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LSU vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field - September 3rd, 2:30PM
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6/27/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Grass is cut, garden is prepped, tomatoes are blanched, coup is cleaned and bags are packed. River City, here we come…

By the time most of you are reading this, my family and I will be on our way to a much-anticipated vacation getaway. Thanks to all of you who sent suggestions on what to see and do in the San Antonio area. Much appreciated! 

While I’m out this week, we’ll keep these reports rollings with a multi-part series on LSU football statistical trends and observations, which we’ll begin today, as well as our countdown to Game Day.  Then, if there are any other newsy bits to touch on (you know there will be!), my buddy Mark will cover them so that we don’t miss a beat.

LSU Football Statistical Trends and Observations:

Part 1: Rushing Offense, Run to Pass Ratio

After having increasingly heavy run-to-pass ratios in 2012 (60/40), 2013 (62/48) and 2014 (69/31), the Tigers actually ran the ball a smaller percentage of time last season (64/36) than they did the year before. But, when you look deeper into the stats, you see that a higher percentage of throws doesn’t necessarily equal a more effective Tiger offense.


In LSU’s three November losses last season, the Tigers passed the ball 53% of the time. Against Alabama (54 rushing yards) and Arkansas (59 rushing yards), the Tigers were forced to pass due to an ineffective running game. In the loss vs. Ole Miss, LSU did run for 184 yards, but two interceptions and a fumble ultimately forced the Tigers to pass more in that contest. Things were vastly different in LSU’s nine wins as the Tigers relied heavily on the run and passed the ball only 30% of the time. Of course, some of that had to do with eating up the clock late in the game with handoff after handoff. LSU averaged a robust 309.4 yards per game in those victories, but when the Tigers faced teams that were tougher against the run, they were forced to turn to their passing game and came up short. In my opinion, this can be attributed, in large part, to not having utilized the short to intermediate passing game enough early in the season.

With a seasoned offensive line, one of the best stables of running backs in the country led by Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette, and a still somewhat unproven quarterback, it could be tempting to lean very heavily on the run game early this season, but I think that would be a mistake. LSU should look to establish a strong passing game early if for no other reason than to help prepare Brandon Harris and the receivers for later in the season when they face tough running defenses like Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas. A successful aerial attack early on, particularly in the short to intermediate passing game, would give LSU’s offense a valuable boost of confidence and give future opponents a reason to think twice before stacking the box. 

Now, a quick note about our countdown before jumping to it:  If you are one of our early morning readers, you’ll get a strong sense of déjà vu when reading today’s countdown topic. That’s because yesterday morning I got my days mixed up and mistakenly posted the following write-up instead of the one I was supposed to use for No. 69. At about 6:50 a.m. I realized the error and posted the correct write-up. Sorry about that!

With 68 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin, let’s continue our countdown by looking at a special 68-yard play that helped set the tone for a historic win. I’m referring to Cedric Donaldson’s 68-yard interception return in the Tigers’ 28-21 victory over No. 1 Florida in 1997. After an excellent Kevin Faulk punt return and subsequent Herb Tyler option TD, Florida’s QB, Doug Johnson, threw an interception that Donaldson returned 68-yards all the way to the Florida 7-yard line. Tommy Banks scored from there to give LSU a 14-0 lead less than halfway into the first half. Even after Florida evened the score at 14, Donaldson returned an interception 31 yards for a TD and 21-14 lead. Mark Roman intercepted Johnson on the ensuing Florida drive, and Herb Tyler had his second TD of the game to put LSU in command at 28-14. After a Florida TD and subsequent LSU punt, Florida still had a chance to tie the game, but Raion Hill picked off Doug Johnson and LSU was able to run out the clock and come away with its only  home win over a No. 1 ranked team in school history. For a reminder of what a special game that was, check out these video highlights

Since I didn’t leave you with any Sunday morning coffee reads yesterday, I’ll make up for it today with a few very good links. 

