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5/5/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

With 121 days remaining until the start of LSU’s 2016 football season, expectations continue to climb for Coach Les Miles’ Tigers. Yesterday morning I heard from several of you who were pumped about Campus Insider ranking LSU No. 1 in the post-spring rankings, and then later in the day the same media source generated more excitement among Tiger fans when they projected LSU to play in this year’s National Championship against Ohio State on January 9 in Tampa. (Here are their complete bowl projections.) While it’s pretty well established that LSU has the talent to make a title run this year, and it’s great to be optimistic, I think those of us who follow LSU closely realize that in order for the Tigers to reach such lofty expectations they will need to show improvement in the passing game (I think they will) and match up physically in the trenches this November against Alabama, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. Yesterday I wrote about one defensive player who can help LSU in the trenches by providing depth along the line, and today we’ll take a look at another as we continue our series on LSU newcomers reporting this summer. Here we go…

LSU newcomers reporting this summer who could make a splash as freshmen, Part 2: 

Edwin Alexander (DT, 6-2, 310, St. Thomas Aquinas)

Rashard Lawrence isn’t the only player expected to make waves as a true freshman defensive lineman. Edwin Alexander was No. 3 on our list of Top Louisiana Prospects for 2016, trailing No. 1 Lawrence by just two. What makes Alexander such a valuable commodity is the power he generates at contact. Alexander dealt with injuries as a junior, but when he was on the field, he demonstrated the power and athleticism needed to move blockers, shed blocks and disrupt plays in the backfield. Where Lawrence’s explosiveness and speed may allow defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to move him around and get creative, Alexander’s abilities make him a perfect fit to fill in for Davon Godchaux at the nose tackle position where he’ll be tasked with occupying multiple blockers. The hope is that a fresh Alexander and Lawrence (to go along with Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore, and others) will provide little to no drop-off when filling in for Christian LaCouture, Lewis Neal and Godchaux. If this is the case, the month of November could be a really exciting and vengeful one for the Tigers.

In baseball news, LSU picked up an interesting commitment for the class of 2018 yesterday when Drew Bianco, the son of Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco,  gave his verbal pledge to the Tigers. If you find it puzzling that Coach Bianco's son would choose LSU, this article by The Advocate helps shed some light and how and why this came to be. You see, several years ago Mike and his wife decided that if any of their four sons were talented enough to play Division I college baseball, none would play for their father. The reason? Mike wants his sons to enjoy “that true college experience” without being thought of and recognized as the coach’s son everywhere he goes. It also helps that Mike, himself, had an outstanding experience playing catcher at LSU in 1988-89 and serving as an assistant coach on Skip Bertman’s staff in the 90s where he was part of three national championship teams. In Drew Bianco, LSU will be getting a 6-foot, 190-pound middle infielder (projected to play shortstop) who really knows and loves the game of baseball.  

While speaking of baseball, here’s a good radio interview of D1Baseball.com’s Kendall Rogers by Matt Moscona of ESPN Radio in which he discusses LSU’s  postseason outlook. Rogers, who is widely considered one of the best in the business, still projects LSU to be a Regional host in the upcoming NCAA tournament but calls this weekend’s series against Arkansas a must-win. He had nothing but good things to say about the job Coach Mainieri has done with this young team and had a message for those fans who constantly compare Mainieri to Skip Bertman. The message: Bertman was a truly exceptional coach, perhaps the best ever, but  it’s unfair to compare Mainieri to the Skipper as this is a totally different era in college baseball. Back when Bertman coached, there were a select few schools who were truly committed to college baseball, whereas today there are a ton. 

Today’s closing tidbits:

• About a month ago, the NCAA Council approved a proposal to shut down the controversial satellite football camps, and then a couple of weeks later they repealed the ban. 247Sports reports that Coach Miles is gearing up to take advantage of the opportunities these events afford as he and members of his staff will attend camps in Atlanta, Houston, Tampa and Detroit next month as part of the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy summer tour.

• Here’s a great football hype video released by LSU last week that somehow I missed. It’s called “LSU Classic” and it’s sure to bring back a surge of memories for those of you who’ve spent a lifetime following LSU football. Kind of appropriate for #TBT (Throwback Thursday).


