NCAA Baseball Championships:
DandyDon is proud to recognize David Toms as a great ambassador of the Tiger Nation.
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9/27/14 5:20 am CT
Good morning, Tiger Fans, it’s Game Day!
I’m looking forward to heading out to Tiger Stadium today to watch LSU work at getting better as they battle the New Mexico State Aggies. The game kicks off at 6:39 p.m. and will be televised by the SEC Network.
For those of you who follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter, please note that I will not be doing my normal tweeting for tonight’s game. That’s because I’ll be watching from the new South End Zone Stadium Club with my father-in-law, thanks to the generosity of Ces Guerra who graciously offered me the two tickets. Ces is the author of a new book titled “Gumbo for the Tiger Soul,” which is a collection of LSU fans’ personal stories (and recipes) related to LSU football. For example, there’s a brief chapter in the book about this website (DandyDon.com) and its history, followed by our Corn Maque Choux Recipe. If you haven’t yet checked out the book, I encourage you to do so. It would make a great gift for any Tiger Fan.
As promised, here is a list of five things I’ll be looking for in today’s game:
Dominant Play from the O-Line
A lot has been said about lately about LSU’s quarterback play, but the Tigers’ offensive troubles begin in the trenches. LSU is graced with an experienced and talented offensive line, but it has fallen far short of preseason expectations and has done a subpar job of protecting the quarterback and opening up holes for the running game. In today’s contest against NMS’s much smaller defensive linemen, there’s no reason why LSU’s O-line shouldn’t dominate from the get-go, and when that happens every aspect of the offense will look much improved. Of course, the O-line’s next big test will be seven days from now in Auburn.
A fair chance for Brandon Harris
None of us knows with certainty whether Harris is LSU’s answer at quarterback. Why? Because we’re not around him everyday like the coaching staff is, and we haven’t seen enough of him on the playing field. But, after his outstanding three minutes of playing time last week, it’s clear that Harris deserves a chance to show what he can do with significant game time. If he doesn’t get that chance today, when will he? At Auburn? At Florida?
Diversify the Passing Game
Regardless of which quarterback is in the game, LSU must work on its passing game. The Tigers have shown that they can hit the deep pass (they’re third in the country in yards per completion with a 17.9 yard average), but I’d like to see some diversity in the short to intermediate routes, and how about involving the athletic tight ends in the passing game? What’s interesting is that New Mexico State is very weak against the run and the Tigers could probably win today without ever throwing the ball. But until LSU establishes an effective passing game, defenses will continue to stack the box, and that will be a problem against SEC competition
Defensive Line Rotation
We expected LSU’s youth and lack of depth in the D-line to be an issue this year, but because of injuries (Quentin Thomas, Trey Lealamatafao) and eligibility issues (Trey Valentine) things are worse than expected. With Thomas out for this game, Davon Godchaux will likely start alongside Christian LaCouture at the tackle positions, and Lewis Neal will likely be the first DT off the bench. Considering the youth and size of this unit, LSU will probably need to rotate more guys in and out when they face the likes of Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, etc. I hope to see a lot of players auditioning for a spot in the rotation today.
Kendell Beckwith at Middle Linebacker
I like DJ Welter, and I understand the importance of having a linebacker who can line up the defense correctly and be a “quarterback on the field,” so to speak. But, Kendell Beckwith has a clear size and speed advantage. If what’s holding Beckwith back is his inexperience in reading offense and lining up his teammates, I can think of no better time to give him that needed experience than today against New Mexico State.
Moving on to baseball news…. Coach Paul Mainieri’s 2014 signing class, which was recently ranked No. 1 in the nation, sustained a major blow yesterday when one of its top signees - pitcher Mac Marshall - decided to withdraw from the university and leave the baseball team. According to this report by Randy Rosetta of nola.com, Marshall will be attending Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Florida. By going the JUCO route, Marshall will become draft eligible in 2015. You may recall that Marshall was drafted in the 21st round by the Astros earlier this year and would have almost certainly been drafted higher if he hadn’t made it clear that he intended to sign with LSU. The following is the press release on Marshall’s departure sent out by LSU last night:
FRESHMAN PITCHER MAC MARSHALL WITHDRAWS FROM LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU freshman left-handed pitcher Mac Marshall has decided to withdraw from the university, and as a result, leave the baseball team, coach Paul Mainieri announced Friday.
“Mac has decided to take a different career path, so we wish him well,” Mainieri said. “We’re moving forward with the pitchers who are here. Alex Lange, Jake Latz, Jake Godfrey, Doug Norman, Collin Strall and Austin Bain have all looked outstanding in individual workouts.
“This development in no way diminishes our enthusiasm for this recruiting class that was rated No. 1 in the country. We’re going to have an excellent team, and this class will make a huge impact upon our success. We can’t wait to get started with fall practice on October 6.”
