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LSU vs. Wisconsin - August 30, 2014 - 8:00 P.M. Kickoff (ESPN)
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7/24/14 5:50 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

It was great hearing from many of you yesterday about our series on LSU players who’ve flown under the radar, and about our countdown to game day. We’ll continue both of those in a moment, but first a quick word about recruiting.

LSU’s big “elite” football camp will get underway today and it’s shaping up to be an outstanding camp. I plan on taking some time off from my day job tomorrow morning to head out there and check out the action, and today I’ll be monitoring reports via twitter and checking in with a source who will be on-site. I’ve heard from a few of you who've asked if I expect LSU to receive any commitments during the camp. My answer is that chances are high, although I wouldn’t judge the camps’ success by the number of commitments garnered. Last year was LSU’s most successful camp ever, but they didn’t pick up any commitments during it. What they did, however, was strengthen relationships with a lot of elite athletes who committed later. This year, LSU will be looking to do the same with several highly regarded out-of-state prospects, and in-state sensations like Tyron Johnson (WR, 6-1, 180, Warren Easton, No. 1 on my list of Top Prospects) and Donte Jackson (ATH, 5-11, 175, Riverdale, No 10 on my list). Those two, along with Kirk Merrit (WR, 5-11, 206) of Destrehan and Jerry Tillery (OT, 6-7, 325) of Evangel, are our highest rated in-state talents not currently committed to LSU. Unfortunately, I have not seen any confirmation of Merritt attending the camp, and my best source has informed me that as of now Tillery, a Notre Dame commit, has no plans of being there, although LSU has been gaining ground with him.

Speaking of big-time in-state targets, here’s some encouraging news about 2016 quarterback Shea Patterson, the Arizona commit mentioned in yesterday’s report whose brother has reportedly left Arizona to take a job at LSU. As reported by NOLA.com, Patterson is in Louisiana this week for LSU’s camp and worked out yesterday with 2015 LSU commit Kevin Toliver. Nola.com posted two impressive videos of them working out which I’ve embedded in our media gallery. One of them shows Toliver doing an incredible 57” vertical “box jump.”

In baseball recruiting news, LSU has picked up a commitment from 2015 left-handed pitcher Nick Bush of Leesburg, Ga. From what I understand, Bush had an outstanding Summer with the East Cobb Astros 18U team and has a fast ball that touches the lower 90s. Back in March, Bush received “High Honorable Mention” honors by Perfect Game.

Now let’s jump back to football and continue our series on players who’ve kind of flown under the radar but could be big contributors this season. Today we look at a former high school All-American tight end who could be an important component in this year’s passing game.

DeSean Smith

The SEC is seemingly lacking in tight ends that can alter the game by their presence on the field in 2014. Auburn’s C.J. Uzomah and Alabama’s O.J. Howard could possibly develop into these type of players, but so far, they have yet to prove it on a consistent basis. The same could be said for LSU’s multiple tight ends, which include the immensely talented DeSean Smith. With the right growth from year one to year two, and Cam Cameron’s brand of tight end scheming, I fully believe Smith could be LSU’s version of New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. Spread him out wide, pick your matchup and devastate the defense. Smith’s outstanding speed and athleticism, combined with his height (6-4) make him an ideal “receiving tight end,” and if LSU does in fact utilize the tight ends more in the passing game, as Coach Cameron has suggested they will, Smith could be a difference maker.

With 37 days remaining before LSU’s season-opener against Wisconsin, let’s continue our jersey countdown 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 1969-1971, 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.

In closing, I want to pass along a status update on LSU freshman DT Trey Lealaimatafao who was hospitalized Monday after punching through a window at the LSU practice facility and severely injuring his left arm. According to reports, Lealaimatafao has been released from the hospital and is recovering well. There have been no details released about the extent of his injury or how it will affect his playing career, although a full recovery is anticipated.

