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12/15/18 5:35 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

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With the NCAA’s early signing period set to begin on Wednesday, football recruiting is reaching a fever pitch throughout the country. With this being the last weekend for official visits prior to papers rolling in, LSU is hosting at least five prospects this weekend. These include one official visitor not currently committed to LSU – Georgia cornerback James Ward – and a handful of prospects already committed to the Tigers, including WR/S Trey Palmer of Amite, OT Ray Parker of Ruston, CB Maurice Hampton of Memphis, LB Donté Starks of John Ehret High (Marrero, La), and RB John Emery of Destrehan. Palmer, Parker, Starks, and Emery are expected to sign with LSU in the early period. The staff would love to see Hampton – a dual-sport star committed to LSU in football and baseball –  do the same, but there is some concern that he could be drafted highly in the next MLB draft. Finding out where his head is will be big for the staff this weekend. As for Ward, I would be surprised to see LSU push hard for him to sign in the early signing period since they might want to see how things shake out with other targets first. 

Speaking of other targets, here’s what I’ve heard about a trio of big ones. The staff likes the position it’s in with cornerback Raydarious Jones of Horn Lake, Miss. The Tigers are not nearly “out of it” with his five-star teammate, LB Nakobe Dean, but I’m feeling considerably more confident about Jones being a Tiger than I am Dean. Of course, another major LSU target is defensive tackle Siaki Ika. I’ve been told that LSU sent safeties coach Bill Busch to visit with him up in Salt Lake City Thursday night and that the staff feels like it has a good shot at landing him. Why Busch, you might ask? From what I understand, he has connections with the folks up there from the time he spent coaching at Utah State. 

Of course, there’s another trio of very significant in-state targets from Amite who won’t be signing anywhere until February. Those, of course, are WR Davonté Lee and the Sopsher brothers, Ishmael and Rodney. There are also a ton of other prospects in play who won’t sign in the early period including three big D-line “flip targets” out of Mississippi. We’ll have much more on recruiting including a comprehensive look at what to watch for in the early signing period in subsequent reports.

Switching gears here… Who’s ready for a little late-night basketball? The LSU men’s basketball team will be looking to bury the memory of blowing a 15-point second half lead to Houston when it travels to take on the Gaels of Saint Mary’s tonight at 10 p.m. CT in the second game of the Neon Hoops Showcase in Las Vegas. Saint Mary’s is 7-4 on the season after winning four straight games against weak teams that have a combined 13-26 record. The Gaels have, however, already played an SEC squad to a close loss on the road. Mississippi State defeated them, 61-57, early in the year. One thing to watch for if you’re an LSU fan is how the Tigers regroup from a heartbreaking loss against Houston. One of the major reasons LSU lost that game was its inability to make shots in the second half. LSU is hitting less than 33 percent of its shots from deep this season and needs to improve in terms of patience and shot selection. They also need a couple of players to step up and start hitting big shots in big moments. Doing so on the road at an odd tip-off time would be a nice building block for this basketball team that still has big goals at play. Tonight’s game will be televised on ESPNU and our Jake Martin will have a recap for you in tomorrow’s update.

Now let’s move on with our series on 2018’s defining moments in LSU Sports. In case you missed yesterday’s debut of the chronological series, we covered LSU’s heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl  (Jan. 1, 2018), holding onto Dave Aranda despite overtures from Texas A&M (Jan. 3, 2018), and the parting of ways with offensive coordinator Matt Canada (Jan. 5, 2018). You can view those three write-ups here. Now let’s pick up where we left off with another couple of installments:

2018’S EIGHTEEN DEFINING MOMENTS IN LSU SPORTS
(Continued in chronological order): 

4. LSU promotes Steve Ensminger to offensive coordinator (1-10-18)

Coach O got the man he wanted all along to replace Matt Canada as offensive coordinator. Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger was hired a few days after Canada's departure after running the offense in 2016 during Orgeron's interim tenure. Ensminger got a two-year deal at $800,000 annually, almost 50 percent less than Canada's, but $475,000 more than he made as tight ends coach. Orgeron drew some ire from fans with the appointment after saying he would look throughout the nation for the best hire. Orgeron said he liked the familiarity they had and the fact their offensive philosophies were similar, and that he wouldn't have been picked him as LSU's coach if not for the job he did in an interim role. Jerry Sullivan was promoted from an analyst role to wide receivers coach to assist with the offense. Ensminger, a former LSU quarterback, had served as offensive coordinator at Clemson and Texas A&M in the past but had returned to LSU as tight ends coach in 2010. Hampered by a ravaged offensive line, LSU finished the regular season with the No. 77 offense in the nation, averaging 389 yards per game.

