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2/12/16 5:55 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

LSU softball starts today, football’s Boys from the Boots event is tomorrow, and baseball season starts a week from today… all are signs that change is in the air and spring is right around the corner! We’ll touch on each of those topics and more in today’s report, starting with softball. Here we go…

The No. 3 ranked LSU softball team opens the season tonight as the Tigers begin play in the Tiger Classic with a matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes at 5 p.m. at Tiger Park. LSU will play five games in all this weekend, with the second coming  tonight at 7:30 against North Florida. On Saturday, the Tigers will battle UConn at 5 p.m. and Pacific at 7:30, and on Sunday they’ll conclude the Classic with a game against Pacific that is set for 11:30 a.m.

LSU heads into the new year returning virtually all of its offense, defense and pitching from last year’s team that raced out to the best start in LSU softball history and advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the fourth time in program history. With over 80 percent of LSU’s leading hitters and pitchers back, including All-Americans Bianka Bell, Bailey Landry, Sahvanna Jaquish, Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper,  expectations are sky high for this year’s team, which Coach Beth Torina has called the most deep and talented of any she’s ever coached.  

If you live in the area and don’t have plans for the weekend, gather up the kids and head out to Tiger Park for what should be a picture-perfect Spring-like weekend for softball. If you can’t make it out there, today’s and tomorrow’s games will be streamed live through SEC Network+ with Lyn Rollins and Yvette Girouard calling all of the action.

In football recruiting news, the hunt for 2017 prospects (and beyond) will be ratcheted up a notch beginning tomorrow when LSU hosts its annual Boys from the Boot invitation-only recruiting event. The event, not to be confused with LSU’s Junior Day which will be held next weekend, gives invited prospects and their families a chance to meet the coaching staff and tour LSU’s impressive facilities. There are no workouts or drills, but it’s a very informative and entertaining day for the prospects and their parents. There are usually about 40 prospects at the event, and below is a list of a few I’ve heard will be attending. The number next to each player’s name represents where he’s found on our early list of Top LA Prospects for 2017, which, by the way, will change a lot between now and next Signing Day as we continue to gather info on prospects. 

2. Christopher Allen (LB/DE), 6'4", 222, Southern Lab
11. Brad Stewart (CB), 6'0", 193, McDonogh 35
13. Bryan Jones (DE), 6'5", 240, Madison Prep
16. Dennis Collins (DE), 6'3", 250, West Monroe
20. Cheyenne LaBruzza (DB), 6'0", 175, Albany
22. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB), 5'7", 191, Catholic of BR
23. Ethan Harvey (OL), 6'3", 285, Evangel
29. Jontre Kirklin (ATH/QB), 6'0", 180, Lutcher
40. Robert Scott Foust (QB), 6'4", 190, West Monroe
54. Amik Robertson (ATH), 5'9", 165, Thibodaux 

There are also several players for the class of 2018 expected to attend, including Haynesville teammates Jalen Harris (DE) and Jamarceon Jackson (S), and Parkway teammates Terrace Marshall (WR) and Justin Rogers (QB).

And while on the topic of recruiting, I want to give you a quick update on what I’m hearing on about LSU 2016 DE/LB target Sci Martin. A reader I hear from who is close to the situation tells me that Martin is still unsure of his decision and that is the only reason he has yet to sign anywhere. At this point it appears about 80% certain that Martin will chose LSU, but you never know. Martin committed to the Horned Frogs on December 9 and hasn’t officially de-committed, and is also considering Alabama. His parents, by the way, both would like to see him stick close to home and play for LSU, and I understand Coach Ed Orgeron has done an outstanding job recruiting him. As soon as I hear more, I’ll let you know.

In other football news, it was announced yesterday that five former Tigers have been invited to the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. The five are linebacker Deion Jones, offensive linemen Jerald Hawkins and Vadal Alexander, defensive back Jalen Mills, and a player whose name we haven’t heard in a while, cornerback Rashard Robinson. As you probably recall, Robinson, one of the most talented cover cornerbacks to play at LSU in recent years, was dismissed from the team after getting into trouble multiple times during his brief time as a Tiger. The Pro Combine is set to begin on  February 23rd and will run through the 29th. 

In baseball news, in my previous report I mentioned that LSU pitcher Riley Smith injured his shoulder and would see a doctor yesterday. Here’s an update: According to The Advocate, it turns out that the injury was nothing serious and Riley should be good to go after a few days of rest. Riley, a hard throwing junior transfer right-hander who was selected in the 31st round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, is competing with sophomore Austin Bain and senior JUCO transfer John Valek for a spot in the Tigers’ weekend rotation behind junior Jared Poché and sophomore Alex Lange. I also mentioned yesterday that reliever Collin Strall is dealing with a shoulder injury that will have him out for a while, and that produced a lot of response from fans concerned about LSU’s pitching depth. I’m pulling for Strall to make a quick recovery,  but I just want to put your mind at ease by telling you that LSU’s bullpen is super deep this year. For those of you interested, here’s a slideshow by Randy Rosetta of nola.com on LSU’s bullpen leaders.