7/23/14 6:00 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

A lot of Tiger Fans who follow recruiting are starting to get pumped about this week’s “elite” high school camp, which gets underway tomorrow. Over the years, summer camps have grown to become a very popular and important component of recruiting, and with good reason. The camps give the staff an opportunity to really get to know the players and see how they respond to coaching, interact with others, and compete against elite competition. This year’s camp will feature most of the state’s top talent and a slew of elite out-of-state prospects like Class of 2015 sensations CeCe Jefferson (DE, 6-2, 250, Glen Saint Mary, FL), Leo Lewis (LB, 6-3, 225, Brookhaven, MS), and others. The Class of 2016 will also be well represented with prospects like Louisiana’s own Willie Allen (OT, 6-8, 300, John Curtis), Edwin Alexander (DT 6-2, 310, Hammond) and Shea Patterson (QB, 6-2, 195, Calvary Baptist).

Speaking of Shea Patterson (the quarterback who is currently committed to Arizona but was offered by LSU last week), CoachingSearch.com is reporting that LSU offered his older brother, Sean Patterson, a position on the LSU coaching staff, and that he has accepted. Sean Patterson was previously working with the Arizona staff. Interesting, isn’t it?

In other news related to LSU football, Strength and Conditioning Coach Tommy Moffitt was interviewed on Baton Rouge’s ESPN 104.5 Morning Show yesterday and spoke highly of the team’s condition. Moffitt stated that the team reported to summer workouts in the best shape of any group he’s had, and that’s saying a lot. He also dished out praise for several players, including freshmen wide receivers Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre. According to Moffitt, Dupre recorded a 42-inch vertical jump, and Quinn is pushing almost 22 MPH in the sprint, which he said is in line with the fastest time Odell Beckham, Jr. moved in any game last season.

That kind of praise for Quinn and Dupre make me more eager than ever to see them in action this fall, but another wide receiver who I’m expecting big things from this year is the topic of today’s ongoing series on players who have kind of been flying under the radar. Let’s get right to it…

Travin Dural

Dural entered last season with some nice hype after showing off his athleticism during fall practice, but once the season began it was the Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. show. Dural had to bide his time behind the best receiving tandem in the country, but the time he spent rubbing elbows with those two, while also gaining experience against SEC defenses, will be a big plus for him this season. Come August, it will be Dural’s turn to be “the man.” With talented young receivers like Quinn, Dupre, and Tony Upchurch alongside him (not to mention fellow veterans Quantavious Leslie, Avery Peterson, John Diarse and Kevin Spears), he’ll really have to bring his A-game to remain at the top of the depth chart. In my opinion, it can’t be understated how badly LSU needs Dural to blossom into an efficient deep threat. With a new quarterback under center, it’s safe to assume that Leonard Fournette, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard are going to be given the rock quite often. Defensive coordinators know this and they’ll put together schemes to shut LSU’s running game down, and that’s where LSU’s passing game comes in. Dural is talented enough to give the Tigers a true experienced weapon on the outside and his outstanding leaping ability will make him a favored red-zone target. If he proves his worth and LSU can sprinkle in some young, aggressive receivers opposite him, LSU’s offense could be a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Next up in this series of players who haven’t received a lot of preseason hype is a talented tight end who could also be a big threat in the passing game. As they say, stay tuned.

