Friday, April 17, 2009

Busy Weekend for LSU Sports

LSU Athletics are in for a very busy weekend with the baseball team hosting Tennessee and the football team having their spring game.


LSU Baseball is sitting right where they need to be at this point in the season. They currently have a 27-10 record and a 10-5 SEC record, having won 5 straight SEC series all 2 games to 1. Only Georgia (1 game ahead) and Arkansas (a half game ahead) have better SEC records than LSU right now. While the Tigers are currently ranked #1 in the nation by several polls, you still get the sense that this team hasn't showed us everything they're capable of, especially at the plate. Other than for the first 10 games of the season, the team really hasn't been "hot" at any point this year. Hopefully, they'll get hot at the right time as the season nears an end. The team has also lost several games they have ZERO business losing. They've dropped games to USL, Tulane, 2 to Illinois, and one Wednesday night to Nicholls St. In baseball, you can't win them all. You just can't. And in a week where LSU has to play 5 games such as this week, a team's pitching wears thin. But there's no reason to ever lose to Nicholls. Ever! By the way, pitching wasn't the problem against Nicholls as LSU only gave up 3 runs. LSU may really wish they had paid more attention to those games when the Top 8 national seeds are being given out at the end of the year. LSU's RPI is only #15 right now and the losses to poor teams are a big reason why.

The good news is that LSU's bats have started to come around. Blake Dean is starting to hit the poop out of the ball again. Ryan Schimpf's batting average is up over .300 and he's tied for the team lead with 9 HRs. Even Leon Landry's batting average is on the rise. LSU's two freshman in the starting lineup, Tyler Hanover and Mikie Mahtook, are mashing the ball right now too. Hanover is hitting .330 and Mahtook is up to .357. And those two guys typically hit 8th and 9th in LSU's batting order, which makes LSU's lineup downright scary when a pitcher has to face #s 8 and 9 before going back to the top. Coach Maineri also seems to have finally settled on a lineup after tinkering with it all year. The only downside is that Jared Mitchell, one of LSU's most consistent hitters all year, is in an awful slump. He can't hit a beach ball right now. But as the leadoff hitter, I'm more concerned with Mitchell's on base percentage, and he's still got a fantastic number there at .486. Mitchell has the potential to be a good RBI producer too though. He's got some pop in his bat as evidenced by his 6 home runs this year. And with Hanover and Mahtook setting the table for him in the 8 and 9 spots, it would benefit LSU if he would go back to putting the bat on the ball. LSU is also about to get Chad Jones back from football. If Jones hits the ball like the coaches think he can, it will be interesting to see where he fits.

LSU hosts Tennessee this weekend who has the worst league record in the SEC. LSU has their best opportunity for a sweep all season, especially since Tennessee is 0-8 on the road this year. With Arkansas and Georgia facing off this weekend, LSU can conceivably be the SEC leader by Sunday evening. My only concern is that the Nicholls St. loss doesn't halt the momentum LSU was building and cause the guys to press some this weekend.


Let's look across Nicholson Drive to Tiger Stadium where the LSU football field will take the field on Saturday. I don't put a whole lot of stock into spring games because they really don't mean that much. Last year, we saw Richard Murphy give an MVP performance in the spring game. We talked all summer about how he'd be such a weapon in the fall. And then he was still the 3rd string running back. So I caution people not to freak out, one way or the other. However this year, we might be able to learn a few things from the actual game. Coach Miles has split the teams into what essentially amounts to the starters vs. the backups. So while we won't get to see any fun matchups such as Patrick Peterson trying to defend Brandon Lafell, we will be able to see the entire starting offense and defense work together. Therefore, if Jordan Jefferson gets sacked 5 times Saturday, that's a problem because the starting offensive line is playing together and they're going against the backups.

As far as any updates from spring practices this week, there's a few interesting things to report. First is that starting strong safety Harry Coleman has been moved to linebacker. This was a move that I've been wanting to see for over a year now. The emergence of Ron Brooks at safety has made this move possible and as expected, Brooks is working as the starter at Coleman's vacated safety spot. Coleman played linebacker in high school, so this isn't totally new for him. He's reportedly fared pretty well in his first week of practice. The starting linebackers seem pretty set for now. But we've heard that LSU may look to move Kelvin Shephard to middle linebacker to allow Coleman to play on the outside. I'm not sure if this is something the coaches are considering as a permanent move or if it's something they would use in passing situations to get more speed and coverage ability on the field. All reports this spring have been positive on middle linebacker Jacob Cutrera so I'd be surprised if he gets bumped to the bench. But there's no questioning that LSU would be better in coverage with Coleman out there in place of Cutrera.

Jai Eugene has also re-emerged as a contender for a starting position. At one practice, he was working with the starters while Patrick Peterson worked with the 2nd unit. I don't think for a minute that Peterson won't start, but it shows that the coaches are giving Eugene another serious look.

I'm excited to see how the newcomers and younger players perform. Of course, all eyes will be on the QB for the purple team, #10 Russell Shepard. Everyone wants to see what he can do. I'll be equally interested in seeing how Chris Garrett performs at QB. Freshman running back Drayton Calhoun will be one to watch. With all we've heard about Tim Molton, I'll have my eyes on him too. In general, I'm looking forward to seeing the defense, and they'll hopefully show some signs of significant improvement over last year.


LSU picked up their 7th commitment of the 2010 recruiting class this week with junior college offensive tackle Jamarcus Hardrick. Hardick is a huge guy at 6'7" 315 pounds. Not highly recruited out of high school due to academic concerns, Hardrick is now one of the most coveted junior college players in the nation. He also had offers from Ole Miss, Nebraska, and Arkansas. Once he received his offer from LSU, it took him less than a day to realize he wanted to accept it. With Ciron Black graduating in 2009, it makes sense for LSU to go JUCO for an offensive tackle. Hardrick is set to graduate next fall and will be at spring practice next year. He'll likely compete with Greg Shaw and Chris Faulk to replace Ciron Black as LSU's left tackle. With LSU dismissing Jarvis Jones last year and losing Ernest McCoy this offseason, they had to fill in some of that missing depth.

LSU will be hosting a lot of recruits at the spring game tomorrow. Some of the biggest names on LSU's board will be on hand. Once I have a more clear idea of who will make it, I'll post another update for the recruiting junkies. That will hopefully be later today or tonight.

- Kris Brauner


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Saturday Night Slant - LSU Sports & Recruiting