Monday, September 28, 2009

Recruiting Round Up


It's been a while since we've talked recruiting...and for good reason.  With 22 commitments before September, the fact of the matter is that LSU only has a small handful of spots remaining in the Class of 2010.  Therefore, it becomes tricky for LSU juggle the scholarship offers that are still out on the table. 

With so much of the Class of 2010 taken care of, LSU has been able to get a head start on the Class of 2011.  LSU has issued at least a dozen official offers to juniors earlier in September, and they were able to land their first two commitments...and they were both big ones from Redemptorist high school in Baton Rouge.

Offensive tackle La'El Collins will be one of the state's Top 5 players next year and could be a 5-star prospect.  Collins is 6'4" 275 pounds and has really excelled at camps this summer, often outperforming some of the top prospects in the nation from the Class of 2010.  He's big time.  And along with Chris Faulk and Evan Washington, LSU is putting together a nice collection of young talent at the offensive tackle position. 

Running back Jeremy Hill also decided to become a Tiger on Monday.  Hill is a bigger running back who looks to have some special skills for such a big guy.  He's currently at 6"1" 215 pounds.  Right now, Hill looks like one of the Top 10 players in the state and could be the state's top running back prospect. 

Getting back to the Class of 2010, here is a position by position breakdown of the players still on LSU's board:

Zach Lee - McKinney, TX

None - LSU is done at QB for this class

Spencer Ware - Cincinnati, OH
Brandon Worle - Duluth, GA (fullback)

Lache Seastrunk - Temple, TX -  Lache is at the top of LSU's board and is key to this class.  He's rated a 5-star by every scouting service out there.  The Texas speedster would compliment bigger backs such as Spencer Ware and Mike Ford.  Auburn is LSU's biggest competition for Seastrunk although USC remains in the picture as well. 

Alfred Blue - Hahnville, LA - Blue is likely LSU's "backup plan" in case things with Seastrunk don't go as planned.  Seastrunk is currently planning on enrolling in school in January while Blue is planning on announcing his decision on signing day.  So LSU should know just how badly they want Blue before he makes his decision.  I really like Blue as a prospect and wish LSU somehow had room for both players.  Blue currently has 454 yards and seven touchdowns on just 49 carries.  Blue is also considering Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Texas A&M but I think if LSU puts on the full court press, then he'll be in purple and gold. 

Nick Parker - Batesville, MS - Parker is a big back that LSU has shown a lot of interest in.  But we haven't heard a lot of noise recently with him, and I suspect it's because LSU has set their sights on Seastrunk and Blue. 

Mike Davis - Dallas, TX
Justin Hunter - Virginia Beach, VA
Tharold Simon - Eunice, LA (may play defense)

Trovon Reed - Thibodaux, LA - Reed is the state's top player and the perfect guy to be a deadly slot receiver and return man at the next level.  Several things are in LSU's favor with Reed.  First and foremost, he is from Thibodaux which is big-time LSU country.  Second is that LSU has a real need for wide receivers in this class and Reed should see an opportunity for early playing time.  However, it seems that Reed is very serious about Auburn right now.  He's made multiple visits to the Plains and even brought family along with him.  Going by Reed's latest actions, it's hard to say that LSU leads for him right now.  The longer Reed's recruitment drags on, the more likely that he'll stay close to home, but Auburn has to be considered the favorite right now. 

Jarrett Fobbs - Shreveport, LA - Fobbs is currently a Texas A&M commitment even though recent signs have things looking good for LSU.  Originally, LSU offered Fobbs as a defensive back only.  However, LSU is now recruiting him as a wide receiver (where Fobbs wants to play) and after a strong visit to LSU over the summer, the Tigers are very much back in the picture.  I love Fobbs as a prospect and think he'll be an impact player in college as a smaller, slot-type receiver.  I think LSU would take Fobbs regardless of what Trovon Reed does, but they'll really go after him hard if Reed chooses Auburn. 

James Wright - Belle Chasse, LA - Wright is an outstanding prospect and in my opinion, very underrated.  Unlike Fobbs and Reed who are smaller, shiftier receivers, Wright fits the mold of the big strong receiver that we've been accustomed to at LSU this decade.  Wright is very tough to get a read on when it comes to recruiting and nobody seems to know where he's leaning.  He's also seriously considering Alabama and Texas Tech.  The big question is whether LSU would take Reed, Fobbs, AND Wright.  Most think not.  But after Tim Molton left LSU's program, perhaps LSU would consider taking all three guys.  I personally think they should because all three are outstanding prospects.

Right now, it's tough for me to see LSU taking anyone other than these guys.  A few other guys, such as BJ Chitty (Dothan, AL), are still in the background. 

