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LSU vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field - September 3rd, 2:30PM
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7/1/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Vacation update: In a few hours my family and I will be heading home from a very enjoyable San Antonio vacation. The highlight of yesterday, apart from family time spent touring the riverwalk and downtown areas, was an outstanding meal at Southerleigh Restaurant and Brewery in the Pearl development. To all of you who recommended it, my sincere thanks. 

Today, we’ll cover a few topics in baseball and track and field before turning to Part 4 of our series on LSU football statistical trends and observations and our countdown to Game Day.

First off, I’d like to congratulate the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers on winning the College World Series yesterday by defeating Arizona 4-3. Tiger fans can at least take some solace in the fact that LSU was eliminated by a well-rounded, veteran-laden team that proved to be the best in the country. The last time the Tigers were eliminated in postseason play by the eventual National Champion was in 1998 when LSU lost to Southern California. 

Sticking with the topic of college baseball, the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association rankings were released yesterday, and LSU finished No. 12. For a team that had to replace seven of its eight starters from last season, that’s nothing to sneeze at. This was the fifth consecutive season the Tigers have finished in the top 25 and the fourth time in five years they have finished ranked 12th or better.

Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of LSU hitting coach Andy Cannizaro leaving to become Tulane’s head baseball coach. Later that day on Culotta and The Prince on 104.5/104.9 ESPN Radio in Baton Rouge, Cannizaro stated that Tulane is a program that he follows, has a lot of admiration for and certainly pulls for. He then stated, “I love my job (at LSU) and I can't convey that anymore to you and all of our fans.” Cannizaro is in Atlanta this week scouting potential players for LSU’s team to “help (LSU) win a national championship.” I’m not an insider to Tulane’s coaching search, but on the surface, it would appear that the Green Wave are looking at other candidates ahead of Cannizaro at this point. I’m sure we’ll know much more on this over the next several days, so stay tuned.

With the Olympics quickly approaching, I want to wish the best of luck to 22 current and former LSU athletes who are competing for a spot on Team USA for the Olympic Games. With us approaching a very slow time in sports (no disrespect to pro baseball fans!), I am very much looking forward to the Olympics. TV coverage of the US Track & Field Trials will begin today on NBC and will continue through July 10th. You can see the full schedule and an article on the LSU athletes competing here. The 2016 Olympics, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, begins on Friday, August 5th and runs through Sunday, August 21st.

LSU Statistical Trends/Observations, Part 4:  SEC Wins

LSU’s SEC wins had been trending in the right direction – 2008 (3), 2009 (5), 2010 (6) and 2011 (8) – but then steadily declined for three consecutive years: 2012 (6), 2013 (5) and 2014 (4). So while winning 5 SEC contests in 2015 wasn’t what fans hoped for, it was at least an improvement from 2014 and a sign that LSU could be reversing its recent trend. In the Tigers’ three conference losses last season (at Alabama, home vs. Arkansas and at Ole Miss), LSU had its worst defensive performances of the season, giving up 99 points and an average of 435 yards per contest. Will the additional year of experience for the returning starters, the addition of Dave Aranda as defensive coordinator, and the added depth to the linebackers and defensive line be the difference this year in those games? And will Brandon Harris step up his game in close contests? In LSU’s nine wins, Harris only threw two interceptions compared to four interceptions in the three losses, each one of them being game changers. Both of these questions will loom large in determining LSU’s SEC win total in 2016. Keep in mind this Tiger team returns 18 starters, many of whom have two or more years of starting experience. Prediction: LSU wins six or more SEC games this year. 

With 64 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin at Lambeau Field on September 3rd, let’s continue our countdown to the start of the LSU football season by remembering a special former offensive lineman who wore No. 64 – Rudy Niswanger. Linemen are the guys who make the blocks, protect the QB, get dirty, and yet often go with little notice. Rudy Niswanger fits that mold. Niswanger, a product of northeast Louisiana, arrived at LSU at 6'5", 275 in the 2001 recruiting class with fellow linemen Andrew Whitworth and Ben Wilkerson. Niswanger redshirted his freshman year after being very highly recruited, but once he took the field he made a quick and significant impact at LSU. He played every OL position during his time as a Tiger but primarily played guard and center. Not only did he serve as a solid lineman, he represented the LSU community well as he maintained a 4.0 GPA in kinesiology/pre-med and served as a volunteer in the community. Niswanger was awarded the inaugural Danny Wuerffel trophy for being a great football humanitarian, and with the prestigious Draddy trophy, which is known as the “Academic Heisman.” He was also a winner of the SEC Football Scholar award and a 2nd team All-SEC player. Rudy was rewarded for his on-field play by being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs where he played from 2006-2010. Currently, Niswanger is the CEO of Joe Gear Companies and resides in his hometown of Monroe, Louisiana.

