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1/8/19 5:30 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Today seems like a good day to lead with a word on hoops from DandyDon contributor Jake Martin. After that, we’ll continue our football series on areas where LSU needs to improve in order to take the next step, and then we’ll close out with a little on the coaching carousel.
The LSU men’s basketball team will enter league play riding a three-game win streak tonight against an Alabama squad that just knocked off Kentucky. Behind Tevin Mack’s six 3-pointers, the Crimson Tide defeated No. 13 Kentucky, 77-75, last weekend and are riding a wave of confidence. The Tigers certainly hope to start league play in similar fashion. What’s awaiting the Tigers tonight is an Alabama team that’s won five straight contests, but perhaps the most intriguing facet of this game will be the game within the game: the battle in the paint. Despite LSU’s improved size (thanks to an incredible recruiting class), the Tigers rank only ninth in the league in rebounds per game. That’s a credit to just how good the SEC is. And Alabama is top-six in the conference in rebounds thanks to the likes of Donta Hall, who has improved his 6.6 rebounds per game a year ago to 8.3 this season. Like last season, Hall is also averaging two blocks per contest, so LSU will face a much different opponent this week than they did against an undersized UL-M squad the Tigers most recently beat.
But how does LSU look heading into this game? The excitement is certainly there with Tremont Waters returning to form with his league-leading steals (3.2 per game), while a new cast of characters like Marlon Taylor and Naz Reid excite the crowd with alley-oop dunks and impressive isolation scoring, respectively. LSU is top-six in the conference in scoring (81 points per game) and is third in the conference in field goal percentage (49%). LSU seemingly turned a corner in the last three games with Will Wade figuring out just how often to use Waters and how to make him effective both as a starter and as the first player off the bench. But the Tigers haven’t played since that 81-69 victory against the Warhawks on Dec. 28. Let’s see if LSU has to knock off a little rust against an Alabama team that’s already dipped its toe into SEC play. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. in the PMAC, and for those unable to go, the contest will be televised on the SEC Network.
Moving on to football, let’s resume our series on what LSU needs to do to go from a good season in 2018 to a great one in 2019. If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of the series (Offensive Line and Red Zone Offense), you can find them here.
AREAS WHERE LSU FOOTBALL MUST IMPROVE TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP
Part 3: Run Game
LSU’s running game succeeded despite a lot of doubts, but there were times it wasn’t effective enough for LSU to put opponents away. If quarterback Joe Burrow becomes more of a factor as a runner, this could change. I doubt Steve Ensminger wants him running 15 times a game, but something like 6-8 intentional carries would help the running backs perform better. It also wouldn't hurt to start working a speed back into the rotation in the mold of Darren Sproles, and TaeProvensis a good candidate for that kind of “change of pace” role. And as mentioned in the red zone category, LSU needs to find a designated power back to pick up the short yardage calls and goal line duty.
No running game can function without a good offensive line and LSU will have to be a lot better there. It's not just the starters, but the depth has to be good enough to push the starters and fill in when they're hurt. Having a second blocking tight end will help immensely as offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger has said he loves to use two tight ends to throw a changeup at the defense. Having Jamal Pettigrew back will help, but LSU needs to develop another blocking tight end, possibly incoming freshman Charles Turner. I think this will give LSU that more physical presence Coach Ed Orgeron said he wanted from his running game as he waved goodbye to Matt Canada.
But the thing that should make the most difference in LSU’s run game – in 2019 and beyond – is the addition of an outstanding tandem of elite in-state running backs, John Emery (5-11, 210) and Tyrion Davis-Price (6-1, 230). Emery is a five-star prospect who is rated higher by the national recruiting services than any LSU running back since Leonard Fournette, and that includes Derrius Guice. Davis-Price isn’t far behind. There’s certainly no guarantee that these true freshmen can come in and surpass the likes of Clyde Edwards-Helaire,LanardFournette, TaeProvens, and Chris Curry, but the running back position is one where it’s not unusual to see true freshmen make significant impacts. Considering the extreme talent level of these two backs, we’re expecting nothing less.
Stay tuned for at least two more installments in this series, which we’ll get to in the coming days.
Speaking of running backs, here’s a great, heartfelt message from one who earned the respect of Tiger Fans and will be greatly missed next season, Nick Brossette.
A Letter from LSU Football's Nick Brossette
Growing up in Baton Rouge, I always dreamed of playing football for LSU. On February 4, 2015 my dream finally came true; I became an LSU Tiger. Throughout this journey, I have learned to persevere when my bother passed away, be patient when I tore my ACL, stay determined when I wanted to give up, and be courageous when others doubted me. My time here at LSU has made me into the man I am today. These moments of adversity have prepared me for the success I hope to have in the future. I would not be here without the support from my family and friends, but most importantly my mother, Rita, who showed me what real determination and sacrifice is.
While attending LSU, I have had a tremendous amount of support and love. I want to thank my coaches, training staff, nutritionist, and the Cox Academic Center for Student-Athletes for helping me be the best student-athlete I could be. Most importantly, I want to thank Tiger Nation, the state of Louisiana, and my alma mater U-High. I will be forever grateful for those individuals that helped me along my journey. I will always bleed purple and gold.
