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12/1714 5:50 am CST

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Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Today is a special day for DandyDon.com as it marks the 18th anniversary of this site’s inception and the birthday of my late father, Don. When I created this site for my Dad and gave it to him for his birthday on December 17, 1996, neither of us expected that it would ever last this long or have such a big impact on our lives. I give all the credit for DandyDon.com’s success and longevity to my father's strong work ethic and steadfast dedication to keeping Tiger Fans throughout the world informed on our beloved Tigers. I also credit you, the fans, for your relentless passion for LSU sports. It’s truly an honor to keep this site going. With your support, I look forward to dishing out a daily dose of Tiger News for many years to come. To help ensure this site’s future and keep it subscription-free, please consider donating to our annual fundraiser today. There's never been a better time.

It seems only fitting that on such a special day for this site, we have lots of good news to report. So let’s jump right to it…

First, defensive tackle Travonte Valentine tweeted that he has a 2.5 GPA in his first semester at LSU and that it’s time to prepare for spring ball. He concluded the tweet with the hashtag #Unleashed. There’s been no official statement from LSU about Valentine, and it’s hard to know exactly what this means, but it is good to know that he’s making the grades and I’m encouraged by the hashtag. Valentine is the type of talent that could step in and immediately add quality depth, if not start, at defensive tackle. When you consider that Trey Lealaimatafao should be back at full health next season (he’s the young man who cut his arm in the window incident), and that Christian LaCouture, Davon Godchaux, and Quintin Thomas will all return, it appears that LSU’s defensive tackle position, which started out as a big question mark this season, could be the strength of LSU’s defense next season, and that’s exciting.

More good news rolled in yesterday when multiple sources reported that LSU redshirt sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural will return next season for his junior year. Dural, the team’s leading receiver with 37 receptions for 758 yards and seven touchdowns this season, is draft-eligible since he is three years removed from high school (he redshirted his freshman year), and getting him back should be a big plus for LSU’s struggling passing game. Dural is one of several LSU players with decisions to make about the draft, and hopefully many others will follow his example. Defensive backs Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins, linebacker Kwon Alexander, defensive end Danielle Hunter, guard Vadal Alexander and offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins are all draft eligible and said to be considering their options. Because of a new NFL rule, a school can now request draft grades from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee for only five players, and the grades that are given will be either First Round, Second Round or to Return to School.

One player who made the correct choice last year with regard to returning to LSU was offensive tackle La’el Collins, and postseason awards continue to roll in for him. Yesterday, Sports Illustrated named Collins a Second-Team All-American. Collins had already been named to the AP and coaches first team All-SEC teams and won the league's Jacobs Blocking Award for best offensive lineman. Collins is projected to go in the first round of this year’s NFL draft, and he will be greatly missed next year.

With Collins moving on, and with Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins as potential early departures, offensive linemen are obviously a big concern in this year’s recruiting class. While LSU already has commitments from four O-linemen – Adrian Magee, George Brown, Hanner Shipley, and five-star Maea Teuhema – it’s apparent that LSU would like to sign one or two more. Last week the prospect of flipping in-state sensation Jerry Tillery from Notre Dame pretty much died after he signed a grant-in-aid agreement with the Irish and reaffirmed his commitment. And then earlier this week another one of LSU’s O-line targets, William Sweet, reaffirmed his commitment to UNC, leaving many wondering what other O-linemen were still on LSU’s board. Well, a new name has surfaced since Toby Weathersby (OT, 6’4.5" 295) of Houston decommitted from Texas and named Arkansas, LSU and Ole Miss as his leaders. Weathersby is a consensus four-star prospect and would be a great get for the Tigers.

In tomorrow’s report, we’ll take a closer look at recruiting and I’ll give you 12 to 15 other prospects on LSU’s board that I’ve been hearing a lot about lately.

Now turning to LSU women’s basketball, this is where today’s feel good report takes a turn. LSU’s Lady Tigers lost to at Long Beach State, 59-44. The Tigers struggled from the get go and trailed 15-0 before ever getting on the scoreboard. With the loss, LSU is now  4-5 on the season. For more on last night’s loss, see this article by LSUSports.net. The Lady Tigers will complete their two-game California road swing and square off with UC Santa Barbara on Friday at 9:30 p.m. CT. 

