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LSU vs. McNeese State - Saturday, September 5th, 2015 6:30 PM (SEC-Alt)
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8/1/12 5:45 am CDT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

As I’m sure many of you have heard by now, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore has announced that no charges will be filed against Anthony Jennings, Dwayne Thomas or Maquedius Bain. In a statement, Moore said, “This decision is based upon the request of the victim that no charges be filed and inconsistent and contradictory statements provided. Although the conduct of these students in this situation is unacceptable, it is not one, based on the facts, that warrants prosecution, although their actions could have subjected them to such.” 

Shortly after Hillar released his statement, Coach Les Miles announced that the three players have been reinstated to football the team. The three players, as well as the rest of the team, will report to camp on Wednesday and begin fall practice on Thursday. In the statement provided by LSU, Miles indicated that the players will “undergo further in-house discipline.” Whether that means any of them will miss playing time because of this ordeal is yet to be seen. Last year, on the very first day of fall practice, District Attorney Moore announced that charges against Jalen Mills would be reduced to a misdemeanor (which was considerably less severe than the charge of second degree battery originally considered), and Coach Miles immediately reinstated Mills to the team. A few weeks later, Mills started in the season opener against Wisconsin. The year before that, running back Jeremy Hill was reinstated to the team just hours before fall camp began after Judge Bonnie Jackson extended Hill's probation rather than revoking it and sending him to jail. Hill participated fully with the team in fall practice but was held out of the season opener and the first quarter of the second game. I don’t expect Jennings, Thomas, or Bain to miss any playing time this year because of this latest incident, but at this point it’s obviously too early to say for sure.

Where this story gets even more interesting is that late last night the Advocate broke this report about former LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson being arrested for unauthorized entry into the apartment of Anthony Jennings on the same day that Jennings, Thomas and Bain were arrested in the aforementioned incident. Robinson, you’ll recall, was suspended from the team last fall and then dismissed from the team after the season.  (Is your head spinning yet? Mine sure is.) 

Moving on and switching gears… Coach Johnny Jones and his LSU basketball team will begin practice today in advance of their trip to Australia. The team departs for Australia on August 11th. This will be the fourth LSU trip outside the United States, as the Tigers travelled to Italy twice and to Canada once during John Brady’s tenure as head coach. This trip is unique in that it brings the nation’s number one recruit, freshman Ben Simmons, and junior center Darcy Malone, back to their home countries. Also, Assistant Head Coach David Patrick played with Ben Simmons’ father, Dave, on the Melbourne team of the country’s National Basketball League. LSU will open the tour against a group of All-Stars in Newcastle on Saturday, August 15, at 7:30 p.m. (4:30 a.m. CT). The next day, August 16, at 7 p.m. (4 a.m. CT), LSU will take on the Sydney Kings of the NBL at Brydens Stadium at University of Sydney. The Tigers will then move to the Gold Coast of Australia for two days, facing another All-Star team on August 18 at 7:30 p.m. (4:30 a.m. CT) before heading to Melbourne, the home of the Simmons family, for the final leg of the trip. The Tigers will play the first of two games against Melbourne United at the home stadium of the Dandenong Basketball Association. That game on August. 20 will tip at 7 p.m. (4 a.m. CT). The final game may be the most interesting of the tour, as LSU and Melbourne United will meet under the retractable roof of Hisense Arena (one of the facilities used for the Australian Open tennis championships) for a night game on August 22.

In baseball news, congratulations are in order for LSU outstanding right-handed pitcher, Alex Lange, who was selected as the male winner of the 2014-15 James J. Corbett Award presented by the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Corbett Awards are presented annually to the top male and female amateur athletes in the state of Louisiana. Lange, a native of Lee's Summit, Missouri, is coming off what could be described as the best season ever by an LSU freshman pitcher, and that’s saying a lot. In a press release issued by LSU, Coach Mainieri is quoted as saying, “Kevin Gausman, Aaron Nola, Anthony Renaudo. None came close to him as a freshman. What Alex did was nothing short of amazing.” I tend to agree. 

While on the topic of LSU pitchers, highly heralded southpaw Jake Latz will put his elbow to the test today. Latz, who missed all of his highly anticipated freshman season at LSU due to an elbow injury, will return to the mound today for the Du Page County Hounds of the Midwest Collegiate League. His outing is scheduled to be only two innings, but those two innings could be very telling in terms of indicating how close Latz is to a full recovery. If Latz is 100% by the time LSU’s 2016 season starts, and if he’s as good as expected, he could be the missing piece in LSU’s search for a consistent third starter.  