5. Signing Day Doesn’t Go as Expected (2-7-18)

In the first football recruiting cycle with an early signing period, February's signing day was anti-climatic. LSU used 21 of its available scholarships in the early period, leaving four for the Feb. 7 honors. LSU ended up filling only two of those spots that day after failing to sign a quarterback and missing out on prized recruit Patrick Surtain, Jr, the No. 1 cornerback in the nation. Surtian, whose father played at Karr High School in New Orleans and the University of Miami, had called LSU his leader for nearly a year and a half, but Alabama swooped in late in the process and “stole” him away. It was a gut-punch for LSU, which eventually used two of the four remaining scholarships on high school recruits. Scotlandville safety Kelvin Joseph and Rummel wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase were monster gets for the Tigers, but the loss of Surtain cast a shadow over the day. Coach Ed Orgeron immediately said the highly-skilled Joseph would be moved to cornerback since LSU had a depth problem exacerbated by Surtain’s decision. 

As it turns out, having those two open spots available worked out well for the Tigers as they were used to sign two graduate transfers, cornerback Terrance Alexander from Stanford and quarterback Joe Burrow from Ohio State. Burrow's signing propped up the offense and Alexander added much-needed depth to the secondary. That depth, by the way, has been just about exhausted due to Greedy’s early departure and injuries to Fulton and others, which makes Alexander’s signing all the more noteworthy these 11 months later. 

In closing, hats off to all of the students who received their college diplomas yesterday. Since this is an LSU sports website, I’d like to especially recognize the 22 LSU student-athletes who graduated, including current football starters Foster Moreau, John Battle, and Garrett Brumfield, and baseball assistant coach Leon Landry. For a full list of all the LSU student-athletes who graduated yesterday, see this article on LSUSports.net

Lastly, I want to thank all of you who have already donated to our fundraiser and encourage those of you who have not yet done so to please read this important message and consider pledging your support. Thanks in advance and Geaux Tigers!





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12/15/18 5:35 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

DandyDon.com needs your help! Please read this important message and pledge your support!

With the NCAA’s early signing period set to begin on Wednesday, football recruiting is reaching a fever pitch throughout the country. With this being the last weekend for official visits prior to papers rolling in, LSU is hosting at least five prospects this weekend. These include one official visitor not currently committed to LSU – Georgia cornerback James Ward – and a handful of prospects already committed to the Tigers, including WR/S Trey Palmer of Amite, OT Ray Parker of Ruston, CB Maurice Hampton of Memphis, LB Donté Starks of John Ehret High (Marrero, La), and RB John Emery of Destrehan. Palmer, Parker, Starks, and Emery are expected to sign with LSU in the early period. The staff would love to see Hampton – a dual-sport star committed to LSU in football and baseball –  do the same, but there is some concern that he could be drafted highly in the next MLB draft. Finding out where his head is will be big for the staff this weekend. As for Ward, I would be surprised to see LSU push hard for him to sign in the early signing period since they might want to see how things shake out with other targets first. 

Speaking of other targets, here’s what I’ve heard about a trio of big ones. The staff likes the position it’s in with cornerback Raydarious Jones of Horn Lake, Miss. The Tigers are not nearly “out of it” with his five-star teammate, LB Nakobe Dean, but I’m feeling considerably more confident about Jones being a Tiger than I am Dean. Of course, another major LSU target is defensive tackle Siaki Ika. I’ve been told that LSU sent safeties coach Bill Busch to visit with him up in Salt Lake City Thursday night and that the staff feels like it has a good shot at landing him. Why Busch, you might ask? From what I understand, he has connections with the folks up there from the time he spent coaching at Utah State. 

Of course, there’s another trio of very significant in-state targets from Amite who won’t be signing anywhere until February. Those, of course, are WR Davonté Lee and the Sopsher brothers, Ishmael and Rodney. There are also a ton of other prospects in play who won’t sign in the early period including three big D-line “flip targets” out of Mississippi. We’ll have much more on recruiting including a comprehensive look at what to watch for in the early signing period in subsequent reports.