Today’s closing tidbits: 

• Congratulations are in order for LSU’s Ben Simmons who was named to the Wooden Award Top 20 list. The award, named after the legendary Coach John Wooden, is presented annually to the most outstanding men’s and women’s college basketball players. The Award will be presented during the weekend of April 7-9.

• I have updated our Ticket Exchange page but it currently contains very few listings (four concerning football season tickets and one about baseball season tickets). If you have any tickets you’d like to sell, please email me the information so I can add it to the page. Thanks!

That’s it for today, folks. Get out there and enjoy this beautiful day.



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2/11/16 5:50 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Despite a valiant effort, the LSU men’s basketball team (15-9, 8-3) could not stop South Carolina’s offense late, as the Tigers fell 94-83 in a game that was much closer than the score indicates. With the loss, the Tigers now find themselves in a three-way tie for first place in the SEC with South Carolina and Kentucky, making this Saturday’s home contest against the Aggies (CBS, noon CT) all the more important.

Here’s a quick recap of how last night’s game played out: Despite South Carolina’s leading scorer, Michael Carrera, sitting on the bench for over 18 minutes in the first half, LSU trailed 39-35 at the break due in large part to very poor free throw shooting (5-14) and allowing eight offensive rebounds by the Gamecocks. LSU cranked up its offense in the second half, but South Carolina responded with aggressive inside play that led to numerous layups and free throws. Down 78-82 with under two minutes remaining, Tim Quarterman missed a 3-point attempt, and the Gamecocks made 10 free throws in the final 90 seconds to secure the victory.

While a victory would have been a huge résumé boost for the Tigers, the loss isn’t the end of the world as the Tigers are still tied for first place in the conference. And let’s give credit where credit is due – the Gamecocks are a great squad (20-3 before this game and 12-0 at home) whose top-five scorers are three seniors and two juniors. That veteran experience is a big reason why they won last night. It’s still frustrating to see LSU finish only 16-28 (57.1%) from the free throw line. This poor free throw shooting, combined with the Tigers’ inability to stop the Gamecocks’ inside offensive attack, were the main reasons the Tigers weren’t able to capitalize on this golden opportunity. 

Antonio Blakeney once again had a great performance with 22 points, which included four of LSU’s nine 3-point field goals. Ben Simmons led the second half offensive run by scoring 15 of his 20 points in the second half. Surprisingly, he only finished with six rebounds but did have six assists. Keith Hornsby was the only other Tiger in double figures (14). Craig Victor (six points, 1-4 FG) and Tim Quarterman (seven points, 0-5 FG, three turnovers) really struggled offensively in this game. 

Here are the game’s video highlights.

Switching gears here… LSU baseball gets underway just one week from tomorrow, and that has me stoked! Yesterday, Coach Mainieri met with a few members of the media and dished out a few tidbits including this injury update that I picked up from articles by The Advocate and Tiger Rag:

Baseball Injury Update: Right-handers Riley Smith and Collin Strall are dealing with shoulder injuries. Smith, you might recall, has been battling for the Game 3 weekend starter role along with RHP Austin Bain and LHP John Valek. Smith will reportedly see a doctor today and has not been ruled out completely for opening weekend. Stall, who has been dealing with shoulder soreness for a while and has yet to pitch since spring practice began, is definitely out for opening weekend. Another pitcher who’s been dealing with injury ever since arriving at LSU in 2014 is highly-heralded southpaw Jake Latz. Yesterday Mainieri stated that Latz is awaiting approval from a doctor before beginning to toss a ball around. At Baseball Media Day (on July 29th), Coach Mainieri said he expected  Latz to begin throwing in the next two weeks, which means it could be any day now assuming his gets the clearance he’s waiting on. If all goes well, Latz might be able to contribute on the mound in late April or early May.

In football recruiting news, there’s still no official word on when 2016 LSU LB/DE target Sci Martin will be announcing his decision, but I’m hearing it could be as soon and that LSU is in good shape. Martin, a versatile pass-rushing specialist from McDonough 35 who could excel at DE or LB in Aranda’s multi-front defense, would be a huge addition to LSU’s stellar 2016 class.

And speaking of LSU LB/DE targets, one of LSU’s biggest for 2017 – Christopher Allen – just came off a visit to Alabama and now names the Crimson Tide as his leader. Allen (6-4, 222, Southern Lab) is No. 2 on our list of Top Louisiana Prospects for 2017 and was believed to be an LSU lean before attending Bama’s Junior Day. The good news is that LSU has a chance to impress Allen and several other major targets for 2017 this Saturday when they host the annual Boys from the Boot Event, which we’ll write more about in a subsequent report. 

