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1/10/17 5:40 am CST

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Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Tigers win! Tigers win! No, there was no LSU game last night, but how about those Clemson Tigers! I don’t normally comment about a contest that doesn’t involve LSU, but man that was an exceptional game and I enjoyed every minute of it, especially the last two. In case you missed it, Clemson came from behind to defeat Alabama 35-31 on a go-ahead touchdown in the final seconds to earn the title of National Champions. College football, you will be missed for the next 235 days!  

Now on to our normal order of business…

How about this Louisiana weather? Just two days after wrapping pipes, bringing in plants and burning nearly all the firewood in my rack, today’s high will be a balmy 75 degrees and by Friday we’ll reach 80. What’s that have to do with LSU sports? Nothing really… except that weather like this gets me thinking of three things – gardening, fishing, and my favorite thing to do while enjoying those two time-honored pastimes, listening to LSU baseball. All of this is to say that baseball season is drawing near and I’ve got the fever so bad that I’ll lead today’s report with that topic. Don’t worry, we’ll touch on football, recruiting, the upcoming Recruiting Bash, basketball and gymnastics, too. Pour yourself a big cup of joe and let’s get to it. 

With 38 days until LSU baseball’s season opener against Air Force at the Box, it seems like the perfect time to introduce you to a player whose name you’ll likely hear a lot this season – No. 38 Zack Hess. I guess you can consider what I’m doing today as the start of a mini-countdown. I won’t be doing this on a daily basis, but every now and then I’ll write something about a player or fun fact related to the number of days remaining, kind of like we did each year before the start of football season. Anyway, back to Hess…

At 6-foot-6, 216 pounds, this hard-throwing freshman right-handed pitcher has all the tools to immediately challenge for a spot in the Tigers’ starting pitching rotation. Hailing from Forest, Virginia’s Liberty Christian Academy, where he posted a 7-1 record in his senior year with a 0.60 ERA, 110 strikeouts, and 11 walks in 58.2 innings, Hess was named a 2016 Perfect Game first-team All-American. The New York Yankees selected Hess in the 35th round of the MLB Draft, but he chose to put off his professional career and come to LSU instead. So what will the Tigers get in Hess? Well, here’s what Coach Paul Mainieri had to say about him: “Zack flashes two ‘plus pitches;’ his fastball which has been up to 96 mph and a wipeout slider that gives him the potential to be in the same conversation as Kevin Gausman, Aaron Nola, and Alex Lange by the time he finishes at LSU. We are so thrilled to see that Zack chose the collegiate route before starting his pro career. Tiger fans are going to love watching him pitch because of his intense focus and competitive zeal, which is very similar to the way Alex Lange carries himself on the mound.”

Speaking of Alex Lange, there’s some news to pass along there. Yesterday, Perfect Game released its 2017 All-American team and Lange made the second team. I was a little surprised that Lange didn’t make the first team and that he was the only Tiger to make any of Perfect Game’s three teams, but that doesn’t diminish my enthusiasm for this team one bit. With eight of nine position starters returning, plus a pitching staff featuring 10 veteran pitchers including starters Lange and Jared Poché and closer Hunter Newman, not to mention a star-studded class of newcomers including Hess and others, this team has all the talent to warrant it’s No. 2 preseason ranking by Collegiate Baseball.

Turning to football, LSU received some good news yesterday when wide receiver DJ Chark announced that he is returning to LSU for his senior season. This is great news for the Tigers, not only because LSU will be losing senior Travin Dural to graduation, but because Chark really emerged as one of LSU’s greatest playmakers this past season. After not logging a single reception in his first two seasons, Chark recorded 26 this season, led the Tigers in yards per catch(17.9) and tied for the most touchdown catches with three. Chark also demonstrated his speed and athleticism on several big end-around jet sweeps, a play new offensive coordinator Matt Canada is known to be especially fond of. 

Two other notes about Chark’s announcement: In the tweet he used to deliver the news (which you can see here), Chark stated that he reached the decision after long conversations with his family, as well as his “magnificent mentor and coach, Coach (Dameyune) Craig.” He also implied that he would wear the No. 7 by ending his tweet with “#7.” In the last ten years, this number has been worn by All-American Tiger greats Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Leonard Fournette. 

