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LSU vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field - September 3rd, 2:30PM
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6/29/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

San Antonio Vacation update: To all of you who recommended La Fogata for some off-the-beaten-path authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, muchas gracias! It was an excellent way to conclude the evening after a long but enjoyable time at SeaWorld.

Before turning to Part 3 of our LSU football statistical trends and observations and our countdown to Game Day, we’ll cover a few topics in baseball, football and even non-LSU sports.

First, I wanted to express my condolences to the family of Pat Summit and the Volunteers nation, as the world lost a great leader and person yesterday when Coach Summit (1952-2016) passed away after a five year long battle with early onset Alzheimer’s. Besides being the winningest coach in D-1 Basketball history (1,098 wins) and winning eight National Championships, every single student-athlete on Summit’s Vols’ teams graduated college, and I think that speaks volumes about the type of coach and person she was.

Turning to baseball, congratulations are in order for Antoine Duplantis, who was named a Freshman All-American by Perfect Game. Duplantis (.327 batting average, two homers, 39 RBI, 45 runs, and 13 stolen bases) is very deserving of the award after starting all 66 of LSU’s games this past season. With veterans Greg Deichmann, Kramer Robertson, Cole Freeman, and Beau and Bryce Jordan returning with younger talent like Duplantis, I am very excited about next year’s baseball team.

In football news, Dylan Moses caused a bit of a stir with some Tiger fans yesterday when he tweeted the five schools he’ll officially visit during the upcoming college football season and didn’t include LSU. While this may appear concerning on the surface, I am not worried one bit about it. Moses has visited LSU dozens of times already and knows the school, coaches and players very well. Considering the time he’s spent at LSU, especially lately, and the fact that he recently tweeted that he’d like nothing more than for LSU to win a football National Championship, I feel very good about the Tigers’ chances of landing this big-time recruit. The five schools Moses will visit officially are Alabama,  Miami, Texas, UCLA and Ohio State. I said long ago that I believe it will come down to a battle between LSU and Alabama for Moses’ services, and I still feel that way.

LSU Statistical Trends/Observations, Part 3:  Sacks

LSU’s number of sacks per game had steadily declined in the last four years before 2015. The Tigers had 38 sacks in 2011, 35 in 2012, 27 in 2013 and just 19 in 2014. With a more seasoned defensive line and linebackers group in 2015, LSU was able to play less zone defense and be more aggressive. The strategy worked as the Tigers were able to tally 34 sacks in just 12 games, which was more per game (2.83) than in 2011 (2.71). LSU was even better in SEC contests, recording 24 sacks in eight games (3.0 per game). Of course, a big part of the credit goes to D-line coach Ed Orgeron who was in his first season for the Tigers. This season, LSU should be even stronger in Dave Aranda’s 3-4 type scheme with senior Kendell Beckwith (3.5 sacks in 2015) at middle linebacker and Arden Key (5 sacks in 2015) and Tashawn Bower likely manning the outside linebacker positions. Duke Riley, Donnie Alexander, and Devin White will battle for the fourth linebacker position with the other two serving as key backups. Junior Davon Godchaux (6 sacks in 2015) is set to be the primary nose guard and seniors Christian LaCouture and Lewis Neal (8 sacks in 2015) will likely fill the defensive end positions. The new scheme, increased experience, and great talent at both the linebacker and defensive line positions make me optimistic that we’ll see a significant number of sacks again this season. LSU’s success in disrupting opposing quarterbacks will also depend largely on overall depth along the defensive line, as a big part of Coach O’s aggressive philosophy involves heavy rotation along the line to keep legs fresh. So Deondre Clark, Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron, Rashard Lawrence and Edwin Alexander will be vital to LSU’s success in applying pressure and sacking the quarterback in 2016.

With 66 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin at Lambeau Field on September 3rd, let’s continue our countdown to the start of the LSU football season by remembering a special Tiger who wore No. 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, one of only ten LSU players to win multiple First-Team All-American honors. 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 13-year career in the NFL with the Steelers, Jets, and Cardinals, Faneca retired from pro ball on May 10, 2011, with nine Pro Bowl awards, eight All-Pro awards, and one Super Bowl title. He was also named a member of the 2000s all-decade first team. In his first year of eligibility in 2016, Faneca was not selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I am confident he will be selected in the near future.