The first two come from The Advocate’s two-part Q&A with LSU baseball coach Coach Paul Mainieri. In Part I, Mainieri addresses the question about whether he overachieved this year, the lack of an established fourth starter, Nolan Cain’s third-base coaching, and more. In Part II, Mainieri looks ahead to next year and dishes out some good information about incoming freshmen who could help shore up LSU’s bullpen. 

And in this article by Tiger Rag, editor Cody Worsham recounts the story of LSU legend Pete Maravich’s remarkable freshman season that was nearly lost to history. 

Lastly, I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange with a few new listings.


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6/27/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Grass is cut, garden is prepped, tomatoes are blanched, coup is cleaned and bags are packed. River City, here we come…

By the time most of you are reading this, my family and I will be on our way to a much-anticipated vacation getaway. Thanks to all of you who sent suggestions on what to see and do in the San Antonio area. Much appreciated! 

While I’m out this week, we’ll keep these reports rollings with a multi-part series on LSU football statistical trends and observations, which we’ll begin today, as well as our countdown to Game Day.  Then, if there are any other newsy bits to touch on (you know there will be!), my buddy Mark will cover them so that we don’t miss a beat.

LSU Football Statistical Trends and Observations:

Part 1: Rushing Offense, Run to Pass Ratio

After having increasingly heavy run-to-pass ratios in 2012 (60/40), 2013 (62/48) and 2014 (69/31), the Tigers actually ran the ball a smaller percentage of time last season (64/36) than they did the year before. But, when you look deeper into the stats, you see that a higher percentage of throws doesn’t necessarily equal a more effective Tiger offense.


In LSU’s three November losses last season, the Tigers passed the ball 53% of the time. Against Alabama (54 rushing yards) and Arkansas (59 rushing yards), the Tigers were forced to pass due to an ineffective running game. In the loss vs. Ole Miss, LSU did run for 184 yards, but two interceptions and a fumble ultimately forced the Tigers to pass more in that contest. Things were vastly different in LSU’s nine wins as the Tigers relied heavily on the run and passed the ball only 30% of the time. Of course, some of that had to do with eating up the clock late in the game with handoff after handoff. LSU averaged a robust 309.4 yards per game in those victories, but when the Tigers faced teams that were tougher against the run, they were forced to turn to their passing game and came up short. In my opinion, this can be attributed, in large part, to not having utilized the short to intermediate passing game enough early in the season.

With a seasoned offensive line, one of the best stables of running backs in the country led by Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette, and a still somewhat unproven quarterback, it could be tempting to lean very heavily on the run game early this season, but I think that would be a mistake. LSU should look to establish a strong passing game early if for no other reason than to help prepare Brandon Harris and the receivers for later in the season when they face tough running defenses like Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas. A successful aerial attack early on, particularly in the short to intermediate passing game, would give LSU’s offense a valuable boost of confidence and give future opponents a reason to think twice before stacking the box. 

Now, a quick note about our countdown before jumping to it:  If you are one of our early morning readers, you’ll get a strong sense of déjà vu when reading today’s countdown topic. That’s because yesterday morning I got my days mixed up and mistakenly posted the following write-up instead of the one I was supposed to use for No. 69. At about 6:50 a.m. I realized the error and posted the correct write-up. Sorry about that!

With 68 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin, let’s continue our countdown by looking at a special 68-yard play that helped set the tone for a historic win. I’m referring to Cedric Donaldson’s 68-yard interception return in the Tigers’ 28-21 victory over No. 1 Florida in 1997. After an excellent Kevin Faulk punt return and subsequent Herb Tyler option TD, Florida’s QB, Doug Johnson, threw an interception that Donaldson returned 68-yards all the way to the Florida 7-yard line. Tommy Banks scored from there to give LSU a 14-0 lead less than halfway into the first half. Even after Florida evened the score at 14, Donaldson returned an interception 31 yards for a TD and 21-14 lead. Mark Roman intercepted Johnson on the ensuing Florida drive, and Herb Tyler had his second TD of the game to put LSU in command at 28-14. After a Florida TD and subsequent LSU punt, Florida still had a chance to tie the game, but Raion Hill picked off Doug Johnson and LSU was able to run out the clock and come away with its only  home win over a No. 1 ranked team in school history. For a reminder of what a special game that was, check out these video highlights

Since I didn’t leave you with any Sunday morning coffee reads yesterday, I’ll make up for it today with a few very good links. 