The Tiger staff and Tiger nation now await the decision of fellow receiver Malachi Dupré. Draft-eligible underclassmen have until January 16 to declare for the draft.

In recruiting news, there’s another linebacker to add to the list of LSU targets I published yesterday. He’s not a new target at all, as LSU has been recruiting him for a while. His name is Tyler Taylor and he’s an inside linebacker from Buford, GA. The reason I’m bringing him up now is I’ve learned that he will be visiting LSU on January 20th. At this time, Taylor’s leaders appear to be Georgia and Oklahoma, though you never know what could happen once he visits Baton Rouge. 

Before leaving the topic of recruiting, I have some info to share with you about this year’s Recruiting Bash which takes place on National Signing Day (Feb. 1). Unlike the last few years, this year’s Bash will be at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel Atrium. I’ve posted the entire “flyer” that was sent to me here. Price for General Admission is $15, but that does not get you food and drink. (Food and Beverages available for purchase with General Admission Ticket.) VIP Tables for ten are available and the price of the table includes food and beverages. See flyer for all the details.

In gymnastics news, LSU is the No. 1 team in the nation after earning a team score of 197.825 in Friday’s season-opening win over No. 9 Georgia. Unlike in football, baseball and basketball rankings, which are subjective, gymnastics rankings are based on a team’s overall season average for the first few weeks of the season before switching to the regional qualifying score (RQS). The Tigers’ score last Friday was the best season-opening score in school history, beating out the previous best of 197.200 set in 2014 against Centenary. The 197.825 was also the highest score by an NCAA team this early in the season in at least the last 20 years. LSU has now been ranked No. 1 eight times in school history. Last season, the Tigers were ranked No. 1 after defeating preseason No. 1 Oklahoma in the season opener, which, by the way, was the first and only meet that my family and I attended. As exciting as it was, I can guarantee it will not be the last. The Tigers return to action for their first road meet of the season at 7:30 p.m. CT Friday, Jan. 13 against No. 4 Alabama. The meet will be televised live on the SEC Network and fans can also stream the meet on WatchESPN.com.

In basketball news, Coach Johnny Jones met with the media yesterday and spoke about his team. Jones said he’s excited about the way the team has played on offense, though some adjustments are needed there, but said his team must do a better job of playing with a sense of urgency on defense. I think anyone who’s watched the Tigers play this season would agree with that. Jones said he feels like the team can get done what needs to get done and that the talent is there. When asked if Craig Victor could come back next season, Jones said: “No, Craig has made his last bounce.” Victor was dismissed from the team for a yet undisclosed violation of team rules. The Tigers return to action tomorrow at Texas A&M for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. 

Two tidbits in closing:

• Tickets to the annual Wally Pontiff Classic at Zephyr Field in New Orleans are now on sale. LSU’s opponent this year is UL-Lafayette and first pitch is scheduled for around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11. Tickets can be purchased online via Ticketmaster or by calling 504-734-5155.

• If you enjoy these daily doses of Tiger news and haven’t yet contributed to our annual fundraiser, I hope you will consider doing so today. There’s no better way to show your appreciation than by donating to our fundraiser. Thanks in advance for your support.

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1/9/17 5:50 am CST

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Good morning, Tiger Fans,

With National Signing Day just a little over three weeks away (Feb. 1), today we’ll take a look at LSU’s class and how it might end up. The Tigers’ 2017 class currently contains 19 commitments and is ranked No. 7 in the nation according to 247Sports. Two SEC teams are currently ranked higher than LSU – Alabama at No. 1 and Georgia at No. 3. Finishing in the top-5 of the rankings is great and something a program should always strive for, but as I’ve written before, and as my late father “Dandy Don” Long used to often say, where you finish isn’t nearly as important as how well you meet team needs. In today’s report, we’ll take a look at LSU’s needs by position and I’ll give you a few general predictions on how things might play out. 

