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1/10/18 5:30 am CST
First, thanks to all of you who voted in our poll yesterday asking whether Steve Ensminger is the right choice for LSU’s OC position. With more than 10,000 votes cast, 40% said: “Absolutely not.” Next, with 23% of the vote, was “No, but LSU could do worse.” About 7% chose “I don’t know” and 21% said LSU’s offense would be in good hands, though Ensminger was not their first choice. Roughly 9% gave Ensminger a full endorsement by voting “Yes, Ensminger brings tons of experience, did well last year in a difficult situation, and would only get better with his own offense.” Bottom line interpretation: The numbers amount to roughly two out of every three voters (63%) feeling that this would be a bad decision, 7% undecided, and 30% viewing the potential decision as one that could be positive.
As for me personally, I stated long ago that I think very highly of Ensminger and believe he’s a very good OC, even though I do not think promoting him for the position is the wisest decision for Orgeron. That said, I would love to see O and E prove all the doubters wrong and they very well could do just that. I keep reminding myself that Ensminger brought significant improvement to the offense in 2016 in a very difficult situation without the benefit of a spring to install his own offense. He earned Tiger Fans’ respect, and I hope you’ll join me in giving him your support if he is indeed chosen for the job.
So what other staff changes can we expect for LSU football? Well, as alluded to in an earlier report, we can expect Jerry Sullivan to have an elevated, full-time role after serving as a WR consultant last year. I would expect his title to be something like WR Coach and/or Passing Game Coordinator. If so, we could see current WR coach Mickey Joseph slide over to Ensminger’s former spot as TE coach. When the retirement of Pete Jenkins was announced, Dennis Johnson moved over from his outside linebacker coaching position to become DL coach, which leaves another vacancy. From what I understand, instead of hiring an assistant specifically for outside linebackers, we could see LSU add a secondary coach who will focus on the safety position. A name to keep in mind as a potential candidate to fill that role is Daronte Jones. He’s currently serving as the Miami Dolphin’s DB coach but worked with Dave Aranda at Wisconsin in 2015. My brief research on him suggests that he’d be a great hire. Other new faces on the 2018 staff will be offensive line coach James Cregg (who replaced Jeff Grimes), and whomever Coach Orgeron hires as Special Teams Coordinator in the coming days. That person is widely expected to be analyst Greg McMahon.
In other football news, Donté Jackson has declared that he’s leaving early for the NFL draft. Jackson joins fellow cornerback Kevin Toliver, OT Toby Weathersby and edge rusher Arden Key as LSU players who have announced that they will bypass their senior seasons and go pro. These four match last year’s total of early departures, and there will almost certainly be one more as Derrius Guice has yet to announce his plans. As for Jackson, his departure leaves LSU’s cornerback position somewhat thin. Greedy Williams returns to man one cornerback spot, and he’ll be joined by cornerbacks Jontré Kirkland, Kary Vincent, Kristian Fulton and, perhaps, Xavier Lewis. I say “perhaps” because Lewis missed several games at the end of this past season and his status is uncertain. Obviously, this leaves LSU in need of adding some cornerbacks in this year’s class, something it did not do in the early signing period. The good news is that LSU appears to be in good shape to sign a pair of highly regarded cornerbacks in five-star Patrick Surtain and four-star Mario Goodrich, both of whom will be visiting this weekend. As for other draft-eligible Tigers, they have until the 15th to declare their intentions. As a projected first-round pick, Guice is widely expected to go pro. The ones to watch are center William Clapp and guard Garrett Brumfield. LSU’s O-line is set to be a team-strength if they return, but losing if them would be a big blow.
