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9/11/17 5:25 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

It was great hearing from so many of you yesterday about LSU’s win over Chattanooga and my initial thoughts on the game. As promised, today I’ll share with you 10 of the many questions and/or comments I received that cover a wide range of topics, as well as my response to each. But before getting to that, here’s a quick word on the weekly polls.

After defeating UT-Chattanooga 45-10, the Tigers remained at No. 12 in the AP top 25 and moved up one spot to No. 11 in the Amway Coaches Poll. Other SEC teams in this week’s poll include Alabama (1/1), Georgia (13/13), Auburn (15/17), Tennessee (23/23) and Florida (25/25). LSU’s next opponent, Mississippi State, didn’t make the top-25 of either poll but did receive 37 votes in the Coaches Poll, which would put them at No. 30 if the poll extended that far.

DandyDon.com’s Monday Morning Mail Call: Post-Chattanooga Edition:

Reader Comments: Wow, what a change from a year ago! After 2 games, the Tigers look very impressive. I am still concerned about how the offensive line is going to match up with the likes of Alabama. After 2 games, how do you feel about Canada and his play calling when we get to the thick of the schedule? 

My Response: Thanks for your message, Fred. There certainly have been many things to like through the first two games, as well as several things to work on. Like you, I am concerned with the offensive line matching up with the likes of Alabama, not because of the way it has played so far, but simply because 1) it hasn’t yet been tested like it will, and 2) depth is an issue and November is still several weeks away. As for your question about Canada’s play calling, I really like what I’ve seen so far, though I do think he’ll need to mix it up more in the red zone and utilize more of the short-to-intermediate passing game than he did against Chattanooga. The good news is the staff and players insist that we haven’t seen nearly all of the playbook and that the best is yet to come.

Reader Comments: Last night before the game and all during the game was the first time ever in 30 years of watching LSU football that I saw so much excessive celebration, dancing, beating their chest, crossing their arms as if they are the man, and running up to the fans in the stands to get extra pats on the back. Don't get wrong, I believe in getting pumped and fired up before and during the game but last night I believe our Tigers were more interested in themselves and showboating. I was actually glad when they flagged #5 for unsportsmanlike conduct. I hope Coach O will do something to get more focus and a lot less showboating.

My Response: Mickey, you’re right that LSU must get a grip on penalties and it’s clear that Coach O knows this, too. Last night after the game, Coach O said that penalties “are a mindset” and that he’s not putting up with it anymore. Evidently, that’s a message he relayed at halftime because after committing 10 penalties in the first half, the Tigers committed only one in the second. I can’t help but believe that several of the early penalties had to do with emotions running high for the home-opener.

Reader Comments:  It seems Coach "O" has the team pointed in the right direction. Can you tell me how many Freshmen LSU played last night?

My Response: Thanks for your message, Tommy. I agree. As for your question, I don’t know an exact number of freshmen who played against Chattanooga, but it was a ton. I do know this: A total of 20 true freshmen have played so far, which is remarkable. Kary Vincent and Ed Ingram made their first starts in Saturday’s game, and three other freshmen – JaCoby Stevens, Tory Carter, and Mannie Netherly – saw their first action. I really don’t recall a freshman class making as big an impact as this one has this early in the season, and that certainly bodes well for LSU’s future.

Reader Comments: I continue to ask why do so many so-called LSU football fans evacuate Tiger Stadium at half time and leave basically an empty stadium in the 4th quarter? There are so many young players getting into the game in the final period, I'm sure they would love to play before a packed stadium. Plus, it was embarrassing when there a 4th quarter shot of the stadium and it was basically empty! That doesn't look great for recruiting. I'm sure opposing coaches will show that to young men considering LSU. There's no magic to Tiger Stadium when it's empty.  

My Response: AJ, I’m not about to question one’s fandom for leaving early, but this is a problem that really needs to stop. We talk about this topic every year, and it seems to be getting worse. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Some say it’s about traffic… or the ever-improving TV experience… or lackluster opponents… or the pre-game partying (nobody parties like Tiger Fans ;). Personally, I think it’s a combination of all of those factors, and the last two probably played a bigger than usual part in Saturday’s home-opener. Whatever the reasons, you’re right that it’s not a good look. 

Reader Comments: Gonsoulin kicks everything to the right. Have you noticed that? Even on PATs. You would think that could be fixed. Culp is straight as an arrow, but does not appear to have the leg strength of Gonsoulin. Culp came up short on his 47-yarder, not wide, and nailed a 45-yarder right down the middle. What do you think about a two-kicker system for short and long FGs, à la Culp and Gonsoulin?

My Response: Good observations, John. And don’t forget that Gonsoulin made a 53-yarder in a preseason scrimmage, which supports your idea of using him in long range situations. The bottom line is that the coaching staff knows these guys’ capabilities better than any of us observing from the outside and I’m sure they’ll do what’s best for the team. If that’s a two-kicker system, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. 