LINEBACKER

Current Commitments: (1) After losing a commitment from Monty Rice last week, LSU only has one linebacker in this year’s class – Patrick Queen of Livonia. This is especially concerning since LSU only signed two linebackers last year and none the year before.

Targets: LSU’s top two linebacker targets with Louisiana roots – Dylan Moses and Chris Allen – both committed to Alabama. As an early enrollee, Moses has already moved in at Alabama and is obviously a lost cause for LSU, but Allen is not. In fact, I’ve been hearing very encouraging things about LSU’s chances of flipping the former Southern Lab star. The Tigers also have several out-of-state linebacker prospects on their radar including three who have already scheduled visits. Ellis Brooks of Richmond, Va. is visiting a week from today, Willie Gay of Starkville, Miss. will visit the following weekend, and Nick Smith of Orlando, Fla. will visit the last weekend before Signing Day. Then there’s also Oklahoma commit Jacob Phillips of Tennessee. Phillips has already taken all of his official visits, but the staff is trying to line up an unofficial visit for him and his family. Someone else to watch is pass-rusher extraordinaire K’Lavon Chaisson of Houston, though he is technically listed as a weak-side defense end and will be listed below in that category.

Prediction: (+3) The Tigers needs to add at least two more linebackers to this class, preferably three. I feel the most confident about LSU’s chances with Gay, followed by Allen and Phillips. As for Brooks and Smith, we’ll know more about where things stand with them after their visits. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see another target or two emerge between now and signing day.

RUNNING BACK

Current Commitments: (1) LSU has a commitment from one running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire of Catholic High (Baton Rouge). The Tigers also have a commitment from fullback Tory Carter of Leesburg, GA, but for this write-up, I’m only considering tailbacks. LSU would be fine at running back next year regardless of what happens from here on out with the class, but really needs to sign two this year for the future’s sake.

Targets: LSU’s primary target was Cam Akers of Clinton, Miss., but since his recent commitment to Florida State, LSU has turned its attention to in-state four-star Travis Etienne of Jennings. Etienne is currently scheduled to visit LSU on the last weekend before Signing Day. Another dark horse candidate to keep an eye on is four-star Todd Sibley, who is currently committed to Matt Canada’s old team, the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Prediction: (+1) I look for Etienne to commit when he visits LSU later this month, and he would be a great addition to this class. For what it’s worth, last year at this time when I requested input for our list of Louisiana’s top 2017 prospects, Etienne was recommended by far more than any other player. 

DEFENSIVE LINE

Current Commitments: (4) LSU has commitments from tackles Tyler Shelvin of Notre Dame (Lafayette, La.) and Neil Farrell of Mobile, Ala., as well as ends Aaron Moffitt of Catholic High (Strength coach Tommy Moffitt’s son) and Justin Thomas of Spanish Fort.

Targets: LSU would like to add at least two more D-linemen, with five-star Marvin Wilson of Houston being LSU’s biggest target. Right up there with Wilson is Louisiana’s own elite DT, Phidarian Mathis of Neville. As for defensive ends, LSU is still in the hunt for DE/LB hybrids Chaisson (mentioned above in the LB part) and Markeviest Bryant of Cordele, Ga. 

Prediction: (+2) I’m cautiously optimistic about LSU landing both Wilson and Mathis, which would give LSU one of its best DT hauls ever. There’s also a decent chance LSU lands either Chaisson or Bryant, with Chaisson currently being the most likely. 

WIDE RECEIVER

Current Commitments: (2) LSU currently has commitments from Stephen Guidry of Hinds CC (the top-rated JUCO WR in the country) and Manny Netherly of Crosby, Texas. 

Targets: With senior Travin Dural moving on and the future of juniors Malachi Dupré and DJ Chark in question, LSU needs to add at least one more WR to this year’s class. The Tigers’ biggest remaining target is Davonta Smith of Amite, the No. 1 player on our list of Top LA Prospects, and he’ll be visiting LSU this coming weekend. Other targets are Marlon Williams of Mobile, Ala., who is currently committed to USC but will also be visiting LSU this coming weekend, and Louisiana’s own Racey McMath of Edna Karr.

