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12/21/14 5:50 am CST

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Good morning, Tiger Fans,

It was great hearing from many of you yesterday about the chart I posted comparing LSU’s 2013 and 2014 end of the year stats. While the stats showed clearly what we expected to see - that LSU improved on defense while declining considerably on offense – one of my longtime readers took them a step further and removed LSU’s three “cupcake wins” this year to see what kind of effect it had on the stats. His finding? Well, you can see for yourself in the Reader Comment at the end of this report.

With LSU’s bowl game against Notre Dame just a little more than a week away, today we’ll begin our position-by-position comparisons of the two teams starting with the quarterbacks.

QB
LSU isn’t the only team in this matchup that doesn’t have everything figured out at quarterback. Two years after leading the Irish to the national championship game, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson produced 3,355 passing yards, 29 passing touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season. Those numbers are impressive, but it was Golson’s inability to protect the football (14 interceptions and eight fumbles), and his inability to lead his team to wins late in the season, that prompted head coach Brian Kelly to re-open the quarterback battle this December, giving Malik Zaire an opportunity to win the job. Even though the Irish have plenty of question marks at quarterback, we still have to give them the nod at this position, as LSU has proven to be too one-dimensional with Anthony Jennings at the helm. Jennings’ season total of 1,460 passing yards, which is less than half of Golson’s, demonstrates that point. 
Advantage Notre Dame

Between now and Game Day we’ll incrementally compare the other positions and eventually we’ll conclude with a few Keys to Victory.

Speaking of quarterbacks, a lot of Tiger Fans got a look at LSU QB commit Justin McMillan last night as his team, Cedar Hills, defeated Katy for the Texas 6A state championship in a game that was televised by FSSW. I didn’t get to see any of the game because I was busy with an early family Christmas celebration, but I heard from many of you who were impressed with McMilan’s performance. McMillan’s final passing stats were an impressive 20-of-25 for 220 yards, one TD and one INT. His leading receiver was LSU target DaMarkus Lodge who ended the night with four receptions for 101 yards and two TDs.  

In other recruiting news, one of LSU’s biggest out-of-state targets, five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, gave LSU fans some good news yesterday when he named LSU one of his top-2 schools. As those of you who follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter already know, Mack named LSU and TCU as his two finalists, in no order. Mack will be visiting LSU on January 16th, the first weekend after the dead period. Also, JUCO cornerback sensation Justin Martin, who will be visiting LSU on January 30th, has named LSU as his leader. If LSU is able to land these two five-stars, along with elite in-state prospects Tyron Johnsons (WR, 6'1", 185, Warren Easton) and Donte Jackson (ATH, 5'11", 175, Riverdale), this class could finish exceptionally strong.

I’ll leave you today with a couple of good reads to go along with your Sunday morning coffee, and the Reader Comment I mentioned earlier about yesterday’s stats comparison. 

• Here’s an article on Notre Dame’s QB situation, per CSNChicago.com.  

From the ice rinks of north Alabama to Death Valley, LSU fullback Connor Neighbors is all about playing aggressively

Reader Comment: Football stats, like any stats, can be deceiving. In LSU’s case, their stats for 2014 are greatly benefited by the three cupcake wins they had over Sam Houston State (56-0), ULM (31-0) and New Mexico State (63-7), outscoring the opponents by a combined score of 150-7. By taking those three games out of the season stats, LSU’s points per game in nine contests decreases from 27.6 to 20.1, and their points allowed increases from 16.4 to 21.1 per game.  While the 2013 team obviously enjoyed padding their stats against their three cupcake non-conference wins (56-17 over UAB, 45-13 over Kent State and 48-16 over Furman), their stats do not change as significantly.  Their points per game decreases from 37.0 to 33.2, and their points allowed increases from 22.7 to 24.9.  So, yes, the defense did improve this year, but maybe not as significantly as we might think at first glance (3.8 ppg differential), and the offensive disparity was much greater than the entire season’s stats would imply (13.1 ppg differential).

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12/20/14 5:55 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The first thing I’d like to do is congratulate the 19 LSU student-athletes who received their degrees from LSU yesterday. Of the 19, eight are LSU football players – running back Kenny Hilliard, tight end Travis Dickson, defensive end Jermauria Rasco, linebacker D. J. Welter, former placekicker Josh Jasper, and walk-ons Sam Joseph, Tre Sullivan and Myles O’Brien. LSU baseball catcher Micah Gibbs also graduated. Hats off to all of these student athletes, and to all the young men and women who graduated yesterday.

Since we’ll soon be turning our attention to the upcoming Music City Bowl game, I figured now would be a good time to review LSU’s regular season stats and compare them to last year’s. In the chart below, all of the stats are final regular season stats, with the exception of last year’s QB rating and turnover margin. I didn’t have those two stats readily available for last year’s regular season, so I went with the final stats (post bowl game) for those two.

 stats LSU 2013 2014

A few observations and comments:

You don’t need to study the stats to know that LSU’s offense was much worse in virtually every category this year, but let’s take a look anyway. The three most telling stats, in my opinion, are run-to-pass ratio, passing yards and third down conversion. Obviously, these three stats are closely related. Last year LSU was much more balanced run-to-pass (60/40) compared to this year (69/31), and as a result threw for over 100 yards per game more than this year. That’s huge, and of course LSU’s lack of a passing game this year made it very hard to move the chains. Last year LSU ended No. 1 in the nation in third down conversions, whereas this year the Tigers currently rank 73rd. How LSU fares in this regard next year will once again depend largely on QB play, and that is clearly the biggest question mark for the 2015 Tigers team.