Mainieri said he would have no further comment upon Marshall’s decision, and he has no knowledge of the pitcher’s future plans.
In LA prep football, there were some great games played last night and you can check out the scores in our statewide scoreboard. Once tonight’s games are done and the remaining scores are entered, we’ll process the picks and name the Week 4 winner in our Louisiana High School Football Pickem.
9/26/14 5:50 am CT
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
LSU will play its final tune-up game of the season this Saturday when they host New Mexico State of the Sun Belt Conference in Tiger Stadium at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised by the SEC Network with Tom Hart (play-by-play), Matt Stinchcomb (analyst) and Heather Mitts (sideline) calling the action. For those of you heading out to Tiger Stadium, here’s a list of the day’s Times of Interest.
I’m not a big fan of these cupcake games, but the timing of this one couldn’t be better. The Tigers have a lot to work on prior to traveling to Auburn next week, and the team and fans could certainly use a big confidence boost. This game could be just what the doctor ordered, but for it to be that, Coach Miles needs to do more than win. The Tigers enter the contest as a 42.5-point favorite, but winning big is not what this game should be all about. I think I speak for many in the Tiger Nation when I say that the team would be better off winning by two touchdowns while improving its passing game and coming to some clear decisions about personnel than to win by 50 and still be questioning whether the team is making the best use of its talent.
With back-to-back road games against Auburn and Florida coming up, this game needs to be about preparing the Tigers for those challenges and coming to some clear decisions about personnel. Look, I realize that Coach Les Miles doesn’t give a hoot about what I think, or about the fans’ opinion on who should be the starting quarterback, and there’s a part of me that respects that. But, without serious improvement things could get ugly this season, and fast. Considering the limited playing time Brandon Harris has received, none of us can say with certainty whether he is the quarterback that can lead this team out of its offensive troubles, but his play on the field last week made it clear that he deserves a fair chance. Coach Miles has said as much himself, but there’s no telling what he means by that. In my opinion, anything short of equal playing time for Harris tomorrow would be a mistake.
There’s been a lot written about LSU’s quarterback situation, but in my opinion this article by Brett Weisband of SaturdayDownSouth.com says it best. In it, he points out that “garbage time is not the ideal way to learn about a player,” and that “Jennings hasn’t yet played like a guy who deserves a stranglehold on all the meaningful snaps.” I couldn’t agree more.
Considering that LSU lost its senior quarterback and its top-three offensive producers and has a young defensive line hampered by injuries and eligibility, I think the Tiger Nation fully understands that there will be some growing pains this season. But, what is becoming more and more clear each day, based on the large volume of email I receive, is that the Tiger Nation is becoming restless with a coaching staff perceived as hardheaded and unwilling to adjust its philosophy to match the skill-sets of the elite players it has done so well in recruiting. Coach Miles and staff have a great opportunity this week to change that perception by opening up the playbook and making strides in the passing game.
In my next report, I’ll tell you what I’ll be looking for in tomorrow’s game, and it’s a lot more than seeing Harris at quarterback. As they say, stay tuned.
Moving on… it’s Friday and that means it’s time for me to give you my weekly predictions. Last week I had my worst week yet and went 7-4. On the season my record is 41-12 (.773), straight-up. Here we go…
LSU 51 New Mexico State 12â€¨
South Carolina 30 Missouri 20â€¨
Georgia 38 Tennessee 20
Texas A&M 40 Arkansas 35
Auburn 48 Louisiana Tech 17
Ole Miss 51 Memphis 20
Vanderbilt 30 Kentucky 24
UL-Monroe 38 Troy 21
Tulane 20 Rutgers 35
I’ll leave you today with a couple of interesting reads:
9/25/14 5:40 am CT
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Thanks to all of you who contacted me about the Q&A with Mike Detillier that we published yesterday, as well as the fishing pic I posted. Between fans wanting to vent about last week’s loss, wanting to comment on Detillier’s comments, and wanting to compliment me on my stringer of fish, my email server has been working harder than it has in quite some time, and that’s great. I always enjoy hearing from you.
In the poll I conducted about the quarterbacks earlier this week, 47% of you said Brandon Harris should start this weekend against New Mexico State, but based on Coach Miles’ comments yesterday it appears that won’t happen. During his weekly SEC Coaches Teleconference, Coach Les Miles said, "We will play in a like fashion that we have in the past, with Brandon Harris getting a little more playing time.” Then later when he spoke during a post-practice media session he said, “Yeah, I think Anthony Jennings will take the first snap. Right now it looks pretty forthcoming. It could change.” Earlier in the day another possible sign that Miles would start Jennings came in the form of a tweet by Harris, which said, “some things never change, that’s all I’m saying.”
