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LSU vs. McNeese State - Saturday, September 5th, 2015 6:30 PM (SEC-Alt)
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8/2/15 5:45 am CDT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Wow, yesterday sure was a big day for email as many of you wanted to express your opinion about the reinstatement of the three players to the football team. The general sentiment from most of the Tiger Fans I heard from is that the quarterback situation will be a replay of last year now that Jennings is back, and that his missing six weeks of the “offseason” won’t have any bearing on the quarterback competition. I don’t know about that, but I do know that if all things were indeed equal between the two quarterbacks at the end of spring practice, then Jennings’ foolishness combined with the extra time Harris had with the receivers in 7-on-7 drills this summer (and the extra pounds he gained), should put Harris in a better position to earn the starting job. It sure will be interesting to see if one quarterback or the other works more with the No. 1s when practice starts this Thursday. 

In today’s report, we’ll conclude our series on LSU’s 2015 football opponents and move on with our countdown to Game Day, but first here’s a little news on the basketball front.

In preparation for its Australian tour, the LSU men’s basketball team held its first of 10 scheduled practices yesterday evening. The practice courts at LSU were arc-taped according to international standards, with the three-point line at 22 feet-1 inch instead of at 20 feet-9 inches as it is here in college ball. I am excited that the Tigers are getting this added Australian experience before the season starts. With the highly touted incoming class of Ben Simmons, Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson joining returning starters Kyle Hornsby, Tim Quarterman and Jalyn Patterson as well as key reserves Josh Gray, Aaron Epps, Elbert Robinson, Brian Bridgewater and Darcy Malone on this trip, I look for the Tigers to build chemistry and reap the benefits of this additional work during their non-conference slate, which begins November 16 against Kennesaw State. Over the next few weeks, I’ll occasionally post more about LSU’s practices and the Australian games, as well as Coach Johnny Jones’ comments.

In other basketball news, three players from Elfrid Payton Elite, Louisiana’s Nike circuit team, were reportedly on unofficial visits to LSU yesterday afternoon. According to Ben Love of TigerSportsDigest, Brison Gresham and DeJon Jarreau, both of whom will be seniors this year at McDonogh 35, and incoming junior Brandon Rachal of Natchitoches Central, visited the campus as well as LSU’s first practice yesterday. As you may recall, Gresham and Jarreau received offers from LSU in mid-July, and although Rachal has not received an offer yet, word is that Johnny Jones and assistant coach David Patrick have increased their interest in him and are staying in regular contact with him.

Now for the final installation in our preview of LSU’s 2015 football opponents, let’s look at LSU’s last regular season opponent, the Aggies of Texas A&M. Here we go…

Saturday, November 28 — Texas A&M 

It’s hard to say just how good the Aggies will be this season. If their defense continues to struggle, they could be mediocre or worse. Last year A&M allowed 450 yards per game and finished 102nd in total defense. But if John Chavis is able to turn things around, the Aggies could be a contender because of the offensive star power they return. The Aggies return eight starters on offense, including quarterback Kyle Allen who showed last season that he has what it takes to be another great Aggie gunslinger, throwing for 1,322 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions after taking over for Kenny Hill in October. If Allen somehow falls off the map, the Aggies have one of the greatest Texas high school players of all-time in Kyler Murray to back him up. Murray won three straight state titles and amassed a 42-0 record at Allen High School. Surround either quarterback with Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones at wide receiver and Kevin Sumlin’s offense should be capable of putting points on the board in 2015, despite not having a great rushing game. Of course, doing so against LSU’s secondary, which is expected to be among the best in the nation, will be a very tall order.

With 34 days until LSU’s season opener against McNeese State, let’s continue our Game Day countdown by looking at a big win for the Tigers in 1988, a 34-9 victory over Tennessee. Although the Volunteers were not very good that year (they’d finish 5-6 for the season), LSU had never won a game in Knoxville until that day on September 17 and trailed the series by a whopping 2-15-3 deficit. The Tiger defense, led by Verge Ausberry, Ron Sancho and Eric Hill, came to play, holding the Volunteers to just 199 yards of offense. Tommy Hodson fired three TD passes, the LSU running game piled up 257 yards, and the offense totaled 503 yards. The Tigers never trailed in the contest, leading 17-0 at the half. LSU would lose to Florida a couple of weeks later but would win their last five SEC games to win a share of the SEC Title. Including the 1988 victory, the Tigers have gone 7-5 in their last twelve contests against the Volunteers, including four straight wins. LSU still trails in the series 9-20-3. The ’88 victory is one of only three victories over UT in Knoxville. LSU also defeated the Volunteers in Knoxville in 2006 (28-24) and 2011 (38-7). You can relive the 1988 victory here.

