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LSU vs. McNeese State - Saturday, September 5th, 2015 6:30 PM (SEC-Alt)
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7/3/15 6:00 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

With things relatively slow in LSU sports right now, let’s start today’s report with a brief word on recruiting. LSU’s 2016 class, which contains 17 commitments, is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation in all the major polls. I attribute this success to three major factors - 1) The addition of Coaches Kevin Steele, Ed Orgeron and Tony Ball, 2) the hard work of each LSU staff member, especially Bradley Dale Peveto who is currently ranked No. 3 nationally in 247Sports’ recruiter rankings, and 3) the fact that the state of Louisiana is absolutely loaded with big-time 2016 prospects. And with several of the state’s top prospects still uncommitted and leaning towards LSU, this class is likely to only get stronger.  Even more encouraging for the future of LSU football is the fact that Louisiana’s 2017 class looks to be just about as strong. Yesterday, Scout.com released its initial national top-300 for 2017 and 11 of the players are from Louisiana, including LSU linebacker commit Dylan Moses (6-2, 220, University High) who is ranked No. 1 not only in the state but in the nation. LSU’s other current commitment for 2017, Tyler Shelvin (DT, 6-2, 310, Northside High) from my hometown of Lafayette, is also in the Top-300 at No. 135. Recruiting is the where success begins, and if LSU continues along its current trek the future will remain very bright for LSU football. 

Sticking to the topic of recruiting, Nike's 'The Opening' Football Camp kicks off next week on July 7th in Beaverton, Oregon and ESPN’s Jeremy Crabtree says LSU will be the most talked about team at the event. He also goes on to say that LSU commit Dylan Moses will be the best player on the field, even though he is a class of 2017 prospect and most of the players there will be a year older. Here’s a video of Crabtree making his bold, LSU-proud predictions

Now, with 64 days before the start of Tiger football, let’s jump right to our countdown by looking at a special former Tiger offensive lineman who wore the number 64. Linemen are the guys who make the blocks, protect the QB, get dirty, and yet often go with little notice. Rudy Niswanger fits that mold. Niswanger, a product of northeast Louisiana, arrived at LSU at 6'5", 275 in the 2001 recruiting class with fellow linemen Andrew Whitworth and Ben Wilkerson. Niswanger redshirted his freshman year after being very highly recruited, but once he took the field he made a quick and significant impact at LSU. Niswanger played every OL position during his time as a Tiger, but primarily played guard and center. Not only did he serve as a solid lineman, he represented the LSU community well as he maintained a 4.0 GPA in kinesiology/pre-med and served as a volunteer in the community. Niswanger was rewarded with the inaugural Danny Wuerffel trophy for being a great football humanitarian, and with the prestigious Draddy trophy which is known as the “Academic Heisman.” He was also a winner of the SEC Football Scholar award and a 2nd team All-SEC player. Rudy was rewarded for his on-field play by being drafted by the KC Chiefs where he played 2006-2010.

One non-sports tidbit in closing: If you’re scratching your head wondering what you’ll cook as a side dish for tomorrow’s 4th of July barbecue, here are a couple of family recipes that could serve you well – Cajun Dirty Rice and Corn Maque Choux. You might find them especially useful if you’re a fellow gardener with more eggplant, corn, tomatoes and peppers than you know what to do with. (In case you’re interested, here’s a listing of all of the recipes I’ve posted over the last couple of years.)

And once you’re done with your Independence Day celebration, you can veg out in front of the TV for the start of a 24-hour “LSU Takeover” on the SEC Network. The “Takeover” is a two-week programming initiative by the SEC Network dedicated to airing 24-hours of non-stop programming for each SEC school. LSU’s takeover will begin Saturday at 11 p.m. with LSU gymnastic’s win over Florida last February, and it will end Sunday night with LSU baseball’s win over Texas A&M in April. A total of 13 LSU contests (football, baseball, softball, basketball, gymnastics, golf and volleyball) will air in the 24-hour period. For more information including the full schedule, click here.

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7/2/15 5:55 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Yesterday LSU strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt was interviewed on 104.5 ESPN Radio and had great things to say about the condition of the football team, especially the incoming freshmen. Recently the team was put through a conditioning test in which each player was required to run 26 110-yard sprints within a certain time, depending on their position group. Of the 110 total team members that took the brutal conditioning test, only 17 failed and the majority of those were walk-ons. When discussing how the freshmen performed, Moffitt stated that running back Derrius Guice ran each of the 26 sprints in 14 seconds, which is remarkable, and said wide receiver Jazz Ferguson was right there with him. He also bragged a lot on the conditioning of the freshmen offensive linemen, with George Brown being the first one mentioned. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare and would like to hear the whole interview, you can do so here.  