Miles also dished out a few tidbits of information on the defensive tackles during his meeting with the media. He said Davon Godchaux will likely start along with Christian LaCouture, and that Lewis Neal will see a lot of playing time. Quentin Thomas, who was injured again last week, will miss at least one week. Miles also said that there was an incident (injury?) with one of the three redshirt freshmen defensive tackles (Maquedius Bain, Frank Herron or Greg Gilmore) but didn’t name which one and didn’t expand on that.
Yesterday evening Les Miles conducted his weekly radio show, and as you can imagine the callers were pretty spicy after last week’s loss. Below is my rough recap of a some of the key comments made and questions, as well as Miles’ responses.
• The first caller of the night was Sadie, an 11 year-old from Denton, Texas, who asked Miles why it seems like the team “comes back” the most in the 3rd and 4th quarters and not earlier in the game. Miles said it’s because there’s a greater sense of urgency to win the game in those quarters, but that he realizes that they need to start fast.
• John from Monroe called to say that he would like to see the fans stay to the end of the game, and then asked about the struggling offensive and defensive lines before adding that he would like to see more of the spread offense. Miles agreed that both lines did not play well in last week’s game, but that they are committed to improving and will. As for the spread offense, Miles said there will be more of it in the future.
• The next caller was a woman from Baton Rouge who asked, “Will you put Harris in instead of Jennings?” Miles answered by saying that Harris is certainly deserving and that they are looking forward to him giving him a little more playing time.
• Gary called to ask Coach Miles why the Tigers constantly line up in the I-formation with dual threat quarterbacks. Miles’ answer was that they look forward to expanding the use of the spread offense but that the personnel group is ideal for two-tight-end-sets.
• One of the next callers asked Coach Miles what he means when he says that he and his staff need to improve, and how do they go about doing that. Miles said the staff reviews the game as a whole and spends practice time working on the things they need to improve, such as signaling in plays better, having the correct personnel on the field and that sort of thing.
• A little later an irritated fan told Miles to open up the offense and use his offensive weapons instead of plunging his running backs into eight-man fronts. Host Jim Hawthorne thanked the gentleman for his call and they moved on.
• Byron from Thibodaux called to let Coach Miles know how he feels about several matters, not the least of which is that he doesn’t think Miles is making the best use of his personnel. Byron said No. 52 (Beckwith) should start and that Miles should be utilizing all of his 4 and 5-star receivers and backs instead of lining up in two-TE-sets. He added that the team could still run power football from the pistol set. Miles answered by saying that their offensive scheme is one that offers diversity and makes use of a number of styles of players, and that they are working to get No. 52 on the field for a lot of snaps.
• Next up was Mike from New Orleans who agreed with the previous caller’s comment that the personnel is wrong and asked how No. 31 (Welter) can play middle linebacker in the SEC? Miles didn’t comment and they went on with the show.
• Rickey from the live audience asked about the team’s morale after such a tough loss. Miles said they’re not in the highest of spirits, but that everybody’s working hard.
• The Big Ragoo asked whether Miles foresees utilizing the spread offense more now that Malachi Dupre is healthy, and whether we would see the same personnel in the offensive line this week. Miles said that using Dupre creates an issue for any opponent and that if Dupre and Travin Dural are both on field it takes four players to defend them, which opens up the running game. As for the offensive line, Miles said it will be the same, adding that the center is playing better and that Pocic will continue to play right guard.
• Also from the live audience, the “Evil Twin” said how proud he was of the team for fighting back like they did, and said that really shows character. He then asked how freshman offensive lineman William Clapp is progressing. Miles said Clapp is playing very well and is taking snaps at center and both guard positions.
• Mike from Metarie called to politely complain that the PA music in Tiger Stadium was so loud that it was uncomfortable and that several people around him had to put tissue in their ears while many simply left. He added that he would prefer to hear more of the Golden Band from Tiger Land. Miles took the comment to heart and said he will talk to some people about it.
• The next caller advised Coach Miles to blitz more, use more screens and utilize the tight ends in the passing game. He also asked about the defensive tackles and said he recognizes that having Trey Valentine and Trey Lealaimatafao would have been a boost this season. Miles said “the two Treys” will play a lot of ball in the future and that Lewis Neal will play a lot this week. Miles pointed out that Neal had four tackles last week in only five reps.
• One of the last callers was Deuce from Baton Rouge who asked Coach Miles if he would ever consider passing first to setup the run rather than rushing the ball to setup the run. Miles said they’re “bringing the passing game along” and that we’ll see more balls in the air moving forward.
In closing, I’d like to remind all of you participating in our Louisiana High School Football Pickem that the deadline for picking this week’s games is today at 5 p.m. If you haven’t yet signed up to play, please know that it’s not too late as we’ll be naming a winner each week. It fun and free and I encourage you to participate. But even if you don’t participate, you can still refer to our weekly schedule of every LHSAA high school football game played.
Reader Comments: Scott, BestTickets.org has released it’s Unofficial NFL Player Census for 2014 and it’s pretty interesting. Louisiana leads in NFL players per capita.
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