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1/11/18 5:30 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
It’s official, folks. Steve Ensminger is now LSU’s new offensive coordinator, the school announced yesterday with the following press release:
Former QB Ensminger Promoted to Offensive Coordinator
BATON ROUGE – Steve Ensminger, a former LSU quarterback and longtime assistant coach for the Tigers, has been promoted to offensive coordinator at his alma mater, head coach Ed Orgeron announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Orgeron will formally introduce Ensminger at a press conference at noon CT on Thursday in the Team Room at the LSU Football Operations Building. Thursday’s press conference will be streamed live on LSUsports.net/live and Facebook.com/LSUfootball.
Ensminger, widely regarded for his development of quarterbacks, spent the past eight years on the Tigers coaching staff from 2010-17. He served as offensive coordinator for the final eight games of the 2016 season when he called plays and directed an LSU offense that averaged 32 points and 465 total yards per game.
Ensminger elevated the Tigers offense into one of the top units in the Southeastern Conference over the final two months of 2016. LSU went 6-2 over the final eight games in 2016, scoring at least 35 points five times and topping the 500-yard mark on four occasions.
With Ensminger developing a game plan and calling plays, LSU set numerous records in 2016.
The list of LSU records broken in 2016 include:
• Total offense in an SEC game: 634 vs. Missouri
• Time of Possession: 42:33 vs. Missouri
• Longest run from scrimmage: 96 yards by Derrius Guice vs. Arkansas
• Rushing yards in game (set twice): – 284 by Leonard Fournette vs. Ole Miss; 285 by Guice vs. Texas A&M
Other noteworthy accomplishments for the Tigers in 2016 with Ensminger as the offensive coordinator include:
• 418 rushing yards vs. Missouri (most by an LSU team since 1976)
• 300-yard passer (Danny Etling) and 200-yard rusher (Guice) vs. Texas A&M – a first in LSU history
• 622 yards of total offense vs. Texas A&M – second most by LSU team in a true road game
Ensminger, who quarterbacked the Tigers to three bowl games as a player for Charles McClendon from 1977-79, has served as offensive coordinator at schools in the SEC, Big 12 and the ACC.
As stated in the release, Coach Orgeron will formally introduce Ensminger to the media today and we’ll have a full report on what was said in tomorrow’s update. It will be interesting to hear whether LSU conducted a national search to fill the position or if Ensminger was Orgeron’s clear choice all along. I say that because yesterday Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News tweeted: “Several sources tell me #USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin spoke to LSU about its offensive coordinator’s job last week but no deal could be reached.” It is unclear at this time whether Martin reached out to LSU or LSU reached out to Martin.
Yesterday afternoon, shortly after the official word on Ensminger, Derrius Guice announced that he is bypassing his senior season. Guice is a projected first-round pick in the draft and, as such, I can’t blame the young man for his decision. Guice announced the news with this classy 2.5-minute video. I know I speak for the Tiger Nation everywhere when I thank Guice for the memories and wish him a long and prosperous pro career. He will surely go down in Tiger lore as one of the best and hardest-running backs to wear the purple and gold. Guice’s NFL declaration was the fifth by an LSU underclassmen this year, with decisions from William Clapp and Garrett Brumfield still to come.
Turning to hoops… The LSU men’s basketball team followed up its impressive road win against Texas A&M with an even more impressive one against Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena. And really, this win wasn’t even close as LSU dominated the Hogs the entire game, led by double digits for 34 minutes, and won by 21 points, 75-54. The Tigers raced out to a big first-half lead and used ball movement and stout defense to frustrate an Arkansas team that ESPN’s BPI gave an 82 percent chance to beat the Tigers. Good thing the BPI prediction wasn’t as accurate as our Tigers on the court. Here’s how LSU got its second SEC victory, which, by the way, already ties last year’s conference win total.
LSU had no problems beating Arkansas’ press and actually converted a couple of easy baskets early on because of it. Tremont Waters had three quick assists in the first four minutes to give the Tigers the early lead it never relinquished. Duop Reath was the beneficiary on a couple of those, as the Tigers silenced the crowd and led 19-5 in the early goings. What helped LSU’s fast start was Arkansas’ cold shooting. The Hogs couldn’t buy a basket, making just three of their first 23 attempted shots. That’s not what we anticipated from an Arkansas team that entered this game with the most points per game in the conference. On the road, LSU played disciplined ball and looked fundamentally sound, while Arkansas made bonehead mistakes like turning the ball over on a simple inbound. That mistake led to a Skylar Mays 3-pointer that put the Tigers up 32-11. LSU shot 55 percent from the field in the half and went into the locker room with a 41-21 lead.
Two quick Tiger buckets to start the second half set the tone for the rest of the contest. Frustration in Fayetteville followed. A couple of questionable calls swung in the favor of LSU and Arkansas fans were so upset the officials asked security to eject someone from the crowd. Jaylon Barford heated up with a couple of 3-pointers and sparked a 7-0 run for Arkansas, but Waters split three defenders and answered with a beautiful fade-away teardrop to interrupt Arkansas’ momentum swing. Arkansas cut the deficit to 12, but an Aaron Epps 3-pointer followed up by a couple of beautiful setup passes by Waters generated an 11-0 run that put the game away.
Skylar Mays and Randy Onwuasor led the Tigers with 12 points each, while Waters scored eight points and had eight assists in the lopsided victory. Winning by 20-plus in a tough road venue like Arkansas’ should certainly demand more respect for LSU from mainstream media and fans alike.
LSU (11-4, 2-1) returns to action Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a home contest against Alabama and you’d better believe the PMAC will be rocking. If you can’t make it out there, tune in on the SEC Network.
In football recruiting news, LSU has added a walk-on transfer quarterback to its roster. His name is André Sale (6-2, 210) and he started seven games at Tennessee Tech last year. As an FCS transfer, he will have two years of eligibility beginning this year. I don’t know if it’s just this rash of negativity that has overtaken a part of LSU’s fanbase or a misunderstanding of how these things work, but I heard from a few people yesterday who saw this as a bad thing. Folks, this is a good thing. The young man is walking-on, which means he doesn’t count towards LSU’s scholarship numbers. Coach Orgeron has nothing to lose in allowing him to walk-on. LSU’s quarterback position is thin with only three scholarship quarterbacks (Myles Brennan, Lowell Narcisse, and Justin McMillan) and the Tigers recently lost walk-on QB Caleb Lewis when he transferred away. Even if the only thing Sale ever does is add a body for practice, he’s a very welcomed addition. Of course, he would become a bit more significant should LSU lose one of its current scholarship quarterbacks and/or if a scholarship quarterback is not added to this year’s class. Quarterback James Foster of Montgomery, Alabama, will be among a half-dozen major prospects visiting LSU this weekend. More on that hugely important group in tomorrow’s report.
• LSU extended an offer to 2019 four-star wide receiver Treylon Burks on Tuesday. Burks (6-3, 215, Warren, Ark.) has great size, 4.4 speed, and sticky hands, making him the second-highest ranked player in the state of Arkansas and one of the nation’s top wide receivers in the 2019 class. I spoke to his coach yesterday and was told that Burks loves LSU and was very excited about the offer.
• Here’s a piece by The Advocate outlining the settlement between LSU and former OC Matt Canada. The article states that the settlement “could be voided if the former offensive coordinator ‘interferes’ in the football program’s activities or if he ‘discourages’ players or staff in the transition to a new coordinator.”
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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.
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