The first two come from The Advocate’s two-part Q&A with LSU baseball coach Coach Paul Mainieri. In Part I, Mainieri addresses the question about whether he overachieved this year, the lack of an established fourth starter, Nolan Cain’s third-base coaching, and more. In Part II, Mainieri looks ahead to next year and dishes out some good information about incoming freshmen who could help shore up LSU’s bullpen. 

And in this article by Tiger Rag, editor Cody Worsham recounts the story of LSU legend Pete Maravich’s remarkable freshman season that was nearly lost to history. 

Lastly, I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange with a few new listings.

6/26/16 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

We’ll start this report with more great news on the recruiting front: LSU landed another 4-star wide receiver, its second in as many days, when Jhaman Ausbon (6-2.5, 217, IMG Academy) gave his verbal pledge to Tigers. Ausbon chose LSU over Texas A&M and several other offers including Auburn, Michigan and Baylor. With his pledge, the Tigers’ 2017 recruiting class now contains 14 commitments and is up to No. 5 in 247Sports’ National Team Rankings. Ausbon transferred to IMG Academy from Houston’s St. Thomas High and was long believed to be a strong lean to Texas A&M before LSU turned up the heat at its recent Houston satellite camp. From what I understand, new LSU wide receiver coach Dameyune Craig was highly instrumental in landing not only Ausbon, but both of LSU’s other four-star wide receivers in this class – Mannie Netherly, who committed Friday, and Stephen Guidry, the No. 1 ranked JUCO receiver who committed to LSU back in May. Suffice it to say that Craig wasted no time in living up to this reputation as a great recruiter. One thing that makes Ausbon’s commitment even more noteworthy is that he is friends and teammates with safety Grant Delpit (6-3.5, 181) who is expected to announce his school of choice at The Opening in a few weeks and is believed to be leaning to LSU. 

To see for yourself what kind of receiver LSU will be getting in Ausbon, check out these very impressive video highlights.

Sticking to the topic of football, we recently completed our series ranking LSU’s seven position groups but didn’t include anything on special teams. So, today I’ll give you my brief thoughts. Obviously, last year’s special teams left a lot to be desired. Punt and kickoff return coverage was particularly atrocious as the Tigers were dead last nationally in average yards allowed per punt return (18.91) and 44th in the nation in average yards allowed per kick return (20.36). Whether they will be better in this area is a big unknown, and an important one as well. Kickoffs were also an issue for the Tigers last year, as LSU was unable to find someone to consistently kick the ball deep. Cameron Gamble returns and I’d like to think he’ll be better with a year of experience under his belt, but if he’s not we might see the likes of true freshman Connor Culp, who kicking guru Chris Sailer describes as having one of the strongest legs in the nation. Another big question mark is at the punting position. With Jamie Keehn gone, LSU will turn to it’s third consecutive Aussi punter in Josh Growden. Having never seen him punt in a game situation, it’s hard to know what to expect, although I’ve heard nothing but positive things about him. Where LSU should be improved is at punt and kick returns with TréDavious White, Derrius Guice and Donté Jackson returning, as well as at extra-point and field goal kicking with senior Trent Domingue set to resume that duty. All told, it’s hard to say whether LSU will be significantly improved on special teams, but considering the Tigers’ struggles there last year, I would bet they will. 