With 35 days until the football season opener, let’s jump back to football and take a look at a special former Tiger who wore No. 35 as a safety for LSU from 1985 to 1988 – Greg Jackson. Jackson was a hell of a defensive back with a knack for making big plays, and as a senior he earned first team All-SEC and first team All-American honors. Many of you will recall Jackson’s record-setting 100-yard interception return for a touchdown against Mississippi State in 1988, and then his 71-yard pick return for a touchdown in LSU's regular season finale over Tulane. (I wish I could have found a video of the big returns online, but surprisingly I wasn't able to. If any of you locate them, please let me know.) Jackson ended his senior season with a record-setting 219 return yards on seven interceptions, which was the most picks by an LSU player at that time since Chris Williams picked off eight in 1978. After his playing days at LSU, Jackson was selected by the New York Giants in the third round of the 1989 NFL draft. Five other Tigers were drafted in the NFL that year including Eric Hill, Ralph Norwood, Mike Mayes, Ron Sancho and Rudy Harmon. Jackson went on to play five seasons for the Giants before finishing his last seven seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers. Since retiring from the NFL, Jackson has spent several years as an assistant coach at the collegiate level including three years at Tulane. He currently serves as the defensive backs coach at the University of Michigan.

Now for Part 11 of 12 in our ongoing series previewing LSU’s 2015 football opponents: Today we look at the Rebels of Ole Miss. For Parts 1 through 10 of the series, click here

Saturday, November 21 — Ole Miss (Oxford, Miss)

Individual talent across the board makes the Ole Miss Rebels a legitimate contender in the SEC West. Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche and Tony Conner are all projected first-round picks in the 2016 NFL draft. These are just four of several great athletes Ole Miss brings to the table. Can the Rebels put it all together, though? Long gone are the days of Bo Wallace leading the offense, and some Rebel fans will say that’s a good thing. They can reference last year’s LSU/Ole Miss game for starters, where Wallace forced an interception to solidify the victory for LSU. But much like LSU, if Ole Miss finds solid quarterback play (most think it will come from Chad Kelly), the Rebels will be a force to be reckoned with. The Rebels are immensely talented at every position, and while Ole Miss struggled to provide a strong running game last season, head coach Hugh Freeze has made it his priority to improve in that area this year, which would of course take pressure off of Ole Miss’ new starting quarterback, whomever that ends up being. Defensively, with multiple returners at every position, Ole Miss should be even better than a year ago (despite losing defensive backs Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt). Ole Miss was fourth in the SEC in total defense last season. In several regards, Ole Miss and LSU are in similar situations. If both teams find solid quarterback play, it’s not a stretch to say that this November 21st showdown could have serious implications for the SEC West. 

A little lagniappe in closing: 

Today is the birthday of my dearly departed mother, Joy Ardoin Long, and in her honor I’ve posted a recipe for a dish she cooked better than anyone: Round Steak with Rice and Gravy. Bon appétit!  

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7/31/15 5:55 am CDT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The preseason Amway Coaches Poll was released yesterday, and for the third year in a row LSU opened at No. 13. While I think LSU’s ranking is understandable considering the questions at quarterback and the fact that LSU has a new defensive coordinator,  I also recognize that this poll is rarely a good indicator of how things will end up. For example, in 2003 LSU was preseason ranked No. 15 and ended up winning it all. In 2012, the Tigers were preseason No. 1 and ended No. 12. (For a look at LSU’s opening ranking in every Coaches poll since 1991, click here.) For what it’s worth, three SEC schools are ranked higher than LSU in this year’s poll. Alabama came in at No. 3, Auburn at No. 7, and Georgia at No. 9.

In baseball news, LSU coach Paul Mainieri met with the media yesterday for his annual luncheon to introduce this year’s incoming freshmen and preview the upcoming season. Here are the key points I was able to pick up by following media tweets from @RandyRosetta and @RossDellenger (two great follows, by the way) and here is the press release issued by LSU’s Sports Information Department.

• The first player mentioned by name was incoming right-handed pitcher Cole McKay. Mainieri said McKay has a very high ceiling and compared him to Aaron Nola and Kevin Gausman.

