7/26/16 6:05 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
After three news-filled days with lots to report, things are a little quiet on the LSU news front, so what we’ll do today is resume our series on returning Tigers who will likely play greater roles this football season, as well as our Countdown to Game Day. Then we’ll close out with a word on recruiting and on Alex Bregman’s big league debut last night. Here we go…
Returning Tigers Who Will Likely Play Greater Roles this Season
Part II: Defense
Great defense starts with a solid defensive line, and second-year defensive line coach Ed Orgeron’s scheme of constant pressure and aggressiveness requires quality depth. With Lewis Neal (6-2, 264), Davon Godchaux (6-4, 293) and Christian LaCouture (6-5, 307) projected as the three starters in Aranda’s 3-4 scheme, juniors Greg Gilmore (6-4, 313) and Frank Herron (6-4, 289) will be heavily relied on to spell the starters and keep the defensive front fresh enough to consistently apply the pressure it needs to effectively stop opposing offenses. Gilmore (13 tackles in 2015) and Herron (23 tackles in 2015) both have the size and athleticism to plug holes against opposing running games and help collapse pockets on opposing quarterbacks. That type of pressure will allow the four linebackers in Aranda’s 3-4 scheme to finish off plays with tackles near or behind the line of scrimmage.
Speaking of linebackers, senior Duke Riley (6-0, 227), who has played in 38 games but started just one in his career, projects to be a full-time starter this season. Riley tallied 24 tackles last year while demonstrating the type of lateral speed needed to go side-to-side and track down ball carriers. In Aranda’s scheme as a middle linebacker, I suspect Riley will have a breakout year in his senior campaign. Another veteran who’ll play a big role at linebacker is Corey Thompson (6-2, 221), a converted safety who finished with 15 tackles in 2015 after redshirting due to an injury in 2014. The fifth-year senior is considered to be a physical player, and his safety speed is sure to be an advantage in pursuing ball carriers and effectively covering on pass plays as an outside linebacker. Barring injury, the four aforementioned players should have a huge impact on an LSU defense which I fully expect to be significantly improved.
If you missed Part I of this series which focused on returning offensive players who will play greater roles this season, you can find it here.
Moving on with our countdown to Game Day… yesterday we talked about LSU’s 40-3 dominating 2005 Peach Bowl victory over Miami, and today, with 39 days remaining, let’s look at an amazing play from that same season that gave Les Miles his first career victory at LSU. I’m referring to a 39-yard touchdown pass from JaMarcus Russell to Early Doucet on fourth down to beat Arizona State 35-31. LSU had already had to postpone its originally scheduled season opener vs. North Texas on September 3rd, and the September 10th Arizona State game, which was originally scheduled in Baton Rouge, had to be played in Tempe, AZ instead, as LSU had offered hurricane victims the stadium as a place of refuge.
The game started slowly for the Tigers, trailing after three quarters 17-7. But like many other games during the Les Miles era, special teams would play a huge role. First, the Tigers blocked a field goal and Mario Stevenson returned it 55 yards for a score, and less than 90 seconds later, Craig Steltz returned a blocked punt 29 yards, giving LSU its first lead of the contest 21-17. Leads switched three times, with ASU grabbing a 31-28 lead with just over four minutes remaining. The Tigers received possession at their own 9-yard line, quickly moved 52 yards in six plays before facing 4th and 10 after three incompletions. That’s when Russell avoided pressure rolling to his left and firing a 39-yard pass to the far-left of the end zone that Doucet secured for the go-ahead TD. Even after the extra point gave the Tigers a 35-31 lead with just 1:13 remaining, the Sun Devils quickly marched down the field to the LSU 28. After being torched most of the game, the LSU defense stepped up big, forcing four incompletions and securing their first victory under Coach Miles, one that would serve as not only a great start to his career but also a timely dose of good news for a state recently ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Side note: We considered featuring two other 39-yard pass plays for today’s countdown, both of which came from Brandon Harris last year. One was to Travin Dural versus Alabama and the other was to Tyron Johnson vs. Ole Miss. Although the Tigers lost both of the contests, those plays brought LSU back within striking distance in both games after falling behind. While we hope to see many more plays like those this season, what we really hope to see is a greatly improved short to intermediate passing game which would go a long way toward LSU defeating those two rivals this year.
Turning to baseball, Alex Bregman made his big league debut with the Houston Astros last night and turned in a stellar defensive performance. If there was any doubt whether the former Tiger shortstop could make the transition to playing third base, he quickly put that question to rest last night with a great play to close out the first inning and a then proceeded to make several more plays at the hot corner without a glitch, including this gem that was No. 9 on SportsCenter's Top 10. At the plate, however, things didn’t go as well. Bregman went hitless in four at-bats but came oh so close to launching a grand slam in the sixth with the score tied 1-1 when he sent a shot to the right-field warning track. While I would have loved to have seen Bregman have a storybook offensive outing in his debut, I have no doubt that he’ll be just fine at the plate and that big things are in store for the former Tiger.
One more Bregman/baseball tidbit: Bregman’s debut last night made him the 13th former LSU player coached by Paul Mainieri to reach the major leagues. The others are infielder Ryan Schimpf, pitcher Nick Goody, outfielder Mikie Mahtook, pitcher Nick Rumbelow, pitcher Aaron Nola, pitcher Louis Coleman, pitcher Charlie Furbush, pitcher Ryan Verdugo, infielder DJ LeMahieu, pitcher Kevin Gausman, pitcher Anthony Ranaudo and infielder Matt Clark. LSU has had at least one former player make his MLB debut in 24 of the past 26 seasons. The Tigers have produced a total of 71 Major Leaguers during their illustrious baseball history. There are 12 former LSU players currently in the big leagues, including Bregman, Schimpf (Padres), Coleman (Dodgers), Goody (Yankees), Nola (Phillies), Mahtook (Rays), Gausman (Orioles), Furbush (Mariners), LeMahieu (Rockies), Ranaudo (White Sox), Aaron Hill (Brewers) and Will Harris (Astros).
In football recruiting news, LSU’s Bradley Dale Peveto is now ranked in Top 10 of 247Sports’ Recruiter Rankings, making him the highest ranked recruiter on LSU’s staff. The reason: He’s the primary or secondary recruiter for six of LSU’s 17 current commitments including five-star Austin Deculus (OT) and four-stars Kary Vincent (CB), Grant Delpit (S), Jhamon Ausbon (WR) and Mannie Netherly (WR). Coach Peveto’s ranking could skyrocket much higher if LSU lands three of its biggest remaining targets – 5-star DT Marvin Wilson, 4-star CB K'Lavon Chaisson, and 4-star DE Isaiah Buggs. Just so you know, LSU’s second highest ranked recruiter on staff is first-year wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig who checks in at No. 18.
A couple of ticket-related tidbits in closing:
• StubHub has signed a multi-year agreement with LSU Athletics as the official ticket marketplace of the Tigers. According to it its website, StubHub began activation of this agreement with the start of LSU’s basketball season in November of 2015 and will provide its LSU football marketplace for this first time in 2016. More info can be found here.
• Speaking of tickets, I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange with several new listings.