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1/9/19 5:35 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

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There’s a lot of good news to get to today, starting with Jake’s recap of LSU basketball’s big win over Alabama to open league play. After that, several encouraging briefs on the football and recruiting fronts and a tidbit on the coaching carousel. Let’s jump to it.

The LSU men’s basketball team entered last night’s game against Alabama with 11 days separating the last time the Tigers played a game, but in LSU’s 88-79 thrashing of the Crimson Tide, the Fighting Tigers certainly didn’t shoot like it. With a 49 field goal percentage (67 percent from behind the arc), LSU recorded its first conference victory of the season while also disrupting a five-game win streak by the Alabama Crimson Tide. Here’s how the Tigers got off to a blazing 1-0 SEC start…

The name of the game in the first half was penetration, and Tremont Waters was the maestro. His penetration opened up outside shots by Tigers like Darius Days and an 8-0 run gave LSU an early 14-10 lead, which put LSU in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the contest. The question on everyone’s mind going into this contest was just how LSU would fare in the post against an Alabama team that bullied the Tigers at times last season. Well, LSU was right there step for step in rebounds with Alabama (Tide out-rebounded Tigers just 16 to 15 in the first 20 minutes). Kavell Bigby-Williams was a beast inside. He recorded five rebounds and two blocks in the first half alone. But LSU did most of its offensive damage from the outside. The Tigers were raining 3-pointers (8-of-10!!) with even Emmitt Williams getting in on the action and hitting his first trey of the season. Days and Smart had three triples each in the first half. The Tigers took a 43-28 lead into the half thanks to that hot shooting and physical play inside.

LSU was so dominant in the first half that Naz Reid didn’t even score a basket, and it didn’t affect LSU in the slightest. Reid got on the board with a poster dunk over an Alabama defender one minute into the second half, and that just so happened to give LSU a 19-point lead against an Alabama team that most recently knocked off Kentucky. You could argue for several different players as the MVP of the first half, but there’s no question Bigby-Williams was the man in the second half. His presence inside was the difference in this game. He finished the game with 14 points and 13 rebounds, but most of LSU’s second-chance points in the half came because of Bigby-Williams offensive boards. After switching to a zone and getting some stops, a 7-0 Alabama run cut LSU’s lead to nine with less than seven minutes remaining in the contest. And Alabama cut it to six with three minutes to play. Waters made the assist of the game, a no-look pass from a seated position to Days, to give LSU a little more cushion with two minutes left for the Tigers to close it out. Waters led the Tigers with 19 points in the victory.

With the impressive league-opening win, LSU improved to 11-3 overall. Next up for the Tigers is a road contest against Arkansas at 5 p.m. Saturday. That game will also broadcast on the SEC Network.

Turning to football, the season’s final polls are out and the Tigers finished with their highest ranking since 2011. LSU checked in at No. 6 in the AP poll and No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Not bad for a team that played one of the toughest schedules in the country and was projected by some to finish 6-6 and fifth in the SEC West, right? Here are the complete rankings.

Speaking of polls, a few “way too early” rankings for the 2019 season have been kind to the Tigers – some more so than others. LSU’s preseason ranking is No. 4 on  WatchStadium.com; No. 6 on  247Sports.com; No. 7 on YahooSports.com; and No. 10 on ESPN.com. On a similar note, SuperbookUSA has released 2020 College Football National Championship Game winner odds and has LSU as the 13th most likely team to win it all next season with 50/1 odds. 

One thing that would help LSU’s odds a great deal is if several draft-eligible players decide to return to LSU, and two Tigers did just that yesterday. Linebacker Michael Divinity tweeted that he is coming back, as did long snapper Blake Ferguson. That’s certainly great news.

So to recap, here’s where LSU stands with potential early departures. So far, only CB Greedy Williams and DL Ed Alexander have announced that they’re going pro. Breiden Fehoko, Michael Divinity, and Blake Ferguson have said they’re returning. We expect CB Kristian Fulton to return, though no “official statement” has been made. That leaves DL Rashard Lawrence, OL Damien Lewis, and LB Devin White to monitor. Of course, White seems the most likely not to return since he’s a projected early first-round pick, but he keeps dropping signs that make you wonder. Yesterday he tweeted, “We were projected to finish 6-6. We held our heads high and went to work every day, we overcame a lot of obstacles and stayed to course, that was just the start of what @LSUfootball is about to be doing in the near future  #GeauxTigers” 

Turning to football recruiting, here are a couple of “new” names to keep in mind as LSU looks to complete its 2019 class: Defensive linemen Charles Moore and Jared Harrison-Hunte. Moore (6-4, 268, Louisville, Miss.) is not exactly a new name to Tiger Fans, but he’s one we haven’t written about in a while. He de-committed from Mississippi State on Monday and is expected to visit LSU, Tennessee, and possibly others before Signing Day. As for Harrison-Hunte (6-4, 286, Middle Village, New York), I was told yesterday that he’s someone LSU safeties coach Bill Busch is recruiting and that an official visit from him could be in the works.

Closing Tidbits:

In coaching carousel news, Ohio State has hired Michigans’s Greg Mattison as their defensive coordinator. That’s significant to LSU fans since Ohio State flew into Baton Rouge last week, presumably to speak to either Bill Busch or Corey Raymond for a position they now have apparently filled. 

• Last week I mentioned the tragic hunting accident that cost former LSU offensive lineman Matt Branch his left leg and nearly cost him his life. A lot of you have asked what exactly happened, and this article by the Clarion-Ledger provides the answer: 'His pants were just soaked in blood.' Hunter's leg amputated in Miss. after dog shoots him. Please continue to keep Matt in your prayers and do what you can to help. (Here’s his GoFundMe page.)

• Lastly, mark your calendar for LSU Baseball Fan Fest which is set for noon on Sunday, Jan. 27 at The Box. The event will provide fans with exclusive access to the baseball facilities and will include food, drinks, and the opportunity to meet the 2019 LSU Tigers, along with former players and coaches. Tickets are $30 for adults, $15 for children ages 6-12, and children under six will be admitted free. Here’s more information.

If you appreciate this one-stop resource for daily Tiger News, I ask that please take a moment to consider what it’s worth to you. Then, if you’re able, please help keep it going by donating to our annual fundraiser. Thanks in advance for your consideration.

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1/8/19 5:30 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

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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

Dear LSU,

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.

Forever LSU

Source: LSUSports.net

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. 

If you appreciate this one-stop resource for daily Tiger News, I ask that please take a moment to consider what it’s worth to you. Then, if you’re able, please help keep it going by donating to our annual fundraiser. Thanks in advance for your consideration.

 



 

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