• The Coach also heaped praise on sophomores Beau and Bryce Jordan and said both are performing well in the North Woods League. Bryce is on a 13-game hitting streak and hit his first homer of the summer this week. 

• Coach Mainieri reported a few injuries: Pitcher Austin Bain had shoulder surgery and will miss fall practice; Pitcher Hunter Devall is battling a foot injury; Outfielder Jake Fraley is suffering from a finger injury he sustained in the last game of the season; Utility player Cody Ducote is battling a sore arm and is solely DHing.

• As for pitcher Jake Latz, Mainieri said he recently saw him throw 75 pitches in five simulated innings. His velocity was great in the first inning but dropped quite a bit by the fourth and fifth. 

• The coach spoke highly of the two outfielders from my hometown of Lafayette – Brennan Breaux and Antoine Duplantis – saying the two could be starters in 2016. He called Duplantis the sleeper of this class. 

• Newcomer Jordan Romero and sophomore Bryce Jordan could both challenge  Michael Papierski for the catcher’s role. This will be one of the most important position battles of the fall. 

• Mainieri said their first priority is to figure out the shortstop position. The four guys competing are Trey Dawson, O’Neal Lochridge, Cole Freeman and Kramer Robertson.

• As for the hot corner (3B), O’Neal Lochridge and Greg Deichmann will likely battle it out. 

• Mainieri spoke highly of sophomore right-hander Troy Whitty who has been dealing with a shoulder injury for the last two years. He’s ready to pitch now and Mainieri is eager to see what he’s got.

• The coach said he recognizes that they must develop third and fourth starting pitchers this year. The Jack Wholestaff approach just doesn’t cut it in postseason play. 

Jumping back to football… mark your calendars, Tiger Fans, because LSU’s Fan Day is set for Sunday, August 16. Below is the schedule of events, and here is detailed information as sent out by LSU.

2015 LSU Fan Day – Schedule of Events (Sunday, Aug. 16)

3:30 p.m. - Doors Open at Basketball Practice Facility & Maddox Field House
3:30 p.m. - Mike’s Kids Club Fan Zone opens at Maddox Field House
4 – 5 p.m. - LSU soccer signs autographs at Maddox Field House
4 – 5 p.m. - LSU volleyball signs autographs at Maddox Field House
4 – 6 p.m. - LSU cheerleaders and Mike the Tiger sign autographs
5 – 6:30 p.m. - Coach Miles & offense sign autographs at Maddox Field House
5 – 6:30 p.m. - Defense & special teams sign autographs at Basketball Practice Facility

It’s hard to believe that in just 36 days the season will be upon us, and with that in mind let’s continue our countdown by looking at a special 36-yard TD that changed momentum for the Tigers and led them to victory in last year’s season-opener. The play I’m referring to is John Diarse’s 36-yard TD reception in LSU’s 28-24 victory over Wisconsin. With LSU’s offense struggling mightily and the defense having already allowed 24 points in just over two quarters of play, the Tigers needed a big play to get back into the contest, and boy did Diarse deliver! LSU had crept back into the contest with two field goals in the third quarter, but still trailed 24-13 heading into the fourth quarter. After marching to the Wisconsin 25, LSU went backwards with an 11-yard loss from a fumbled option-pitch that Leonard Fournette recovered. Facing 3rd and 21, Anthony Jennings fired a pass to Diarse, who caught it around the 26, dodged two tacklers around the 22, spun out of another tackle around the 15 and out-raced a fourth tackle attempt at the six to score an amazing touchdown. After Jennings’ two-point conversion pass to Quinn brought LSU within three, 24-21, the Tigers’ comeback was made complete with three Kenny Hilliard runs, the last being a 28-yarder that gave LSU a 28-24 lead. You can see Diarse’s TD reception here (it’s noted as a 35-yard TD, but you can clearly see the play started at the 36).

Piggy-backing on this countdown topic, let’s talk a little more about Diarse, a player I’m expecting to contribute greatly this season: Diarse’s redshirt freshman year in 2014 was very modest with just 15 receptions for 275 yards and three touchdowns, but his other two touchdowns were huge plays as well. His second TD came in the second quarter of LSU’s regular season finale, a 10-yard reception that helped the Tigers seize control with a 14-7 lead en route to a 23-17 victory at Texas A&M. Diarse’s third and final TD of the year came in the first offensive play of the third quarter of the Music City Bowl vs. Notre Dame and evened the score (with the point after) at 21. Unfortunately, LSU would eventually lose that game 31-28, but that’s another story. Here’s one more interesting stat about Diarse: 11 of his 15 receptions have resulted in either a first down or touchdown.