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5/5/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

With 121 days remaining until the start of LSU’s 2016 football season, expectations continue to climb for Coach Les Miles’ Tigers. Yesterday morning I heard from several of you who were pumped about Campus Insider ranking LSU No. 1 in the post-spring rankings, and then later in the day the same media source generated more excitement among Tiger fans when they projected LSU to play in this year’s National Championship against Ohio State on January 9 in Tampa. (Here are their complete bowl projections.) While it’s pretty well established that LSU has the talent to make a title run this year, and it’s great to be optimistic, I think those of us who follow LSU closely realize that in order for the Tigers to reach such lofty expectations they will need to show improvement in the passing game (I think they will) and match up physically in the trenches this November against Alabama, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. Yesterday I wrote about one defensive player who can help LSU in the trenches by providing depth along the line, and today we’ll take a look at another as we continue our series on LSU newcomers reporting this summer. Here we go…

LSU newcomers reporting this summer who could make a splash as freshmen, Part 2: 

Edwin Alexander (DT, 6-2, 310, St. Thomas Aquinas)

Rashard Lawrence isn’t the only player expected to make waves as a true freshman defensive lineman. Edwin Alexander was No. 3 on our list of Top Louisiana Prospects for 2016, trailing No. 1 Lawrence by just two. What makes Alexander such a valuable commodity is the power he generates at contact. Alexander dealt with injuries as a junior, but when he was on the field, he demonstrated the power and athleticism needed to move blockers, shed blocks and disrupt plays in the backfield. Where Lawrence’s explosiveness and speed may allow defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to move him around and get creative, Alexander’s abilities make him a perfect fit to fill in for Davon Godchaux at the nose tackle position where he’ll be tasked with occupying multiple blockers. The hope is that a fresh Alexander and Lawrence (to go along with Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore, and others) will provide little to no drop-off when filling in for Christian LaCouture, Lewis Neal and Godchaux. If this is the case, the month of November could be a really exciting and vengeful one for the Tigers.

In baseball news, LSU picked up an interesting commitment for the class of 2018 yesterday when Drew Bianco, the son of Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco,  gave his verbal pledge to the Tigers. If you find it puzzling that Coach Bianco's son would choose LSU, this article by The Advocate helps shed some light and how and why this came to be. You see, several years ago Mike and his wife decided that if any of their four sons were talented enough to play Division I college baseball, none would play for their father. The reason? Mike wants his sons to enjoy “that true college experience” without being thought of and recognized as the coach’s son everywhere he goes. It also helps that Mike, himself, had an outstanding experience playing catcher at LSU in 1988-89 and serving as an assistant coach on Skip Bertman’s staff in the 90s where he was part of three national championship teams. In Drew Bianco, LSU will be getting a 6-foot, 190-pound middle infielder (projected to play shortstop) who really knows and loves the game of baseball.  

While speaking of baseball, here’s a good radio interview of D1Baseball.com’s Kendall Rogers by Matt Moscona of ESPN Radio in which he discusses LSU’s  postseason outlook. Rogers, who is widely considered one of the best in the business, still projects LSU to be a Regional host in the upcoming NCAA tournament but calls this weekend’s series against Arkansas a must-win. He had nothing but good things to say about the job Coach Mainieri has done with this young team and had a message for those fans who constantly compare Mainieri to Skip Bertman. The message: Bertman was a truly exceptional coach, perhaps the best ever, but  it’s unfair to compare Mainieri to the Skipper as this is a totally different era in college baseball. Back when Bertman coached, there were a select few schools who were truly committed to college baseball, whereas today there are a ton. 

Today’s closing tidbits:

• About a month ago, the NCAA Council approved a proposal to shut down the controversial satellite football camps, and then a couple of weeks later they repealed the ban. 247Sports reports that Coach Miles is gearing up to take advantage of the opportunities these events afford as he and members of his staff will attend camps in Atlanta, Houston, Tampa and Detroit next month as part of the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy summer tour.

• Here’s a great football hype video released by LSU last week that somehow I missed. It’s called “LSU Classic” and it’s sure to bring back a surge of memories for those of you who’ve spent a lifetime following LSU football. Kind of appropriate for #TBT (Throwback Thursday).

5/04/16 5:40 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

It seems odd to not have a midweek LSU baseball game to write about today, but I do have a few baseball tidbits to start this daily dose of Tiger News. Yesterday, Coach Mainieri held a luncheon at L’Auberge in Baton Rouge to discuss the Tigers’ 2016 season and to look ahead to the future, and there were a few interesting nuggets of information dished out. (Note: I wasn’t able to attend the event, but was able to piece together the following info from tweets by @JacquesDoucet of WAFB, @ChandlerRome of The Advocate, @SmartestMoran of Tiger Rag, and comments from DandyDon readers who were in attendance.)

• After acknowledging that Saturday’s game at Ole Miss and last week’s loss at Tulane were “complete disasters,” Coach Mainieri said the team is better now than a month ago. He also said all of their goals remain in front of them, the players’ attitudes are great, and he expects his team to make a strong push the remainder of the season.