Travis Dickson - Ocean Springs, MS
Nick Jacobs - Many, LA

None - LSU is done at tight-end for this class

Evan Washington - DeSoto, TX
Elliott Porter - New Orleans, LA
Cameron Fordham - Duluth, GA
Jamarcus Hardrick - Fort Scott, KS (JUCO)

Damien Robinson - Olive Branch, MS - Robinson may be the most likely guy left on the board to ultimately decide on LSU.  But having said that, I don't think LSU lands him.  Robinson projects as a tackle, is very talented and appears on most Top 100 lists.  He doesn't do many interviews and is therefore tough to get a read on regarding his recruitment.  But from what I can gather, he's looking to go out of state and Alabama and Tennessee seem to be the most likely destinations. 

James Stone  - Nashville, TN - Stone, like Robinson, is being pursued by LSU but is a long shot to decide on the Tigers.  Stone visited LSU a couple of weeks ago and had nice things to say about the visit.  But he didn't appear to be blown away to the point where LSU is now a serious contender for his services.  He also appears to be seriously considering Alabama and Tennessee, along with Notre Dame. 

In all likelihood, LSU is done recruiting offensive linemen for this class.  However, if they can manage to land a player as good as Robinson or Stone, they'll gladly do so.   I don't expect it to happen though. 

Jordan Allen - West Monroe, LA
Justin Maclin - Memphis, TN
Houston Bates - Covington, LA (could play LB)

David Perry - Fort Lauderdale, FL - LSU has picked up their recruitment of Perry recently and could find themselves squarely in the mix for his services.  Perry is a solid looking prospect at 6'6" 230 pounds with offers from several big schools such as Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, Miami and others.  Florida is the favorite for Perry; however, the Gators may be full at defensive end real soon and that would give LSU a real shot to sign him. 

Lynden Trail - Miami, FL - Trail has a great frame for a defensive end at 6'7" 220 pounds.  Like Perry, Trail has plenty of big time offers.  And also like Perry, Trail is very high on the Florida Gators.  But again, it's a question of whether Florida is going to have room for Trail, Perry, or both.  The chances are that they can't take both guys and LSU could be the beneficiary of that.  We shall see. 

JR Ferguson - Chatham, VA - Ferguson is a serious prospect and ranked a 5-star by many recruiting services.  He's a bit of a long shot for LSU, but he maintains that the Tigers are a player for his services.  Ferguson was supposed to visit LSU for the Florida game, but now may be visiting at a later date.  at 6'3" 270 pounds, Ferguson will probably end up playing defensive tackle later in his career. 

Dexter Blackmon - Selma, AL

Richard Ash - Pahokee, FL - Ash is an interesting prospect.  He is rated highly by the recruiting services but schools like Florida and USC, who had previously offered, have stopped recruiting him.  He continues to name LSU as a leader and is also interested in West Virginia.   It's unclear just how high LSU's interest level is. 

Byran Jones - Junction City, AR - Jones is another interesting prospect.  He's highly rated by most and looks good on film.  He has also shown a very strong interest in LSU, but LSU has not reciprocated that interest to this point.  Unfortunately, Jones wasn't able to make it down for one of LSU's camps.  But with a big need for defensive tackles, LSU will likely be taking a close look at Jones during his senior season.  He has offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, and Mississippi State . 

LSU really needs to build on their youth at defensive tackle because the roster is currently short at the position.  However, Blackmon is LSU's only commitment right now and he is a bit of a project.  Signing another quality DT in this class looks like a priority, but the options aren't too plentiful at this point.  Junior college player Benay Pryer is an outside possibility as well. 

Luke Muncie - Klein, TX
DJ Welter - Crowley, LA

Travis Williams - Norfolk, VA - Williams is a smaller, speedy linebacker that would fit the scheme of John Chavis very well.  He's 6'2" and right around 200 pounds with great speed.  Williams is very high on Miami but also looking at Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina.  It would be a tough pull for LSU, but the Tigers remain in the picture. 

With only a few spots left in this class, it's unlikely that one of them will be used on a linebacker...unless the Tigers can get Williams.  I don't think LSU would turn him away, and there doesn't seem to be too many other possibilities out there. 

Tyrann Mathieu - New Orleans, LA
Ronnie Vinson - New Orleans, LA

None - LSU is done at CB for this class

Eric Reid - Dutchtown, LA  (may end up at LB)
Sam Gibson - Prattville, AL

None - LSU is done at S for this class

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mississippi State Recap


Ugly wins.  One third of the way through the 2009 Football Season, the theme thus far is "winning ugly".  LSU needed a goal line stand to preserve a win against Mississippi State on a wet field on Saturday.  While the goal line stand was impressive, the general thought among many is that it shouldn't have been needed to win a game against the cellar dwellers from Starkville.  I certainly agree with that sentiment. 