Updated Heisman odds were published from BovadaLV yesterday, and Leonard Fournette was listed with the best odds at 9/2. If Fournette does, in fact, win the prestigious award, he’d be just the second Tiger to win it, joining LSU Legend Billy Cannon, who won the Heisman in 1959.

In closing, I wanted to share this very good article from Cody Worsham of Tiger Rag. In it, Cody writes about Collis Temple, Jr. becoming LSU’s first African-American basketball player, his life after LSU, and his two sons who are former Tigers, Collis Temple III and Garrett Temple.

Stay tuned, as tomorrow we’ll continue our series on statistical trends and observations, as well as our countdown to LSU’s season opener vs. Wisconsin.


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7/1/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Vacation update: In a few hours my family and I will be heading home from a very enjoyable San Antonio vacation. The highlight of yesterday, apart from family time spent touring the riverwalk and downtown areas, was an outstanding meal at Southerleigh Restaurant and Brewery in the Pearl development. To all of you who recommended it, my sincere thanks. 

Today, we’ll cover a few topics in baseball and track and field before turning to Part 4 of our series on LSU football statistical trends and observations and our countdown to Game Day.

First off, I’d like to congratulate the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers on winning the College World Series yesterday by defeating Arizona 4-3. Tiger fans can at least take some solace in the fact that LSU was eliminated by a well-rounded, veteran-laden team that proved to be the best in the country. The last time the Tigers were eliminated in postseason play by the eventual National Champion was in 1998 when LSU lost to Southern California. 

Sticking with the topic of college baseball, the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association rankings were released yesterday, and LSU finished No. 12. For a team that had to replace seven of its eight starters from last season, that’s nothing to sneeze at. This was the fifth consecutive season the Tigers have finished in the top 25 and the fourth time in five years they have finished ranked 12th or better.

Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of LSU hitting coach Andy Cannizaro leaving to become Tulane’s head baseball coach. Later that day on Culotta and The Prince on 104.5/104.9 ESPN Radio in Baton Rouge, Cannizaro stated that Tulane is a program that he follows, has a lot of admiration for and certainly pulls for. He then stated, “I love my job (at LSU) and I can't convey that anymore to you and all of our fans.” Cannizaro is in Atlanta this week scouting potential players for LSU’s team to “help (LSU) win a national championship.” I’m not an insider to Tulane’s coaching search, but on the surface, it would appear that the Green Wave are looking at other candidates ahead of Cannizaro at this point. I’m sure we’ll know much more on this over the next several days, so stay tuned.

With the Olympics quickly approaching, I want to wish the best of luck to 22 current and former LSU athletes who are competing for a spot on Team USA for the Olympic Games. With us approaching a very slow time in sports (no disrespect to pro baseball fans!), I am very much looking forward to the Olympics. TV coverage of the US Track & Field Trials will begin today on NBC and will continue through July 10th. You can see the full schedule and an article on the LSU athletes competing here. The 2016 Olympics, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, begins on Friday, August 5th and runs through Sunday, August 21st.

LSU Statistical Trends/Observations, Part 4:  SEC Wins

LSU’s SEC wins had been trending in the right direction – 2008 (3), 2009 (5), 2010 (6) and 2011 (8) – but then steadily declined for three consecutive years: 2012 (6), 2013 (5) and 2014 (4). So while winning 5 SEC contests in 2015 wasn’t what fans hoped for, it was at least an improvement from 2014 and a sign that LSU could be reversing its recent trend. In the Tigers’ three conference losses last season (at Alabama, home vs. Arkansas and at Ole Miss), LSU had its worst defensive performances of the season, giving up 99 points and an average of 435 yards per contest. Will the additional year of experience for the returning starters, the addition of Dave Aranda as defensive coordinator, and the added depth to the linebackers and defensive line be the difference this year in those games? And will Brandon Harris step up his game in close contests? In LSU’s nine wins, Harris only threw two interceptions compared to four interceptions in the three losses, each one of them being game changers. Both of these questions will loom large in determining LSU’s SEC win total in 2016. Keep in mind this Tiger team returns 18 starters, many of whom have two or more years of starting experience. Prediction: LSU wins six or more SEC games this year. 