Let’s close out today’s update with our countdown to game day, which is 38 days away, by giving a shout-out to a great Tiger who wears No. 38 on the current team – Jamie Keehn. Hailing from Miners Rest, Australia, Keehn was a national champion javelin thrower and rower in high school, but never played a down in football. In fact, he had never taken a snap in a competitive football game until the 2012 season-opener vs. North Texas when he stepped in for an injured Brad Wing. Later that year, Keehn saw action in the last game of the season when he again filled in for his Aussi counterpart who was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl game against Clemson. Last year, Keehn had the punting duties all to himself, and showed great promise, averaging 41.05 yards per punt. While Keehn is well known for his exceptional leg, what he is less known for is his exceptional character. A few weeks ago I mentioned that Keehn was nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and mentioned all the good works he has been associated with as a Tiger. Later that day, I received an email from a reader who shared with me the story of his son, a 15-year-old cancer patient, being visited by Keehn at the St. Jude Clinic in Baton Rouge. Not only did Keehn spend valuable time with his son at the clinic, he also gave him a tour of the athletic complex, introduced him to coaches and players and gave him the encouragement needed to keep fighting the battle. The young man’s father who shared this story with me concluded it by saying, “You are correct that it's not often that we hear about stories of young men who are doing the right thing in college athletics.  Jamie never sought the spotlight or recognition for any of the things he's done with my son.  He did it because he wanted to make a difference.”

A few tid-bits in closing:

• LSU baseball’s Kramer Robertson has been named as the starting second baseman for the Western Division team at the 2014 Cape Cod League All-Star Game. Robertson is the fifth LSU player to be selected for the game which will take place Sunday at 6 p.m. in Bourne, Massachusetts. As mentioned in previous reports, the other four are Conner Hale, Mark Laird, Chris Chinea and Andrew Stevenson. 

• Yesterday LSU gave the media a tour of the new Tiger Stadium south end zone expansion, including the the suites and club areas, and produced this video of the tour which I’ve added to our Media Gallery. Technical note: The movie is in Flash format and therefore is not viewable on iPhones and iPads. 

• Lastly, I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange with several new listings.

7/22/14 6:00 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

I regret having to start today’s update with the news of LSU freshman defensive lineman Trey Lealaimatafao suffering a serious arm injury after punching through a glass window in the LSU weight room. According to reports, Lealaimatafao was upset after having an argument with his girlfriend and punched the window that separates the weight room and the indoor practice facility. His arm went right through the glass and his bicep was reportedly slashed down to the bone. Lealaimatafao was quickly taken to an area hospital for treatment. As of now, I don’t know the extent of the damage. Here’s hoping and praying for Lealaimatafao’s quick and full recovery.

Now turning to brighter news on the baseball front, yesterday LSU officially announced the hiring of Andy Cannizaro as the Tigers’ hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. A lot of you have asked me how I feel about this, and I’ll tell you: I think it’s a home run hire. Everyone I’ve spoken to who knows Cannizaro, and everything I’ve read about him, indicates that he is a man of high intelligence and integrity who is greatly respected throughout the baseball profession. He’s been around baseball all his life, has Louisiana roots, was an outstanding college and professional player, and is extremely well connected on the recruiting front having served as the Yankees scout for the past five years. While scouting for the Yankees, his territory was Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida panhandle, and Memphis. The only potential knock on him is that he doesn’t have a ton of coaching experience, but he does have some. During his professional career he worked as head coach of the Louisiana Knights (a U18 fall team consisting of 12 NCAA Division I players) in 2008, and as the East Coast Pro Showcase coach in 2013-14.

The hiring of Cannizaro, combined with the recent signing of the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation (which is a great testament to the recruiting skills of Javi Sanchez), has me extremely excited and optimistic about LSU’s baseball future. For more on Cannizaro and his hiring, be sure to read the following three press releases which I’ve posted in their entirety.

Andy Cannizaro Named LSU Recruiting Coordinator/Hitting Coach

Quotes from Coach Andy Cannizaro

Quotes from Coach Paul Mainieri

In other baseball news, LSU released its 2015 schedule yesterday. The schedule is probably among the toughest in Coach Mainieri’s time as a Tiger, mainly because of its harder than usual non-conference schedule. The Tigers will start the season with a three-game series against a very good Kansas team on February 13-15. A few other notable non-conference opponents include Boston College, Houston (whom they’ll play in Astros Minute Maid Park), Baylor, Nebraska, and UL-Lafayette.