While on the topic of 34, let’s also look at LSU’s current No. 34 – Darrel Williams. Williams came to LSU as a four-star recruit from Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com after rushing for 2,201 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior from John Ehret High. Although the Marrero native was rated the No. 11 running back nationally by Rivals, he was overshadowed by LSU’s other prize running back recruit, Leonard Fournette. Undeterred, Williams came to LSU determined to make a difference, and he did just that as a true freshman in 2014. Despite a crowded backfield that included Fournette and senior running backs Kenny Hilliard and Terrance Magee, Williams finished the season with 302 rushing yards, three rushing TDs and 63 receiving yards. Williams also played fullback in many sets for LSU, clearing paths for the other Tiger running backs to gobble up yardage. Although Fournette is expected to get the bulk of the carries, big things are expected from Williams in 2015.

As I do most weeks, I’ll leave with a few good reads to go along with your Sunday morning coffee, but first I want to thank all of you who commented on the recipe I shared yesterday. Also, just so you know, by the time most of you are reading this I’ll be wetting a line in my favorite North Louisiana creek. With any luck, I might have a few pics to share tomorrow. 

Rabalais: LSU’s passing game struggles aren’t all on Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris — there’s plenty of room for everyone to improve

Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris? LSU great quarterback debate rages on as 2015 preseason camp arrives this week

• LSU hopes to unleash Chark attack

Stay tuned as tomorrow we’ll take a look at five incoming freshmen I’m looking forward to seeing in fall football camp.

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8/1/12 5:45 am CDT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

As I’m sure many of you have heard by now, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore has announced that no charges will be filed against Anthony Jennings, Dwayne Thomas or Maquedius Bain. In a statement, Moore said, “This decision is based upon the request of the victim that no charges be filed and inconsistent and contradictory statements provided. Although the conduct of these students in this situation is unacceptable, it is not one, based on the facts, that warrants prosecution, although their actions could have subjected them to such.” 

Shortly after Hillar released his statement, Coach Les Miles announced that the three players have been reinstated to football the team. The three players, as well as the rest of the team, will report to camp on Wednesday and begin fall practice on Thursday. In the statement provided by LSU, Miles indicated that the players will “undergo further in-house discipline.” Whether that means any of them will miss playing time because of this ordeal is yet to be seen. Last year, on the very first day of fall practice, District Attorney Moore announced that charges against Jalen Mills would be reduced to a misdemeanor (which was considerably less severe than the charge of second degree battery originally considered), and Coach Miles immediately reinstated Mills to the team. A few weeks later, Mills started in the season opener against Wisconsin. The year before that, running back Jeremy Hill was reinstated to the team just hours before fall camp began after Judge Bonnie Jackson extended Hill's probation rather than revoking it and sending him to jail. Hill participated fully with the team in fall practice but was held out of the season opener and the first quarter of the second game. I don’t expect Jennings, Thomas, or Bain to miss any playing time this year because of this latest incident, but at this point it’s obviously too early to say for sure.

Where this story gets even more interesting is that late last night the Advocate broke this report about former LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson being arrested for unauthorized entry into the apartment of Anthony Jennings on the same day that Jennings, Thomas and Bain were arrested in the aforementioned incident. Robinson, you’ll recall, was suspended from the team last fall and then dismissed from the team after the season.  (Is your head spinning yet? Mine sure is.) 