Turning to basketball, the LSU men’s team likely won’t top last week’s thrilling victory at Texas A&M, but the Tigers can improve to 2-1 in conference play tonight with a road victory against Arkansas. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Longtime basketball fans understand Arkansas is one of the most difficult places to pick up a road victory on the court. What makes matters more difficult is that this Razorback team is one of the more athletic squads in the SEC. That athleticism hasn’t produced winning results in conference play, though. After the Hogs beat a ranked Tennessee team at home, Arkansas struggled on the road and suffered defeats against Auburn and Mississippi State. One of the reasons the Hogs lost to Mississippi State was the uncharacteristic play of point guard Jaylen Barford, who hit just four of his 15 attempted shots in that contest. For most of the year, Barford has been a highly efficient guard who’s actually third in the SEC in scoring. So for those wanting to see a good point guard matchup, here’s a game featuring two of the best in conference play. How LSU’s Tremont Waters follows that heroic performance against Texas A&M will be something to watch. And not only that, but this game features two of the top four scoring offenses in the conference. Arkansas is actually first in the conference with 88.5 points per contest. The Tigers showed great poise and rebounded from a Kentucky loss with a road victory against an Aggie team that was missing some key pieces. Can the Tigers take another mature approach on the road after one of the program’s biggest victory in the last two decades? Tune in at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network to find out.
Anyone else ready for some LSU baseball? At this time of year, with football season officially over and seed catalogs already arriving in my mailbox, I begin to get a bad case of spring fever. Of course, it doesn’t help that preseason baseball honors start rolling in as well. Just yesterday, it was announced that LSU sophomore outfielder Zach Watson has been named to the 2018 Perfect Game third-team preseason All-America squad. Third team? Really? C’mon guys. I’ll go on record now as saying I think Watson is better than that. Watson earned Freshman All-America and Freshman All-SEC honors last year after hitting a team-best .317 with nine doubles, three triples, and nine homers. He also led the Tigers in NCAA Tournament play by batting .333 with five homers and 10 RBI. The Tigers ranked No. 10 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll, begin practice on January 26 (16 days!), and LSU opens the 2018 season on February 16 versus Notre Dame at the Box. Bring it on!
That’s it for today. Tune in tomorrow for the latest football happenings and a recap of LSU’s big road game in basketball. And remember, if you appreciate these daily doses of Tiger news, there’s no better way to ensure their future than to donate to our annual fundraiser.
1/9/18 5:25 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
According to The Advocate, Ed Orgeron plans to name Steve Ensminger as LSU’s offensive coordinator in the coming days, barring any last minute snags. In today’s report, we’ll take a quick look at the pros and the cons of this potential decision, and then I’ll ask for your opinion on whether you think it’s a good idea.
• Coach Orgeron and Steve Ensminger have each other's utmost trust and know what it’s like to work with one another. Plus, Ensminger’s work ethic is second to none and there’s no doubt he would give it his all.
• Tons of experience: In Ensminger's 35 years of coaching, he’s held the title of Offensive Coordinator at McNeese State, Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M, Clemson, and Auburn before manning the interim OC role for LSU last year.
• A former LSU QB himself, Ensminger is known as a good developer of quarterbacks. He was one of the first to use the spread offense and did it with great success as quarterback coach at Georgia with QB Eric Zeier.
• For the most part, LSU’s offense came alive under Ensminger last year. In his eight games as LSU’s OC in 2016, the Tigers averaged 32 points per game and set multiple school records including the most yards in an SEC game (634 vs. Missouri) and the longest scoring play from scrimmage (Guice’s 96-yard TD run vs. Arkansas). They also set the school single-game rushing record on two different occasions (Fournette’s 284 yards vs. Ole Miss and Guice’s 285 yards vs. Texas A&M).
• Ensminger hasn’t served as a permanent offensive coordinator in 20 years and was reluctant to take the job before. Other than last year’s stint, he hadn’t called plays since 1998.
• Coach Orgeron took a relatively low salary and promised to hire the best of the best coordinators. If Coach O thinks so highly of Ensminger, one can question why he wasn’t his first choice when it came to hiring a permanent OC.
• Ensminger’s LSU offense was shutout against Alabama and scored only 10 points against Florida.