With 64 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin at Lambeau Field on September 3rd, let’s continue our countdown to the start of the LSU football season by remembering a special former offensive lineman who wore No. 64 – Rudy Niswanger. Linemen are the guys who make the blocks, protect the QB, get dirty, and yet often go with little notice. Rudy Niswanger fits that mold. Niswanger, a product of northeast Louisiana, arrived at LSU at 6'5", 275 in the 2001 recruiting class with fellow linemen Andrew Whitworth and Ben Wilkerson. Niswanger redshirted his freshman year after being very highly recruited, but once he took the field he made a quick and significant impact at LSU. He played every OL position during his time as a Tiger but primarily played guard and center. Not only did he serve as a solid lineman, he represented the LSU community well as he maintained a 4.0 GPA in kinesiology/pre-med and served as a volunteer in the community. Niswanger was awarded the inaugural Danny Wuerffel trophy for being a great football humanitarian, and with the prestigious Draddy trophy, which is known as the “Academic Heisman.” He was also a winner of the SEC Football Scholar award and a 2nd team All-SEC player. Rudy was rewarded for his on-field play by being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs where he played from 2006-2010. Currently, Niswanger is the CEO of Joe Gear Companies and resides in his hometown of Monroe, Louisiana.

Updated Heisman odds were published from BovadaLV yesterday, and Leonard Fournette was listed with the best odds at 9/2. If Fournette does, in fact, win the prestigious award, he’d be just the second Tiger to win it, joining LSU Legend Billy Cannon, who won the Heisman in 1959.

In closing, I wanted to share this very good article from Cody Worsham of Tiger Rag. In it, Cody writes about Collis Temple, Jr. becoming LSU’s first African-American basketball player, his life after LSU, and his two sons who are former Tigers, Collis Temple III and Garrett Temple.

Stay tuned, as tomorrow we’ll continue our series on statistical trends and observations, as well as our countdown to LSU’s season opener vs. Wisconsin.

6/30/16 5:55 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

My family and I are still going strong in San Antonio. With all the walking we’ve done in the last two days, I suspect we’ll need some post-vacation R&R when we return home at the end of the week. For those asking about pics, I’ll be sure to post a few sometime this weekend. Now for your daily dose of Tiger News…

In case you woke up this morning wondering who won the College World Series last night, you should know that the final game between Coastal Carolina and Arizona was postponed. After being delayed for more than two and a half hours, it was decided that the game would be played today at noon CT. The game will be televised by ESPNU 

In other baseball news, it was announced that Todd Walker, one of LSU’s greatest college baseball players of all-time, will be inducted into the Omaha College Baseball Hall of Fame on July 3rd in Omaha, Nebraska. Walker, who was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009, played second base for the Tigers from 1992-1994, was a two-time First-Team All-American, and a two-time member of the College World Series All-Tournament team (1993, 1994). As a sophomore, Walker led LSU to its second National Championship in 1993, earning the CWS Most Outstanding Player award, batting .350 (7-20) with three home runs and 12 RBI. When he left LSU, Walker was the SEC all-time leader in hits (310), RBIs (246), runs scored (234) and total bases (557). Walker played 12 seasons in the Major Leagues, posting a career-best .316 batting average in 1998 with Minnesota and batting .280 or better during seven of those seasons. Joining Walker in the Omaha College Baseball Hall of Fame is the all-time MLB home run hitter Barry Bonds, Keith Moreland and Ron Fraser, who Skip Bertman coached under when Bertman was an assistant at the University of Miami from 1976-1983. 

Sticking to the diamond, David Pierce has resigned as Tulane’s head coach to become the head coach at the University of Texas. The reason I bring this up is due to the fact that LSU’s Andy Cannizaro, a former Tulane baseball player who led the Green Wave to the 2001 College World Series, is one of the leading candidates to take the head coaching job. In fact, Kendall Rogers, a D1Baseball Analyst, tweeted that Tulane should “look extremely hard” at Cannizaro as its next head coach. Rogers did also note that Southeastern Louisiana’s Matt Riser, who has gone 119-61 in three seasons as the Lions’ head coach, is an obvious candidate as well. Losing Cannizaro would be a big blow for the Tigers, as he has greatly improved LSU’s hitting and base stealing the past two seasons. After hitting .287 with just 49 stolen bases in 2014, Cannizaro helped LSU improve to .314 with an outstanding 130 stolen bases in 2015, and this past season, despite losing seven position players, the Tigers managed to hit .295 with 95 stolen bases. I would expect Tulane to make a decision within the next week or so.