Reader Comments: QB Danny Etling was 8 of 14 for 227 yards. I am very happy for the big plays last night. I am cheering for him and his success but I can't help but be concerned that 3 of those completions were in double and even triple coverage. This won't work against legit defenses.

My Response: I hear you, Fred. Actually one of his completions – the 48-yarder to Chark –was thrown into quadruple coverage! There’s no doubt that Etling will have to be more careful about that, especially when going up against SEC defensive backs who won’t be at as big of a height disadvantage as the Mocs’ DBs were. He’ll also need to lead his receivers a bit more on the long balls as several were slightly under-thrown. With that said, I’ve been very impressed with Etling’s improvement, and even more so with the improvement of LSU’s receiving unit. 

Reader Comments: I am wondering why didn't they throw to the backs and tight ends on the middle and short passes. The long passes looked much better, but they could throw under the coverage. The line is learning to work together and that is good. I hope they will be ready for a good Mississippi State team.

My Response: Allen, if I hadn’t seen LSU target the running backs and tight ends a good bit in Game 1, I would be more concerned with the lack of short-to-intermediate passing game against the Mocs. I’m hoping that it was just a matter of LSU wanting to intentionally work on the long ball game and/or seeing something from the opponent they thought they could exploit. Either way, it worked out pretty well with 232 yards coming through the air as part of a balanced attack.

Reader Comments: Scott, I noticed Nick Brossette got in the game and ran pretty hard with some nice runs. I am concerned a little about LSU’s depth at running back beyond Williams. Question: At this point, we know the top 3 WRs are Chark, Gage and Dillion but based on what you have seen thus far, who do you think is the 4th best WR?

My Response: Thanks for your message, Stephen. I’m not concerned with depth at running back. Between Guice, Williams, Brossette and Edwards-Helaire, that’s an embarrassment of riches, if you ask me. As for who I’d pick as the 4th best receiver, at this point, I’d say probably Drake Davis, though I’m sure Stephen Sullivan and JaCoby Stevens would have something to say about that. With both positions – running back and receiver – there may be a shortage of experience but there’s no shortage of talent.

Reader Comments: It wasn't very long ago that you were consistently writing about how LSU had better sign some linebackers and soon. You were correct. We were in a bad way. We signed a couple that didn't pan out and a couple of 5 stars transferred. We had no future stars at LB. Well, 2 short years later and just look at us now. We have studs at LB and more wanting to come be a part of Dave Aranda’s outstanding defense. I think it's a great testament to Coach O and his staff for getting the top talent in the nation to come to LSU. They may not all be 5 stars, but this group of recruiters has the eye for talent. They can spot it in a 0 star to a 5 star. Just goes to show us what good coaching can do. I hope coach O stays at LSU for many years. He is good for the University, for the State of Louisiana, but most importantly, he is good for the Kids. 

My Response: Yeah, Mark, you’re right about the young linebackers. Recruiting of that position is clearly on the rise, but the group of newcomers that have impressed me more than any are the DBs. Guys like Greedy Williams, Grant Delpit, and Kary Vincent have all made big impacts. As my buddy Jake Martin tweeted, we're only two games in, but I feel this LSU secondary is the deepest it’s been since 2011. A similar statement could be made about the linebackers with freshmen like Tyler Taylor and K’Lavon Chaisson. The quality of freshmen across the board is a big testament to this staff’s eye for talent. And I feel the same as you about Coach O. 

Reader Comments: Scott, you wrote before about this being a transitional year with Coach O in his first full season and so many new coaches on offense. For the mail bag, I’d like to know your thoughts on the coaching staff through two games. 

My Response: Dan, some will point to penalties in the opener and in the first half of Game 2 and use that to discount coaching, but I’d say this team has been very well-prepared to play in each game. And that’s saying a lot when you consider the large number of freshmen who have played. I’ve rarely seen anyone out of position, everyone plays hard for the full 60 minutes, and I haven’t once noticed that confused glance to the sideline prior to the snap that we saw too often in previous years. Matt Canada’s game plans have been very different and very effective in each of the two games without showing too much, Danny Etling seems improved, and the new wide receiver coaching/consulting seems to be paying dividends. And what can you say about Aranda’s defense? I saw where LSU is currently first in the nation in run defense, fifth in total defense, and sixth in scoring defense. So, to answer your question, I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen so far from the staff. 

Reader Comments:  Your three-word description [sloppy, explosive, dominant] pretty much nailed it. I see a silver lining in the penalties. These guys seem to absolutely LOVE playing for Coach O. They are giving maximum effort and yes, they are a little out of control. However, the last defensive stand was proof of their mind set. This was a blowout against a weak opponent. Yet when they stopped them on 4th down, you would have thought that they had stopped Alabama on the goal line. How many times have you seen us sleep walk against a weaker team? Yes, we need to get it under control, and we will. I LOVE the effort of these guys. It looks like we have a whole team of Jamal Adams out there. I can't wait until next week and let's see what we have.

