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LSU vs. McNeese State - Saturday, September 5th, 2015 6:30 PM (SEC-Alt)
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9/5/15 5:50 am CDT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

After going 248 days without LSU football, the day we’ve been anxiously awaiting is finally here as LSU takes on McNeese State at 6:30 p.m. (Here are today’s Times of Interest.) As most of you know, the game will be televised on the SEC Network Alternate Channel and streamed online at WatchESPN.com. Of course, the best place to watch the game is in Tiger Stadium, and that’s where my wife and I will be taking in the action while celebrating her birthday (which is tomorrow). Since I won’t be tethered to my computer during game time, I won’t be tweeting as I usually do. But rest assured, I’ll have a full report for you in tomorrow’s report.

As promised, today I’ll give you a few things to look for in this season-opener. Here we go… 

Execution by Brandon Harris
Harris’ time has come, and he needs to go out there and show that he’s got what it takes to be a solid LSU quarterback. Harris doesn’t have to throw for 200 yards to do this. He just needs to take what the defense gives him, make mature decisions, and manage the offense. If he does this and keeps the chains moving, the Tigers should have no problem putting points on the board. Of course, it would also be nice to see him have enough success in the passing game to  develop chemistry with the receivers and make Mississippi State and Auburn think twice about stacking the box. 

New Pieces in the Defensive Backfield
LSU’s most experienced defender, Jalen Mills, will be out for several weeks with a leg injury, and it will be interesting to see how Rickey Jefferson and Corey Thompson fill in at his safety position. LSU will also likely audition several players at the cornerback position opposite of TréDavious White, including Dwayne Thomas, Kevin Toliver, Ed Paris and Donté Jackson. How LSU performs at these two positions will go a long way in upholding the Tigers’ well-deserved reputation as having one of the best defensive backfields in the country.

Newbies in the trenches
LSU will feature at least two new faces in the offensive line. Redshirt freshman William Clapp and Junior Josh Boutte will make their first starts at the guard positions, and true freshman Maea Teuhema will likely see a lot of playing time, too. It’ll be interesting to see how these guys perform and whether Ethan Pocic stays at center all game or whether Clapp gets a look there as well.  On the other side of scrimmage, true freshman Arden Key will likely see a lot of action at defensive end. Coach Miles said Key will probably be in on two-thirds of all snaps, which should give him ample opportunity to show whether he could be the elite pass rusher he’s been billed to be.

Defending a mobile quarterback
McNeese State’s Daniel Sams isn’t a high profile player, but he’s an elusive, athletic senior quarterback who can hurt defenses with his feet and arm. Now don’t get me wrong, Sams is no Dak Prescott, but he is a mature leader who operates an uptempo spread offense. As such, he will provide a good primer for LSU’s defense in advance of the next two week’s contests against Mississippi State and Auburn. I’m looking forward to seeing how LSU’s front-seven is able to keep him in check. 

No Injuries
LSU enters the game in fairly good health with only Jalen Mills and Isaiah Washington certain to sit out due to injury. Trey Quinn is still a little nicked, but according to Les Miles he will see action today in certain sets. In a non-conference game like this one, with two very important SEC West games looming large, avoiding injury is paramount. It will be interesting to see if this objective has any effect on personnel decisions, such as whether to use Leonard Fournette as a kick returner. 

Speaking of LSU’s return game, it’s time for me to give you the results of yesterday’s poll. I asked you which player would have the greatest impact on LSU’s kick/punt return game this season, and speedster Donté Jackson ran away with the vote. Jackson garnered over 56% of the 2,000+ votes cast, followed by Derrius Guice at 18% and Leonard Fournette at 16%. I’m hoping we get our first look at Jackson and Guice in the return game today. If we do, it will most likely be in the punt return game as I’m not expecting LSU to be on the receiving end of many kickoffs. 

Although I haven’t heard of anyone scheduling official visits for tonight’s game, there will be several prospects attending on unofficial visits. These include several players already committed to LSU and few big-time targets such as cornerback Kristian Fulton of Rummel High and linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch of Houston. For a prospects expected at tonight’s game, see this article by Jimmy Smith of nola.com.