Moving on and switching gears… Coach Johnny Jones and his LSU basketball team will begin practice today in advance of their trip to Australia. The team departs for Australia on August 11th. This will be the fourth LSU trip outside the United States, as the Tigers travelled to Italy twice and to Canada once during John Brady’s tenure as head coach. This trip is unique in that it brings the nation’s number one recruit, freshman Ben Simmons, and junior center Darcy Malone, back to their home countries. Also, Assistant Head Coach David Patrick played with Ben Simmons’ father, Dave, on the Melbourne team of the country’s National Basketball League. LSU will open the tour against a group of All-Stars in Newcastle on Saturday, August 15, at 7:30 p.m. (4:30 a.m. CT). The next day, August 16, at 7 p.m. (4 a.m. CT), LSU will take on the Sydney Kings of the NBL at Brydens Stadium at University of Sydney. The Tigers will then move to the Gold Coast of Australia for two days, facing another All-Star team on August 18 at 7:30 p.m. (4:30 a.m. CT) before heading to Melbourne, the home of the Simmons family, for the final leg of the trip. The Tigers will play the first of two games against Melbourne United at the home stadium of the Dandenong Basketball Association. That game on August. 20 will tip at 7 p.m. (4 a.m. CT). The final game may be the most interesting of the tour, as LSU and Melbourne United will meet under the retractable roof of Hisense Arena (one of the facilities used for the Australian Open tennis championships) for a night game on August 22.

In baseball news, congratulations are in order for LSU outstanding right-handed pitcher, Alex Lange, who was selected as the male winner of the 2014-15 James J. Corbett Award presented by the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Corbett Awards are presented annually to the top male and female amateur athletes in the state of Louisiana. Lange, a native of Lee's Summit, Missouri, is coming off what could be described as the best season ever by an LSU freshman pitcher, and that’s saying a lot. In a press release issued by LSU, Coach Mainieri is quoted as saying, “Kevin Gausman, Aaron Nola, Anthony Renaudo. None came close to him as a freshman. What Alex did was nothing short of amazing.” I tend to agree. 

While on the topic of LSU pitchers, highly heralded southpaw Jake Latz will put his elbow to the test today. Latz, who missed all of his highly anticipated freshman season at LSU due to an elbow injury, will return to the mound today for the Du Page County Hounds of the Midwest Collegiate League. His outing is scheduled to be only two innings, but those two innings could be very telling in terms of indicating how close Latz is to a full recovery. If Latz is 100% by the time LSU’s 2016 season starts, and if he’s as good as expected, he could be the missing piece in LSU’s search for a consistent third starter.  

With 35 days until the football season opener, let’s jump back to football and take a look at a special former Tiger who wore No. 35 as a safety for LSU from 1985 to 1988 – Greg Jackson. Jackson was a hell of a defensive back with a knack for making big plays, and as a senior he earned first team All-SEC and first team All-American honors. Many of you will recall Jackson’s record-setting 100-yard interception return for a touchdown against Mississippi State in 1988, and then his 71-yard pick return for a touchdown in LSU's regular season finale over Tulane. (I wish I could have found a video of the big returns online, but surprisingly I wasn't able to. If any of you locate them, please let me know.) Jackson ended his senior season with a record-setting 219 return yards on seven interceptions, which was the most picks by an LSU player at that time since Chris Williams picked off eight in 1978. After his playing days at LSU, Jackson was selected by the New York Giants in the third round of the 1989 NFL draft. Five other Tigers were drafted in the NFL that year including Eric Hill, Ralph Norwood, Mike Mayes, Ron Sancho and Rudy Harmon. Jackson went on to play five seasons for the Giants before finishing his last seven seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers. Since retiring from the NFL, Jackson has spent several years as an assistant coach at the collegiate level including three years at Tulane. He currently serves as the defensive backs coach at the University of Michigan.

Now for Part 11 of 12 in our ongoing series previewing LSU’s 2015 football opponents: Today we look at the Rebels of Ole Miss. For Parts 1 through 10 of the series, click here

Saturday, November 21 — Ole Miss (Oxford, Miss)

Individual talent across the board makes the Ole Miss Rebels a legitimate contender in the SEC West. Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche and Tony Conner are all projected first-round picks in the 2016 NFL draft. These are just four of several great athletes Ole Miss brings to the table. Can the Rebels put it all together, though? Long gone are the days of Bo Wallace leading the offense, and some Rebel fans will say that’s a good thing. They can reference last year’s LSU/Ole Miss game for starters, where Wallace forced an interception to solidify the victory for LSU. But much like LSU, if Ole Miss finds solid quarterback play (most think it will come from Chad Kelly), the Rebels will be a force to be reckoned with. The Rebels are immensely talented at every position, and while Ole Miss struggled to provide a strong running game last season, head coach Hugh Freeze has made it his priority to improve in that area this year, which would of course take pressure off of Ole Miss’ new starting quarterback, whomever that ends up being. Defensively, with multiple returners at every position, Ole Miss should be even better than a year ago (despite losing defensive backs Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt). Ole Miss was fourth in the SEC in total defense last season. In several regards, Ole Miss and LSU are in similar situations. If both teams find solid quarterback play, it’s not a stretch to say that this November 21st showdown could have serious implications for the SEC West. 

