader. Another interesting thing noted in Smith’s article is that former LSU commit Dylan Moses (LB/RB, 6-2, 230, IMG Academy) is still high on LSU and has been reportedly recruiting for LSU while at IMG Academy. The word is that he and Allen have spoken about playing together at LSU in Coach Aranda’s new system. If LSU were able to land those two linebackers, that would be an amazing haul at a huge position of need. 

LSU will likely extend several new offers for 2017 today when the staff holds its annual Boys from the Boot Event and if any news breaks I’ll be sure to let you know.

Turning to men’s basketball,  LSU (15-9, 8-3) will try to rebound from a tough road loss to South Carolina as they host #15 Texas A&M (18-6, 7-4) in a noon contest on CBS. The Aggies started conference play winning their first seven contests but have lost four straight in the SEC, including a 63-62 loss at Alabama this past Wednesday. The Tigers lost to A&M 71-57 in College Station on January 20th as the Aggies’ front court tandem of Jalen Jones and Daniel House punished LSU inside with 38 points on 16-23 shooting from the field. 

Although this will be an extremely tough game for LSU, this is very close to a must win for them. The Tigers have missed out on two golden opportunities recently, losing 77-75 at home to the previously #1 Oklahoma Sooners and 94-83 this past Wednesday at South Carolina. For the Tigers to beat the Aggies today, they’ll have to get much better production from their front court this time. Ben Simmons and Craig Victor were limited to 10 points each on 7-18 combined shooting when they last played A&M. LSU will also need to dominate the glass today before a packed home crowd. Here’s a very interesting stat – the Tigers are 13-1 when they win or break even in rebounding but only 2-8 when they don’t. A win would keep LSU well on track for NCAA tourney consideration while a loss would put the Tigers on very thin ice. Today’s game will tell us a lot about the resilience and determination of this team and should also be a very exciting game. 

Today’s closing tidbits: 

• Here is some information by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about ticket prices and distribution for LSU football’s season opener against Wisconsin in Lambeau field. According to a plan drawn up by Green Bay Packers officials, UW will receive 40,000 tickets, LSU will receive 20,000 and the Packers will be in control of the remaining tickets, most of which will be premium seats (suite and club seats). As soon as I hear more about what this means for LSU season ticket holders, I’ll pass it along.

• According to FootbalScoop.com, former LSU cornerback Chevis Jackson, who was a defensive analyst on Les Miles' staff last season, will be the new defensive backs coach at Ball State. Chavis played at LSU from 2004-2008 and was a part of LSU's 2007 BCS National Championship team.



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2/12/16 5:55 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

LSU softball starts today, football’s Boys from the Boots event is tomorrow, and baseball season starts a week from today… all are signs that change is in the air and spring is right around the corner! We’ll touch on each of those topics and more in today’s report, starting with softball. Here we go…

The No. 3 ranked LSU softball team opens the season tonight as the Tigers begin play in the Tiger Classic with a matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes at 5 p.m. at Tiger Park. LSU will play five games in all this weekend, with the second coming  tonight at 7:30 against North Florida. On Saturday, the Tigers will battle UConn at 5 p.m. and Pacific at 7:30, and on Sunday they’ll conclude the Classic with a game against Pacific that is set for 11:30 a.m.

LSU heads into the new year returning virtually all of its offense, defense and pitching from last year’s team that raced out to the best start in LSU softball history and advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the fourth time in program history. With over 80 percent of LSU’s leading hitters and pitchers back, including All-Americans Bianka Bell, Bailey Landry, Sahvanna Jaquish, Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper,  expectations are sky high for this year’s team, which Coach Beth Torina has called the most deep and talented of any she’s ever coached.  

If you live in the area and don’t have plans for the weekend, gather up the kids and head out to Tiger Park for what should be a picture-perfect Spring-like weekend for softball. If you can’t make it out there, today’s and tomorrow’s games will be streamed live through SEC Network+ with Lyn Rollins and Yvette Girouard calling all of the action.