Mentioning Jazz Ferguson above reminds me that I never gave you the results of the poll we conducted last week asking who will be LSU’s leading receiver this year. As expected, Malachi Dupre was the big winner with 47% of the vote. Following him was Travin Dural with 29%. Trey Quinn with 12%, DJ Chark with 6% and John Diarse with nearly 4%. Each of the three freshmen receivers - Tyron Johnson, Jazz Ferguson and Derrick Dillon – received less than 1% of the vote.

In basketball news, Coach Johnny Jones is back on the hunt for another assistant after Coach John Treloar announced that he will be taking a job with an NBA franchise. You might recall that Treloar was named assistant coach by Jones on April 15 after Eric Musselman’s departure, and was set to start work at LSU on July 1st (yesterday) after fulfilling obligations with his previous employer, the Phoenix Suns. Well, on Monday evening Coach Jones got a call saying that there may be some changes, and then on Tuesday morning Treloar confirmed that he would be taking another job with a team in the NBA. The timing of all this is very unfortunate for Coach Johnny Jones, to say the least, since a very  important recruiting period begins tomorrow. Now Coach Jones has to turn some of his attention away from recruiting, summer workouts and the team’s upcoming trip to Australia to find Treloar’s replacement. In a meeting with the local media yesterday, Coach Jones stated that he’s in no rush to make a hire and that he’s going to explore all options. 

For more from Coach Jones’ press conference, and for comments from LSU’s three heralded freshmen who met with the media earlier in the day, please see these two articles:

Jones Previews Summer Plans in Press Briefing
Blakeney, Simmons, Sampson Meet Local Media

Now with 65 days until LSU's first football game of the 2015 season, let's continue our countdown to game day by looking at two Tiger greats who were brothers, #65 Emile Fournet and his older brother, Sid. Sid, a member of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame and coached by Gaynell "Gus" Tinsley, starred at LSU as a tackle from 1951-1954 and played on both sides of the ball. Sid was an All-SEC honoree his final two seasons, an All-American in 1954 and was credited as playing in 83 percent of LSU's total plays that season. Selected in the second round of the 1955 NFL draft, Sid played seven seasons with the LA Rams, Pittsburgh  Steelers, Dallas Texans and New York Titans/Jets. Sadly, he passed away in 2011 at the age of 78.

Little brother Emile was not as highly decorated as Sid; however, he was on more successful teams, including LSU's 1958 National Championship team. In The Advocate's Greatest Moments in LSU Football History, Emile recalled the birth of the Chinese Bandits in a 13-3 victory in 1958 over Alabama. "Bear Bryant had a heck of a team and Alabama recovered a fumble deep in our territory. Instead of leaving the Go Team on defense, Dietzel sent in the Bandits. Alabama had the ball with first-and-goal at the three and we stopped them. That convinced the coaches and everyone else that we could play." Billy Cannon credits Emile for his legendary 89-yard punt return in the Tigers 7-3 win over Ole Miss in 1959. "We were lucky to win the game," Cannon recalled. I was looking at the old yellow film the other night, and I had two guys on my back and Emile Fournet peeled back and blocked them off of me. That was the key to the whole thing." You can watch a recap of that famous win here. Fournet's block occurs around the 1:19 mark. 

I’ll leave you today with this article which I’m sure will strike a cord with many of you. It’s by Christopher Smith of Saturday Down South and it’s called “Character, personality concerns a theme for LSU QBs through the years.”