A little lagniappe in closing: 

Today is the birthday of my dearly departed mother, Joy Ardoin Long, and in her honor I’ve posted a recipe for a dish she cooked better than anyone: Round Steak with Rice and Gravy. Bon appétit!  

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7/31/15 5:55 am CDT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The preseason Amway Coaches Poll was released yesterday, and for the third year in a row LSU opened at No. 13. While I think LSU’s ranking is understandable considering the questions at quarterback and the fact that LSU has a new defensive coordinator,  I also recognize that this poll is rarely a good indicator of how things will end up. For example, in 2003 LSU was preseason ranked No. 15 and ended up winning it all. In 2012, the Tigers were preseason No. 1 and ended No. 12. (For a look at LSU’s opening ranking in every Coaches poll since 1991, click here.) For what it’s worth, three SEC schools are ranked higher than LSU in this year’s poll. Alabama came in at No. 3, Auburn at No. 7, and Georgia at No. 9.

In baseball news, LSU coach Paul Mainieri met with the media yesterday for his annual luncheon to introduce this year’s incoming freshmen and preview the upcoming season. Here are the key points I was able to pick up by following media tweets from @RandyRosetta and @RossDellenger (two great follows, by the way) and here is the press release issued by LSU’s Sports Information Department.

• The first player mentioned by name was incoming right-handed pitcher Cole McKay. Mainieri said McKay has a very high ceiling and compared him to Aaron Nola and Kevin Gausman.

• The Coach also heaped praise on sophomores Beau and Bryce Jordan and said both are performing well in the North Woods League. Bryce is on a 13-game hitting streak and hit his first homer of the summer this week. 

• Coach Mainieri reported a few injuries: Pitcher Austin Bain had shoulder surgery and will miss fall practice; Pitcher Hunter Devall is battling a foot injury; Outfielder Jake Fraley is suffering from a finger injury he sustained in the last game of the season; Utility player Cody Ducote is battling a sore arm and is solely DHing.

• As for pitcher Jake Latz, Mainieri said he recently saw him throw 75 pitches in five simulated innings. His velocity was great in the first inning but dropped quite a bit by the fourth and fifth. 

• The coach spoke highly of the two outfielders from my hometown of Lafayette – Brennan Breaux and Antoine Duplantis – saying the two could be starters in 2016. He called Duplantis the sleeper of this class. 

• Newcomer Jordan Romero and sophomore Bryce Jordan could both challenge  Michael Papierski for the catcher’s role. This will be one of the most important position battles of the fall. 

• Mainieri said their first priority is to figure out the shortstop position. The four guys competing are Trey Dawson, O’Neal Lochridge, Cole Freeman and Kramer Robertson.

• As for the hot corner (3B), O’Neal Lochridge and Greg Deichmann will likely battle it out. 

• Mainieri spoke highly of sophomore right-hander Troy Whitty who has been dealing with a shoulder injury for the last two years. He’s ready to pitch now and Mainieri is eager to see what he’s got.

• The coach said he recognizes that they must develop third and fourth starting pitchers this year. The Jack Wholestaff approach just doesn’t cut it in postseason play. 

Jumping back to football… mark your calendars, Tiger Fans, because LSU’s Fan Day is set for Sunday, August 16. Below is the schedule of events, and here is detailed information as sent out by LSU.