In other news, most of the scores from last night’s football games have been entered into our Statewide Louisiana High School Football Scoreboard. There are a few more games that will be played tonight, and then Sunday we’ll calculate the scores in our LA Prep Football Pickem Contest so we can name a winner on Monday.  

I’ll leave you today with something that’s sure to get you in the mood for this long-awaited day - this new “LSU Anthem” video. It’s not  specific to football, but it’ll do the trick as well or better than any football hype video I’ve seen. Enjoy!

THIS JUST IN: I regret having to close today’s report on such a sad note, but there’s some terrible news I need to pass along related to Louisiana high school football. During last night’s game between Frankin Parish and Sterlington, Franklin Parish sophomore Tyrell Cameron lost his life due to an injury he suffered while returning a punt in the fourth quarter. Here’s an article by USAToday with a little more information. I ask that you please keep the Cameron family, and everyone involved, in your thoughts and prayers.



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9/4/15 5:40 am CDT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

It's hard to believe that in just one day LSU will open its 11th season under head coach Les Miles when the No. 13/14 Tigers host in-state opponent McNeese State at 6:30 p.m. in Tiger Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on SEC Network-alternate channel with Adam Amin (pxp), Kelly Stouffer (analyst) and Olivia Harlan (sideline) on the call. If you are not able to catch the SEC Network-alternative channel through your provider, please note that the game will also be streamed online via WatchESPN. 

For those of you making plans to attend tomorrow’s game and take in the pregame activities (as my wife and I are), here are a few times of interest as provided by LSU’s Sports Imformation Department:

8:30 a.m. LSU SportShop opens
10 a.m. Ticket office opens
11 a.m. CST LSU Live Pre-Game Show (Tiger One Village at PMAC)
1:30 p.m. Tiger One Village opens (front of PMAC)
2 p.m. Rockin’ Dopsie & Zydeco Twisters- Zatarain’s Tiger One Village
2 p.m. L-Club Tailgate (Legends Club at PMAC)
3 p.m. TAF Tailgate Party (PMAC)
3:30 p.m. Club level and Suites open at Tiger Stadium
3:30 p.m. LSU At the Game Programs on sale in and around Tiger Stadium
3:45 p.m. LSU Student gates open at Tiger Stadium
4 p.m. All remaining gates open at Tiger Stadium
4:25 p.m. LSU walks down “Victory Hill”
4:30 p.m. LSU Game Day presented by CST radio show
4:35 p.m. Mike VI comes down Victory Hill
4:40 p.m. Band comes down Victory Hill
6:04 p.m. Mike the Tiger and LSU Cheerleaders field parade
6:21 p.m. Guest Captain Presentation
6:22 p.m. Golden Band from Tigerland takes the field 
6:27 p.m. Alma Mater and National Anthem
6:33:30 p.m. LSU intro video
6:35 p.m. LSU takes the field
6:36 p.m. McNeese takes the field
6:36 p.m. Coin toss at midfield
6:39 p.m. Kickoff: LSU vs. McNeese State on SEC Network-Alternate 

On Field Presentations:
1st TO/1st Q: Patrick Peterson recognition
2nd TO/1st Q: Louisiana Teacher of the Year
1st Q/2nd Q Break: LSU Athletic Hall of Fame Class

Halftime:
· McNeese Band performs
· LSU Band performs

When the two teams meet tomorrow, LSU will put a record on the line as the Tigers have won an FBS-best 49 consecutive non-conference regular season games dating back to the 2002 season. LSU will also put a pretty impressive streak on the line as the Tigers have won their last 12 season openers. Les Miles is the only coach in LSU history to lead the Tigers to a season-opening win in each of his first 10 years, and in those games LSU outscored opponents 373-186. LSU is 10-0 all-time against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), which includes a 32-10 win in 2010 against McNeese State in the two teams’ first and only meeting on the football field. All this would lead you to believe that this should be an easy win for LSU, and it could be if the Tigers play up to their ability. But in the game of football, one should never underestimate an opponent, especially one like the McNeese Cowboys who were one play away from taking Nebraska into overtime last season and will be sky-high to take on the Tigers.  