In football news, Coach Les Miles fielded a ton of questions yesterday during 15 interviews with various ESPN programs. I was working and unable to follow the programming, but I did keep tabs on what was said via twitter and also heard from several of you about various comments made. What really got a lot of Tiger fans pumped up was Miles’ great comment to ESPN analyst and former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy. You may recall that McElroy recently dished out a lot of praise for Coach Nick Saban and seemed to give him all the credit for LSU’s ongoing success. Well, evidently that didn’t sit too well with Miles (understandably so). During yesterday’s Numbers Never Lie program, Miles said to McElroy, “I want to give you one point too, about winning. Winning is a thing that is inherent with how you were raised. It is something you carry with you for a lifetime. And to pretend that it is brought, or deposited, at a place.....and left.....it is not. It is always carried on by those participants and people that are there. Period. Just, in discussion.” Hats off to the “Mad Hatter” for addressing that situation perfectly. You can see a video of Les Miles’ response to Greg McElroy here.

Continuing on the topic of football, today we’ll start a new brief series on five veteran players who you haven’t seen on preseason watch lists or on the media’s preseason All-SEC teams, but who could have a big impact on LSU’s success. To me, these are players who have sort of flown under the radar for one reason or another. Some have been lurking in the shadows of former Tiger greats who have moved on, while others have been overshadowed by the hype surrounding LSU’s stellar class of freshmen. We’ll start the series today by looking at a powerful yet versatile fullback who should play a big part in LSU’s offensive success this year.

Connor Neighbors

Anyone familiar with LSU football knows that fullbacks are an important component of Coach Les Miles’ physical style of play. This year, starting fullback Connor Neighbors will be the driving force of that physicality, plowing over linebackers and assisting in pass protection. But a great LSU fullback has to be able to do more than just block, especially in Cam Cameron’s style of offense, and in 2013 Neighbors proved that he has soft hands and can turn it up field. (Remember his 52-yard reception against Kent State?) Neighbors, along with Melvin Jones behind him, will be essential pieces to LSU’s running game because of the important role the fullback plays within LSU’s offense. All of that aside, Neighbors is going to be just as important as a veteran player on an offense with fresh faces at quarterback, receiver and running back. Having Neighbors back there will only strengthen the overall presence of the inexperienced group, and Neighbors is a player who will do whatever he can to boost the confidence of his fellow players. He did so last season with Zach Mettenberger before the Tigers’ trip to Georgia. In the week prior to the game, Neighbors heckled Mettenberger and tried to hurl every insult he could at the quarterback in order to prepare him for the hostile crowd he would encounter in his home state. Mettenberger playfully called him a “great friend” for doing so. Neighbors is a man’s man in a violent game, and his value extends beyond thrashing and steamrolling linebackers on the field.

When we continue this series we’ll look at a player who had to bide his time last season but now finds himself in a position to be a huge contributor. Stay tuned, Tiger Fans.

As you can see from the countdown ticker at the top of this page, the first game of the season is only 39 days away. With that in mind, today we’ll continue our Countdown to Game Day by recalling a historic LSU game that took place in 1939. As stated in the wonderful book by Herb Vincent entitled “LSU Football Vault - The History of the Fighting Tigers,” LSU’s trip to Boston to take on Holy Cross on October 7, 1939 was the first time a team from the South used air transportation to get to a football game. It took two DC-3s and four stops along the way to get the Tigers to their destination, but once there, superstar Ken Kavanaugh was essentially all the Tigers needed to come away with a 26-7 victory. Kavanaugh scored four touchdowns in the game – three on pass receptions and one on an 80-yard interception return – and went on to earn co-SEC MVP honors that year. After the game, the Tigers took advantage of their newfound means of transpiration by stopping at the World’s Fair in New York before returning to Baton Rouge.

Reader Comments: Scott, I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but please pass it along to your readers who haven’t: Bar owner: Titans' Zach Mettenberger sucker-punched by Alabama fan


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