It has been a frustrating season for anyone involved with, or anyone who follows the LSU football program.  The 4-0 record is nice.  The #4 national ranking is nice.  Those things should not be discredited.  But I don't know a single person who is pleased with the way LSU has played thus far this season. 

While the defense is playing OK, the offense is really struggling, especially when trying to run the football.  Les Miles loves to have a bit of the power running game integrated into his offense.  And why not?  Jacob Hester's tough running certainly served LSU well in 2007.  And Charles Scott running behind Quinn Johnson was the rock of the Tigers' offense in 2008. 

But it's just not happening in 2009.  Not even close.  And the fact that LSU keeps trying to run the ball out of the I-formation is bordering on ridiculous.  Albert Einstein's definition of the word "insanity" was "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."   The offensive coaching staff may be flirting with that designation if they continue wasting plays out of that I-formation.  Now, I will say that Jordan Jefferson's long touchdown pass to Brandon Lafell to open the second half was off a play action fake from the I-formation.  But did LSU really waste 5 or 6 plays in the 1st half to set that one up?  

So why can't LSU run the ball this season?   What's different from 2007 and 2008?   Some believe that LSU's talent on the offensive line isn't as good as we're used to.  That may be true to an extent.  But the talent is still far superior to that of ULL, yet LSU was unable to run the football between the tackles against the Ragin Cajuns.  Some look to offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and suggest he's not coaching well enough.  But Coach Stud was here in 2007 and 2008 when LSU's offensive line was very good.  I doubt he suddenly forgot how to coach.  Others think that LSU's lack of a blocking fullback is the problem.  Perhaps the answer lies partially with each of those suggestions. 

I can't tell you the reason why it's not working.  I can only tell you that it is indeed NOT working.  And I think the coaching staff needs to look at other ways to move the ball with this offense.  I do know a few things that have worked. 

LSU has a pair of really outstanding wide receivers who are getting open with ease right now.  They also have a nice group of secondary receivers who have shown the ability to make a few plays.   You can add in an All-SEC tight end and a fantastic all purpose player who has been under utilized to this point.  The sum of these players results in a damn strong collection of pass catcher and play makers.   In my opinion, these guys should be the focal point of this offense.  LSU may have to pass in order to set up the run, rather than vice versa. 

Trying to force a running game with a walk-on center as your fullback while RJ Jackson and Russell Shepard are on the bench does not make a ton of sense to me.  I believe in trying to get your best 11 players on the field as much as possible and for LSU this year, that means only using a fullback in goal line situations. 

Against Mississippi State, LSU ran the ball 31 times for 30 yards.  Russell Shepard had 26 of those rushing yards on just 4 attempts.  However, LSU did not use Shep at all in the second half.  It's baffling why the coaches went away from something that was working well. 

LSU's schedule picks up considerably from this point forward, starting with a road game to Georgia on Saturday.  The Tigers' play will have to pick up as well or else some losses could start piling up, similar to last season when the Tigers also started 4-0 before finishing 3-5 down the stretch. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Around The SEC


ALABAMA:  Alabama looks to be on par with Florida at the top of the SEC.  Things are clicking for the Tide right now and they whacked North Texas 53-7 on Saturday.  Mark Ingram looks to be the league's top running back at this point in the season, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.   Freshman Trent Richardson had another big day with 87 yards and a touchdown and is making an early bid to be the SEC Freshman of the Year.   Their defense will be tested this week as they face a potent Arkansas offense. 

ARKANSAS:  The Hogs lost a shootout at home against Georgia by a score of 52 - 41.   Quarterback Ryan Mallet passed for 375 yards and five touchdowns and with an offensive performance like that, at home, you would think a win would be a certainty.  However, this game shows us that while the Hogs' offense is potent, their defense still has a long way to go before the team can really compete for championships.   The Hogs only rushed for 77 yards against Georgia.  They now travel to Alabama trying to avoid an 0-2 SEC start. 

AUBURN: Auburn played in a very entertaining game against West Virginia last week and came away with a 41-30 win. Their offense continues to roll under new coordinator Gus Malzahn. But while the Tigers rolled up 400 yards of offense, they only managed 100 on the ground at just 2.4 yards per carry. The ground game had been their bread and butter but struggled when facing a solid defense for the first time. With the offense doing well, the defense has had some issues. They surrendered 509 yards to West Virginia and rank 10th in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing over 22 yards per game. They get a tune up with Ball State before entering the meat of their SEC schedule.