Now let’s jump back to something positive to close out this report: The LSU men’s basketball spread a little holiday cheer yesterday at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. Here’s more on that, as provided by LSU’s Sports Information Department:

LSU MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM MAKES VISIT TO OLOL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team got their singing voices together to brighten the holiday season Wednesday at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.

This nearly annual tradition allows the members of the men’s basketball team and Coach Johnny Jones to visit with the young and even youngest patients in the facility along with many of their families.

The players sang Christmas carols and put together their own various interpretations of the classics for each room.

The visit was sponsored as part of the Shaquille O’Neal LSU Life Skills program through the Cox Communications Academic Center for Athletes.

The team presented miniature and full-size autographed basketballs and autographed posters of the 2014-15 men’s basketball team. The team also presented a miniature basketball goal and ball for the children’s play room at the hospital.

“I thought it was really good for our guys to have an opportunity to go to Our Lady of the Lake today and have an opportunity to interact with the kids and the families that are there,” said Coach Jones. “To see the families and the kids with their smiles on their face and our kids to be able to put some joy into their hearts and see the smiles on their faces made a difference. They knew they were making a difference, and that’s what it is all about. I think our guys understand that they are blessed. It’s a blessing to be a blessing to others. I think they were able to see that and share in that today.”

Reader Comments: Scott, it’s probably too early for all this, but ESPN has mentioned Leonard Fournette as a Heisman candidate for 2015. Here’s the article: Early 2015 SEC Heisman Trophy candidates

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12/16/14 5:50 am CST

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Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Yesterday was an extremely busy day in terms of the amount of email I received, and most of the messages were concerning Les Miles’ potential candidacy for the Michigan job. The latest news is that Miles met with the media last night after practice and reportedly said that he is not a candidate for the Michigan job. According to this article by Jim Kleinpeter of nola.com, “Miles declined to be quoted directly but made it clear he has is not seeking the job and has not been contacted personally, or through his agent, Dallas-based George Bass, formally or informally.” Of course, it’s hard to draw anything concrete from that statement considering that Miles hasn’t yet been offered the job. At this time, it appears that San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is Michigan’s No. 1 target, and if Harbaugh is considering accepting the job he will likely wait until after Dec. 28, when the San Francisco 49ers end their season, to negotiate a deal. Likewise, if Les Miles is offered the job, the offer probably won’t come until Harbaugh has turned it down. On the surface, it seems that if Les Miles has made up his mind to stay at LSU then he would just come out and say so, on the record, in no uncertain terms and put all this all to rest. However, I suspect there is more at play, like maybe a concern that shooting down the possibility would be disrespectful to his alma mater or hinder their ability to negotiate a new hire. Based on last night’s comments, I feel more confident than ever that Miles is not going anywhere, but it appears that we won’t get an official statement on the matter for a while.

During Miles meeting with the media, he dished out a few updates on his team. On the injury front, Miles said that Kenny Hilliard might be able to play in the bowl game, but that Elliot Porter isn’t as likely. He also confirmed that Rashard Robinson is still suspended and will not play in the bowl game. When asked whether Robinson would be back next year, Miles said that is not something he is ready to comment on at this time but that his hope is that he will. For more on what was said (minus the part on Michigan, which wasn’t included), you can check out this video of Miles’ press conference.

In recruiting news, one of LSU’s big targets, defensive end Dylan Jackson of Maryville, TN, decommitted from Tennessee yesterday. LSU hosted Jackson and his parents for an official visit on October 17 and then made an in-home visit with him last week. The Tigers are now believed to be his front runner, and this is great news considering that defensive end is a big position of need in this year’s recruiting class and LSU currently has only one DE commitment for 2015 in Isaiah Washington (6'5", 250, Edna Karr, No.  14 on our list of Top LA Prospects). 