• This could be a PR nightmare. With a brutal schedule in 2019, fans wouldn’t be as forgiving of a four- or five-loss season as they would if LSU made a flashy hire. Also, opposing coaches on the recruiting trail will portray this as LSU taking a step backward after a failure of a situation with Matt Canada. Both points make this is a huge risk for Orgeron.
Now, without further ado, take a moment to voice your opinion by voting in our poll:
In other football news, two Tigers announced yesterday that they will bypass their senior season and enter the NFL draft. The first was cornerback Kevin Toliver II. Immediately after he tweeted the news, fellow junior cornerback Donté Jackson retweeted it with a line that said, “Go get paid bro,” which gives some indication of which way he might be leaning. Later in the day, offensive tackle Toby Weathersby announced that he too is entering the draft. Neither announcement was unexpected. In my opinion, each could have improved his draft status by returning for another season, though I’m always hesitant to judge one’s decision when it comes to these things without knowing his personal situation. Draft eligible underclassmen, including Jackson, Derrius Guice, Will Clapp, and Garrett Brumfield, have until the 15th to declare their intentions.
Sticking to the topic of football, freshmen early enrollees began reporting to LSU yesterday. There are many things to really like about the group of players LSU added in the early signing period, but one thing that hasn’t been talked about much is the fact that nine of the signees are early enrollees. These include WR Terrace Marshall Jr., OT Badara Traore, OG Damien Lewis, RB Tae Provens, TE Zach Sheffer, LB Micah Baskerville, DL Davin Cotton, DE Travez Moore and C Cole Smith. Getting a head start on the other signees by being able to participate in spring practice will be extremely valuable to all these guys, but especially to Marshall and Traore who stand a great chance of contributing from the get-go. I don’t have the data to confirm this, but the nine early enrollees seem to be the most LSU has had in several years (possibly forever). If I’m not mistaken, LSU had six in 2017, three in 2016, and four in 2015.
Speaking of freshmen, there are a couple of 2017 freshmen who continue to rack up honors - one in football and another in hoops:
• Greedy Williams added another honor to his long list of 2017 accomplishments by earning a spot on the Football Writers Association of American Freshman All-America team. Williams was also named third-team All-America by the Associated Press, first-team All-SEC by the media, and was a second-team All-SEC selection by the league’s coaches.
• In basketball, LSU’s Tremont Waters was named SEC freshman of the Week after averaging 19.5 points, eight rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals against 17th-ranked Kentucky and at No. 11 Texas A&M.
Turning to baseball, there’s some interesting news to report. One of the biggest questions looming since last year’s departures of Michael Papierski (MLB) and Jordan Romero (graduation) has been who will man the catcher position. Yesterday the answer to that question became a lot clearer when reports surfaced that freshman catcher Mason Doolittle has left the program. In this article by The Advocate, Coach Mainieri is quoted as saying that fellow freshman Hunter Feduccia clearly won the starting job this fall. He also stated that with Nick Coomes returning to action after hip surgery, and the development of Braden Doughty, there wasn't going to be much playing time for Doolittle. All this leads me to believe that LSU’s catcher position, once believed to be a major question mark, is in good shape. (17 days and counting until the start of baseball practice!)
A few closing tidbits:
• Here’s a great article by Tiger Rag’s Cody Worsham who says the future for LSU basketball is bright and the present is, too. I couldn’t agree more.
• Congratulations to the Alabama for winning its fifth championship in nine years in an outstanding game. To see the Tide win it while playing so many freshmen – and to see Nick Saban have such trust in his freshman backup quarterback – was impressive, scary, and downright depressing all at the same time. Then to see them score the winning touchdown with Louisiana’s top prospect from 2017, Amite’s Davonta Smith… well that was like a dagger to the heart. Tough, tough night for Tiger fans.
• Lastly, don’t forget to vote in our poll asking, “Is Steve Ensminger the right choice as LSU’s OC?” And after you vote, be sure to share the poll with your Tiger friends.
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