In my Game Day report, I’ll give you a list of things I’ll be looking for in the contest, but I can tell you now that one of them is improvement in the kick and punt return game.  Actually, LSU didn’t do badly in the return game last year as Leonard Fournette ended third in the SEC and 19th in the nation with an average of 26.04 yards per kick return after capping the season with this 100-yard return against Notre Dame. In the punt return department, TréDavious White ended fourth in the SEC and 14th in the nation with an average of 10.92 yards per return. Still, with both of these guys back, plus several other very talented Tigers competing for return duties, I look for improvement in this area. I mention this today because one player who is in the mix at kick and punt returns is the topic of today’s Countdown to Game Day, which we’ll get to in a bit, but first I’d like your thoughts on which Tiger will make the biggest impact in LSU’s return game this year. So, without further ado…

Please take a moment to vote in our poll asking, “Which Tiger will have the biggest impact in LSU’s kick/punt return game this year?

Now, with just one day left on the countdown clock, let’s conclude our 100-day series with a look at a player would could add a lot of excitement to this year’s team - No. 1 Donté Jackson. A native of Metarie, LA, Jackson is described in his official LSU bio as “an explosive athlete that brings track speed and tremendous ball skills to the cornerback position.” There’s little doubt in my mind that Jackson (5-11, 168) will be exciting to watch on defense, but what I am most interested in seeing is what he can do on special teams and on offense in specific sets designed to utilize his blazing speed. (In his senior year at Riverdale High, Jackson accounted for 1,637 yards and 20 touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball, and his video highlights show that he has great field vision.) Coach Miles has said on several occasions that he plans to use Jackson in all three phases of the game, something he says he regrets not doing with Patrick Peterson when he was a Tiger. 

So just how fast is Jackson? Well, he was hand timed at 4.24 in the 40-yard dash and laser timed at 4.33. As a senior at Riverdale High School,  he won the Louisiana Class 4A State Outdoor Championship in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, for the second year in a row, with times of 10.30 seconds and 21.26 seconds, respectively.

In other news, six former student-athletes and two former athletic trainers will be inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame today. The induction ceremony will be held at the L’Auberge Baton Rouge Event Center, beginning with a reception at 6 p.m. and a Dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event are available for $50 and can be purchased by contacting Courtney Albritton of the Tiger Athletic Foundation at (225) 578-0159 or calbritton@lsu.edu

Below is this year’s 2015 LSU Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Class. The inductees will also be recognized in Tiger Stadium tomorrow night.

April Burkholder, Gymnastics
Kim Carson, Women’s Track & Field
Mike Chambers, Athletic Trainer
Laverne Eve, Women’s Track & Field
Sylvia Fowles, Women’s Basketball
Herman Lang, Assistant Athletic Trainer
Todd Torres, Men’s Swimming & Diving
Ebert Van Buren, Football 

I’ll leave you today with a few tidbits:

• Even though I know most of you are in all-out football mode, here’s a Q&A with Coach Paul Mainieri on LSU baseball conducted by James Moran of Tiger Rag

• Here’s a top-notch story by the Advocate’s Ross Dellenger on Davon Godchaux and the trials and tribulations he’s gone through. It’s called “For LSU's Davon Godchaux, his life once threatened, house shot up, brothers imprisoned, his mother ill; it all 'drives' him” and it’s well worth reading if you’ve got a few minutes to spare. 

• Last but not least… don’t forget to vote in our poll: “Which Tiger will have the biggest impact in LSU’s kick/punt return game this year?



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9/3/15 5:50 am CDT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

SEC football gets underway today with two games, and then the one we’ve all been waiting for will be here before we know it, as LSU is set to battle the Cowboys of McNeese on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. In just a bit I’ll give you my predictions for those contests and several others, but first here are a few key points from yesterday’s media session with Coach Miles, followed by a recap of last night’s Les Miles Show.