Moving on… in yesterday’s report I mentioned that La’el Collins was named as LSU’s MVP during the team’s banquet Sunday night, and since then I’ve learned of the other awards that were dished out. Below is the complete list, as posted on LSUSports.net:

2014 LSU Football Awards

Wild Tiger Club (for special teams performance):
LB Duke Riley, DB Jamal Adams, LB Deion Jones, SNP Reid Ferguson, PK Colby Delahoussaye, CB Tre'Davious White, TE Dillon Gordon, P Jamie Keehn, LB Kendell Beckwith, TE Travis Dickson, RB Terrence Magee, CB Ed Paris, DB Rickey Jefferson, TE Logan Stokes, CB Jalen Collins, PK Trent Domingue

Special Teams Coaches Award:
DB Jamal Adams, LB Deion Jones, CB Tre'Davious White, SNP Reid Ferguson, P Jamie Keehn, LB D.J. Welter

Wild Tiger Championship Trophy:
LB Duke Riley

Jeff Boss Unsung Hero Award:
TE Logan Stokes, TE Travis Dickson, TE Dillon Gordon, OG Evan Washington, CB Jalen Collins, WR Travin Dural, LB Lamar Louis

Dr. Charles E. Coates, Academic Award:
DB Chris LaBorde

Alvin Roy Strength and Conditioning Award:
RB Terrence Magee, LB D.J. Welter, OT La'el Collins

Butch Duhe Award:
RB Kenny Hilliard, OL Ethan Pocic, CB Jalen Mills, DT Quentin Thomas, C Elliott Porter, LB Kendell Beckwith, OT Jerald Hawkins

George M. Wallace Memorial Award:
S Ronald Martin, DE Danielle Hunter

Newcomers Award:
DT Davon Godchaux, DB Jamal Adams, RB Leonard Fournette

National L-Club Permanent Team Captains:
Offense: OT La'el Collins, RB Terrence Magee
Defense: DE Jermauria Rasco, LB Kwon Alexander
Special Teams: P Jamie Keehn

Percy E. Roberts Outstanding Offensive Player Award:
OT La'el Collins, FB Connor Neighbors

Percy E. Roberts Outstanding Defensive Player Award:
DE Jermauria Rasco, LB Kwon Alexander

Charles McClendon Most Valuable Player Award:
OT La'el Collins

On a related note, yesterday Jamal Adams pulled in his biggest honor yet as he earned a spot on ESPN’s True Freshman All-America Team. As I’ve said several times before, Adams is going to be a lot of fun to watch over the next two or three years and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him to earn All-American honors next time around. 

Last but not least, yesterday I mentioned that the winner of our 3rd annual Louisiana High School Pickem contest was Bob Register, and today I'd like to tell you more about him. When I notified Mr. Register that he had won, I asked him to share a little about himself and his connection to LA prep football. The following is what he had to say. Again, congratulations to Mr. Register for a job well done!

About Bob Register, winner of our 2014 LA Football Pickem Contest:

Scott, I have read and enjoyed your column for a long time and was very glad that you continued DANDY DON'S after your dad passed away. I have been a lifelong fan of LSU athletics, although I never attended the school. (I did however graduate from LSU in Shreveport, so I guess that is close.) As for high school football, I am not an expert at all. I played your PICKEM contest a few times last year and really enjoyed it so I really got into it this year and had a blast (My wife, Teresa even got interested). I think that the biggest benefit I received is learning about all the different schools and towns in the state, many of which I was not familiar with until now. It was a lot of fun. I think that yours is a great column and an asset to anyone who loves LSU and Louisiana sports.

If you value staying informed on LSU sports through this site’s daily doses of Tiger News, please show your appreciation by donating to our fundraiser. Thanks in advance for your consideration.

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12/15/14 5:50 am CST

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Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Last night the LSU football team held its annual senior banquet and dished out several accolades, including the Charles McClendon Most Valuable Player Award given to offensive tackle La’el Collins. Collins was joined by Terrence Magee, Jermauria Rasco, Kwon Alexander, and Jami Keehn in being named permanent captains for 2014. Several other awards were given, and I hope to have a full list of recipients for tomorrow's update.

