NCAA Baseball Championships:
DandyDon is proud to recognize David Toms as a great ambassador of the Tiger Nation.
Part II: Q&A with Mike Detillier on Coach O’s Tigers & LSU-Alabama Battle
Scott: Last year, Alabama held Leonard Fournette to just 31 yards. The year before, it was 79. During LSU's five-game losing streak to Bama, the Tigers have averaged 91 yards per game rushing. This year, Fournette is coming off a record-setting 284-yard game against Ole Miss. So, my question is, will Fournette break the 100-yard mark against Bama? If so, why?
Mike: I believe Fournette goes for over 100 yards. As a player, I want to see Fournette get to 130 yards as a runner and receiver. Now, based on the performance last week people might say that is easy and it might be against another team, but that's awfully hard to total over 130 yards running and receiving against Alabama.
The key is LSU’s ability to make something happen in the short passing game, but because of Etling's play it gives Leonard a shot to get over a 100 yards rushing. The key number will be turnovers and if LSU as a team can get to 135 yards rushing. If LSU can get to 135 yars or more rushing as a unit, they win this game. And that won't be easy vs. Alabama, but you shoot for that.
Scott: Now, I know this isn't what the focus should be at this time, but if the Tigers defeat Alabama and Fournette has a big game, do you think he is back as a serious contender for the Heisman, or do you that ship has sailed?
Mike: Depending on the game he plays, I would say yes. He had the Heisman in his pocket last year and then the Alabama came and he lost it from there on in. Derrick Henry was excellent before the LSU game, but it became a statement game for him. The answer is yes, he could be a serious contender.
Scott: One last question about the offense: What's your impression of Danny Etling so far?
Mike: He's been efficient. He's still a work in progress as a short to medium range passer, but he has bettered his skills in reading and recognizing coverages. Etling's decision-making skills are pretty good. He's a little streaky, but that was his trait at Purdue too. He has made the big plays when he has had to. The most important trait for a QB.
He doesn't always have to be great, very few QB's are, but be efficient and accurate when you have to. There will be 8 to 10 crucial throws he will have to convert and he has to connect on most of those throws.
He's heady, he's tough, a leader, he throws the deep ball pretty well and there will be a time when you spread a team out and he will show he can run fairly well too. Now, I don't want him taking big shots downfield, but he has good mobility skills. I like what I have seen from him and I am thrilled for him he got his shot. During the fall drills virtually none of us thought he would ever get a really good shot and he answered the bell under situations that were not ideal to be a leader. That's really tough to do
Scott: Turning to the defense, Coach Aranda's men have been thoroughly tested in recent weeks against the league's two most potent passing offenses in Missouri and Ole Miss, and they passed with flying colors. How do you think it will fare against the rushing offenses it will face in Alabama and Texas A&M who are second and third in the league, respectively, in rushing offense. No. 1 in that category is an Auburn team that LSU held to 154 yards rushing.
Mike: Alabama and A&M will try and run the ball right up the middle on LSU. They had success doing that in the past and I expect they will try it again and again. Especially Bama because that is what they do best. The other thing to watch in those games is the quarterback running the ball. Jalen Hurts and Trevor Knight can motor downfield with the ball and have good field vision. Those guys aren't afraid to pull it down and take off and that puts a lot of pressure points on a defense.
Dave Aranda has done a fabulous job with this defense. They have bent, but have not broke and to only give up 8 touchdowns in 7 games is remarkable. The ability to stop the run is the very key in each contest down the stretch and Aranda will have them ready. Make those teams earn those scores. Don't set them up with short fields due to turnovers
Scott: What's the key to slowing down Alabama's Jalen Hurts?
Mike: Make him be accurate with his throws from the pocket. Make him beat you with his accuracy skills and not because he makes plays with his feet after a play breaks down. He is a young QB and so throw a few things at him he hasn't seen and makes him think a little more. Alabama's ability to create turnovers and scores on special teams have aided him, but he has not played like a freshman. He's a very talented young man, but like all freshman, he will eventually play a bad game. Put pressure on him and cup him in the pocket. "Chief" John Chavis did a great job with Johnny Manziel when LSU went up against Texas A&M a few times and I would use similar type sets to make him beat me throwing the ball from the pocket.
Scott: LSU's defensive line seems to be playing very well under the direction of Pete Jenkins. What's it mean to the Tigers to have such an incredible guru on staff?
Mike: Pete is the defensive line whisperer. He knows every trick and technique in the book. He's old school now. You better pay attention to what he is teaching and do what he wants or you won't play. They got a talented and heavy defensive tackle that is finding that out about him.
He wants you to practice hard and play hard. But his skillset is to teach like a professor the art of playing defensive line from a technical standpoint, balance/positioning skills and firing off the snap. Using good techniques and keeping your eyes up and on the ball is key. I have heard him yearly for days go through that at his Offensive/Defensive Line camp at Nicholls State. Players buy into what he says because of the success he has had with so many players at the college and pro level. He measures your intensity and focuses on what you do in practice.