MISSISSIPPI STATE:  The Bulldogs turned in a good performance by traveling to Nashville and beating a decent Vanderbilt team 15 - 3.  Their defense was the story of the game, holding Vandy to just 157 total yards.  They were able to get running back Anthony Dixon going with 123 yards.  State didn't do much passing the ball again but quarterback Chris Relf continues to be a running threat.  They host LSU this week. 

OLE MISS:  Ole Miss rolled up a 52 - 6 win against Southeastern LA in a total mismatch.  The Rebs racked up the offensive yards and got a lot of people involved.  Surprisingly they allowed just over 300 yards to Southeastern, most of which likely came with backups in the game.   True freshman Pat Patterson, a future star, caught four passes for 79 yards.  Ole Miss now faces a difficult Thursday night game at South Carolina. 

FLORIDA:  The Gators looked vulnerable against a mediocre Tennessee team on Saturday en route to a ho-hum 23 - 13 victory.  Florida's defense once again looked dominant, allowing just 210 yards.  But their offense could not get in sync.  Perhaps some pre-season questions about how the Gators would fare without Percy Harvin and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen were legitimate questions to ask.  Florida really leaned on Tim Tebow against Tennessee.  He ran the ball 24 times for 76 tough yards.  They couldn't get much going in the passing game, and they have struggled to establish any consistency with their wide receivers to this point.  The Gators travel to Kentucky this weekend. 

GEORGIA: In a surprising (to me) offensive output, Georgia went off for 52 points and 530 total yards on the road at Arkansas. More surprising to me was that Joe Cox, who I previously didn't think much of, tied a school record with five touchdown passes. Georgia needed Cox to match Arkansas' Ryan Mallet, and he answered the call. The Dawgs' Richard Samuel rushed for 104 yards to lead their effort on the ground. Stud sophomore receiver AJ Green had seven receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He's off to a blazing start, and I'm looking forward to seeing Patrick Peterson match up with him in a couple of weeks. Georgia hosts Arizona State this weekend.

KENTUCKY:  Kentucky won a very good game at home against Louisville on Saturday 31 - 27. The rivalry game was very even and went back and forth before Kentucky pulled ahead late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Mike Hartline played well, completing 20 of 27 passes. Derrick Locke also ran the ball real well for them. The Wildcats have the makings of a solid team that could make another bowl game. They host Florida and Alabama in consecutive weeks and might have enough in them to give one a scare.

SOUTH CAROLINA:  The Gamecocks took longer than expected before finally pulling away from Florida Atlantic 38 - 16.   The score was just 17 - 16 at halftime.   The Cocks played real well on offense for the second straight week, logging over 500 total yards.  Quarterback Stephen Garcia completed 20 of 27 passes and true freshman running back Jarvis Giles ran for 113 yards.   They host Ole Miss on Thursday night this week. 

TENNESSEE: The Vols earned a bit of respect by not getting blown out at Florida. Tennessee played tough and went toe to toe with the Gators. Despite losing the game, their effort has given their program something to rally around for now. I still think they face some tough times ahead because they are getting horrible quarterback play which is handcuffing the entire offense. The Vols can get well this week against Ohio before hosting Auburn and Georgia back to back.

VANDERBILT:  After an impressive offensive explosion in Week 1, the Dores' offense has been stuck in mud ever since.  After scoring just seven offensive points against LSU, Vandy could only manage three against Mississippi State.  That's not a good sign for Vanderbilt, who is now last in the SEC in scoring offense.  They play a winnable game at Rice next week before hitting the gauntlet of the SEC schedule. 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

ULL Recap


After an uninspiring 31-3 win against ULL Saturday night, LSU still appears to have more questions than answers, especially on offense which now ranks dead last in the SEC.  LSU's fan base is spewing negativity and criticism, but those feelings originate from frustration.   Frustration from seeing All-SEC players at the skill positions and a capable quarterback but an offense that can't manage to move the football consistently.  While I refuse to participate in the mindless negative criticism that is sure to take place this week, I do share in the frustration. 

On a day when the offense should have finally had their way, they struggled and played their worst game of the season.  LSU came out and wanted to establish the run and throw the ball down the field more.  They were unable to do either with any consistency.  It was very disheartening that LSU could not get the running game going against a team like ULL.  The majority of runs between the tackles got stuffed for gains of five yards or less.  On a 4th and 1 play, LSU brought in their goalline personnel and basically said, "We're coming at you.  Try to stop it."  Well, ULL stopped it. 