Switching gears here… Who’s ready for a little late-night basketball? The LSU men’s basketball team will be looking to bury the memory of blowing a 15-point second half lead to Houston when it travels to take on the Gaels of Saint Mary’s tonight at 10 p.m. CT in the second game of the Neon Hoops Showcase in Las Vegas. Saint Mary’s is 7-4 on the season after winning four straight games against weak teams that have a combined 13-26 record. The Gaels have, however, already played an SEC squad to a close loss on the road. Mississippi State defeated them, 61-57, early in the year. One thing to watch for if you’re an LSU fan is how the Tigers regroup from a heartbreaking loss against Houston. One of the major reasons LSU lost that game was its inability to make shots in the second half. LSU is hitting less than 33 percent of its shots from deep this season and needs to improve in terms of patience and shot selection. They also need a couple of players to step up and start hitting big shots in big moments. Doing so on the road at an odd tip-off time would be a nice building block for this basketball team that still has big goals at play. Tonight’s game will be televised on ESPNU and our Jake Martin will have a recap for you in tomorrow’s update.

Now let’s move on with our series on 2018’s defining moments in LSU Sports. In case you missed yesterday’s debut of the chronological series, we covered LSU’s heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl  (Jan. 1, 2018), holding onto Dave Aranda despite overtures from Texas A&M (Jan. 3, 2018), and the parting of ways with offensive coordinator Matt Canada (Jan. 5, 2018). You can view those three write-ups here. Now let’s pick up where we left off with another couple of installments:

2018’S EIGHTEEN DEFINING MOMENTS IN LSU SPORTS
(Continued in chronological order): 

4. LSU promotes Steve Ensminger to offensive coordinator (1-10-18)

Coach O got the man he wanted all along to replace Matt Canada as offensive coordinator. Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger was hired a few days after Canada's departure after running the offense in 2016 during Orgeron's interim tenure. Ensminger got a two-year deal at $800,000 annually, almost 50 percent less than Canada's, but $475,000 more than he made as tight ends coach. Orgeron drew some ire from fans with the appointment after saying he would look throughout the nation for the best hire. Orgeron said he liked the familiarity they had and the fact their offensive philosophies were similar, and that he wouldn't have been picked him as LSU's coach if not for the job he did in an interim role. Jerry Sullivan was promoted from an analyst role to wide receivers coach to assist with the offense. Ensminger, a former LSU quarterback, had served as offensive coordinator at Clemson and Texas A&M in the past but had returned to LSU as tight ends coach in 2010. Hampered by a ravaged offensive line, LSU finished the regular season with the No. 77 offense in the nation, averaging 389 yards per game.

5. Signing Day Doesn’t Go as Expected (2-7-18)

In the first football recruiting cycle with an early signing period, February's signing day was anti-climatic. LSU used 21 of its available scholarships in the early period, leaving four for the Feb. 7 honors. LSU ended up filling only two of those spots that day after failing to sign a quarterback and missing out on prized recruit Patrick Surtain, Jr, the No. 1 cornerback in the nation. Surtian, whose father played at Karr High School in New Orleans and the University of Miami, had called LSU his leader for nearly a year and a half, but Alabama swooped in late in the process and “stole” him away. It was a gut-punch for LSU, which eventually used two of the four remaining scholarships on high school recruits. Scotlandville safety Kelvin Joseph and Rummel wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase were monster gets for the Tigers, but the loss of Surtain cast a shadow over the day. Coach Ed Orgeron immediately said the highly-skilled Joseph would be moved to cornerback since LSU had a depth problem exacerbated by Surtain’s decision. 

As it turns out, having those two open spots available worked out well for the Tigers as they were used to sign two graduate transfers, cornerback Terrance Alexander from Stanford and quarterback Joe Burrow from Ohio State. Burrow's signing propped up the offense and Alexander added much-needed depth to the secondary. That depth, by the way, has been just about exhausted due to Greedy’s early departure and injuries to Fulton and others, which makes Alexander’s signing all the more noteworthy these 11 months later. 