In other football news, defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko announced on Twitter that he’s returning to LSU for his senior season and encouraged Rashard Lawrence to do the same. “Thankful for coaches and mentors like @Coach_EdOrgeron,” he tweeted. “He’s leading this program in the right direction & I wanna be here for every minute of it. Can’t wait to have this man & the rest of LSU behind me for my senior season! P.S @Rashard_99 we got unfinished business. #ForeverLSU” Here’s hoping Lawrence heeds his advice, which I think would benefit Lawrence as much as it would LSU. Having both of those guys back would be huge for the Tigers. Players have until the 14th of this month to declare for the NFL draft.
As for the coaching carousel, there’s not much to report at this time. We mentioned last week that an Ohio State plane was in Baton Rouge and the assumption is that they were here to talk to Bill Busch and/or Corey Raymond about their co-defensive coordinator position. Since that time, things have been really quiet and we don’t know what came of that visit, though we’re keeping an ear to the ground. Another thing we’re monitoring is the Passing Game coordinator position. I say that simply because Coach Jerry Sullivan’s one-year contract expires on the 31st of this month. There’s also been some chatter of finding an on-field role for former Tiger Kevin Faulk, who’s currently serving as Director of Player Personnel. If anything develops on any of these fronts, we’ll be sure to let you know.
Lastly, congratulations to Clemson for putting a beating on Alabama and winning the national championship, 44-16. I’ve rarely been so happy to be so wrong with my prediction. It was awfully bittersweet, though, to see someone score that many points on Bama when we’ve scored only 10 on them in three years.
That’s it for now, folks. Have a great day.
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1/7/19 5:35 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
With no breaking news to report today, let’s jump right to our ongoing series on what LSU needs to do to go from a good season in 2018 to a great one in 2019. If you missed Part 1 of the series (Offensive Line), you can find it here.
AREAS WHERE LSU FOOTBALL MUST IMPROVE TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP
Part 2: Red zone
As good as Cole Tracy was at kicking field goals, his presence may have been part of the Tigers' problems in the red zone. LSU may have been a little bit timid when it crossed the opponents’ 20, knowing Tracy was almost automatic. But that's not the only reason LSU floundered to a 52 percent TD scoring rate in the red zone, 12th in the SEC and 119th in the nation.
One factor was the unit we talked about in Part 1 of the series – LSU’s offensive line. LSU has to be more physical in the trenches and keep from allowing penetration on first down. It also needs to be cut down on pre-snap penalties, something that should come as this unit matures and gels. Remember, LSU tried seven different personnel combinations in the first eight games of the season. Settling on a starting five early on and staying healthy should help considerably.
LSU was also hampered by not having a true second blocking tight end available to pair with Foster Moreau. Jamal Pettigrew would have been that guy but missed the season with an injury, and now the coaching staff has to find another to pair with him. They may have the guy they want in Charles Turner, who at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds played OL but has the athleticism to move. Pettigrew and Turner could also be weapons in the passing game from the TE spot, as could a healthy Thaddeus Moss. If LSU can avoid losing two TEs to injury again this offseason, this position group should help in the red zone.
What also would help is a true power runner, something rising sophomore Chris Curry or incoming freshman Tyrion Davis-Price might develop into. It's been a while since LSU hasn't had a “bruiser” in the backfield before this past season. They don't necessarily need another Leonard Fournette, just another Kenny Hilliard. Curry is listed at 219 but could easily carry 225 or 230. Davis-Price is listed at 223 but checked in at 230 in last week’s All-American Bowl. We might also see more runs by Joe Burrow on the goal line from option sets. Those are a nightmare to defend, especially when the QB is as tough and gritty as Burrow.
Also, LSU needs to develop one of these big receivers into someone who can work the fade pattern and win jump balls in the end zone. It seemed like LSU didn't try this near enough in 2018. LSU returns four receivers who are 6-foot-4 or taller: TE Pettigrew (6-7) and WRs Terrace Marshall (6-4), Dee Anderson (6-6), and Stephen Sullivan (6-7).
No doubt about it, red zone woes cost the Tigers a ton of points this year, but the good news is LSU seems to have all the pieces in place to show dramatic improvement there in 2019. Last season, Cole Tracy’s 33 field goal attempts were the third most in the nation. Here’s hoping his successor has far fewer opportunities in 2019.
Stay tuned for the continuation of this series. As always, your feedback is welcome.
A few quick-hitters to close:
• The Lady Tigers basketball team pulled away late in 63-52 win over No. 21 Texas A&M. LSU went on a 12-0 run in the final three minutes to ice the impressive win. Here’s the full recap by LSUSports.net. With the win, LSU improved to 10-4 overall and 1-1 in league play.
• Here’s a reminder that we are working on our list of Top Louisiana Prospects for 2020 and ask for your continued input. (Use our Response Form to nominate a Div 1 Louisiana prospect.) We usually start revealing the top 50 prospects in the third week of January and reveal our entire list on February’s National Signing Day.
• I hope you all enjoy watching this season’s final game of college football tonight at 7 p.m. CT (ESPN). If you’re like me, that’s a tricky proposition when it’s Alabama playing for its 18th national title and its third in four years. My Prediction: Alabama 38 Clemson 31. Prove me wrong, Clemson. I’d love it.
Lastly, remember that Instant Pot (pressure cooker) Venison Stew recipe I promised? I finally got around to adding it to our collection last night. If you give it a try, be sure to let me know your thoughts. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it as much as we all did.
This web site is not officially affiliated with Louisiana State University. Opinions expressed herein are the property of Donald Long, Scott Long and friends, not Louisiana State University.