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, an average of nine minutes per mile. Not bad for a former 300-pound linemen, is it? Faneca is now retired and living in McLean, Virginia. 

Here’s an interesting football article from James Smith of nola.com. Smith writes about five possible roster changes for LSU this upcoming season. and there’s at least one (Devin White to running back) that I would find very surprising.

Before closing, I wanted to share this article for all the hungry LSU basketball fans out there. In it, Scott Rabalais of The Advocate explains that despite the loss of Ben Simmons, LSU’s expectations for the 2016-2017 are high with five juniors led by forward Craig Victor returning as well as super sophomore Antonio Blakeney. The Tigers also bring in a solid freshman incoming class, which includes University Lab’s Skylar Mays and Wayde Sims, Lee College’s (Baytown, TX) Branden Jenkins and Duop Reath and Sydney, Australia’s Kieran Hayward.

Stay tuned, as tomorrow we’ll continue our series on statistical trends and observations, as well as our countdown to LSU’s season opener vs. Wisconsin.


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6/29/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

San Antonio Vacation update: To all of you who recommended La Fogata for some off-the-beaten-path authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, muchas gracias! It was an excellent way to conclude the evening after a long but enjoyable time at SeaWorld.

Before turning to Part 3 of our LSU football statistical trends and observations and our countdown to Game Day, we’ll cover a few topics in baseball, football and even non-LSU sports.

First, I wanted to express my condolences to the family of Pat Summit and the Volunteers nation, as the world lost a great leader and person yesterday when Coach Summit (1952-2016) passed away after a five year long battle with early onset Alzheimer’s. Besides being the winningest coach in D-1 Basketball history (1,098 wins) and winning eight National Championships, every single student-athlete on Summit’s Vols’ teams graduated college, and I think that speaks volumes about the type of coach and person she was.

Turning to baseball, congratulations are in order for Antoine Duplantis, who was named a Freshman All-American by Perfect Game. Duplantis (.327 batting average, two homers, 39 RBI, 45 runs, and 13 stolen bases) is very deserving of the award after starting all 66 of LSU’s games this past season. With veterans Greg Deichmann, Kramer Robertson, Cole Freeman, and Beau and Bryce Jordan returning with younger talent like Duplantis, I am very excited about next year’s baseball team.

In football news, Dylan Moses caused a bit of a stir with some Tiger fans yesterday when he tweeted the five schools he’ll officially visit during the upcoming college football season and didn’t include LSU. While this may appear concerning on the surface, I am not worried one bit about it. Moses has visited LSU dozens of times already and knows the school, coaches and players very well. Considering the time he’s spent at LSU, especially lately, and the fact that he recently tweeted that he’d like nothing more than for LSU to win a football National Championship, I feel very good about the Tigers’ chances of landing this big-time recruit. The five schools Moses will visit officially are Alabama,  Miami, Texas, UCLA and Ohio State. I said long ago that I believe it will come down to a battle between LSU and Alabama for Moses’ services, and I still feel that way.