In closing, hats off to all of the students who received their college diplomas yesterday. Since this is an LSU sports website, I’d like to especially recognize the 22 LSU student-athletes who graduated, including current football starters Foster Moreau, John Battle, and Garrett Brumfield, and baseball assistant coach Leon Landry. For a full list of all the LSU student-athletes who graduated yesterday, see this article on LSUSports.net

Lastly, I want to thank all of you who have already donated to our fundraiser and encourage those of you who have not yet done so to please read this important message and consider pledging your support. Thanks in advance and Geaux Tigers!

12/14/18 5:45 am CST

DandyDon.com needs your help! Please read this important message and pledge your support!

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The LSU football team returned to the practice field yesterday to conclude its first week of bowl practice ahead of its highly anticipated New Year’s Fiesta Bowl versus Central Florida. The team will take today off (it’s Graduation Day) and return to practice on Monday. The most noteworthy news to come from yesterday’s practice is that the team was very shorthanded at cornerback. With Greedy Williams sitting out and Kristian Fulton injured, LSU was already very thin there. On top of that, Kelvin Joseph was absent and Kary Vincent donned a gold no-contact jersey, according to NOLA.com. Terrence Alexander was the only experienced cornerback who was a full go. Also, leading receiver Justin Jefferson and backup running back Lanard Fournette were reportedly absent, as was starting nose tackle, Ed Alexander.

Now, how about some news on the baseball front? I chuckled when I wrote that sentence because I heard from a  lot of you who said baseball season couldn’t get here soon enough after LSU basketball’s loss to Houston on Wednesday. This write-up on baseball has nothing to do with that. (Yes, I’m disappointed in basketball, but I’m not one to overreact to a tight loss against an undefeated, ranked team on their home court.) It just so happens that Coach Mainieri dished out some interesting baseball news earlier this week that I forgot to share yesterday, so let’s get to it… 

Speaking to reporters after addressing the Baton Rouge Rotary Club, Mainieri had some good news and some bad news (mostly good) on the health of his team.  

According to The Advocate, Mainieri said many of the pitchers who were hurt in the fall are progressing nicely, and that senior RHP Caleb Gilbert, freshman RHP Cole Henry, and junior RPH Matthew Beck have looked “really tremendous.” Gilbert underwent shoulder surgery last summer and Beck had been dealing with elbow trouble. As for Henry, he had an upper arm stress reaction. Also, Mainieri said sophomore RHP Ma’Khail Hilliard, who was shut down with shoulder tightness late last season, has been throwing for six weeks pain-free and will be “rarin’ to go.” 

The news was not as good on sophomore right-handers AJ Labas and Nick Storz. Labas has been dealing with a shoulder problem since early last season and Mainieri called his lack of progress “baffling.” Storz dealt with bone spurs before arriving at LSU as a highly heralded freshman and has since had surgery to repair a tear in his lat muscles.

The likelihood of not having Storz and Labas this year is disappointing, but LSU’s pitching staff should be very strong with Zack Hess and Eric Walker returning and with the addition of several big arms including freshman phenom Landon Marceaux who might be the most talented of them all.

At the catcher position, sophomore JUCO transfer Saul Garza is recovering from knee surgery and should be ready to hit when the season begins on Feb. 15, but he probably won’t catch until March. While he’s limited, Mainieri will look for sophomore Brock Mathis (a transfer from Northwest Florida State) and freshman Drew Bianco (son of Ole Miss coach and former LSU catcher Mike Bianco) to step up. 

Moving on… You’ve heard the phrase “Flashback Friday,” right?  Well, it’s kind of fitting for today since it’s time to start our annual retrospective look at the past year with a series called 2018’s Eighteen Defining Moments in LSU Sports. In today’s report, we’ll take a look at three significant moments that occurred early in the year. We’ll spread the other 15 out (they won’t all be football-related) between now and the end of the year. Yes, I am saving a spot in the series for what I expect to be a very significant early signing day in football next week, but that’s a write-up that could go a number of ways. 

