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LSU vs. McNeese State - Saturday, September 5th, 2015 6:30 PM (SEC-Alt)
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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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7/29/15 5:45 am CDT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

To all of you LSU basketball fans who’ve been saying that Coach Johnny Jones is an outstanding recruiter but he needs to hire an outstanding Xs and Os assistant, you’ll be happy to know that he did just that. Yesterday the school announced the hiring of the Brenden Suhr, 61, a man with an exceptional résumé as an NBA and collegiate coach, and a reputation of being among the best Xs and Os coaches in the business. Suhr built his résumé and reputation as an assistant for the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, and New York Knicks. He was also the head scout for the gold-medal United States “Dream Team” at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, and the assistant coach for two NBA All-Star Games (1988, 1990). Suhr’s most recent gig was at the University of Central Florida, where he was Coach Donnie Jones’ assistant since 2012 and Director of Program Development since 2013. Based on everything I’ve heard and read about the man, I’d say he’s clearly a slam dunk hire.

For more on Suhr and his hiring, here’s the full press release by LSU: FORMER NBA CHAMPIONSHIP WINNING ASSISTANT COACH BRENDAN SUHR JOINS LSU MEN’S BASKETBALL COACHING STAFF

One more basketball tidbit before moving on: In a radio interview with Ben Love of Bumper to Bumper Sports, Coach Johnny Jones said that forward Craig Victor won’t be eligible to play for LSU until “roughly around December 12-13.” Victor, a native of New Orleans, transferred from The University of Arizona to LSU and had applied for a hardship waiver which would have allowed him to play right away. His case for the waiver was that he transferred to be closer to an ailing family member, as opposed to transferring simply for reasons related to playing time. Evidently, the waiver was denied, so Victor won’t be able to practice or play with the team until after the Fall semester.

In football recruiting news, I wrote a few days ago about TCU trying to flip LSU wide receiver commit Stephen Sullivan, and now it appears that LSU is trying its best to flip TCU linebacker commit Sewo Olonilua. At 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, Olonilua is a versatile athlete who could play safety, linebacker, or even running back, but it appears that LSU is recruiting him as a linebacker, which is one of the Tigers’ biggest positions of need in this year’s class. LSU already has commitments from two other outstanding linebackers from the state of Texas – Erick Fowler and Rahssan Thornton, and it is likely that LSU would take as many as four linebackers in this year’s class. (Remember, they didn’t sign any last year.) Among the Tigers’ top LB targets are Louisiana’s own Michael Divinity (6'2", 200) of John Ehret High School and  Keion Joyner (6'3", 200) of Havelock, North Carolina, who has family in Abbeville, LA.  

In other football news, we all know that a good case can be made for LSU claiming the DBU (defensive back university) moniker, right? Well, you might be interested to know that Fox Sports’ College Spun website has named LSU “Running Back University.” The website analyzed the number of NFL running backs produced by each school over the last 16 years and LSU came out on top with 13 draft selections during that time. The next closest was Miami with 10 selections. With the way LSU has recruited the RB position for the last two years, they could very well hold on to that title for at least a few more years. Interestingly, the Tigers do not yet have a running back commitment in this year’s class, although they appear to be in good shape with their primary target, Devin White (6'0", 258, North Webster), who is the No. 1 player on our list of Top LA Prospects for 2016.

As for our ongoing series on LSU’s 2015 football opponents, we’ve already covered the first eight games and have now reached the point on the schedule where the team has its first open date before playing Alabama. Just as the team will need a break that week to prepare for Bama, so do I need a break from this series to allow me more time to dedicate to that big game’s writeup. Look for that installment of the series in tomorrow’s report.

Moving on to our Countdown to Game Day, which has reached the 38 days mark, let’s look at Les Miles’ biggest victory as coach of the Tigers. I’m referring to LSU’s 38-24 victory over Ohio State in the 2007 BCS National Championship. The 38 points were an amazing achievement considering Ohio State came into the game allowing just 10.7 points per game. In fact, seven of the Buckeye’s opponents had been held to seven points or less, and only one opponent, Illinois, had scored more than 17 points. I can remember well sitting in the Superdome alongside Dad and fearing LSU might fall victim to Ohio State’s stifling defense as the Buckeyes jumped out to an early 10-0 lead with LSU accumulating negative 14 yards in the process. But then the Tigers went on a remarkable 31-0 run from the middle of the 1st quarter through the opening drive of the third to take a commanding 31-10 lead. Included in the amazing turnaround were 28 penalty yards against the Buckeyes that aided LSU’s first TD of the contest, a blocked field goal by Ricky Jean-Francois that led to a 60-yard-TD drive, and a Chevis Jackson interception that led to a 24-yard TD drive and 24-10 halftime lead. Even when Ohio State forced LSU to punt on their first drive of the third quarter, the Tigers received a huge break when a Buckeye defender whiffed on a punt block attempt and collided into Patrick Fisher, giving LSU a first down. A personal foul penalty further aided the drive and eventually led to a Matt Flynn four-yard TD pass to Early Doucet. After a Flynn interception led to an Ohio State TD, the Tigers responded in the fourth quarter with a Flynn to Richard Dickson 5-yard TD that gave LSU an insurmountable 38-17 lead with less than four minutes remaining. The Buckeyes scored a meaningless TD against the Tigers’ backups to make the final score 38-24. You can relive the memorable game with these video highlights. I’ll tell you what, New Orleans, and the whole state of Louisiana for that matter, was buzzing that night. Five years later, that buzz has worn off and Tiger fans are chomping at the bit to see Les Miles hoist that Crystal Ball above his head once more. Could this be the year? In 38 days we’ll be one small step closer to answering that question, and I can hardly wait!

A couple of closing tidbits:

Former Tiger outfielder Chris Sciambra has enrolled at Nicholls state for postgraduate studies and will compete as a placekicker and punter for the Colonels’ football team. Sciambra graduated from LSU this past spring and had exhausted all of his baseball eligibility, but he still has one year of eligibility to play football. From what I understand, Sciambra wanted to continue his studies and loves the game of football (he actually walked-on to the LSU football team last August, but never appeared in a game), so this turned out to be the perfect opportunity for him. Actually, it’s a win-win all around as Sciambra will get to have part of his continuing eduction paid for, and Nicholls will get not only a very gifted athlete for their football team that went 0-12 last year, but also an outstanding young man.

• A little later today I will be updating our Ticket Exchange page with several new listings, so if you are looking to sell (not buy) LSU tickets, please email your information for posting.

 

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