The offensive line has struggled thus far this season and especially on Saturday.  As a group, they're simply not getting it done.  There's no other way to say it.  New starters T-Bob Hebert and Josh Dworacyk are still getting accustomed to playing at this level.  But returning senior starters Lyle Hitt and Ciron Black have played beneath expectations.  Hitt was adequate at best last year, but Black is supposed to be an All-American.  Yet I saw ULL, with a 3-man rush, get someone right around Black to apply pressure on Jordan Jefferson.  Maybe it's a lack of focus, but it didn't look real good Saturday.  Joseph Barksdale has been very solid and is LSU's best lineman right now. The line play is a major concern of mine as LSU heads into the teeth of their schedule. 

Jordan Jefferson did not have a real good night on Saturday either.  In fact, I thought it was probably his worst performance as a starter.  His numbers weren't terrible by any means.  He completed 16 of 25 passes with two touchdowns and one interception.   But he was not accurate and for the first time, his decision making was a bit off.   He again missed on a few passes to receivers who were open.  He also threw more than a couple passes that should have been intercepted.  Even some of his completions were not good ones.  On a couple of occasions, he threw behind his intended receiver on a swing pass, forcing him to spin around to make the catch.  This left them no chance to make a play after the reception. 

So if Jefferson was a bit more effective at completing passes down the field, would that bring defenders away from the line of scrimmage and make it easier for the offensive line to open holes in the running game?  Or does the offensive line need to run block better so that the offense will be more balanced and Jefferson can then have an easier time in the passing game?  It's a "chicken or the egg" argument, and the answer probably lies somewhere in between. 

The offense does show flashes of what we all expect.  LSU's outstanding receivers make plays.  Charles Scott occasionally bursts through a hole and drags defenders down the field.  We all see what the offense can be.  And that's what makes the inconsistency so frustrating. 

The defense looked strong for the second week in a row.  The Ragin Cajuns had less than 200 total yards going into the fourth quarter, and gained about 100 more yards against mostly backups in the final period.  ULL was able to move the ball at times, and it would have been nice to see some more pressure from the defensive line.  But holding a team to three points is a good defensive performance almost any way you look at it.  LSU's scoring defense is up to 3rd in the SEC.   And after watching Washington upset USC on Saturday, perhaps LSU's performance in the opener wasn't all that bad after all. 

So LSU is 3-0...something that teams like Oklahoma, USC, Virginia Tech, and Georgia cannot claim.  The Tigers are ranked #7 in the national polls and have a road game against Mississippi State to deal with before a monumental road contest at Georgia, a game that may very well dictate whether LSU has a special season or just an OK one.

Tomorrow, we'll go Around the SEC and I hope to touch on some recruiting notes this week as well. 
Thanks, as always, for your interest. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Around The SEC; New Baseketball Commitment



ALABAMA:  Alabama had a frustrating first half against Florida International before finally rolling to a 40-14 victory. The Tide led just 20-14 at halftime. At the end of the day, Bama out gained FIU by a 516 - 214 margin. The big news is that freshman superstar running back Trent Richardson ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns. He is going to be a star very soon. In a bit of a surprise, star receiver Julio Jones had just one reception for nine yards. He has just five receptions on the season thus far.

ARKANSAS:  The Hogs were off in Week 2 and they are preparing for a big showdown with Georgia on Saturday. Arkansas is primed to pull off the upset, and they may just beat Georgia soundly.

AUBURN:  Auburn's offense rolled for the second straight week in a 49 - 24 victory over Mississippi State.  Also for the second straight week, the War Eagles had a pair of 100 yard rushers.  So in just two games, they've had four 100 yard rushing performances.  Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb are the top two rushers in the SEC after 2 weeks with both averaging over 130 yards per game.  But while Auburn's rushing attack flourished on Saturday, their passing game struggled a bit.  Quarterback Chris Todd completed just 10 of 23 passes on the day.   Their defense played fairly well, frustrating Mississippi State quarterbacks while doing just OK against the run. 

MISSISSIPPI STATE:  The Bulldogs were able to hang with Auburn for one half on Saturday but couldn't match them in the second half.  Both of their quarterbacks, Chris Relf and Tyson Lee, played but neither were terribly effective throwing the ball.  For the second straight game, Relf showed he is a threat to run the ball, gaining 52 yards on seven carries.  Running back Anthony Dixon was also able to run the ball, finishing with 92 yards on 20 carries.  State also ran the ball very well in Week 1. 

OLE MISS:  Ole Miss was off in Week 2.  They play Southeastern Louisiana this week before hitting a tough three game stretch of @ South Carolina, @ Vanderbilt, and then back home vs. Alabama. 