Today’s closing tidbits: 

• Please keep LSU cornerback signee Kristian Fulton and his family in your prayers. When Fulton signed with LSU, one of his reasons for doing so was to remain near to his close-knit family, including his maternal grandmother who was ill. According to 247Sports, Fulton’s  beloved grandmother passed away this week. I know I speak for Tiger Fans everywhere when I extend my condolences to the Fulton family.

• As a follow up to yesterday’s personal note, I regret to inform you that I have no fish pic to share with you today. I gave it a quick whirl before heading back home from my successful gardening trip but the water was too high and man it was cold. Still, it did me a world of good just to get out there.



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2/10/16 6:00 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Since I was out-of-pocket all day yesterday and didn’t have a chance to respond to any emails, I thought today would be a great time to post a mini Mail Call and address a few questions and comments I’ve received lately. After that, we’ll close out with a bit on today’s LSU basketball game and the conclusion of our series on this year’s impact signees. Here we go…

DandyDon.com’s Mail Call - 20/10/2016

Reader Comments: As always, I enjoyed your Q&A with Mike. I think he hit the nail on the head on what has kind of been lost in the QB controversy. In our three losses we got manhandled up front. I am no student of football on any level, just enjoy the game and love the Tigers but I must say during those games it was very obvious we were not as strong on the lines. I hope this infusion of new talent and size helps even the playing field. Great job sir! It was a good cup of coffee this morning.  

My Response: Thanks, Billy! I’m feeling good about LSU along the offensive line this year, and the infusion of incoming defensive talent – especially linebacker Michael Divinity, and DTs Rashard Lawrence and Edwin Alexander –  should help with depth along the defensive front seven. In the three games you mentioned, I thought lack of depth at DT was apparent, and those 2 big in-state DTs from this year’s class could help right away in that regard. On offense, with all that LSU returns on the line (getting Pocic back was huge) and with added depth from a few promising redshirt freshmen plus newcomers Donovaughn Campbell and Willie Allen – LSU should be solid there. Another thing worth noting about those three games is LSU didn't have fullback key blocker John David Moore (FB) and Dillon Gordon (TE), but both should be back. (Gordan has applied for a medical redshirt). Barring anything unexpected, LSU will be better equipped to battle in the trenches this season, and that’s one of many reasons I’m optimistic about 2016. 

Reader Comments: I am sure this fact has been mentioned. The 3 games we lost were all led by 5th year senior QB's. Our guy, of course, was a Soph. 

My Response: You make a very good point, George. And while it has been mentioned, it probably hasn’t been mentioned enough. There’s a huge difference between a fifth-year senior quarterback (or a junior JUCO transfer like Chad Kelly) and a sophomore. And, not only was Harris a sophomore, it was his first year as a full-time starter. You know how they say a team improves the most between Game 1 and Game 2, well I think a similar statement could be made about a QB’s improvement from season 1 as a starter to season 2. If that turns out to be true, it could be a special year for the Tigers.

Reader Comments: Scott: With all the hoopla on the incoming I would like to know who your Top 3 Sophomore or Redshirt Freshman breakout players for this season are?

My Response: Good question. Three redshirt freshmen who come to mind as candidates to make an impact this year on the offensive line are Chidi Okeke-Valentine, George Brown and Adrian Magee. As for sophomores, the name that first comes to mind is Derrius Guice. I guess you could say he has already “broken out” but I think we’ll see him take on a bigger role this year, especially as a return specialist. Likewise, we only got a glimpse at what speedster Donté Jackson can do, and I look for him to have a big sophomore campaign. Perhaps the sophomore who’s in the best position to have a monster year is defensive end Arden Key.

Reader Comments: Can you please explain what it means NOT to sign a full recruiting class? Does LSU have more spots for next year?

My Response: LSU signed 23 players on National Signing Day. There’s still a chance they add another (DE/LB target Sci Martin is still unsigned and should be deciding soon) and there’s a chance that WR De’Monté Coxie gets his academics in order and is able to sign before Fall. But, assuming LSU doesn’t add another signee and ends with 23, they would be able to backfill two spots with early enrollees next year, meaning they could sign 27 in 2017. 

Reader Comments: Scott, I can tell you’ve got a bad case of spring fever and I do too. Since I live in BR, I’m thinking of catching a baseball practice. I’m assuming they’re open to the public, right?

My Response: You’re absolutely right on both accounts – yes, I too have a bad case of Spring fever, and yes, LSU baseball practices and scrimmages are indeed open to the public and are free to attend. (You know there are very few things that combat spring fever as well as a few innings at The Box.) The team will practice Wednesday at 3 p.m. and scrimmage at 5 p.m. They’ll take Thursday off and then return to the field on Friday for a practice at 2 p.m. and scrimmage at 4 p.m. Beyond that hasn’t been announced yet.