LSU Statistical Trends/Observations, Part 3:  Sacks

LSU’s number of sacks per game had steadily declined in the last four years before 2015. The Tigers had 38 sacks in 2011, 35 in 2012, 27 in 2013 and just 19 in 2014. With a more seasoned defensive line and linebackers group in 2015, LSU was able to play less zone defense and be more aggressive. The strategy worked as the Tigers were able to tally 34 sacks in just 12 games, which was more per game (2.83) than in 2011 (2.71). LSU was even better in SEC contests, recording 24 sacks in eight games (3.0 per game). Of course, a big part of the credit goes to D-line coach Ed Orgeron who was in his first season for the Tigers. This season, LSU should be even stronger in Dave Aranda’s 3-4 type scheme with senior Kendell Beckwith (3.5 sacks in 2015) at middle linebacker and Arden Key (5 sacks in 2015) and Tashawn Bower likely manning the outside linebacker positions. Duke Riley, Donnie Alexander, and Devin White will battle for the fourth linebacker position with the other two serving as key backups. Junior Davon Godchaux (6 sacks in 2015) is set to be the primary nose guard and seniors Christian LaCouture and Lewis Neal (8 sacks in 2015) will likely fill the defensive end positions. The new scheme, increased experience, and great talent at both the linebacker and defensive line positions make me optimistic that we’ll see a significant number of sacks again this season. LSU’s success in disrupting opposing quarterbacks will also depend largely on overall depth along the defensive line, as a big part of Coach O’s aggressive philosophy involves heavy rotation along the line to keep legs fresh. So Deondre Clark, Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron, Rashard Lawrence and Edwin Alexander will be vital to LSU’s success in applying pressure and sacking the quarterback in 2016.

With 66 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin at Lambeau Field on September 3rd, let’s continue our countdown to the start of the LSU football season by remembering a special Tiger who wore No. 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, one of only ten LSU players to win multiple First-Team All-American honors. 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 13-year career in the NFL with the Steelers, Jets, and Cardinals, Faneca retired from pro ball on May 10, 2011, with nine Pro Bowl awards, eight All-Pro awards, and one Super Bowl title. He was also named a member of the 2000s all-decade first team. In his first year of eligibility in 2016, Faneca was not selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I am confident he will be selected in the near future.

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, an average of nine minutes per mile. Not bad for a former 300-pound linemen, is it? Faneca is now retired and living in McLean, Virginia. 

Here’s an interesting football article from James Smith of nola.com. Smith writes about five possible roster changes for LSU this upcoming season. and there’s at least one (Devin White to running back) that I would find very surprising.

Before closing, I wanted to share this article for all the hungry LSU basketball fans out there. In it, Scott Rabalais of The Advocate explains that despite the loss of Ben Simmons, LSU’s expectations for the 2016-2017 are high with five juniors led by forward Craig Victor returning as well as super sophomore Antonio Blakeney. The Tigers also bring in a solid freshman incoming class, which includes University Lab’s Skylar Mays and Wayde Sims, Lee College’s (Baytown, TX) Branden Jenkins and Duop Reath and Sydney, Australia’s Kieran Hayward.

Stay tuned, as tomorrow we’ll continue our series on statistical trends and observations, as well as our countdown to LSU’s season opener vs. Wisconsin.

6/28/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Our first day in San Antonio was all we had hoped for. Beautiful city, great food, and most of all, quality family time. On the agenda for today: SeaWorld. Now for your daily dose of Tiger News…

Today, we’ll cover a couple of topics in baseball and basketball before moving on to Part 2 of our LSU football statistical trends and observations and our countdown to Game Day. Here we go…

In baseball news, yesterday, it was announced that LSU first baseman Greg Deichmann will participate in the 2016 TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby. The event is in its seventh year and will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, July 3rd at 7:30 p.m. CT. Deichmann, who hit 11 home runs and totaled 57 RBI this past season, joins Matt Gaudet (2010) and Mason Katz (2012) as Tigers who have participated in the event.

Turning briefly to basketball, Head Coach Johnny Jones met yesterday with the media for an SEC coach’s teleconference. Not too many topics were covered, but Jones did praise guard Brandon Sampson, noting that he’s having a great offseason recognizing the opportunity he has with Keith Hornsby leaving due to graduation. Jones is also looking forward to having five juniors on this year’s team, which will make the Tigers one of the more experienced teams in the SEC for 2016-2017.