• Coach Mainieri brought up the “third starter situation”, saying “the book is out” on John Valek III. It was unclear whether someone else will be looked at in that Game 3 role, but Mainieri did say there would be some pitching rotation changes this weekend. 

• Mainieri made it clear that Jordan Romero will be the team’s starting catcher and cleanup hitter. He likened playing Saturday’s game without Romero to LSU football playing without Leonard Fournette. 

• After feeling discomfort in his elbow following his long awaited start a few weeks ago, Jake Latz has been throwing “long toss” (Up to 200 feet.) Mainieri didn’t speculate on when he might return to action, but said he won't make the trip to Notre Dame next week.

• As for O’Neil Lochridge, who has been dealing with back issues, Mainieri is not confident that he will return to action this season and said the staff is exploring a medical redshirt option.

• When asked about the upcoming Major League Baseball draft, Mainieri said he’s nervous about 13 of his recruits and 10 of his players. He specifically mentioned Jared Poché and Jake Fraley as current players he’ll probably lose to the draft, and said it is unlikely that commit Riley Pint will be able to turn down the big money thrown at him. Pint, a 6-4 righty from Lenexa, Kansas, whose fastball touches 100 MPH, is projected to be a very early 1st round pick.

The Tigers will return to action Friday at 7 p.m. (SEC Network +) when they host the Arkansas Razorbacks in Game 1 of a very important series.  

Switching gears to the gridiron… At this time of year, a lot of folks are turning their attention from newcomers who made a big splash in the spring to top recruits like LSU’s two recent quarterback commits. What sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is that LSU will have a ton of talented newcomers joining the team this summer – members of LSU’s 2016 signing class which was ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation. In today’s report, we’ll begin a brief series highlighting a few of these newcomers who could make a splash as true freshmen. Here we geaux…

LSU newcomers reporting this summer who could make a splash as freshmen, Part 1:

Rashard Lawrence (DT, 6-3, 305, Neville)

Rashard Lawrence was the No. 1 target in-state for many reasons, and he’ll be a valuable asset for the Tigers from the moment he steps onto the practice field. The Under Armour All-American from Monroe gives LSU its best prospect from North Louisiana in years, which should serve LSU well on the recruiting trail, but more importantly, Lawrence fills a pressing need for depth along the defensive line. 

Jake Martin, a frequent contributor to this site who writes for the Ouachita Citizen, got to watch Lawrence a good bit at Neville High School and raved about his explosiveness (even when playing with a hurt ankle). Lawrence’s quickness off the ball, combined with his strength, tenacity and exceptional size, should allow him to see the field early as a Tiger. That’s important, as last year’s team lacked the ability to shuffle in multiple players along the defensive line – a hallmark of Coach Ed Orgeron’s highly successful D-lines at USC – without a pretty significant dropoff. This year, with the entire starting defensive line returning to go along with a new crop of talent that includes Lawrence and fellow in-state sensation Ed Alexander, that should no longer be the case.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow for part 2 of this series. 

Today’s closing tidbits:

• CollegeFootballNews.com has released its Post-Spring College Football Rankings of all 128 teams, and guess who’s at No. 1? That’s right, the Fighting Tigers of LSU. Here’s what author Pete Fiutak had to say about the Tigers: “You know how everyone was gushing over all the Ohio State players being taken throughout the 2015 NFL Draft? Next year it’s going to be LSU that keeps the pros stocked with fresh bodies, especially in the first round. The 2016 Tigers really are that good. It might be hard to see considering how flaky they were last season, but this year they’re so deep, so talented, and so solid now that Les Miles survived his brush with coaching death that it should all come together in what should be a dream season.”

Here’s a brief but informative video that accompanied Fiutak’s article highlighting their Post-Spring Top-5 College Football Teams.

• Fiutak’s mentioning of the draft reminds me to share with you the following info tweeted out from LSU Sports Information Director Michael Bonnette: LSU ranks No. 1 in the SEC in NFL Draft picks since the 2006 draft (the Miles era) with 69, and has had at least 5 players picked 10 of 11 years. Here’s how the SEC ranks in NFL Draft picks during that period:

1. LSU (69)
2. Alabama (63)
3. Georgia (59)
4. Florida (58)
5. SoCar & Ark (38) 

Reader Comments: Scott, Just thought your readers would like to hear about Aaron Nola'a latest gem: 7 IP, 2 H and 0 ER in a 1-0 victory over St. Louis. He's now 2-2 on the year with a 2.93 ERA for the Phillies.