Now, with 65 days remaining until LSU football’s season opener vs Wisconsin at Lambeau Field on September 3rd, let’s continue our countdown to the start of the LSU football season by remembering last year’s No. 65 – Jerald Hawkins. A Baldwin, LA native who starred at West St. Mary High School, Hawkins (6'6", 305 lbs) was a three-year starter for the Tigers (2013-2015) after redshirting in 2012. Jerald started 37 games and helped produce 1,000-yard running backs Jeremy Hill (2013) and Leonard Fournette (2014 and 2015). After starting the previous two seasons at right tackle, Hawkins showed his versatility by switching to left tackle in 2015. Starting 11 of LSU’s 12 contests last year, he played in 754 offensive snaps, playing every snap in seven of those contests. Hawkins was a key member of an offensive line that dominated in the trenches by leading the SEC with 256.8 yards per contest. That was 33.2 yards per game more than the second place team (Tennessee), and Hawkins and the O-line also were a big reason why Leonard Fournette obliterated single season rushing records in yards (1,953) and touchdowns (22), doing it in just 12 games. In his final college game, a 56-27 bowl victory over Texas Tech, Hawkins and the offensive line dominated the Red Raiders’ defense to the tune of 638 yards.

Hawkins decided to forgo his senior season and was drafted by the Pittsburg Steelers in the fourth round of the 2016 draft as the 125th overall pick. I know I speak for Tiger fans everywhere when I wish him a long and prosperous NFL career.

One last tidbit on football: Although nothing is official yet, former LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings is in the early stages of transferring to the UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. Jennings, who is best known for subbing in for Zach Mettenberger and leading LSU to a game-winning 99-yard drive in LSU’s 31-27 victory over Arkansas in 2013, was the Tigers’ starting quarterback in 2014 before losing the job to Brandon Harris prior to the start of the 2015 season. If Jennings is able to graduate at LSU later this summer, he would be a graduate transfer, meaning he would be eligible to play immediately. I wish nothing but the best for this young man and hope he has success wherever he goes.

Before closing, I want to remind everybody to not miss tonight’s special edition of SEC Storied on the SEC Network. “The Walk Off”, which documents Warren Morris’ amazing game-winning home run in the 1996 College World Series over Miami, premieres at 8 p.m. CT. Here’s a great article on many backstories related to that walk-off homer. 

Stay tuned, as tomorrow we’ll resume our series on LSU football statistical trends and observations, as well as our countdown to LSU’s season opener vs. Wisconsin.

6/29/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

San Antonio Vacation update: To all of you who recommended La Fogata for some off-the-beaten-path authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, muchas gracias! It was an excellent way to conclude the evening after a long but enjoyable time at SeaWorld.

Before turning to Part 3 of our LSU football statistical trends and observations and our countdown to Game Day, we’ll cover a few topics in baseball, football and even non-LSU sports.

First, I wanted to express my condolences to the family of Pat Summit and the Volunteers nation, as the world lost a great leader and person yesterday when Coach Summit (1952-2016) passed away after a five year long battle with early onset Alzheimer’s. Besides being the winningest coach in D-1 Basketball history (1,098 wins) and winning eight National Championships, every single student-athlete on Summit’s Vols’ teams graduated college, and I think that speaks volumes about the type of coach and person she was.

Turning to baseball, congratulations are in order for Antoine Duplantis, who was named a Freshman All-American by Perfect Game. Duplantis (.327 batting average, two homers, 39 RBI, 45 runs, and 13 stolen bases) is very deserving of the award after starting all 66 of LSU’s games this past season. With veterans Greg Deichmann, Kramer Robertson, Cole Freeman, and Beau and Bryce Jordan returning with younger talent like Duplantis, I am very excited about next year’s baseball team.