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7/1/15 5:50 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

In yesterday’ report I mentioned that LSU’s number of interceptions has declined in the last three years, and that prompted a few of you to ask me why this is. In my opinion, this is not a reflection on LSU’s defensive backs, but rather on the lack of pressure LSU has been able to apply to opposing quarterbacks. Now that Coach Ed Orgeron is on board, I’m confident that we’ll see improvement not only in sacks (remember LSU had only 11 last year in 8 SEC games) but also in “pressure picks.” There’s no question that Coach O loves to rotate D-linemen to keep “fresh legs” and provide persistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. What is somewhat questionable, though, is whether LSU will have the kind of depth needed along the defensive line to do the kind of rotating Orgeron is accustomed to, especially now that Trey Lealaimatafao has been dismissed and Maquedious Bain has been indefinitely suspended. Lealaimatafao was not expected to challenge for a starting role, but he could have been very valuable in terms of depth at defensive tackle. Bain, on the other hand, has been battling for a starting role, or at least significant playing time, at the end positions opposite of Tashawn Bower, and is someone who could contribute at tackle or end. One person who could help LSU’s defensive line depth tremendously is Travonte Valentine, assuming he is cleared to take the field this year. Back in May, Coach Miles reportedly told a group of Tiger Fans in Houston that Valentine was working hard academically and that everything was looking positive at that time, but since then there has been nothing new to report on Valentine’s status. I’m hopeful that this topic will be addressed when Miles speaks to the Media on July 16th for SEC Media Days, if not sooner.

Speaking of Media Days, Leonard Fournette, Vadal Alexander and Kendell Beckwith have been chosen to represent LSU at this year’s event. The announcement came from LSU Sports Information Director Michael Bonnette during an interview with Culotta & The Prince on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Media Days get underway on July 13th and runs through the 16th. LSU is scheduled to take the podium on the final day. 

In baseball news, the awards continue to roll in for LSU baseball players as Alex Bregman, Alex Lange and Kade Scivicque were named All-Americans yesterday by Baseball America. If you’re like me, you’ve probably lost track long ago of who has won what, so here’s an up-to-date list, as provided by LSU’s sports information department, to keep you up-to-date:

Summary of 2015 National Awards for LSU Baseball Players

Alex Lange, RHP
• First-Team All-American (Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America, NCBWA, Perfect Game)
• National Freshman Pitcher of the Year (Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA)
• Second-Team All-American (ABCA, D1 Baseball)
• First-Team Freshman All-American (Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA, Baseball America)

Alex Bregman, SS
• First-Team All-American (Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America, D1 Baseball)
• Second-Team All-American (NCBWA, ABCA, Perfect Game)
• Golden Spikes Award Finalist
• ABCA Gold Glove Award Team 

Kade Scivicque, C
• First-Team All-American (D1 Baseball)
• Second-Team All-American (Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America)
• Third-Team All-American (NCBWA, Perfect Game)
• Johnny Bench Award Finalist 

Chris Chinea, 1B
• Third-Team All-American (Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA) 

Andrew Stevenson, CF
Third-Team All-American (Baseball America, D1 Baseball)
• ABCA Gold Glove Award Team 

Jesse Stallings, RHP
• First-Team Freshman All-American (Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA)

On a related note, here’s a good report by Hunter Paniagua of Tiger Sports Digest on all the LSU baseball players who signed pro contracts, how much they made with their signing bonuses and a rundown of how they're performing early in their pro careers.

Now let’s continue our countdown to the start of LSU football season, which is 66 days away, by remembering  a special Tiger who wore the number 66 – Alan Faneca. At 6-foot-5, 316-pounds, Faneca was a dominating offensive guard who earned freshman of the year honors in 1995 and All-American honors as a sophomore and junior. He also won the Jacobs Award, given annually to the best blocker in the SEC, and was one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s best collegiate interior lineman. Faneca chose to enter the NFL draft prior to his senior campaign and was picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round (26th overall) of the 1998 draft. After a very successful 12-year career in the NFL with the Steelers, the Jets and the Cardinals, Faneca retired from pro ball on May 10, 2011 with nine Pro Bowl awards, nine All-Pro awards, and one Super Bowl title.

One more tidbit about Faneca: In recognition of weight-related health issues suffered by many retired football players, Faneca went on an extreme weight loss regimen that involved a lot of running and lost over 100 pounds. In February of 2014, Faneca successfully completed the New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Marathon with a remarkable time of 3:56:17. Not bad for a former 300-pound linemen, is it?

A few tidbits in closing: 

• Here’s a good read on LSU basketball incoming freshman Ben Simmons making a huge splash in the inaugural Nike Basketball Academy in Santa Monica, California. Simmons and fellow LSU signee Antonio Blakeney were the only two freshmen invited to the event which featured 27 of the nation’s top basketball players. 

• If you’re looking for LSU tickets, please note that I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange page with a few new listings.

Last but not least, thanks to all of you who went me vacation destination suggestions. My wife and I have decided on Sedona, Arizona, and I can hardly wait!

 

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