5/3/16 5:50 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

First, thanks to all of you who commented on yesterday’s Mail Call. That feature always generates a lot of feedback and it’s great to hear from you. You might recall that in it I mentioned LSU’s recruitment of a big-time dual-threat quarterback. Well, lo and behold, a few hours later this happened…

LSU picked up its seventh commitment for the Class of 2017 when quarterback Lowell Narcisse gave his verbal pledge to the Tigers. Narcisse (6-3, 224, St. James, No 5 on our list of Top LA Prospects) is a the top-ranked quarterback in Louisiana and the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the nation, according to 247Sports. Make no mistake about it, this is a huge get for the Tigers, and it’s interesting that it came on the heels of LSU landing a commitment from quarterback Myles Brennan just nine days prior. LSU only signed one quarterback in each of the last two recruiting classes but had made it clear that they intended on taking two this year. If Brennan and Narcisse are the two the Tigers end up with, as it appears will be the case, this will be an exceptional year for LSU quarterback recruitment.

Narcisse, a very highly sought-after quarterback who once was committed to Auburn, has an impressive offer list that includes powerhouse programs like Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, and others. To see why he’s so highly pursued, check out Narcisse’s video highlights. The highlights in the videos start five months after he suffered an ACL injury that caused him to miss most of his junior season. He recovered in time to help lead his team to the Class 3A State Championship game.

With Narcisse’s exceptional mobility and strong arm, he reminds me a bit of former Tiger quarterback Ryan Perrilloux who played ball at neighboring East St. John High School. One notable difference is that Narcisse is left-handed. Along with fellow 2017 quarterback commit Myles Brennan, Narcisse will likely compete for the starting quarterback job in 2018 against fellow lefty Justin McMillan and 2016 signee Lindsay Scott once Brandon Harris and Danny Etling have exhausted their eligibility.

Now turning to baseball, after losing three of four games last week, the Tigers now find themselves ranked anywhere from 13th to 27th in this week’s polls. To me, the great disparity in rankings says a lot about how inconsistent and hard to figure out this team has been. Here’s a look at where LSU ranks in the five major polls. (The numbers in parenthesis represent last week’s rankings.)

Baseball America 13 (8)
USA Today Coaches Poll 15 (13)
D1Baseball.com 17 (11)
Perfect Game 24 (15)
Collegiate Baseball 27 (15) 

With this being exam week for LSU students and student-athletes, there will be no mid-week game this week. LSU’s next opponent will be the Arkansas Razorbacks (26-18, 7-14) who lost two of three to Texas A&M last weekend and are unranked in the polls. 

Here’s a look at this week’s LSU baseball schedule:

May 6 (Fri.) – ARKANSAS, 7 p.m. CT (SEC Network +)
May 7 (Sat.) – ARKANSAS, 6:30 p.m. CT (ESPNU)
May 8 (Sun.) – ARKANSAS, 1 p.m. CT (SEC Network +) 

As I do on most Tuesdays, I’ll give you a few tidbits on LSU baseball, as pulled from LSU’s weekly report to the media:

• When Alex Lange fired his second straight complete game on Friday night to defeat ninth-ranked Ole Miss, he became the first LSU pitcher to record consecutive complete games since Aaron Nola posted four straight during the 2013 season.

• Despite losing two of three to Ole Miss, LSU hit .320 (33-for-103) in the series with 10 doubles, one homer and 14 runs against a Rebel staff that has the third-best ERA in the league. 

• Prior to getting suspended for Game 3 of the series, Jordan Romero batted .667 (4-for-6) against Ole Miss with one double, one homer and six RBI. Romero was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI in Game 1, and was 2-for-2 with a homer and three RBI in Game 2. 

• Chris Reid batted .556 at Ole Miss as he collected five hits in nine at-bats. Four of those hits came in Saturday’s game alone. All told, the freshman belted three doubles while scoring three runs and posting one RBI in the series. To say that Reid has been a pleasant surprise since getting his first start at third base in the 14th game of the season after O’Neal Lochridge suffered a back injury would be an understatement.

Last but not least, congratulations are in order for LSU junior Sahvanna Jaquish was named SEC Softball Player of the Week. The Highland, California, native led the Tigers with 10 RBIs in the team’s four wins last week, tying for the team lead in hits with eight and finishing with a .500 batting average, .938 slugging percentage and .647 on-base percentage. This is the fourth player of the week honor for Jaquish in her LSU career, and the second she’s received this season. 

Tune in tomorrow as we’ll begin a brief football series on Tiger newcomers who will report to LSU for the first time this fall with a good chance of seeing early playing time. 

Reader Comments: Not sure if you saw what Shea Dixon posted a few days ago but I thought it was a mindblowing fact. Overall HS rankings for Dave Aranda's 3 former LB's that were drafted (Wisconsin, Utah State x 2): No. 1,592, No. 1,853 and unranked.  So thats 3 outside of the top 1500, and they all ended up being top 200. That’s a testament to this guys talent.

 

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