2015 LSU Fan Day – Schedule of Events (Sunday, Aug. 16)

3:30 p.m. - Doors Open at Basketball Practice Facility & Maddox Field House
3:30 p.m. - Mike’s Kids Club Fan Zone opens at Maddox Field House
4 – 5 p.m. - LSU soccer signs autographs at Maddox Field House
4 – 5 p.m. - LSU volleyball signs autographs at Maddox Field House
4 – 6 p.m. - LSU cheerleaders and Mike the Tiger sign autographs
5 – 6:30 p.m. - Coach Miles & offense sign autographs at Maddox Field House
5 – 6:30 p.m. - Defense & special teams sign autographs at Basketball Practice Facility

It’s hard to believe that in just 36 days the season will be upon us, and with that in mind let’s continue our countdown by looking at a special 36-yard TD that changed momentum for the Tigers and led them to victory in last year’s season-opener. The play I’m referring to is John Diarse’s 36-yard TD reception in LSU’s 28-24 victory over Wisconsin. With LSU’s offense struggling mightily and the defense having already allowed 24 points in just over two quarters of play, the Tigers needed a big play to get back into the contest, and boy did Diarse deliver! LSU had crept back into the contest with two field goals in the third quarter, but still trailed 24-13 heading into the fourth quarter. After marching to the Wisconsin 25, LSU went backwards with an 11-yard loss from a fumbled option-pitch that Leonard Fournette recovered. Facing 3rd and 21, Anthony Jennings fired a pass to Diarse, who caught it around the 26, dodged two tacklers around the 22, spun out of another tackle around the 15 and out-raced a fourth tackle attempt at the six to score an amazing touchdown. After Jennings’ two-point conversion pass to Quinn brought LSU within three, 24-21, the Tigers’ comeback was made complete with three Kenny Hilliard runs, the last being a 28-yarder that gave LSU a 28-24 lead. You can see Diarse’s TD reception here (it’s noted as a 35-yard TD, but you can clearly see the play started at the 36).

Piggy-backing on this countdown topic, let’s talk a little more about Diarse, a player I’m expecting to contribute greatly this season: Diarse’s redshirt freshman year in 2014 was very modest with just 15 receptions for 275 yards and three touchdowns, but his other two touchdowns were huge plays as well. His second TD came in the second quarter of LSU’s regular season finale, a 10-yard reception that helped the Tigers seize control with a 14-7 lead en route to a 23-17 victory at Texas A&M. Diarse’s third and final TD of the year came in the first offensive play of the third quarter of the Music City Bowl vs. Notre Dame and evened the score (with the point after) at 21. Unfortunately, LSU would eventually lose that game 31-28, but that’s another story. Here’s one more interesting stat about Diarse: 11 of his 15 receptions have resulted in either a first down or touchdown.

Before closing out, here’s the next installment in our preview of LSU’s 2015 football opponents. To see all of the opponents we’ve profiled already (the first nine games), click here.

Saturday, November 14 – Arkansas (Baton Rouge)

After going 7-6 last season, many analysts are high on the Hogs heading into 2015. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit even mentioned in a tweet that he might pick Arkansas to win the SEC West this season. The reason for such love is the returning offensive star power – most specifically a monstrous offensive line blocking for Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, two of the best running backs in the conference. That’s two running backs that have combined for 4,447 rushing yards behind an offensive line that averages 321 pounds. Will the Tigers’ defense be up for the challenge? This is where Kendell Beckwith’s 6-foot-2, 240-pound frame comes in handy. Beckwith and defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Christian LaCouture have to bring their “A game” to try and force Arkansas to win this game through the air. While Brandon Allen is effective in the short-medium game, especially when he’s finding tight ends, Allen isn’t likely to carry the Hogs to victory on his own. But if Arkansas is able to get five yards per rush against this LSU defense, it will be a long night for the Tigers. On the defensive side, Arkansas is replacing many players, but talent shouldn’t be an issue with the way Bret Bielema recruits to fit his offensive and defensive schemes. Tiger fans better hope LSU’s offense can produce more than 123 yards and no points, which is what the Tigers amassed last year against Arkansas in a 17-0 loss. A more experienced quarterback – whether it be Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris – will hopefully translate into a much different outcome this time around. 

In closing, here’s an article by SaturdayDownSouth that names LSU’s fanbase the best in the country. Of course that’s not news to us, but it’s always good to see when others recognize it. The Top 25 fan bases in college football

Reader Comments: Scott, I’m sending this in case you missed it. LSU freshman Ben Simmons was named the best player in all of college basketball. Antonio Blakeney came in at No. 18.  The 50 Best Players in College Basketball for 2015-2016

 

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