Media Session Key Points:

• Quarterback Brandon Harris continues to improve. Miles said the more reps Harris gets, the better he gets.

• Wide receiver Trey Quinn has returned to practice and is expected to play in certain sets this Saturday.

• Defensive end Isaiah Washington injured his arm and won’t play this Saturday. Washington was not expected to start, but would have likely seen action in the defensive line rotation if healthy.

• As for Miles’ own health, he said he feels “pretty good” but hasn’t run a marathon or anything that exhausting. 

• As expected, Miles said William Clapp will start at one guard and Josh Boutte will start at the other. Sounds like Maea Teuhema will likely rotate in at left guard.

• Coordinators Kevin Steele and Cam Cameron will both coach from the press box.

Les Miles Show Recap:

At the start of the show, Miles said the team had a great summer and that their attitude and performance may have exceeded that of any team he’s ever had. This was the first of two very strong statements Miles made about this team. (See question about WRs below) It’s becoming obvious that Miles feels like this team could be something special. 

The first caller of the night was Sadie from Denton, Texas who asked what the coaches and staff have to do to be successful in the game. Miles answered by saying, “What we need to do is apply a consistent strategy that allows us to be aggressive and take territory… and tackle, block run and demonstrate great speed.”

Rickey from Birmingham asked what are three or four things Miles will be looking for in Saturday’s game, other than winning and avoiding injury. Miles said he’s looking for the team to play well in all three phases of the game. On special teams, he wants the return game to look explosive. Offensively, he wants to move the ball with balance. Defensively, he want to see a team that can rush the passer and make tackles.

Clint called to ask what Miles would think of having two five-stars in the backfield in one offensive set. Miles said that’s something we can look forward to seeing this Saturday with two very talented tailbacks in the game at same time. 

As a follow up to that question, Jim Hawthorne asked Miles about Derrius Guice, Nick Brossette and the speed they have. Miles said Guice has great speed and is elusive, and that Brosette is smooth with great ball skills. He then said, “When you say speed, what comes to my mind is Jackson. He’s a very, very special talent.”

Jack from Lafayette asked about the health of Coaches Miles, Cameron and Kragthorpe, and about special teams. Miles’s response was, “I’m the least of your worries.” He added that his deal was “a temporary bout of stuff” and that if the trainers would have given him about 15 minutes more he would have done the press conference and no one would have noticed. As for Coach Cameron, Miles said he has a great plan that’s being executed ideally and he thinks he’ll be fine. As for Kragthorpe, Miles said he operates in a lifestyle that factors in and works against his disease.

In response to Jack’s question about special teams, Miles once again mentioned Donté Jackson and said he will be a very dangerous kick returner. Miles named Jackson, Guice and Fournette as kick returners and Guice and Jackson as punt returners. Interestingly, I didn’t catch any mention of TréDavious White.  

A little later on, Gary from Baton Rouge asked about Coach Kevin Steele’s changes on defense and how they might affect the linebackers, and of course he asked about Kendell Beckwith. Miles said Beckwith will play every snap he can at middle linebacker and that he’s expected to be a leader. The coach then spoke of the linebacker corps’ exceptional speed and said Deion Jones runs a high 4.4 and is one of fastest LBs in the conference. 

Buster from Mississippi asked if LSU will have an improved pass rush under the direction of defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and whether Arden Key will see significant playing time. Miles said Key will play two-thirds of every defensive snap this first game. As for Coach O, Miles said he’s doing a great job with the D-line. The interior four guys are pushing the pocket, and the ends (Bower, Neal, Key, Teuhema and Clark) are very physical, capable and deep.

From the live audience, Margie asked whether there are any standouts at defensive end. Miles said he thinks Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal will be very difficult to block, and that Key runs 4.55 forty and is a talent that reminds him of KeKe Mingo.

Also from the live audience, the Evil Twin asked about Brandon Harris’ improvement and what influenced Miles’ decision to make him the starter. Miles said Harris had a great summer and took the lead when he stepped forward and ran player workouts. He added that Harris is a strong-armed guy who has always had the ability to throw, but is now more accurate than ever, especially with the passes that require “touch.” At one point, Miles said Harris “has all the throws.”