FLORIDA:  The #1 team in the nation had no trouble dealing with Troy, winning the game 56 - 6.  The Gators host Tennessee this week, and I fully Florida to win by a large margin.  In the off season, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin accused Florida of cheating while recruiting, and his comments have not been forgotten at the Swamp.  Don't be surprised to see Urban Meyer keep his foot on the gas late in this game to make a statement. 

GEORGIA:  In a surprising offensive battle, Georgia held off a late rally from South Carolina to hold onto a 41 - 37 victory.  The Bulldogs really struggled to run the ball, gaining just 107 yards with a 3.7 average against a tough Carolina defense.   Quarterback Joe Cox looked a bit better this week going 17 of 24 for 201 yards.  Georgia's defense gave up 427 yards to South Carolina.   Georgia has a tough game at Arkansas this week. 

KENTUCKY:   The Wildcats were off in Week 2 and face Louisville this weekend before hosting Florida in Week 4. 

SOUTH CAROLINA:  South Carolina showed significant improvement on offense from Week 1 to Week 2.  After showing no ability to move the ball in their opener, they managed 427 yards on the road against Georgia.  Quarterback Stephen Garcia threw for 313 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  He also led the team in rushing with 42 yards.  The Gamecocks were unable to run the ball effectively with any of their running backs.   The Cocks host Florida Atlantic before having a short week and hosting Ole Miss on a Thursday night in Week 4. 

TENNESSEE:  Tennessee suffered a humiliating loss to UCLA by a score of 19 - 15.   The Vols' offense was putrid, gaining just 208 total yards.  Quarterback Jonathon Crompton was 13 of 26 and threw three interceptions and no TDs.  On the ground, they averaged just 2.6 yards per carry.   Their defense did play fairly well, holding UCLA to under 200 yards for the game. 

It's important to note that both Ole Miss and Arkansas had the week off in Week 2, which means that they'll each have to play 11 games in a row to finish the season.  Considering that LSU plays these teams in Week 12 and Week 13, it's reasonable to think that Ole Miss and Arkansas will be banged up and tired for their game against the Tigers.  LSU is off for Week 7, right in the middle of the season.


Alabama shooting guard / small forward Ralston Turner committed to LSU and will be part of the Class of 2010.  Turner is 6'5" and reportedly had offers from Alabama, Auburn, and Ole Miss.  Turner has drawn rave reviews at every camp he has attended for being an outstanding outside shooter. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vanderbilt Recap


LSU battled the rain and a tough Vanderbilt team in securing a 14 point victory against a quality SEC opponent.  Winning a conference game by double digits is nothing to sneeze at and make no mistake, this was a good win for LSU.  The Tigers jumped out to a 10-0 lead before the rain came, and the game slowed down considerably after that.  What's most encouraging is that the Tigers made big improvements in several areas where improvements were necessary. 

LSU's defense got gashed for 478 yards by Washington.  On Saturday against Vanderbilt, the Tigers allowed just 210.   They allowed just 3.3 yards per play as opposed to 5.8 in Week 1.

The Tiger defense really struggled at making stops on third down against Washington, allowing conversions 11 of 19 times (58%).  Against Vanderbilt, LSU allowed just 4 of 15 (27%). 

LSU struggled badly punting the ball against Washington, but averaged 40 yards per punt on Saturday night, including one for 50 yards. 

Even with LSU making big improvements on the stat sheet, one gets the sense from watching the game that the team can still get a lot better.   Right now, neither the offense or the defense have proven that they can be dominant and become the identity of this football team.  However, each has shown the potential to be very, very good.  That potential has just not been realized to this point. 

The defense played extremely well overall.  They allowed just seven points.  They allowed just one play of over 20 yards.  They also made some big plays.  They intercepted one pass, caused three fumbles, broke up four passes, registered five tackles for loss and sacked the quarterback three times. 

With starting defensive end Pep Levingston out with an injury, a pair of redshirt freshmen took his place.  Chancey Aghayere and Lavar Edwards both played well and each recorded a sack.  Edwards' sack was a monster hit on Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith which caused a fumble.  I thought both guys played well.  Drake Nevis continues to look like LSU's best defensive tackle.  He continues to get into the backfield, and he had two more tackles for loss.  True freshman Josh Downs played well again.  Charles Alexander and Al Woods also played well, and LSU has a nice group of tackles right now. 

The linebackers continue to primarily use four players in Harry Coleman, Jacob Cutrera, Kelvin Shephard, and Perry Riley.  Riley and Coleman are playing very good football right now.  Coleman led the team in tackles on Saturday.  But the coaches can't seem to settle on a middle linebacker.  Shepard will show amazing athleticism and lay a big hit on one play but will then look poor while missing a tackle on the next play.  Cutrera is a bit more reliable, but doesn't quite have the speed that Shephard does.   Thinking out loud, I wonder if Riley could play in the middle with sophomore Ryan Baker taking Riley's weak side position. 