My Response: Well said, Ross. And great point about playing hard for a full 60 minutes.  Bring on the next one!

That’s it, for the Mail Call. Thanks to all who chimed in.

Closing Tidbits:

• Here’s YouTube user Chris Forester’s weekly video of every one of Danny Etling’s throws in the game. Good stuff.

• Since I didn’t leave you with any Sunday morning coffee reads, today I’ll leave you with a couple of good ones by The Advocate that maybe you can sneak in while at work ;)

From his mother's eyes: How Corey Thompson nearly gave up the game and overcame five surgeries to be LSU's sack man

LSU Film Room: How Drake Davis got so open, another Aranda scheme tweak, behind DJ Chark's punt return and more

Have a great day, Tiger Fans, and be sure to tune in tomorrow for Tuesday’s tidbits.


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9/10/17 1:29 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Sloppy, explosive, and dominant are three words that come to mind in describing LSU’s 45-10 win over Chattanooga last night. The sloppiness came primarily from 10 first half penalties and two missed field goals. The explosiveness came from five plays of 25 yards or more, including four through the air. The domination came from all sides, as the game was never really in question once the defense woke up early in the first quarter.   

Heading into the contest, we questioned whether the Tigers would rely primarily on the run, as they did in the opener, or showcase more of the passing game. As it turned out, LSU was much more balanced this time around – not in terms of run/pass attempts, but in terms of run/pass yardage. The Tigers amassed 222 yards on the ground and 232 yards through the air, which is about as balanced as you can get. Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams each ran for a pair of touchdowns while Danny Etling completed 8-of-14 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown in an impressive night. I know, eight completions aren’t a whole heck of a lot, but when five of them go for 25 yards or more, you have to be pretty happy with your passing game.

What I found most encouraging about LSU’s passing attack was seeing so many receivers make their mark for the first time. Sophomore Drake Davis scored his first touchdown as a Tiger on a 36-yard reception, while freshmen Jacoby Stevens and Stephen Sullivan each made their Tiger debut with a 27-yard catch. The emergence of these three receivers is not only encouraging but necessary in order for the Tigers to have enough depth to run four-receiver sets like Coach Orgeron has suggested he’d like to do.  

Stealing the show, of course, was senior DJ Chark who had three receptions for 103 yards and a big night on special teams. Chark returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown late in the first half and would have had two TD returns if not for a foolish block in the back penalty called on freshmen Todd Harris earlier in the game. 

Speaking of special teams, the game was a bit of a mixed bag for this unit. Throughout the week, a lot was said about LSU needing to find someone that could kick the ball through the end zone. Well, it looks like LSU might have found their guy in Cameron Gamble. Unfortunately, LSU’s field goal kicking woes continue. After re-opening the competition and awarding the responsibility to Jack Gonsoulin, he missed a 40-yarder in the second quarter. Next time around, LSU gave Connor Culp a try and he missed from 46 yards out. In the Tigers’ third and final field goal attempt, Culp delivered on a 45-yarder. Obviously, the team will have to find some consistency here, as 1-for 3 won’t cut it.   

On defense, the Tigers came out a little soft and had a bit of a wake up call when the Mocs marched down the field and scored a field goal on their first drive, but then settled in and were dominant, for the most part. Highlighting this group was senior middle linebacker Donnie Alexander who returned from suspension and tied his career-high with eight tackles. Alexander needed a night like that to help solidify his starting role after freshman Tyler Taylor was so impressive in the season opener. Other defensive standouts were freshmen defensive backs Andrez “Greedy” Williams and Kary Vincent. Williams intercepted his second pass in as many games and led the team with three pass breakups, while Vincent recorded his first pick as a Tiger. (Side note: Those two interceptions and a turnover-free night on offense gave LSU a turnover ratio of +2 on the night and +3 on the year.) Devin White also had a big night, recording a career‐best nine tackles to lead the Tiger defense, while sixth-year linebacker Corey Thompson had his second consecutive multi-sack game.

Here are the game’s video highlights and complete boxscore. 

Overall, this was a good win for the Tigers in what was essentially a tune-up game that turned out as expected. Matt Canada’s offense was very effective while once again not showing its full hand, and Aranda’s defense continued to assert its dominance despite giving up its first touchdown in 12 quarters. Just imagine how crazy good Aranda’s unit will be with the return of its two stars, defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence and pass rusher extraordinaire Arden Key. If LSU can shore up its kicking game and keep penalties in check, you’ll find me ending several Sunday morning reports with this familiar line: It’s a great time to be a Tiger!

That’s it for today, folks, but I invite you to email your comments and questions so that I can select a few to include in tomorrow’s Monday Morning Mail Call. 

Have a great Sunday! 


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