2/10/16 6:00 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Since I was out-of-pocket all day yesterday and didn’t have a chance to respond to any emails, I thought today would be a great time to post a mini Mail Call and address a few questions and comments I’ve received lately. After that, we’ll close out with a bit on today’s LSU basketball game and the conclusion of our series on this year’s impact signees. Here we go…
DandyDon.com’s Mail Call - 20/10/2016
Reader Comments: As always, I enjoyed your Q&A with Mike. I think he hit the nail on the head on what has kind of been lost in the QB controversy. In our three losses we got manhandled up front. I am no student of football on any level, just enjoy the game and love the Tigers but I must say during those games it was very obvious we were not as strong on the lines. I hope this infusion of new talent and size helps even the playing field. Great job sir! It was a good cup of coffee this morning.
My Response: Thanks, Billy! I’m feeling good about LSU along the offensive line this year, and the infusion of incoming defensive talent – especially linebacker Michael Divinity, and DTs Rashard Lawrence and Edwin Alexander – should help with depth along the defensive front seven. In the three games you mentioned, I thought lack of depth at DT was apparent, and those 2 big in-state DTs from this year’s class could help right away in that regard. On offense, with all that LSU returns on the line (getting Pocic back was huge) and with added depth from a few promising redshirt freshmen plus newcomers Donovaughn Campbell and Willie Allen – LSU should be solid there. Another thing worth noting about those three games is LSU didn't have fullback key blocker John David Moore (FB) and Dillon Gordon (TE), but both should be back. (Gordan has applied for a medical redshirt). Barring anything unexpected, LSU will be better equipped to battle in the trenches this season, and that’s one of many reasons I’m optimistic about 2016.
Reader Comments: I am sure this fact has been mentioned. The 3 games we lost were all led by 5th year senior QB's. Our guy, of course, was a Soph.
My Response: You make a very good point, George. And while it has been mentioned, it probably hasn’t been mentioned enough. There’s a huge difference between a fifth-year senior quarterback (or a junior JUCO transfer like Chad Kelly) and a sophomore. And, not only was Harris a sophomore, it was his first year as a full-time starter. You know how they say a team improves the most between Game 1 and Game 2, well I think a similar statement could be made about a QB’s improvement from season 1 as a starter to season 2. If that turns out to be true, it could be a special year for the Tigers.
Reader Comments: Scott: With all the hoopla on the incoming I would like to know who your Top 3 Sophomore or Redshirt Freshman breakout players for this season are?
My Response: Good question. Three redshirt freshmen who come to mind as candidates to make an impact this year on the offensive line are Chidi Okeke-Valentine, George Brown and Adrian Magee. As for sophomores, the name that first comes to mind is Derrius Guice. I guess you could say he has already “broken out” but I think we’ll see him take on a bigger role this year, especially as a return specialist. Likewise, we only got a glimpse at what speedster Donté Jackson can do, and I look for him to have a big sophomore campaign. Perhaps the sophomore who’s in the best position to have a monster year is defensive end Arden Key.
Reader Comments: Can you please explain what it means NOT to sign a full recruiting class? Does LSU have more spots for next year?
My Response: LSU signed 23 players on National Signing Day. There’s still a chance they add another (DE/LB target Sci Martin is still unsigned and should be deciding soon) and there’s a chance that WR De’Monté Coxie gets his academics in order and is able to sign before Fall. But, assuming LSU doesn’t add another signee and ends with 23, they would be able to backfill two spots with early enrollees next year, meaning they could sign 27 in 2017.
Reader Comments: Scott, I can tell you’ve got a bad case of spring fever and I do too. Since I live in BR, I’m thinking of catching a baseball practice. I’m assuming they’re open to the public, right?
My Response: You’re absolutely right on both accounts – yes, I too have a bad case of Spring fever, and yes, LSU baseball practices and scrimmages are indeed open to the public and are free to attend. (You know there are very few things that combat spring fever as well as a few innings at The Box.) The team will practice Wednesday at 3 p.m. and scrimmage at 5 p.m. They’ll take Thursday off and then return to the field on Friday for a practice at 2 p.m. and scrimmage at 4 p.m. Beyond that hasn’t been announced yet.
Reader Comments: Listen, don't get too excited about the basketball team being 8-2. They have only beaten Kent with a winning record the rest are 500 or worse. They have SC, TAM, Tenn, Kent, Fla and Ark left to play. I look for them to lose at least 4 if not 5 of these games. They will end up 11-7 at best.