In football recruiting news, the hunt for 2017 prospects (and beyond) will be ratcheted up a notch beginning tomorrow when LSU hosts its annual Boys from the Boot invitation-only recruiting event. The event, not to be confused with LSU’s Junior Day which will be held next weekend, gives invited prospects and their families a chance to meet the coaching staff and tour LSU’s impressive facilities. There are no workouts or drills, but it’s a very informative and entertaining day for the prospects and their parents. There are usually about 40 prospects at the event, and below is a list of a few I’ve heard will be attending. The number next to each player’s name represents where he’s found on our early list of Top LA Prospects for 2017, which, by the way, will change a lot between now and next Signing Day as we continue to gather info on prospects. 

2. Christopher Allen (LB/DE), 6'4", 222, Southern Lab
11. Brad Stewart (CB), 6'0", 193, McDonogh 35
13. Bryan Jones (DE), 6'5", 240, Madison Prep
16. Dennis Collins (DE), 6'3", 250, West Monroe
20. Cheyenne LaBruzza (DB), 6'0", 175, Albany
22. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB), 5'7", 191, Catholic of BR
23. Ethan Harvey (OL), 6'3", 285, Evangel
29. Jontre Kirklin (ATH/QB), 6'0", 180, Lutcher
30. Trey Coleman (RB), 6'1", 190, West Monroe
40. Robert Scott Foust (QB), 6'4", 190, West Monroe
54. Amik Robertson (ATH), 5'9", 165, Thibodaux 

There are also several players for the class of 2018 expected to attend, including Haynesville teammates Jalen Harris (DE) and Jamarceon Jackson (S), and Parkway teammates Terrace Marshall (WR) and Justin Rogers (QB).

And while on the topic of recruiting, I want to give you a quick update on what I’m hearing on about LSU 2016 DE/LB target Sci Martin. A reader I hear from who is close to the situation tells me that Martin is still unsure of his decision and that is the only reason he has yet to sign anywhere. At this point it appears about 80% certain that Martin will chose LSU, but you never know. Martin committed to the Horned Frogs on December 9 and hasn’t officially de-committed, and is also considering Alabama. His parents, by the way, both would like to see him stick close to home and play for LSU, and I understand Coach Ed Orgeron has done an outstanding job recruiting him. As soon as I hear more, I’ll let you know.

In other football news, it was announced yesterday that five former Tigers have been invited to the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. The five are linebacker Deion Jones, offensive linemen Jerald Hawkins and Vadal Alexander, defensive back Jalen Mills, and a player whose name we haven’t heard in a while, cornerback Rashard Robinson. As you probably recall, Robinson, one of the most talented cover cornerbacks to play at LSU in recent years, was dismissed from the team after getting into trouble multiple times during his brief time as a Tiger. The Pro Combine is set to begin on  February 23rd and will run through the 29th. 

In baseball news, in my previous report I mentioned that LSU pitcher Riley Smith injured his shoulder and would see a doctor yesterday. Here’s an update: According to The Advocate, it turns out that the injury was nothing serious and Riley should be good to go after a few days of rest. Riley, a hard throwing junior transfer right-hander who was selected in the 31st round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, is competing with sophomore Austin Bain and senior Akron transfer John Valek for a spot in the Tigers’ weekend rotation behind junior Jared Poché and sophomore Alex Lange. I also mentioned yesterday that reliever Collin Strall is dealing with a shoulder injury that will have him out for a while, and that produced a lot of response from fans concerned about LSU’s pitching depth. I’m pulling for Strall to make a quick recovery,  but I just want to put your mind at ease by telling you that LSU’s bullpen is super deep this year. For those of you interested, here’s a slideshow by Randy Rosetta of nola.com on LSU’s bullpen leaders.

Today’s closing tidbits: 

• Congratulations are in order for LSU’s Ben Simmons who was named to the Wooden Award Top 20 list. The award, named after the legendary Coach John Wooden, is presented annually to the most outstanding men’s and women’s college basketball players. The Award will be presented during the weekend of April 7-9.

• I have updated our Ticket Exchange page but it currently contains very few listings (four concerning football season tickets and one about baseball season tickets). If you have any tickets you’d like to sell, please email me the information so I can add it to the page. Thanks!

That’s it for today, folks. Get out there and enjoy this beautiful day.



 

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