On defense, LSU improved in almost every category this year, but the biggest improvement was in pass defense, as the Tigers held opponents to almost 40 fewer yards per game through the air. LSU’s pass defense last year was good, and it finished a respectable 13th, but this year it has been great and is currently 4th in the nation. The outlook for next year’s LSU defense looks even better at every unit (DL, LB, DB), with the possible exception of linebacker if Kwon Alexander enters the NFL draft.

On special teams, the two most notable stats are average yard per punt (big improvement by Jamie Keehn) and field goal percentage (big decline by Colby Delahoussaye). Keehn showed much better consistency this year and increased his average by nearly six yards per punt. In the return game, numbers were pretty comparable. As for next year, Jamie Keehn has stated that he will return for his senior year and that is great news for the Tigers. All of the Tigers’ place kickers will return as well. It will be interesting to see whether LSU sticks with Leonard Fournette as a kick returner, and who will join him back there in Terrance Magee’s place. Overall, the outlook for LSU special teams in 2015 is excellent.

One thing that stood out to me is that LSU committed fewer penalties this year. Although I haven’t seen stats to confirm this, it seems that LSU committed far fewer pre-snap penalties along the offensive line, and that reflects well on new offensive line coach Jeff Grimes.

In football recruiting news, LSU’s biggest out-of-state target, Daylon Mack, de-committed from Texas A&M yesterday. Later today Mack is expected to name is top-2 schools, and Tiger fans will be waiting anxiously to see who he names. It’s widely believed that Texas will be one of the two, with the other either being LSU or TCU. Mack is widely considered the No. 1 defensive tackle in the country, and landing him would be huge for the Tigers.

Also, another offensive tackle target emerged yesterday, and he’s a big one. His name is Fredrick Johnson and he is a 6-foot-6.5, 301-pound tackle out of Royal Palm Beach, FL. Johnson committed to Virginia Tech in September but has since reopened his recruitment and is reportedly planning an official visit to LSU in January.

In basketball news, the LSU women’s basketball team implemented a new platoon system with Purple and Gold units and rolled over UC Santa Barbara 78-45 at the Thunderdome. In what was an interesting change of pace, LSU (5-5) broke its 10 players into two units and split up the action between the media timeouts. This game plan worked against lowly UC Santa Barbara (0-10), but I would be surprised to see it again moving forward. Below is what Coach Nikki Caldwell said about that approach. The Lady Tigers will return to action at the Miami Holiday Tournament on December 28 against UNC Greensboro.

“I thought the groups were very competitive based on our practices over the last couple of days,” head coach Nikki Caldwell said. “When the players picked their teams, it gave us a good balance of experience in guard play and post play. It was really an opportunity for us to explore different looks especially on the defensive end because we knew we were going to have a wave coming in. The players knew they had to go hard for four minutes then I’m going to get sub. Then, I’m going to go hard for another four minutes and get another sub.”

A few tid-bits in closing: 

• Even though the season is still 55 days away, it’s never too early to get excited about LSU baseball, and two Tigers who are reason for excitement were honored yesterday. The two are LSU junior shortstop Alex Bregman and sophomore left-handed pitcher Jared Poché, who were named 2015 second-team preseason All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball magazine. For more on this story, see this article by LSUSports.net.

• Tickets for the 2015 LSU Baseball First Pitch Banquet are now on sale at lsutaf.org. The event, which signifies the beginning of the college baseball season, will be held at 6 p.m. on Sunday, January 25 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge. Former Major League pitcher Kyle Peterson, the lead college baseball analyst for ESPN, will serve as the keynote speaker for the banquet. For more info, click here.

• Last but not least, I’ll update our Ticket Exchange later today, so if you have any Music City Bowl tickets to see, please let me know.

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12/19/14 5:50 am CST

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Good morning, Tiger Fans,

It was great hearing from many of you yesterday about the “baker’s dozen” of LSU football recruiting targets I posted. As I stated, the list was far from being all-inclusive, but was simply a list of names I had been hearing a lot about lately. Yesterday I received news on a few prospects I didn’t include on the list, including tight end Foster Moreau (TE, 6'4", 225, Jesuit) who received an LSU offer Wednesday night. Foster currently holds offers from all of the in-state schools, as well as Mississippi State, Army and Air Force, and is scheduled to take an official visit to LSU on January 16th (the first weekend for visits after the dead period). Other players who will be visiting that weekend that I didn’t mention in my previous report are linebackers Leo Lewis (6’3”, 225, Brookhaven, MS) and Sh’mar Kilby-Lane (6’2”, 215, Hallandale, FL), defensive end Arden Key (6’5”, 230, Atlanta) and tight end Devonaire Clarington (6’5, 225, Miami, FL). That could end up being a big weekend for the Tigers, but the following weekend could be even more important for LSU when top in-state targets Tyron Johnson and Donte Jackson (Numbers 1 and 7 on our list of Top LA Prospects) take their official visits to LSU. (Interesting side-note: Donte Jackson tweeted yesterday that he will announce his school of choice on January 21st, which is two days before his official visit to LSU.) Jackson and Johnson will be joined on their official visit by the top JUCO cornerback in the nation, Justin Martin.