Before closing out, here’s the next installment in our preview of LSU’s 2015 football opponents. To see all of the opponents we’ve profiled already (the first nine games), click here.

Saturday, November 14 – Arkansas (Baton Rouge)

After going 7-6 last season, many analysts are high on the Hogs heading into 2015. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit even mentioned in a tweet that he might pick Arkansas to win the SEC West this season. The reason for such love is the returning offensive star power – most specifically a monstrous offensive line blocking for Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, two of the best running backs in the conference. That’s two running backs that have combined for 4,447 rushing yards behind an offensive line that averages 321 pounds. Will the Tigers’ defense be up for the challenge? This is where Kendell Beckwith’s 6-foot-2, 240-pound frame comes in handy. Beckwith and defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Christian LaCouture have to bring their “A game” to try and force Arkansas to win this game through the air. While Brandon Allen is effective in the short-medium game, especially when he’s finding tight ends, Allen isn’t likely to carry the Hogs to victory on his own. But if Arkansas is able to get five yards per rush against this LSU defense, it will be a long night for the Tigers. On the defensive side, Arkansas is replacing many players, but talent shouldn’t be an issue with the way Bret Bielema recruits to fit his offensive and defensive schemes. Tiger fans better hope LSU’s offense can produce more than 123 yards and no points, which is what the Tigers amassed last year against Arkansas in a 17-0 loss. A more experienced quarterback – whether it be Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris – will hopefully translate into a much different outcome this time around. 

In closing, here’s an article by SaturdayDownSouth that names LSU’s fanbase the best in the country. Of course that’s not news to us, but it’s always good to see when others recognize it. The Top 25 fan bases in college football

Reader Comments: Scott, I’m sending this in case you missed it. LSU freshman Ben Simmons was named the best player in all of college basketball. Antonio Blakeney came in at No. 18.  The 50 Best Players in College Basketball for 2015-2016

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7/30/15 5:50 am CDT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Yesterday turned out to be a very newsworthy day as Coach Les Miles held his annual meeting with the Baton Rouge Rotary Club and dished out lots of information. What made the event even more informative was that East Baton Rouge district attorney Hillar Moore was also in attendance, and afterwards he spoke briefly to the local media about the case involving Anthony Jennings, Maquedius Bain and Dwayne Thomas. Basically what was learned, according to reports I’ve read (like this one) and tweets from media who were present, is that the case against the three players could be dismissed very soon. Hillar reportedly said that the victim in the case (the person who allegedly had items stolen from him by the three LSU players) has requested the charges be dropped. Hillar also said that if this case did not involve athletes, the charges would have probably already been dropped, but that he wants to take his time and make sure he gets it right. Reading between the lines, I would not be surprised at all to see the three players in question back on the team when fall practice starts a week from today.

As for Coach Miles’ comments from the address, here’s a quick rundown of the most interesting points:

On the quarterbacks…

Miles said he thinks both quarterbacks, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris, will compete and that the best quarterback will play. He also said he’s excited about quarterback, Justin McMillan, and that he’s very competitive. 

On the offensive line…

At this time the starting line would be Jerald Hawkins at left tackle, Ethan Pocic at left guard, William Clapp at center, Josh Boutte at right guard, and Vadal Alexander at right tackle. This comes as no surprise as this is what we show on our unofficial depth chart.

On the defensive ends…

Lewis Neal and Tashawn Bower will be the starters, but a lot of guys will play. Miles singled out Isaiah Washington and Arden Key as freshmen who will contribute at the position this year.

On the running backs….

Miles called Leonard Fournette a Heisman contender and Darrell Williams an “elite running back.” He also spoke highly of freshmen tailbacks Derrius Guice and Nicholas Brossette and said John David Moore will start at fullback.

On kickers…

Trent Domingue and Cameron Gamble will compete for kickoff duties. Miles mentioned Colby Delahoussaye as a place-kicker. 

On the return game…

Fournette will be one of several guys who gets looks as a kick returner.  Tre’Davious White will continue to handle punt returns. Miles also named freshman Donté Jackson (4.3 forty) as someone who could be used on special teams in the return game and on both offense and defense.

Miles also said that LSU currently has 21 commitments in the 2016 class, even though only 18 have been announced, meaning there are three “silent commits.”