2018’S EIGHTEEN DEFINING MOMENTS IN LSU SPORTS
(in chronological order):

1. Tigers fall  21-17 to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl (1-1-18)

Ed Orgeron's first full season as LSU's coach ended with a whimper rather than a bang when Notre Dame went 73 yards in three plays for the game-winning TD with 1:28 left. Moments before, Orgeron chose to kick a field goal on fourth and goal at the Irish 1-yard line to give LSU a brief 17-14 lead. Miles Boykin’s one-handed catch between Donté Jackson and John Battle resulted in the 55-yard winning score. Earlier, Derrius Guice rushed for 98 yards for LSU and caught two TD passes to give LSU a 14-6 lead but the Irish tied it with a touchdown and two-point conversion. LSU didn’t play particularly well on a chilly and wet day at Camping World Stadium despite out-gaining Notre Dame 399-368. The Tigers twice failed to come away with a touchdown with the ball inside the 2-yard line and missed two field goals, one of them from 22-yards. LSU was shut out in the first half, finally breaking the ice with 11:37 left in the third quarter on a 20-yard TD pass from Danny Etling to Guice. Guice caught a 2-yard TD pass after Notre Dame kicked a field goal to make it 7-6. The loss took the shine off a strong finish to the season after the Tigers went 2-3 in September and put LSU at 9-4. They finished the season ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press poll.

2. LSU keeps Dave Aranda away from Texas A&M (1-3-18)

At one time, LSU tried to hire Jimbo Fisher as head coach. Shortly after that, he became one of LSU’s biggest rivals as head coach at Texas A&M, where he tried to steal one of the Tigers' top assets early this year: defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. But credit LSU’s administration for stepping up and giving Aranda, already the highest paid assistant coach in the nation, a big raise, going from $1.85 million to $2.5 million for four years, all $10 million guaranteed. At the time, it was more than 85 FBS head coaches, including one in the SEC (Missouri's Barry Odom). It was only $1 million less than head coach Ed Orgeron's yearly take. Texas A&M made multiple runs at Aranda with LSU  athletic director Joe Alleva saying the school would use every available resource to keep him. Aranda got the deal after two years of success. LSU allowed only 43 touchdowns over a two-year span – 16 in 2016 – and finished the 2017 season in the top five in most major defensive categories. He produced two All-Americans this season in linebacker Devin White and cornerback Greedy Williams. Texas A&M had pried LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis away from the Tigers three years before, which resulted in lawsuits from both sides.

3. Matt Canada and LSU part ways (1-5-18)

A simmering feud between coach Ed Orgeron and offensive coordinator Matt Canada during the season ended with Canada and the school agreeing to a private buyout of his contract after one year. Orgeron was reportedly unhappy with the offensive performance early in the season and the dispute may have resulted in an upset loss to Troy in Game 3 when the offense failed to score in the first half. Canada's offense featured multiple sets and motions and didn't have enough of a physical running game as Orgeron reportedly wanted. LSU scored at least 27 points in eight of 13 games but finished 54th in the nation in offense and struggled in the red zone. The school worked out a settlement that, according to The Advocate, paid Canada $1.7 million, or half of the $3.3 million buyout he was owed. Canada had signed a three-year, $1.5 million-per-year deal when he came to LSU after a year at Pittsburgh. Orgeron then hired tight ends coach Steve Ensminger to replace Canada. Ensminger had served as offensive coordinator during Orgeron's interim period for the final nine games of the 2016 season. Orgeron admitted later in the year he should not have hired Canada, who ultimately was hired as offensive coordinator at Maryland. He was named the Terps head coach when D.J. Durkin was suspended and later fired. 

Stay tuned for the continuation of the series.

A couple of football recruiting tidbits in closing:

• LSU will be entertaining at least one official visitor this weekend, cornerback Jay Ward (6-1, 175) of Moultrie, Ga. And speaking of cornerback targets, LSU commit Cordale Flott is reportedly taking an official visit to Florida this weekend. 

• There is growing confidence in LSU being the frontrunner for Siaki “Apu” Ika of Salt Lake City, Utah. The 6-foot-4, 320-pound four-star DT would be a massive get for LSU at its biggest remaining position of need. Check out Ika’s senior highlights to see what all the fuss is about.

• Lastly, LSU announced that it will be airing its ‘Hold That Tiger’ Signing Day Show next Wednesday. It will air live on SEC Network+ (online only) and at LSUsports.net. Also, as we do every year, we’ll post a signee tracker that you can use to keep track of the action and will tweet as the signees are announced. More on that in a subsequent report. 

Lastly, I want to thank all of you who have already donated to our fundraiser and encourage those of you who have not yet done so to please read this important message and consider pledging your support. Thanks in advance and Geaux Tigers!



 

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