Speaking of top JUCO prospects, a lot of you asked me if I’d heard anything lately about the JUCO quarterback I mentioned a while back - Jake Hubenak of Blinn Junior College – and my answer is no. It appears that LSU is content to move forward with the quarterbacks they have returning and with Justin McMillan in this year’s class. One reason for this could be that LSU is in good shape to sign two of the top quarterbacks in the country next year in Feliepe Franks (an LSU commit) and Shea Patterson of Calvary Baptist of Shreveport, and perhaps they don’t want to jeopardize their standing with those two.

In other football news, according to Rand Getlin of  Yahoo Sports, multiple sources are reporting that LSU’s Danielle Hunter is very likely to return to LSU for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft. If this turns out to be true, that would be huge news for the Tigers. If Hunter stays, LSU would return every member of its two-deep defensive line except for  senior Jermauria Rasco. 

Turning to men’s basketball news, the Tigers started slowly but scratched and clawed their way back to post a 79-70 road victory over UAB and improved to 8-2 on the season. LSU trailed 19-8 with less than 13 minutes remaining in the first half, but then went on a 25-17 run to pull within three, 33-36, before UAB made a 3-pointer off an offensive rebound to lead 39-33 at the break. LSU scored six unanswered points to tie the game at 39 early in the second half, but then UAB regained the lead with three free throws (two from a Johnny Jones technical) before the Tigers pieced together a 26-13 run to lead 65-55 with 8:37 remaining. After UAB made a jumper, layup and a three-pointer to cut the lead to three with under seven minutes remaining, Jordan Mickey made a layup, Keith Hornsby made two free throws and a layup, Jarell Martin dunked and Mickey made another layup to give the Tigers an insurmountable 75-65 lead with 1:39 remaining. Hornsby and Tim Quarterman combined for five free throws in the final minute to give LSU the 79-70 win.

Considering that LSU played the game on the road without starting point guard Josh Gray who is out with a sprained ankle, it was a very good win for the Tigers. LSU was able to stay in the game in the last eight minutes of the first half with Jarell Martin in foul trouble, as Hornsby, Mickey and Patterson combined for 15 points during that timeframe. Patterson’s performance was further proof that the Tigers’ bench can produce when called upon, just as Brian Bridgewater showed against McNeese State a few weeks ago. LSU stayed in the game and ultimately won by demonstrating great resilience, and by shooting extremely well from the free throw line and in 3-point range. With that said, LSU must improve its defense with ball pressure and prevent opponents from grabbing offensive rebounds and getting so many second chance points. 

Martin had a big night and led the Tigers in scoring with 25 points and six rebounds. Hornsby also had a big night and scored a career high 24 points, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range. Although he struggled from the field (4-12 FG), Jordan Mickey finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and had all seven of LSU’s blocks. Jalyn Patterson came off the bench to add 11 points, three assists and zero turnovers in a career-high 33 minutes, while Quarterman added six points and dished out a team-high eight assists. LSU shot 45.9% from the field (28-61), 50% from the 3-point line (7-14) and a very impressive 88.9% from the free-throw line (16-18) while holding UAB to 44.6% shooting from the field (29-65). For the second straight game, the Tigers were out-rebounded 34-36; however, LSU forced 14 turnovers while only committing 10.

For those interested in the RPI rankings, LSU had moved up to #13 before last night’s game, which is third in the SEC behind UK’s #1 rating and Arkansas’ #10 rating.

The Tigers return to action Monday at 8 pm against for their first of three straight non-conference home games when they play Charleston. The game will be telecast on the SEC Network and the radio broadcast will be available on 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge.

The LSU’s women’s basketball team will try to return to the win column tonight when they wrap up their two-game California road trip at UC Santa Barbara. Tip time is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. CT from the Thunderdome, and the game will not carried on television. The Lady Tigers have been struggling, but they should come out victorious tonight against a UC Santa Barbara team that is 0-9 on the season. If they don’t, well, let’s not even go there.  

A couple of tid-bits in closing: 

I want to remind you that I'm working on my list of Louisiana’s top prospects for the class of 2016. If there’s a Division 1 prospect from Louisiana whom you would like to suggest for the list, please let me know. I would especially like to hear from LA high school football coaches who have top prospects on their teams. Stats and video links are encouraged and appreciated.

• I updated our Ticket Exchange last night. If you have tickets to the upcoming Music City Bowl that you would like to sell, let me know and I’ll post them.

Last but not least, if you appreciate staying informed on LSU sports via these “Daily Doses of Tiger News,” please do you part to ensure this site’s future by donating to our fundraiser. Please click here to find out how and why.

 

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