LSU Football Statistical Trends/Observations, Part 2:  Penalties

After committing only 71 penalties in 2014, which was the Tigers’ fewest in at least the last seven years, LSU committed 97 in 2015 despite playing one less game. While penalties are obviously detrimental to a team’s chances of winning, the Tigers’ wins and losses were not much different when it came to penalties. In fact, LSU averaged 63 yards in penalties in its three losses but averaged even more penalty yards in its nine victories at 66.1 yards per contest. However, numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Looking back at the stats for LSU’s last two championship seasons, 2007 and 2003, reveals that LSU was heavily penalized in those two seasons (83 penalties in 2007 and a whopping 102 in 2003). Sometimes a high number of penalties goes hand-in-hand with aggressive defensive play, and those two teams were definitely aggressive. Of course, avoiding costly penalties in close contests is always important, and with a veteran squad returning (17 starters, 9 offense, 8 defense), I am optimistic that the Tigers will be improved in that regard.

With 67 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin at Lambeau Field on September 3rd, let’s recognize an impressive fact about LSU football – the Tigers have produced 67 First-Team All-Americans. Of course, Leonard Fournette was LSU's 67th First-Team All-American last season when he set school records with 1,953 rushing yards and 22 rushing touchdowns. As long as he remains healthy, he is likely to become just the 11th Tiger to earn multiple First-Team All-American honors, the last being Glenn Dorsey in 2006 and 2007. 

Tommy Casanova is the only Tiger to earn three First-Team All-American selections (1969-1971), playing cornerback on defense, wide receiver on offense and returning punts and kickoffs. Billy Cannon (1958, 1959), Jerry Stovall (1962), Charles Alexander (1978, 1979) and Jimmy Taylor (1957) are the other running backs to earn First-Team All-American honors. Kevin Faulk, a running back from 1995-1998, earned First-Team All-American honors as a return specialist in 1996. The entire list of First-Team All-Americans through the 2014 season can be seen on pages 62-63 of the 2015 Media Guide.

Those of you who have read this site for years have often heard me refer to 2000 to the present as the Golden Age of LSU football. Well, consider this: from 1935-1999, a span of 65 years, the Tigers had 40 First-Team All-Americans, but from 2000-2015 (16 seasons), LSU has had an astounding 27 First-Team All-Americans! In fact, in 2011, LSU set a school record with five First-Team All-Americans (Will Blackwell, Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, Sam Montgomery and Brad Wing), which was also the school's first ever 13-0 regular season finish. Will Leonard Fournette earn another First-Team All-American honor in 2016? Will anyone else join him like Jamal Adams or Kendell Beckwith? Regardless, LSU has the talent to produce multiple First-Team All-Americans, and I expect to see LSU eclipse 70 very soon. This is just another reminder that it’s a great time to be a Tiger!

Speaking on the Paul Finebaum show yesterday, longtime sportscaster and Louisiana native Tim Brando revealed his College Football Playoff predictions, and among his four teams is LSU. While I realize predictions and preseason awards mean very little, it is great to see yet another analyst recognizing that LSU has great potential to win the SEC and reach their first CFP.

Before closing, I’d like to congratulate Alex Bregman for being promoted to the Astros Triple-A affiliate in Fresno, CA and Andrew Stevenson for being promoted to the Nationals Double-A affiliate in Harrisburg, PA. For LSU fans familiar with these former Tigers, this comes as no surprise, as both men are extremely hard workers dedicated to improving their game. Bregman has reportedly gained 20 pounds of muscle through offseason workouts and has hit 14 home runs for the AA Corpus Christi affiliate, which is five more than his best power season in the SEC. Given his work ethic and determination, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in the big leagues very soon. Here’s wishing both Bregman and Stevenson the best of luck with their new teams.

Speaking of professional baseball, here’s a link to LSUsports.net detailing how former Tigers are doing in the minor leagues. It’s interesting to note that players from this year’s squad, Riley Smith and Parker Bugg, have already recorded innings for their minor league teams.

That’s it for today, folks! Stay tuned, as tomorrow we’ll continue our statistical trends/observations series as well as the countdown to LSU’s season opener vs. Wisconsin on September 3rd.

6/27/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Grass is cut, garden is prepped, tomatoes are blanched, coup is cleaned and bags are packed. River City, here we come…

By the time most of you are reading this, my family and I will be on our way to a much-anticipated vacation getaway. Thanks to all of you who sent suggestions on what to see and do in the San Antonio area. Much appreciated! 