Prediction: (+1) At this time, I’d have to say Alabama leads for Smith, but LSU is very much in the picture and could sway things in the Tigers’ favor during his visit. If LSU doesn’t end up signing Smith, look for LSU to land McMath. Actually, depending on how numbers shake out at other positions, I wouldn't be shocked to see LSU take McMath even if they land Smith. 

OTHER

Current Commitments & Targets: With two solid quarterbacks, four solid offensive linemen, one cornerback and two of the best safeties in the country already in this class, not to mention athlete Jontre Kirklan who projects as a cornerback and return specialist, the Tigers would be fine even if they only concentrated on the four positions we’ve already covered above (LB, RB, DL, WR). But if the Tigers are to add anyone outside of those positions, the top target would be safety Todd Harris of Plaquemine. Two other in-state prospects to watch are athlete Justin Harris of East Ascension, who could play TE or DE, and cornerback Cheyenne Labruzza of Albany. Another player who I’ve been hearing some chatter about is TE Jake Paulson of Louisville.

Prediction: (+1 or 2) I think Justin Harris ends up in this class. Of course, if Todd Harris wants on board, LSU would certainly make room for him despite already having two outstanding safeties committed. if LSU ends up needing to add a body, LaBruzza would be a strong candidate. 

Earlier I stated that LSU would likely sign 26 players in this year’s class, so you might notice that my numbers above don’t add up. I’m now hearing that LSU could possibly sign 27 or 28 players depending on whether a player or two decides to take a gray shirt. My predictions would add 8 or 9 commits to LSU’s current class of 19. What I’m thinking is that just about every year there’s an academic casualty or a last-minute loss in recruiting, and I wouldn't expect this year to be any different. When it’s all said and done, this will be a very solid top-5 recruiting class that does an outstanding job of meeting team needs.

Before leaving the topic of recruiting: I want to remind you that we’re working on our list of Top LA Prospects for 2018. If you know of an in-state D1 prospect who you would like for us to consider listing, please let me know. I would especially like to hear from LA high school football coaches who have top prospects on their teams. Stats and video links are encouraged and appreciated. We’re shooting for having our list ready for publication by the end of the month. 

Moving on to women’s basketball, LSU improved to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in the SEC with a thrilling 53-52 win at Arkansas. The Lady Tigers rallied late in the game and took their first lead, 52-51, with just 8.2 seconds remaining. Here’s how those final seconds went: Arkansas’ Malica Monk hit a free throw to tie the game at 52 and then LSU called a timeout with 2.7 seconds left. Alexis Hyder was fouled before LSU could toss the ball in and was sent to the line with the score tied, 52-52, with 2.7 seconds remaining. After missing the first shot, she hit the second to give the Tigers a 53-52 lead. On the final possession of the game, Chloe Jackson deflected the ball on a three-point attempt to secure the Tigers’ win. For more on the game including video highlights, see this article on LSUSports.net. Next up for the Lady Tigers is a home contest against Missouri on Jan. 12. Missouri is 11-6 overall; 1-2 in the SEC after losing to Alabama yesterday on a 3-pointer at the buzzer. 

Today’s closing tidbits:

• In this article, The Advocate writes that SEC athletic directors voted last month to give the league commissioner’s office broader authority to reschedule postponed games. This is obviously a direct response to the controversy that surrounded this past season’s LSU-Florida scheduling debacle. 

• The college football season has not officially ended but some 2017 predictions are already beginning to roll in. Yesterday, Athlon Sports released “A Very Early College Football Top 25 for 2017” and pegged LSU at No. 12. The Tigers were their second-highest ranked team from the SEC behind “you know who” at No. 1. Georgia checked in at No. 13 and Auburn at No. 14. Florida and Tennessee were No. 16 and No. 17, respectively. 

If you value staying up to date on LSU sports and recruiting with these daily doses of Tiger News, there’s no better way to show it than by donating to our fundraiser. Thanks in advance for your consideration.



 

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