With 69 days remaining until LSU’s season opener vs Wisconsin at Lambeau Field on September 3rd, let’s look at a great special teams play from last season. I’m referring to TréDavious White’s 69-yard punt return for a TD in the Tigers’ 34-24 win at Syracuse. While special teams really struggled in 2015 for the Tigers, this was one special teams play that was a huge difference maker in a game that shouldn’t have been as close as the final score, especially considering Leonard Fournette ran for 244 yards in the contest. One big reason LSU was unable to run away with the contest was due to 120 yards in penalties, which included a false start that negated an 87-yard scoring run by Fournette. With White returning as a senior, will he continue the punt return duties? Could sophomore speedster Donte Jackson take over the job, assuming he regains academic eligibility over the summer? Whoever it is will need to be able to have explosive plays like this one to help give LSU the advantage in close contests. Many would consider last season to be Les Miles’ worst at LSU in terms of special teams’ performance as a whole, but given his track record of producing solid special teams plays in his previous 10 seasons at the helm, I am optimistic that we will see many big plays in 2016 that will help LSU contend for the SEC title.

Today’s closing tidbits: 

• Congratulations to legendary Voice of the Tigers Jim Hawthorn for being inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame last night. Without a doubt, Jim is very deserving of the honor.  

• Also, hats off to Coastal Carolina for advancing to the College World Series finals with a second consecutive win over TCU last night. The Chanticleers sure have proven a lot of people wrong, haven’t they? They’ll take on Arizona tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the first contest of the best-of-three championship round, and I’ll be rooting them on from San Antonio, though not necessarily watching ;) 

• Speaking of our San Antonio trip, we’ll be departing tomorrow right after I post my morning report. To those of you who enjoy reading DandyDon.com as part of your morning routine, rest assured that the daily doses will continue to flow without missing a beat. My friend, Mark “The Shark” Towery, will be keeping an ear to the ground and helping out with the writing to minimize the time I have to spend “working” while away.

6/25/16 5:50 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

We’ll start today’s daily dose with a little disappointing news on the baseball front regarding LSU pitcher Jake Latz. After signing with LSU as part of its top-ranked 2014 class and being sidelined for nearly two years because of a persistent elbow injury that delayed his LSU debut until April of this year, Latz has now decided to transfer. LSU announced the news in a press release last night, quoting Coach Mainieri as saying he was surprised to learn of Latz’s decision. No reason for his departure was revealed, nor was his future destination. You might recall that Latz was drafted in the 11th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014 and turned down a reported signing bonus of about $900,000 to attend LSU, and it’s really sad that things didn’t work out for him as a Tiger. It’s also a big loss to LSU, as Latz is the fourth player, and the third pitcher, from that highly-heralded class to leave the school. In a surprise move, pitcher Mac Marshall left for JUCO shortly after signing and then Jake Godfrey left after his freshman season. Infielder Grayson Byrd also transferred after one year with the Tigers. After showing great potential in his limited action this season, Latz was expected to vie for a role as one of LSU’s three weekend starters next season. When you couple that with the loss of Riley Smith to the pros this year, the outlook for LSU’s pitching staff next year doesn’t look nearly as strong as it did a couple of weeks ago, and it could take a bigger hit should junior Jared Poché decide to go pro. Poché was drafted in the 14th round by San Diego and has until July 15 to sign with the Padres. 

In football recruiting news, LSU picked up its 13th commitment for 2017 yesterday when wide receiver Mannie Netherly (6-2, 183) of Crosby, Texas, gave his verbal pledge to the Tigers. Netherly is the young man who at one time was pledged to Texas A&M but then de-committed after Aggie wide receiver coach Aaron Moorehead made some remarks on Twitter that Netherly interpreted as disrespectful to former Aggie QB commit Tate Marshall and all players going through the recruitment process. Now, the four-star wide receiver has chosen LSU over offers from Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and several other major programs, giving LSU two outstanding receivers in this class. The other is fellow four-star prospect Stephen Guidry, the No. 1 ranked JUCO wide receiver in the country. To see what makes Netherly such a highly-regarded prospect, check out his athletic moves and impressive speed in these video highlights. With his pledge, LSU’s 2017 class is currently ranked No. 6 in 247Sports’ team rankings