In baseball news, Coach Paul Mainieri will hold a press luncheon today to discuss the 2016 team roster, including the Tigers’ incoming recruiting class. And speaking of baseball recruiting, LSU picked up a big commitment for the class of 2017 on Tuesday from pitcher Blayne Enlow of St. Amant High School. Enlow is a 6-foot-3 right hander whose fastball touches 90 mph. 

Moving on with our series on LSU’s 2015 football opponents, today we’ll take a look at LSU’s most highly anticipated game of the season - the November 7th contest at Alabama. Of all the games on LSU’s schedule, this is the only one that Vegas oddsmaker Golden Nugget predicts LSU to lose. (They call the Ole Miss game a toss-up and have LSU favored in every other contest.) As I stated back in early June when we previewed LSU’s toughest games of 2015, this is a contest that LSU needs to win for several reasons. Not only for the sake of SEC West standings and national rankings, but also for the sake of recruiting and Tiger pride. LSU has lost its last four games against this SEC West nemesis, and in two of those contests, including last year’s 20-13 overtime loss, the Tigers had the Crimson Tide on the ropes with victory in clear site only to watch it slip away in the last minutes of regulation. Of course, I don’t need to tell you how much a win against Alabama would mean this year, so let’s get right to their team preview.

Saturday, Nov. 7 — Alabama (Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa)

Much like LSU’s, Alabama’s quarterback situation is far from settled. Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is the leading candidate to replace Blake Sims, but he’ll have a battle on his hands with redshirt freshman David Cornwell, who was the nation’s No. 3 pro-style QB prospect in 2014. For Coker, this will be his second attempt to win the starting job after losing it to Sims in 2014. The Crimson Tide also have question marks at the wide receiver position, as they lost their top three receivers including Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper. What is less questionable is that Alabama will once again feature a pounding running game with 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior running back Derrick Henry leading the charge, even though they did lose last year’s starter, T.J. Yeldon, to the NFL. 

On defense, Alabama returns seven starters and will have a very formidable front seven. Defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson and inside linebackers Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster should eviscerate running games in 2015, and considering LSU’s question marks at quarterback, this is what scares me most about the Crimson Tide. As for Alabama’s secondary, that’s another question mark. Over the last two seasons, Alabama has had some problems with this unit, but that could change this year with new secondary coach Mel Tucker on board. 

Even with as many question marks as Alabama possesses this year, there’s little doubt that this will be LSU’s toughest game on the schedule, especially with it being played in Tuscaloosa. Could this be the year LSU stems the tide and breaks its streak of losses against its most hated rival? That, of course, will depend largely on whether LSU can provide an answer for its own biggest question mark and get significant improvement at the quarterback position. 

Now let’s continue our Countdown to Game Day, which is at the 37-day mark,  by looking at one of the all-time greatest Tigers to ever play the game - No. 37, Tommy Casanova. During his time at LSU from 1969 to1971, Casanova (6'1", 186) was an extremely versatile athlete who played offense and defense, returned punts and kickoffs, and did just about everything except handle the water cart. Casanova was selected to the College Football All-America Team and the All-SEC Team during each of his three years as a Tiger, and in September of 1971, Sports Illustrated included Casanova on their cover along with the headline, “Tommy Casanova of LSU, Best Player in the Nation.” (Click here to see the cover image.) At that time, Casanova was a top contender for the Heisman Trophy, but a pulled hamstring in the second game of the 1971 season sidelined him for five weeks and pretty much took him out of the running. One of Casanova’s more notable individual performances came in a 1970 LSU win against Ole Miss that wrapped up an Orange Bowl bid for the Tigers. Casanova returned two punts for touchdowns that day, tying a national record, and LSU’s Craig Burns added a third. As the Tigers steadily increased their lead in the second half en route to a 61-17 win, LSU fans who hadn't seen their team beat the Rebels since 1964 began to throw oranges on the field. Casanova went on to a successful NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals from 1972-1977 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in ’74, ’75, ’76, and ’77. While playing for the Bengals, Casanova began to pursue his M.D., and in 1977 he quit football to pursue his degree full-time. Casanova is now an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) in his hometown of Crowley, LA.

Closing tidbits:

• I’ve updated our unofficial LSU football depth chart in light of Coach Miles’ comments from yesterday’s event.

• Also, I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange with several new listings.

 

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