In football news, Dylan Moses caused a bit of a stir with some Tiger fans yesterday when he tweeted the five schools he’ll officially visit during the upcoming college football season and didn’t include LSU. While this may appear concerning on the surface, I am not worried one bit about it. Moses has visited LSU dozens of times already and knows the school, coaches and players very well. Considering the time he’s spent at LSU, especially lately, and the fact that he recently tweeted that he’d like nothing more than for LSU to win a football National Championship, I feel very good about the Tigers’ chances of landing this big-time recruit. The five schools Moses will visit officially are Alabama,  Miami, Texas, UCLA and Ohio State. I said long ago that I believe it will come down to a battle between LSU and Alabama for Moses’ services, and I still feel that way.

LSU Statistical Trends/Observations, Part 3:  Sacks

LSU’s number of sacks per game had steadily declined in the last four years before 2015. The Tigers had 38 sacks in 2011, 35 in 2012, 27 in 2013 and just 19 in 2014. With a more seasoned defensive line and linebackers group in 2015, LSU was able to play less zone defense and be more aggressive. The strategy worked as the Tigers were able to tally 34 sacks in just 12 games, which was more per game (2.83) than in 2011 (2.71). LSU was even better in SEC contests, recording 24 sacks in eight games (3.0 per game). Of course, a big part of the credit goes to D-line coach Ed Orgeron who was in his first season for the Tigers. This season, LSU should be even stronger in Dave Aranda’s 3-4 type scheme with senior Kendell Beckwith (3.5 sacks in 2015) at middle linebacker and Arden Key (5 sacks in 2015) and Tashawn Bower likely manning the outside linebacker positions. Duke Riley, Donnie Alexander, and Devin White will battle for the fourth linebacker position with the other two serving as key backups. Junior Davon Godchaux (6 sacks in 2015) is set to be the primary nose guard and seniors Christian LaCouture and Lewis Neal (8 sacks in 2015) will likely fill the defensive end positions. The new scheme, increased experience, and great talent at both the linebacker and defensive line positions make me optimistic that we’ll see a significant number of sacks again this season. LSU’s success in disrupting opposing quarterbacks will also depend largely on overall depth along the defensive line, as a big part of Coach O’s aggressive philosophy involves heavy rotation along the line to keep legs fresh. So Deondre Clark, Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron, Rashard Lawrence and Edwin Alexander will be vital to LSU’s success in applying pressure and sacking the quarterback in 2016.

With 66 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin at Lambeau Field on September 3rd, let’s continue our countdown to the start of the LSU football season by remembering a special Tiger who wore No. 66 – Alan Faneca. At 6-foot-5, 316-pounds, Faneca was a dominating offensive guard who earned freshman of the year honors in 1995 and All-American honors as a sophomore and junior, one of only ten LSU players to win multiple First-Team All-American honors. He also won the Jacobs Award, given annually to the best blocker in the SEC, and was one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s best collegiate interior lineman. Faneca chose to enter the NFL draft prior to his senior campaign and was picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round (26th overall) of the 1998 draft. After a very successful 13-year career in the NFL with the Steelers, Jets, and Cardinals, Faneca retired from pro ball on May 10, 2011, with nine Pro Bowl awards, eight All-Pro awards, and one Super Bowl title. He was also named a member of the 2000s all-decade first team. In his first year of eligibility in 2016, Faneca was not selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I am confident he will be selected in the near future.

One more tidbit about Faneca: In recognition of weight-related health issues suffered by many retired football players, Faneca went on an extreme weight loss regimen that involved a lot of running and lost over 100 pounds. In February of 2014, Faneca successfully completed the New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Marathon with a remarkable time of 3:56:17, an average of nine minutes per mile. Not bad for a former 300-pound linemen, is it? Faneca is now retired and living in McLean, Virginia. 

Here’s an interesting football article from James Smith of nola.com. Smith writes about five possible roster changes for LSU this upcoming season. and there’s at least one (Devin White to running back) that I would find very surprising.

Before closing, I wanted to share this article for all the hungry LSU basketball fans out there. In it, Scott Rabalais of The Advocate explains that despite the loss of Ben Simmons, LSU’s expectations for the 2016-2017 are high with five juniors led by forward Craig Victor returning as well as super sophomore Antonio Blakeney. The Tigers also bring in a solid freshman incoming class, which includes University Lab’s Skylar Mays and Wayde Sims, Lee College’s (Baytown, TX) Branden Jenkins and Duop Reath and Sydney, Australia’s Kieran Hayward.

 

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