4/22/18 5:40 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
The quarterback competition highlighted an LSU spring game that saw the Purple team defeat the White team 28-27 Saturday afternoon. The Tigers’ deep defensive front looked as good as expected… Steve Ensminger’s offense showed some promise while featuring a lot of three-receiver sets although it struggled with execution at times… Clyde Edwards-Helaire showed glimpses of Kevin Faulk-like moves and appears to be the Tigers’ best back at this time… but the biggest storyline of all, by far, was that the competition at quarterback is legitimate.
Admittedly, we at DandyDon thought LSU’s quarterback competition was a bit contrived by coaches to ensure all three quarterbacks would stay on the roster and not transfer, but yesterday’s game has us thinking differently. Justin McMillan clearly had the best day of the bunch and Coach Orgeron said as much after the game, though he insisted the quarterback competition is still wide open.
Really, it was mostly an up-and-down day for all three quarterbacks. McMillan impressed for the better part of the scrimmage with both his poise and his wheels inside the pocket. His best throw of the day was when he hit Stephen Sullivan on a 33-yard touchdown strike near the corner of the end zone.
Narcisse had the biggest play of the day through the air, thanks to a brilliant play by Justin Jefferson – another player that Ed Orgeron could say, “I told you so” about. Jefferson turned an acrobatic one-handed grab into a 94-yard touchdown reception. Narcisse made the throw, but Jefferson backed up all the preseason hype with some impressive athleticism in the open field.
As for Brennan, he didn’t have a particularly good day but he did have his moments. There was one drive where he showcased the rhythm and touch that has made him a preseason favorite as the starter. With an uptempo style of offense, Brennan got in a rhythm, hitting Terrace Marshall over the middle, finding Derrick Dillon on the move and even mixing in a little zone read. The drive ended with a perfectly placed pass from Brennan to Dillon at the pylon, but Dillon couldn’t hold on for the touchdown. (Dillon, by the way, made up for it later by going up and getting a jump ball down the field from Narcisse. That 53-yard incredible grab drew an audible “ah” from the crowd.) Brennan also threw the game’s only interception when he telegraphed a pass that was picked-off by John Battle.
Ed Orgeron said in his postgame presser that a “big factor” in choosing LSU’s starting quarterback will be how he escapes pressure. McMillan and Lowell Narcisse showcased in the game that they can do that with their feet, while Brennan did not.
Unfortunately, LSU had not released any official stats on the game to share with you at the time of this writing. Here are some unofficial stats tweeted by Ross Dellenger of the Advocate that look pretty accurate but don’t completely add up.
Outside of the quarterback competition and the outstanding play of wide receiver Justin Jefferson, LSU’s defense pretty much stole the show. Simply put, LSU’s defensive line was hard to block all evening and Devin White was all over the field like the true All-American we know him to be. But going against a seasoned defensive unit, LSU’s offense wasn’t afraid to show off its empty-set look early and often. This gives credence to what Steve Ensminger said earlier this year about LSU’s wide receivers being the strength of the team. Those receivers made several plays in the open field – like Dillon’s aforementioned grab and a great climb-the-ladder catch by 6-foot-6 Stephen Sullivan – but also had a few drops. And, of course, LSU’s defensive backs made a lot of plays, too, especially early on. During Narcisse’s first possession, he threw a great deep ball over the top and on the money but it was broken up by Mannie Netherly. That was great to see on both ends because Narcisse showed accuracy on the deep ball and Netherly, who has made waves this spring, showed an ability to contribute to a thin defensive backfield.
Though these scrimmages aren’t designed to showcase the defense as much as the offense, K’Lavon Chiasson made a living in the backfield, rushing Myles Brennan’s blindside. Orgeron said after the game that he would have probably had five sacks in live competition. We see this as both a credit to Chaisson and a confirmation of what we wrote about Badara Traore (the JUCO left tackle who was all the rage on Signing Day) not necessarily being the caliber of player who can beat out Saahdiq Charles for the starting job. As expected, Charles did not play yesterday.
Another defensive standout was Jacob Phillips, who’s been battling with Tyler Taylor for the starting inside linebacker spot next to White.
The most disturbing part of the game was seeing starting safety Grant Delpit leave the field with an apparent shoulder injury. Coach Orgeron did not have an update on Delpit’s status after the game.
For Coach Ed Orgeron’s thoughts on throwing the ball downfield, on Justin McMillan, and on Justin Jefferson, see these press conference quotes sent out by LSU’s Sports Information Department.
We’ll have more to say about the game in subsequent reports, but since we’re 800 words in and have baseball, gymnastics, and softball to tell you about, we’d better move on with this daily dose…
Turning to the diamond, it was another really rough day for LSU baseball as the Tigers were once again dominated by South Carolina, this time to the tune of 11-4. Just like the night before, LSU was beaten in every aspect of the game.
Freshman Ma’Khail Hilliard got the start on the mound and was pummeled by the Gamecocks. Unlike in previous outings when Hilliard was able to freeze opponents with his hard-breaking curveball, yesterday he went to it often while ahead in counts but left it high in the zone where it was walloped. Hilliard ended up giving up eight runs on eight hits in just 2.2 innings with one walk and one strikeout. Sophomore Todd Peterson relieved Hilliard in the third inning and pitched the rest of the way, limiting South Carolina to three runs on five hits in 5.1 innings.
Offensively, the Tigers extended their streak of scoreless innings to 15 before getting on the board in the seventh on an RBI single by Daniel Cabrera. The Tigers had plenty of chances earlier to generate some offense as they put the leadoff man on base in each of the first four innings and even loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but couldn’t come through with the big hit when needed. In fact, the only timely hit of the night besides Cabrera’s RBI was a three-run homer by backup catcher Nick Coomes in the eighth. With the way LSU has been struggling offensively lately, I think a good case could be made for having Coomes in the lineup at all times.
While it really stinks to lose this series in Columbia, at least LSU was on the receiving end of some good baseball fortunes with Mississippi State sweeping Arkansas this weekend. That means that despite LSU’s two losses, LSU enters today’s game just a half-game out of first place in the SEC West. Of course, the flip side is that if LSU had of won just one of the last two games it would be sitting atop of the divisional standings.
LSU will look to break out of its road funk, gain some ground in the standings, and avoid the sweep when the Tigers and Gamecocks meet today at 12:30 p.m. CT for the series finale. Sophomore southpaw Nick Bush will get the start on the mound of the Tigers.
• The LSU gymnastics team didn’t come home with the title, but they still have a lot to be proud of in finishing fourth in the NCAA Championships with an outstanding score of 197.8375. The score marked the Tigers' highest score in Super Six history and made LSU the only team in the nation to score a 197 or better in every meet this season. Unfortunately for the Tigers, UCLA and Oklahoma finished even higher at 198.0750 and 198.0375, respectively. More on the meet and LSU’s scores can be found here at LSUSports.net. Until next year, thank you ladies for a very enjoyable season. The Tiger Nation salutes you!
• Lastly, the 15th-ranked LSU softball team clinched a big series win against No. 9 Texas A&M with a 3-2 win. LSU led 3-0 in the fifth inning but had to fight off a late rally to hold on and win. A&M strung together a couple of hits and scored a run off LSU starter Allie Walljasper with no outs in the seventh before LSU went to the pen and brought in Carley Hoover for the save. An LSU error gave the Aggies another run, but Amanda Doyle turned a five-three double play and a lineout to her ended the game. The Tigers will go for the sweep today at 4 p.m. in Tiger Park and the game will be broadcast live on the SEC Network.
Enjoy your Sunday, Tiger Fans.