Sticking to the topic of football… while serving as a camp counselor at the Manning Passing Academy, LSU quarterback Brandon Harris made a couple of comments yesterday that have received a lot of media attention. “I really do feel like I have the best arm in college football, and I feel like I have the best team in college football,” the junior quarterback reportedly told media members covering the event. Naturally, comments like those turn heads and get people talking. My take? Well, I’m reminded of something my father used to say, “Confidence is 80% of the game.” I agree with that saying and value confidence, especially in a quarterback, although I think confidence is always best when coupled with humility. Today, at 46 years of age, I feel like those kinds of statements are better quietly proven with action rather than spoken publicly, though I might not have felt that way 25 years ago. Still, it’s good to know that Harris believes in himself and his Tiger teammates. Another interesting comment came when Harris was asked which newcomer has impressed him the most. According to Ross Dellenger of The Advocate, the first name out of Harris’ mouth was Drake Davis. You might recall that the 6-foot-4, 215-pound wide receiver out of IMG Academy garnered a lot of attention in May when he posted a video of himself making insane dunks on the basketball court, and then again earlier this month when he ran a blazing 4.38 40-yard dash at LSU. I think it’s safe to say Davis is one young Tiger who will be a lot of fun to watch the next three or four years.

Now let's move on with our countdown to LSU’s season opener against Wisconsin, which is 70 days away, by looking at two great LSU offensive linemen who wore No. 70 – Ciron Black and La’el Collins. Both men decided to return to LSU for their senior seasons with expectations of being high first round picks, only to see things take a drastically unexpected turn. Black played at LSU from 2005-2009 and was part of the 2007 Championship team. At the end of his junior season, Black was projected to be a first-round NFL pick, but he decided to return to LSU to get his degree and benefit his team. I greatly admire his decision, but it ended up being a costly one as he suffered a knee injury in the November 7th game against Alabama. The injury proved to be severe enough to keep him out of the pro ranks. Likewise, in 2014, La’el Collins decided to return to LSU for his senior season with hopes of being a high first-round draft pick in the 2015 draft, and up until the week of the draft, it appeared that things would go as planned. Of course, that’s when the tragic murder of his former girlfriend, Brittney Mills, and her unborn son threw his world into a tailspin. Because Collins was wanted for questioning in the murder investigation (although he was never officially deemed a suspect), teams were fearful to take a chance on him and he went undrafted. As most of you know, Collins ended up striking a free-agency deal with the Dallas Cowboys worth a fully guaranteed $1.7 million, but that pales in comparison to the $13 million deal he was expecting as a first round pick. Of course, the biggest tragedy in all of this often gets overlooked. That is, two innocent lives were lost and the murderer responsible for the tragedy is still at large. Collins did have a very successful rookie season, starting 11 games for the Cowboys and earning a starting position. To recall what a force Collins was as a Tiger, you can checkout these video highlights from his draft profile.

Stay tuned as tomorrow we’ll continue this countdown and I’ll also give you my brief thoughts on LSU football’s 2016 special teams since I didn’t include that unit in our position rankings earlier this week.

I’ll close out today’s update on a personal note: Recently I asked for your prayers for my Aunt Rose Long who underwent brain surgery and then my Uncle Berk Ardoin (my Parrain) who underwent bypass surgery. Many of you have asked for an update on their conditions, so I thought I’d give you one now. I’m happy to say that Aunt Rose’s surgery was a success, though her battle is far from over. As for Parrain, his surgery appeared successful at first, but he’s since learned that infection remains in his bones and things are not looking good. By the time most of you are reading this, I’ll be on my way to see him in Baton Rouge. I ask that you please continue to keep both of them, as well as their families, in your prayers.

 

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