Reader Comments: Listen, don't get too excited about the basketball team being 8-2. They have only beaten Kent with a winning record the rest are 500 or worse. They have SC, TAM, Tenn, Kent, Fla and Ark left to play. I look for them to lose at least 4 if not 5 of these games. They will end up 11-7 at best.

My Response:  Look, I get that LSU’s last eight games are difficult, but there’s no reason to assume they’ll go 3-5 the rest of the way. All four remaining home games, where LSU is currently 5-0 in SEC play, are winnable ones, including Texas A&M, who lost at Arkansas and just last Saturday lost at home to South Carolina. And while the four road games will be very challenging, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Tigers win a couple of them. So c’mon, my friend! Keep the faith and don’t go writing off our Tigers just yet while they’re sitting atop the SEC!

Building off of that last question… LSU (15-8, 8-2) will face a very tough road challenge tonight when they battle at South Carolina (20-3, 7-3) in a 6 p.m. contest on ESPN2. This should be a good game as the Game Cocks are a veteran club with excellent offensive balance. In fact, five players average between 9.8 points and 14.1 points. Senior forward Michael Carrera is undersized for his position (6’5”, 212), but his experience and intensity have resulted in great stats (14.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg) so far this season. The Gamecocks’ only blemishes of the season are losses at Alabama (73-50), at Tennessee (78-69) and at Georgia (69-56).

While it would be a huge résumé boost for the Tigers to beat South Carolina on the road, this game is not a “must win.” Playing a veteran Gamecock squad in Columbia where they are 12-0 will require LSU to play as well or better than in their win at Vanderbilt in early January. The Tigers need to “out-intensify” the Game Cocks by out-rebounding them, creating points off turnovers and winning the battle in the paint. LSU’s recent starting lineup with Ben Simmons (19.4 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 5.0 apg), Keith Hornsby (13.4 ppg), Craig Victor (12.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Tim Quarterman (11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.6 apg) and Jalyn Patterson (5.1 ppg), with Antonio Blakeney (10.5 ppg) coming off the bench, has been very effective. In fact, since Blakeney moved to the bench, his scoring average has increased from 9.3 points per game to 12.6 points per contest and he became just the sixth LSU freshman in school history to score 30+ points in a game. This game serves as a great opportunity for LSU to get another statement win that moves them that much closer to an at-large berth.

Now let’s wrap up today’s already lengthy daily dose with the conclusion of our series on LSU signees who could make a big impact in 2016. If you missed any of the previous four installments of this series you can find them all consolidated on this one page

Rashard Lawrence
6-3, 310, Neville
(1st in our poll with 28 percent) 

Tiger fans let their voice be heard loud and clear in our poll to predict which incoming freshman will have the greatest impact. Dominating the poll with 28% of the vote was the No. 1 player on our list of Top LA Prospects for 2016, Rashard Lawrence, and he’s a good choice for obvious reasons. First, there’s the fact that LSU lacks depth at defensive tackle. Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron loves to rotate in a lot of linemen and didn’t really have the depth to do so last year. Lawrence is the kind of guy who could come in and help out immediately in that regard. The other reason is simply Lawrence’s athletic prowess at the position. Watching him perform at Neville High School last season, it was easy to see that it was not only his size, but also his motor and aggression, that set him apart. The soft-spoken senior dialed up the intensity on the field and never took a play off, even if he was playing through injuries (which he did in a state championship win against Edna Karr). One play stood out to me more than any other in watching Lawrence this postseason. Against Warren Easton, he shot through the A-gap splitting the offensive linemen and met an Edna Karr running back in the backfield, delivering a punishing blow on a crucial third-and-short attempt in the second half. The running back who also served as the punter for the team was noticeably banged up from the punishing hit and limped around before his ensuing punt went no further than five yards. This is just one of many examples of how Lawrence affected the game in high school as he helped lead Neville to back-to-back 4A state titles. To see others, check out Lawrence’s video highlights in our Media Gallery. 

One more tidbit on the five-star signee: Former LSU standout Oliver Lawrence, who played linebacker for the Tigers from 1985 to ’89, is Rashard’s uncle.

That’s it for today, folks. To those of you who’ve asked about my trip, I had a very productive and enjoyable day and managed to plant 60 feet of potatoes. I wasn’t able to wet a line yesterday, but there’s one place I’m thinking of hitting up this morning before heading back home.  With any luck I might have a picture or two to post tomorrow. 

Reader Comments: Scott, here’s something to share: ESPN’s Mark Schlabach  has LSU No. 6 in his 2016 Way-Too-Early Top 25



 

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