While I’m out this week, we’ll keep these reports rollings with a multi-part series on LSU football statistical trends and observations, which we’ll begin today, as well as our countdown to Game Day.  Then, if there are any other newsy bits to touch on (you know there will be!), my buddy Mark will cover them so that we don’t miss a beat.

LSU Football Statistical Trends and Observations:

Part 1: Rushing Offense, Run to Pass Ratio

After having increasingly heavy run-to-pass ratios in 2012 (60/40), 2013 (62/48) and 2014 (69/31), the Tigers actually ran the ball a smaller percentage of time last season (64/36) than they did the year before. But, when you look deeper into the stats, you see that a higher percentage of throws doesn’t necessarily equal a more effective Tiger offense.


In LSU’s three November losses last season, the Tigers passed the ball 53% of the time. Against Alabama (54 rushing yards) and Arkansas (59 rushing yards), the Tigers were forced to pass due to an ineffective running game. In the loss vs. Ole Miss, LSU did run for 184 yards, but two interceptions and a fumble ultimately forced the Tigers to pass more in that contest. Things were vastly different in LSU’s nine wins as the Tigers relied heavily on the run and passed the ball only 30% of the time. Of course, some of that had to do with eating up the clock late in the game with handoff after handoff. LSU averaged a robust 309.4 yards per game in those victories, but when the Tigers faced teams that were tougher against the run, they were forced to turn to their passing game and came up short. In my opinion, this can be attributed, in large part, to not having utilized the short to intermediate passing game enough early in the season.

With a seasoned offensive line, one of the best stables of running backs in the country led by Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette, and a still somewhat unproven quarterback, it could be tempting to lean very heavily on the run game early this season, but I think that would be a mistake. LSU should look to establish a strong passing game early if for no other reason than to help prepare Brandon Harris and the receivers for later in the season when they face tough running defenses like Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas. A successful aerial attack early on, particularly in the short to intermediate passing game, would give LSU’s offense a valuable boost of confidence and give future opponents a reason to think twice before stacking the box. 

Now, a quick note about our countdown before jumping to it:  If you are one of our early morning readers, you’ll get a strong sense of déjà vu when reading today’s countdown topic. That’s because yesterday morning I got my days mixed up and mistakenly posted the following write-up instead of the one I was supposed to use for No. 69. At about 6:50 a.m. I realized the error and posted the correct write-up. Sorry about that!

With 68 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin, let’s continue our countdown by looking at a special 68-yard play that helped set the tone for a historic win. I’m referring to Cedric Donaldson’s 68-yard interception return in the Tigers’ 28-21 victory over No. 1 Florida in 1997. After an excellent Kevin Faulk punt return and subsequent Herb Tyler option TD, Florida’s QB, Doug Johnson, threw an interception that Donaldson returned 68-yards all the way to the Florida 7-yard line. Tommy Banks scored from there to give LSU a 14-0 lead less than halfway into the first half. Even after Florida evened the score at 14, Donaldson returned an interception 31 yards for a TD and 21-14 lead. Mark Roman intercepted Johnson on the ensuing Florida drive, and Herb Tyler had his second TD of the game to put LSU in command at 28-14. After a Florida TD and subsequent LSU punt, Florida still had a chance to tie the game, but Raion Hill picked off Doug Johnson and LSU was able to run out the clock and come away with its only  home win over a No. 1 ranked team in school history. For a reminder of what a special game that was, check out these video highlights

Since I didn’t leave you with any Sunday morning coffee reads yesterday, I’ll make up for it today with a few very good links. 

The first two come from The Advocate’s two-part Q&A with LSU baseball coach Coach Paul Mainieri. In Part I, Mainieri addresses the question about whether he overachieved this year, the lack of an established fourth starter, Nolan Cain’s third-base coaching, and more. In Part II, Mainieri looks ahead to next year and dishes out some good information about incoming freshmen who could help shore up LSU’s bullpen. 

And in this article by Tiger Rag, editor Cody Worsham recounts the story of LSU legend Pete Maravich’s remarkable freshman season that was nearly lost to history. 

Lastly, I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange with a few new listings.

 

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