8/25/16 5:50 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Last night, I had the pleasure of listening to the first Les Miles Radio Show of the season and really enjoyed the familiarity of it all. As I’ve done for the last several years, I’ll give you a brief recap of each week’s show this season, starting today. Here we go…
The first caller of the night was Sadie from Denton, Texas, and she asked Coach Miles to name a player on offense, defense and special teams to keep an eye on. Miles’ selections were running back Derrius Guice, linebacker Kendell Beckwith and kicker Connor Culp. What I found particularly interesting and encouraging were Miles’s comments on Culp when he said that during a recent scrimmage, in pouring down “sideways rain,” the freshmen kicker booted a kickoff way out of the end zone. After seeing how LSU struggled on kickoffs and kickoff coverage last season, that was great to hear.
The second caller of the night was none other than previous Voice of the Tigers, Jim Hawthorne. After fielding questions about his experience in the recent flood, Hawthorne commended Chris Blair on the job he is doing and wished him the best of luck. He then said he’s looking forward to taking in the Wisconsin game from the comfort of his home and making it out to the Missouri game where there will be a little presentation he’s excited about.
Before taking the next caller, Miles and Blair talked a bit about the quarterback position. Miles said Harris has enough experience to know exactly what to do and what is expected of him, and that Danny Etling has achieved a certain comfort level. In summary, Miles said the team is much better at the position.
Next up on the phone lines was Richard from Colfax who asked whether Coach Miles’ team can “sustain” and make Tiger fans happy this year. Miles answered affirmatively and said he’s really excited about this team.
Rickey from Birmingham reminded everyone that during last year’s show before the A&M game he stated that rumors of Miles' demise were greatly exaggerated. He then asked Coach Miles about the intensity and attention to detail needed for a big road game like the one coming up in Wisconsin. Miles said the team’s intensity has been very good, adding that they’ve practiced hard and have prepared what seems to be a very capable game plan.
Next was a guy named Tate who asked about defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s off-the-field personality and how he connects with the players. Miles described Aranda as a quality teacher who gives the “why” and explains things more fully than some other coaches, and said the players really like that.
In a bit of a change indicative of the times we live in, the next question was taken from a fan on Twitter who asked Miles to compare Travonté Valentine to a previous player. Miles said it’s hard to make a comparison since Valentine hasn’t yet taken a snap in a game, then added that Valentine has the ability to move very quickly for a man his size.
From the live audience, Margie asked about the linebackers and how they’re progressing. Miles described the group as one of the fastest units on the team. Beckwith and Duke Riley were named as starters in the middle, while the outside linebackers were said to be Arden Key (at the Buck position) and either Michael Divinity or Tashawn Bower (at the F position). Miles noted that the slowest of the aforementioned players runs a 4.6 forty.
Next up to the microphone was a longtime supporter and super fan, the Big Ragoo. He asked about the new replay system and how it’s going to operate. Miles said there will be three experts in a booth in Alabama that will be able to look at exactly what’s going on on the field. They won’t actually make calls (the ultimate decision will be left to the in-stadium replay official), but will be there to collaborate and confirm good decisions. Miles said he believes it will be a good thing for the game and that he can’t imagine any coach disagreeing.
Genie from New Orleans reiterated how LSU football means so much to the people of Louisiana and gives us something else to focus on and look forward to during these difficult times. Miles said his players recognize the importance in playing well and look forward to doing so.
On a related note, Gene from Bogalusa asked what the team will be doing moving forward to help victims of the flood who are in dire need. Miles started by saying LSU president King Alexander did a great job of making facilities available on campus for shelter, and that the school will continue to do what it can. He added that as for the football team, it’s quite an undertaking to play championship football, go to school and volunteer extra time, but that one thing they can do is help return a sense of normalcy when they take to the field each Saturday. Amen to that.
The last caller of the night was Josh from Vidalia who asked about the running game and whether we will see a reduction in the gap between Leonard Fournette’s carries (300 last year) and Guice’s carries (51 last year). Miles said he’s not ready to say he’ll give the ball to Fournette any less, but that Guice is a tremendous back and their running game will be fine.
All in all, it was an enjoyable show. For me, it was a bit different to take it in from my patio instead of from my now-gutted office where I’ve enjoyed just about every show for the last five years, and it was a little odd hearing Hawthorne as a caller instead of the host, but I must say that the show did indeed help restore a bit of much-needed normalcy in my life, and for that I’m grateful. Oh, and Chris Blair is a heck of a host.
While football is obviously the hot topic on Tiger fans’ minds right now, there is some baseball news to pass along as LSU has released its 2017 roster and schedule. Much like in football, the Tigers will field one of their most experienced baseball teams ever this season with the return of eight starting position players, including four who were drafted in the MLB draft but elected to return to LSU (senior left-handed pitcher Jared Poché, senior shortstop Kramer Robertson, senior second baseman Cole Freeman and junior first baseman Greg Deichmann). The Tigers also return some very talented pitchers including senior left-hander Poché, All-American junior right-hander Alex Lange and senior right-handed closer Hunter Newman, who led the Tigers with eight saves last season. Other returning veteran pitchers include senior right-handers Russell Reynolds, Collin Strall and Alden Cartwright, junior right-handers Doug Norman and Austin Bain, and sophomore right-handers Caleb Gilbert and Cole McKay. Mainieri said he is hopeful that Cartwright and redshirt freshman left-hander Nick Bush will be healthy this spring after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.
This veteran-laden team will be bolstered by a highly regarded 2016 signing class of 13 newcomers, including four who were picked in the MLB draft but decided to play at LSU instead. For more on each of these signees, including brief bios, please click here.
As for LSU’s 2017 baseball schedule, it’s a doozy. On it are 11 teams that advanced to NCAA regionals last season. “We’re going to play 22 games against teams that were in regionals last season, and that’s 40 percent of our schedule,” Mainieri explained. “Within that number, there are six Super Regional teams from last year and three that played in the College World Series. Of course, every weekend in the 30-game SEC schedule is grueling, and we have some very attractive non-conference match-ups. I think our fans will enjoy watching us compete against some outstanding clubs throughout the year.” The non-conference schedule is highlighted by a trip to Houston’s Minute Maid Park for the Shriners Hospitals College Classic, as the Tigers will face TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech March 3-5. The Tigers open SEC play on March 17, when LSU plays host to Georgia in Game 1 of a three-game SEC series in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
Now let’s jump back to football and close out today’s report with our countdown to Game Day, which, believe it or not, has already reached single digits. That’s right, folks, LSU football season is only nine days away, and with that in mind today we’ll take a look at a special former Tiger who wore No. 9 – Devery Henderson. Henderson grew up in Opelousas, LA and starred at Opelousas High in football and in track and field. At LSU, Henderson remained a two-sport Athlete and was a member of LSU’s 2001 National Champion Indoor Track and Field team as well as the 2003 National Championship Football team. After beginning his LSU football days as a running back, Henderson transitioned to a wide receiver and ended his career by leading the SEC in single-season TD receptions with 11 in his senior year. Henderson was on the receiving end of one of the most memorable plays in school history when he hauled in a 75-yard TD pass from Marcus Randall as time expired to beat Kentucky in 2002. The play was dubbed “The Bluegrass Miracle” and was named the AP Play of the Year. You can relive the memory here by watching this video. After graduating from LSU, Henderson was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2004 NFL draft by the New Orleans where he remained until 2012. In 2009, Henderson had seven catches for 63 yards when the Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
Lastly, please note that I will be updating our Ticket Exchange later today. If you have tickets for sale and would like me to add your listing, or if you have a listing that you would like me to remove, please let me know.