A little later, Hawthorn asked Miles about Travin Dural and the wide receiver corps. Miles said Dural has great speed, height, and ability, and that  Malachi Dupre is so much more talented than last year. As for Trey Quinn who was injured earlier, Miles said he has come back and it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. Miles added that John Diarse is big, strong and capable, that freshman Tyron Johnson is in position to play very significant football, and that D.J. Chark is another very talented guy. He then mentioned freshman Jazz Ferguson, who at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds has tremendous ball skills. Miles finished by saying, “Our corps is better than its been by 10-fold…way more talented than it’s been.” I’d say those are pretty strong words.  

The last caller of the night was Bailey from Denham Springs who asked what the other SEC coaches were thinking when they didn’t name Jamal Adams to the preseason All-SEC team. Miles agreed with Bailey’s sentiment and said he thinks the coaches were thinking they needed to get home real quick because they were hungry, or maybe they were on vacation and let the Sports Information Directors fill out the voting sheets. He ended by saying Adams is a tremendous player who will give the team leadership and play big, and that he doesn’t know of a safety as talented and capable as he is.

Now let’s switch gears and get to those predictions I mentioned earlier. As those of you who’ve followed this site for a while know, each week I will post my predictions for SEC contests and a few games involving in-state schools. My predictions are straight-up (not against the spread), and just for fun. Your feedback is welcomed. Here we go…

South Carolina 31 North Carolina 24
Western Kentucky 38 Vanderbilt 27
Texas A&M 35 Arizona State 28
Alabama 45 Wisconsin 13
Georgia 48 UL-Monroe 10
Ole Miss 45 UT-Martin 6
Arkansas 51 UTEP 13
Tennessee 48 Bowling Green 28
Missouri 42 SE Missouri 7
Kentucky 35 UL-Lafayette 28
Florida 42 New Mexico State 7
Mississippi State 41 Southern Miss 20
Southeastern  LA 35 Northwestern State 27
LA Tech 38 Southern 14
LSU 41 McNeese State 13 

While on the topic of predictions, I want to remind all of you that the deadline for making your picks in our Louisiana High School Pickem Contest is today at 5 p.m. It’s fun and free to participate, and it doesn’t take as much time this year as we reduced the number of games from 140+ to 50 per week. Also, weekly winners will receive DandyDon.com koozies and bumper stickers. So far the participation looks to be pretty high, and I hope several of you will decide to sign up today and make your picks.

Last but not least, let’s close out with our countdown to game day, which is at the 2-day mark, by remembering a special Tiger who played a key role in LSU’s 2007 National Championship - No. 2 Demetrius Byrd. A native of Miami, Florida, Byrd came to LSU as one of the most coveted JUCO players after playing two seasons at Pearl River Community College. As a junior in 2007, Byrd immediately made a splash in his first season with the Tigers, leading the team with seven receiving TDs and finishing second on the team with 621 receiving yards. Byrd was LSU’s big-play receiver, as nine of his 35 receptions went for 20 yards or more. There were several big plays by Byrd that were pivotal in big victories, including a 4th-and-3 TD reception in a 28-24 victory vs. Florida, the well-known game-winner with one second remaining in the 30-24 win vs. Auburn, and LSU’s only offensive TD in the Tiger’s 21-14 victory over Tennessee in the SEC Championship. As a senior in 2008, Byrd followed up his excellent junior season by finishing second on the team in receptions (37) and receiving yards (513) and also caught four receiving TDs, including a go-ahead TD in LSU’s come-from-behind 26-21 win at Auburn. Here are video highlights of many of Byrd’s great plays as a Tiger. Despite being involved in a serious car accident that left him hospitalized the week before the 2009 NFL draft, Byrd was drafted in the seventh round by the San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately, he never played a down in the NFL but will always be remembered for his great accomplishments in just two years as a Tiger.



 

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