The secondary played a lot better in Week 2.  We saw better tackling though it could still improve.  My only concern here is that the coaching staff still seems undecided on who they want on the field.  At one cornerback position, Chris Hawkins and Jai Eugene are rotating in and out.  You've also got Brandon Taylor, Danny McCray, and Karnell Hatcher rotating at safety.  I think the staff needs to settle on the starters and the rotation before the defense can really reach their potential.  Having depth is a good thing but having clearly defined roles is also very important. 

The offense came out and showed a lot more creativity than they did in Week 1.  We saw a lot of option running plays, we saw Brandon Lafell incorporated into some of those options plays, and we saw Russell Shepard make his college debut.  But we did not see LSU throw the ball down the field very much, especially after the rain started.  The large majority of the passing plays were within 10 yards.  As a result, we saw the defense creep towards the line of scrimmage which made running the ball, especially in the middle of the field, much more difficult.  LSU certainly has the ability to go down the field, but they apparently preferred to play things safe and the rain may have been a concern. 

Jordan Jefferson continues to play well.  Most importantly, he protects the football and makes good decisions, and he has thrown zero interceptions during his four career starts.  That is something I could certainly get used to.  While his accuracy on paper was excellent, completing 20 of 29 passes, he did miss some open receivers.  Jefferson overthrew an open Chris Mitchell on a post route that would have resulted in a touchdown.  He also threw low on a couple of passes, including one to an open Brandon Lafell that would have been a first down.   LSU also ran a lot of option plays, and Jefferson needs to continue to improve in his execution of those plays.  He took some poor angles which didn't leave his running backs much room to maneuver once he made the pitch.  With more experience, I think he'll start hitting those open throws and running a more effective option. 

LSU's offensive line looks to be the biggest question mark on the offense, especially on the interior.   Defenses are getting way too much pressure up the middle on passing plays, and LSU is having trouble running the ball between the tackles.  The Tigers simply have to get better play from T-Bob Hebert, Lyle Hitt, and Josh Dworacyzk or else this offense is not going to click.  With defenses able to get quick pressure on Jefferson, throwing passes down the field is not going to be an option.  The lack of an effective fullback thus far is also preventing LSU from running inside.  As a result, we've seen Keiland Williams have a lot more success than Charles Scott thus far since Williams is asked to run outside a bit more. 

It was great to see RJ Jackson step up and make his case for being LSU's #3 wide receiver.  With just one career reception coming into the game, Jackson caught six passes for 55 yards, including one great catch to set up a field goal right before halftime.  I hope that LSU's coaching staff tries to build on Jackson's good performance and work him into the offense even more. 

It was also great to see Russell Shepard make his debut as a Tiger.  Shep carried the ball three times for 27 yards.  He also caught a pass before fumbling.  From that limited time, anyone in attendance could tell that Shepard is as electric as advertised.  He's going to be awfully special, and I think he's going to make some big plays for LSU this year. 

In some bad news, running back Richard Murphy was injured and is apparently out for the remainder of the season.  Murphy was not seeing a ton of playing time at running back, but it's always a good thing to have depth.  It will be interesting to see if true freshman Mike Ford enters the mix.  In all likelihood, Stevan Ridley will pick up the carries that Murphy was receiving. 

I have to gripe a bit here.  The new video screen in Tiger Stadium looks great.  It's a shame that HALF of the screen is taken up by advertisements during each replay.  In fact, it's completely ridiculous.  I understand that the athletic department has to make money, and they sometimes have to be creative in order to do that.  But it's just lunacy to use half the screen during every replay with advertisements rather than video. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Vanderbilt Notes; Week 2 Predictions



Vanderbilt had a surprising offensive output in Week 1 by putting up 45 points and 620 total yards against Western Carolina.  While Western Carolina is a poor team, that is an impressive performance regardless. Quarterback Larry Smith led the way for the Commodores, and he's a guy that could give LSU some problems on Saturday night.   Smith has a strong arm and is very mobile.  He's not always entirely accurate, but he managed to go a respectable 10 of 18 in Week 1. 

On offense, Vandy likes to spread things out and they like to run the ball from those formations.  They run the zone-read play quite a bit and are pretty effective at doing so.  But like LSU, Vandy is not afraid to line up in the I-formation and pound the ball when they need to.  Vanderbilt had a pair of freshman running backs who rushed for over 100 yards in Week 1.  Expect to hear Zac Stacy and Warren Norman's name called quite a bit Saturday.  The Dores don't have any receiving threats that will scare you, but their athletes on the edges are good enough to get open on some underneath routes and keep the chains moving.  I suspect Vanderbilt will try to do a lot of things in the passing game similar to what Washington did last week.  We'll see lots of underneath routes and screens, and we may see their quarterback run the ball a little more. 