Coach Miles and staff have been spread out across the country on the recruiting trail for the last couple of weeks, but starting today they’ll shift their attention primarily to the upcoming Music City Bowl against Notre Dame as the team begins practicing and a month long dead period in recruiting begins. (During the dead period, which runs through January 14, coaches can still call and write to prospects, although on-and-off campus contact is not allowed.) The Tigers will practice every day for the next nine days before taking Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, and then after the break they’ll practice Thursday the 26th and Friday the 27th before departing for Nashville after Friday’s practice. 

In recruiting news, the Tigers’ commitment list suffered a big hit this weekend when offensive tackle Matt Wommack decommitted from LSU and committed to Alabama. While losing a commitment to Alabama always hurts, this one stings even more because it’s coming on the heels of LSU’s two biggest offensive tackle targets reaffirming their commitments to other schools. Just last week, in-state sensation Jerry Tillery and William Sweet of Jacksonville, FL reaffirmed their commitments to Notre Dame and North Carolina, respectively. Of course, loosing Womack also hurts because offensive tackle is a big position of need for the Tigers. In this year’s class, LSU currently has verbals from two offensive tackles in five-star prospect Maea Teuhema (the brother of current Tiger DE Sione Teuhema) and George Brown, Jr. who committed last week. Since Wommack has decommited, I wouldn’t be surprised to see LSU offer O'Shea Dugas (OT, 6-5, 300, Northside High, No. 22 on our list of Top LA Prospects), whom I mentioned yesterday, and if they do I expect him to jump on the offer. LSU is also still in the mix for five-star Martez Ivey who made a visit to LSU earlier this month, but as of now he appears to be a heavy lean to Florida. If Coach Miles and Coach Grimes can manage to land Ivey, that might just be the biggest get in this recruiting class.

In light of the Wommack’s flip to Alabama, and of Sweet choosing to stick with UNC last week, I can’t help but believe that Coach Miles’ potential candidacy for the Michigan job is hurting recruiting. Whether the players say so or not, you know the uncertainty has to factor into their decisions, and you know good and well that competing coaches are using the uncertainty to their advantage. It’s been nearly two weeks since Brady Hoke was fired at Michigan, and if Coach Miles has no intention of leaving LSU, then I think it’s high time that he come out and make a public statement to that effect. Hopefully that will happen soon. 

Speaking of recruiting, I have been spending a lot of time working on my list of Top Football Prospects in Louisiana for the Class of 2016, which I will begin revealing in a few weeks. Putting together a top-prospect list is a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun and I hope it is instrumental in getting a few of the state’s lesser known quality prospects the attention they deserve. I've been spending a lot of time collecting information from prospect videos, high school coaches, and readers of this website, and I encourage you to contact me if you know of someone you would like me to consider for my list. I would especially like to hear from LA high school football coaches who have top prospects on their teams. Stats and video links are encouraged and appreciated.

A couple more football tidbits for today:

Now that the Louisiana high school football season is over, I'd like to announce the winner of our third annual statewide pickem contest - Mr. Bob Register of Logansport, LA (user “mrr”). Mr. Register led for most of the season and won the overall contest by correctly picking a total of 1350 out of 1625 games (83%)! I'd also like to give props to Mr. Michael Janis (user “Coach MJ”)  for finishing second, and to Mr. Carl Tarver (user “Tarver51”) for finishing 3rd. I hope all of you who participated enjoyed the contest and will participate again next year.

Hats off to former Tiger wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. who had a huge game yesterday  in the Giant’s 24-13 win over the Redskins. Beckham had 12 catches for 140-yards and three touchdowns, and would have had another TD if not for a holding penalty. According to NFL.com, “Beckham broke Jeremy Shockey's rookie receiving record and may have overtaken Mike Evans as the favorite for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. This might be the biggest rookie impact by a wide receiver since Randy Moss in 1998.”

In basketball news, LSU’s Lady Tigers blew out Southeastern Louisiana 75-42 to improve to 4-4 on the season. DaShawn Harden led the team in scoring with a career-high 20 points including four three-pointers. The Lady Tigers were 32-of-74 from the field and made a season’s best seven three-pointers. They also worked their way to a 53-38 rebounding advantage and doubled up the Lady Lions by a 32-16 margin in paint points. For more on that game, see this article on LSUSports.net.

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