6/24/16 5:45 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
First of all, big congratulations to Ben Simmons for being selected by the Philadelphia 76ers as the No. 1 pick in last night’s NBA draft. As the top pick in the draft, the LSU All-American point-forward from Down Under became the eighth LSU athlete to be picked No. 1 in any of the major professional leagues, and, of course, also became an extraordinarily rich young man. According to ESPN Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell, Simmons’ four-year contract, if options are picked up, is worth $26,620,450. That’s not a bad chunk of change, especially when you consider it’s on top of his recently penned deal with Nike worth about $20 million.
As Tiger fans, I hope you’ll join me in wishing Ben Simmons the very best. I know things didn’t work out for LSU as many expected it would during his brief stint, but that wasn’t Simmons’ fault. The young man was a class act while at LSU, drawing praise from everyone who dealt with him personally, including coaches and teammates. On the court, he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game and was the first player to ever finish in the top five in the Southeastern Conference in points, rebounds, and assists. You just can’t ask for much more than that from an individual. ESPN’s Jay Bilas posted the following on Twitter that kind of puts those stats in perspective. “Ben Simmons averaged more points than John Wall, more rebounds than Kevin Love and more assists than Steph Curry. He's pretty damn good.” As true as that is, Simmons will have his hands full trying to help rebuild a 76ers team that needs all the help it can get. Here’s hoping he can do just that and have a long and prosperous NBA career.
As for Tim Quarterman, he did not hear his name called. I really wish he would have stayed for his senior year, as I think it would have benefited both him and the Tigers. Nonetheless, I wish him nothing but the best wherever his future should lead him.
Turning to baseball, some unfortunate news broke yesterday when LSU infielder O’Neal Lochridge announced that he will not be on the Tigers’ roster next year. Lochridge began the 2016 season as LSU’s starting third baseman before suffering a flare-up of an old back injury – a stress fracture – that caused him to miss the remainder of the season. The word is that his injury will eventually heal, but that it needs lots of time, therefore he will not return to the team this fall. In his absence this past season, fellow freshman Chris Reid stepped in and did a fine job, but I sure was hoping to have Lochridge’s bat back in the lineup next year. In his limited action as a Tiger, Lochridge hit two home runs in only 35 at-bats, giving him the team’s third-highest slugging percentage (.486) behind only Jordan Romero (.545) and Greg Deichmann (.513).
In other baseball news, LSU pitcher Alex Lange will begin training on Monday with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team in Los Angeles. Lange is a member of the 24-man USA squad that will compete against teams in the California Collegiate League next week before embarking on trips to Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Cuba for the International Friendship Series from July 5 - 26. Team USA will face Chinese Taipei on July 5-9, Japan on July 12-17 and Cuba on July 23-27. This is quite an honor and is sure to be quite an experience for the right-hander from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Lange is the fifth LSU player during Mainieri’s 10-year tenure to play for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. The others are catcher Micah Gibbs (2008), outfielder Mikie Mahtook (2010), pitcher Kevin Gausman (2011) and shortstop Alex Bregman (2013 and 2014).
Moving on, it’s time to wrap up our ongoing series in which we rank the LSU football team’s seven position groups. Those of you who have been following along should know by process of elimination which position we rank supreme, and even if you’re just tuning in it shouldn’t be hard to guess. Of course, it’s LSU’s running backs led by Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette. Let’s jump right to it…
Ranking the 2016 LSU football team’s seven position groups:
1. Running Back
A Heisman favorite along with a man who some refer to as the “human pinball machine” head up yet another stable of impressive LSU running backs. Leonard Fournette is essentially an NFL running back that’s having to play another year of college ball, and LSU fans are thrilled they get to have the 6-1, 230-pound bruising back for another season. In just two years at LSU, Fournette has already become the fourth-leading rusher in school history with 2,987 yards. In fact, he became the fastest player to reach 2,000 yards in school history and will become the fastest player in LSU history to reach 3,000 yards when he does so this September against Wisconsin. As for his counterpart, Derrius Guice could easily be the Tigers’ breakthrough performer in 2016 although his freshman campaign a year ago was certainly a nice introduction to fans. Guice is elusive and runs with as much conviction and determination as anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s added a little weight to his muscular frame this offseason, which should make him that much more difficult to bring down.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better one-two punch than Fournette and Guice in all of college football, but the Tigers’ talent at running back doesn’t stop there. Darrell Williams is a load behind those two electrifying backs, and behind him is recovering high school All-American Nick Brossette who as a senior at University High set the Louisiana record for the most rushing touchdowns in a four-year span with 141.
Of course, you can’t just recognize the halfbacks when looking at LSU’s backfield. After all, this is LSU, where fullback play is especially important. The Tigers return three capable starters in John David Moore, Bry’Keithon Mouton, and David Ducre. Mouton acquired a tremendous amount of experience a year ago when Moore suffered a leg injury, and Ducre turned heads this spring with his strength and athleticism. No matter who’s paving the way for LSU’s tailbacks, the Tigers’ running game should be as strong as ever in 2016.
Now let's continue our countdown to the start of football season by looking at an excellent offensive lineman who wore No. 71 from 2002-2005 – Nate Livings. A Lake Charles native who attended Washington-Marion High School, Livings was a three-year starter who played in 38 games and started 34 during his career. Despite suffering a knee injury as a sophomore, Nate was able to start 10 games in LSU’s 2003 National Championship season, recording 64 knockdowns, allowing zero sacks and committing just four penalties on the season. As a junior and senior, Livings showed his versatility by starting eight games at right tackle, three at right guard, 12 at left guard and one at left tackle. During LSU’s 11-2 season in 2005, Livings showed his durability and dependability by playing every offensive snap in six of LSU’s contests, recording 109 knockdowns and being called for only one penalty all year long. During his three years as a starter, LSU compiled a remarkable record of 33-6 (.846). Despite not getting drafted, Livings was able to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals as an unrestricted free agent in 2006. After persevering on the practice squad for two seasons, Livings became a starter in the eleventh game of his third season with the Bengals (2008) and remained a starter through 2011. After starting every game for the Dallas Cowboys in 2012, Livings suffered a knee injury before the start of the 2013 season and was released on September 5th of that year.
One recruiting tidbit in closing: JUCO defensive end and LSU target Isaiah Buggs tweeted yesterday that he will be committing soon. From what I’m hearing, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t choose LSU. Buggs (6-5, 280) is the No. 1 JUCO defensive end in the country and is the type of player who would come in and contribute immediately.