My Response: Look, I get that LSU’s last eight games are difficult, but there’s no reason to assume they’ll go 3-5 the rest of the way. All four remaining home games, where LSU is currently 5-0 in SEC play, are winnable ones, including Texas A&M, who lost at Arkansas and just last Saturday lost at home to South Carolina. And while the four road games will be very challenging, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Tigers win a couple of them. So c’mon, my friend! Keep the faith and don’t go writing off our Tigers just yet while they’re sitting atop the SEC!
Building off of that last question… LSU (15-8, 8-2) will face a very tough road challenge tonight when they battle at South Carolina (20-3, 7-3) in a 6 p.m. contest on ESPN2. This should be a good game as the Game Cocks are a veteran club with excellent offensive balance. In fact, five players average between 9.8 points and 14.1 points. Senior forward Michael Carrera is undersized for his position (6’5”, 212), but his experience and intensity have resulted in great stats (14.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg) so far this season. The Gamecocks’ only blemishes of the season are losses at Alabama (73-50), at Tennessee (78-69) and at Georgia (69-56).
While it would be a huge résumé boost for the Tigers to beat South Carolina on the road, this game is not a “must win.” Playing a veteran Gamecock squad in Columbia where they are 12-0 will require LSU to play as well or better than in their win at Vanderbilt in early January. The Tigers need to “out-intensify” the Game Cocks by out-rebounding them, creating points off turnovers and winning the battle in the paint. LSU’s recent starting lineup with Ben Simmons (19.4 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 5.0 apg), Keith Hornsby (13.4 ppg), Craig Victor (12.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Tim Quarterman (11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.6 apg) and Jalyn Patterson (5.1 ppg), with Antonio Blakeney (10.5 ppg) coming off the bench, has been very effective. In fact, since Blakeney moved to the bench, his scoring average has increased from 9.3 points per game to 12.6 points per contest and he became just the sixth LSU freshman in school history to score 30+ points in a game. This game serves as a great opportunity for LSU to get another statement win that moves them that much closer to an at-large berth.
Now let’s wrap up today’s already lengthy daily dose with the conclusion of our series on LSU signees who could make a big impact in 2016. If you missed any of the previous four installments of this series you can find them all consolidated on this one page.
6-3, 310, Neville
(1st in our poll with 28 percent)
Tiger fans let their voice be heard loud and clear in our poll to predict which incoming freshman will have the greatest impact. Dominating the poll with 28% of the vote was the No. 1 player on our list of Top LA Prospects for 2016, Rashard Lawrence, and he’s a good choice for obvious reasons. First, there’s the fact that LSU lacks depth at defensive tackle. Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron loves to rotate in a lot of linemen and didn’t really have the depth to do so last year. Lawrence is the kind of guy who could come in and help out immediately in that regard. The other reason is simply Lawrence’s athletic prowess at the position. Watching him perform at Neville High School last season, it was easy to see that it was not only his size, but also his motor and aggression, that set him apart. The soft-spoken senior dialed up the intensity on the field and never took a play off, even if he was playing through injuries (which he did in a state championship win against Edna Karr). One play stood out to me more than any other in watching Lawrence this postseason. Against Warren Easton, he shot through the A-gap splitting the offensive linemen and met an Edna Karr running back in the backfield, delivering a punishing blow on a crucial third-and-short attempt in the second half. The running back who also served as the punter for the team was noticeably banged up from the punishing hit and limped around before his ensuing punt went no further than five yards. This is just one of many examples of how Lawrence affected the game in high school as he helped lead Neville to back-to-back 4A state titles. To see others, check out Lawrence’s video highlights in our Media Gallery.
One more tidbit on the five-star signee: Former LSU standout Oliver Lawrence, who played linebacker for the Tigers from 1985 to ’89, is Rashard’s uncle.
That’s it for today, folks. To those of you who’ve asked about my trip, I had a very productive and enjoyable day and managed to plant 60 feet of potatoes. I wasn’t able to wet a line yesterday, but there’s one place I’m thinking of hitting up this morning before heading back home. With any luck I might have a picture or two to post tomorrow.
Reader Comments: Scott, here’s something to share: ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has LSU No. 6 in his 2016 Way-Too-Early Top 25.