Scott: Last year LSU's defensive line depth was exposed against Alabama, partly because LSU's defense was on the field so much in the second half. How do you feel about LSU's D-line depth this year?
Mike: It's better than last year. No question about that. But what has hurt LSU defensively is that the offense was three and out, three and out. So that thin defensive line depth was worn out. It's better but the key is Arden Key and Davon Godchaux having big games from a pressure standpoint and Greg Gilmore and Kendell Beckwith stopping the run. They will attack the belly of LSU as a rushing attack. It's not that hard to figure out. The problem is stopping it and forcing Jalen to beat you throwing from the pocket. You can't take away everything. I expect to see Jamal Adams early on in the game in the box like another LB.
Scott: I have heard you say Lane Kiffin eventually will get the ball more to tight end O.J. Howard, could this be the game?
Mike: I think it will be. LSU has had difficulties matching up with athletic TE's and Kiffin knows it is a huge mismatch with Howard's size and athleticism downfield. LSU did a good job not having Evan Engram go off on them, but a lot of that was the fact that Ole Miss kept him in many times to help out in pass protection when injuries got to them upfront. Howard is the safety-valve target for Jalen when he gets in trouble.
Scott: For LSU to win this game, who are the Tigers' key guys on offense and defense?
Mike: On offense, it's quarterback Danny Etling. On defense, it's middle linebacker. Kendell Beckwith.
Scott: From a recruiting standpoint the LSU-Alabama game is huge. What are you hearing in that regard?
Mike: There's no understating how huge of a game LSU-Bama always is in recruiting. This is a true showcase game on TV, so even recruits that don't get to come to the game still get to see the atmosphere, and with so many people watching it also affects future recruiting. There is a lot of recruiting left before we hit February. Coach O wants to get back in a positioning shot for Devonta Smith (wide receiver from Amite) and other Louisiana recruits like Todd Harris (safety from Plaquemine), Al'Dontre Davis (wide receiver, Lutcher), Justin Jefferson (wide receiver, Destrehan), and Travis Etienne (running back, Jennings). Of course, the other key is out-of-state recruits and I expect Coach O and his staff will make a big pitch for quite a few to visit that weekend if they can. Some may not be able to due to scheduling and playing high school games. He is paying close attention to potential recruits at both defensive end and at the outside linebacker spots. They have a strong group of huge offensive linemen, but I know Ed pretty well and he craves defensive ends and outside linebackers that can influence the throw of a quarterback.
Scott: Okay, last question for today. What has been the response where you are – in Bayou Country – to Coach O taking over as head coach and to the success he's had? Folks there have to be awfully proud, right?
Mike: Growing up here, and I still live in Lafourche Parish, the response has been off the charts great. To see Ed overcome some obstacles in life and flourish is like a dream for so many here in Louisiana. They want LSU to win, first and foremost, but to have Coach O involved has raised this to another level. There is no place here on the Bayou or in the River Parish that someone doesn't talk to me about him, about his youth and about his future.
This area, like a lot of places in South Louisiana, was hit hard due to the decline in the oil and gas industry and so this is great news. Think about this: Our state has turned out so many players, but very few major college head coaches. This is really exciting stuff here on the Bayou and it's great to see one of our own have such success.
And while speaking about this area and exciting stuff, I want to tell you about the opening of the new Wellness/Sports Center at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center. It opened up Thursday – a $74 million facility, already paid for – and folks around here are really proud of it, and with good reason. It's open to the regular person on the street, male or female, the weekend warriors, the athletes and would-be athletes. Many times parents would have to drive to New Orleans to have their sons and daughters work out and train with skilled technicians in their sports field. Now, they have that right here in Thibodaux. You just think about all the athletes that have come from down here – LaRon Landry, Corey Webster, Ronnie Estay, Chase Clement, Mike Hillman, Earl Gros, Joe Labruzzo, Don Schwab, Eric Andolsek, Terry Robiskie, Alfred Blue, Tom Hodson, and many others who went to LSU. Also, LSU has a commitment from quarterback Lowell Narcisse from St. James right down the road. Scott, I know you have a connection to Thibodeaux Regional CEO Greg Stock, and to Toni Martinez, and they are avid readers of DandyDon, along with so many others here on the bayou. There are few places I go to speak or do a show where I'm not asked about your site. It's a must read in the morning here on the Bayou.
Scott: Thank you, Mike. Tell the folks down there in Bayou Country that I appreciate their readership, just as I know all the DandyDon readers appreciate your insight.
Mike Detillier, based in southern Louisiana, is editor and publisher of Mike Detillier’s NFL Draft Report. He’s also the college and pro football analyst for WWL 870 AM Radio in New Orleans, a sports columnist for several newspapers and Web sites, and a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country. Visit Mike’s website at mikedetillier.com and follow @MikeDetillier on Twitter.
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