Vanderbilt always has a tough defense, and this year is no exception.  They shut out Western Carolina and allowed just 115 total yards.  They have solid players at both linebacker and in the secondary.  Cornerback Myron Lewis and linebacker Patrick Benoist are both very good and are candidates to come up with big plays. 

From LSU, I'm expecting to see a different team than we saw a week ago.  I'm expecting the defense to be improved but to still have some problems but I think we'll see an entirely different offense.  I really believe that the coaching staff was holding things back a bit against Washington and that we'll see some more creativity this week.   I also think we'll see Russell Shepard get into the mix and get involved in a few plays.   If Jordan Jefferson continues to be poised and play mistake-free football, then LSU should win this game.   The game may still be in doubt in the fourth quarter, but LSU will win in the end. 

LSU  27
Vanderbilt 17
Line:  LSU -14.5


Last Week:
9-1 Overall
3-4 ATS

Georgia 20
South Carolina 17
Line:  Georgia -7

Florida  45
Troy 14
Line:  Florida -37

Tennessee 31
Line:  Tennessee -10

Alabama  42
Florida International  3
Line:  Alabama -33.5

Mississippi State  13
Auburn  31
Line:  Auburn -14

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Molton Leaves LSU Program; Around The SEC



Redshirt freshman wide receiver Tim Molton has left LSU's program, according to LSU.  This is a significant blow to the Tigers' receiving corps.  Molton made lots of noise with his impressive play in practice as a freshman last year and during spring practice this year.  He was expected to contribute in 2009 before suffering a season ending knee injury over the summer.  Looking ahead to the 2010 season, I had him pegged as a guy who would be seriously in the mix.  

It's unclear why Molton decided to leave LSU's program but it's not real good news as far as I'm concerned. 

LSU's WR class of 2008 is getting smaller and smaller.  Deangelo Benton never qualified academically and is now at Auburn.  Deangelo Peterson is playing tight-end.  And now Tim Molton is gone.  That leaves just Chris Tolliver and Jhyrn Taylor.  And with LSU signing just 1 WR in 2009 (Reuben Randle), the group is looking thin for the immediate future. 

I'll make my plea, once again, for LSU to move Richard Murphy to wide receiver at some point.  I think Murphy is too good a player and too good an athlete to continue to be on the bench.  I know that he'll get more looks at running back in 2010 once Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, and Trindon Holliday graduate but I still think he's better served at receiver. 


MISSISSIPPI STATE:  Bulldog head coach and former Florida offensive coordinator may have found a guy to mimic Tim Tebow. In a bit of a surprise, 6'2" 230 pound Chris Relf got the start at QB over last year's starter, Tyson Lee. Just a sophomore, Relf was 7 of 10 passing with three touchdowns and added 82 yards rushing and another touchdown on the ground. The competition wasn't much against Jackson State, but it was a good start for the new Mississippi State offense which racked up 410 total yards. True freshman Chad Bumphis caught a pair of touchdowns. They face Auburn this weekend.

GEORGIA:  The Bulldogs were none too impressive in an opening day loss at Oklahoma State. Quarterback Joe Cox struggled to get anything going and the team managed just 10 points. On the bright side, the defense did a good job at holding Oklahoma State's high powered offense to just over 300 total yards. With South Carolina, @ Arkansas, Arizona State, and LSU coming up, the Bulldogs could be looking at a losing record five games into the season.

TENNESSEE:  The Lane Kiffin era got off to a nice start, putting up 63 points and 657 yards of offense while allowing just 83 total yards. Western Kentucky isn't the toughest test, but those numbers are impressive no matter how you look at it. True freshman running back Bryce Brown logged 104 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Jonathon Crompton had a nice day but threw two interceptions.

SOUTH CAROLINA:  While Steve Spurrier continues to struggle putting a decent offense on the field, his defense once again carried the day. The Gamecocks held NC State to just 133 total yards in an ugly 7-3 victory. They held the Wolfpack star quarterback Russell Wilson to just 74 yards passing and they sacked him six times. If they play defense like that against Georgia's pedestrian offense this week, they have a real shot to win that game.

AUBURN:  Auburn's new coaching staff had a very nice debut against a decent Louisiana Tech team. Gus Malzahn's new offense racked up 556 yards of offense and 37 points. Two running backs rushed for over 100 yards and Chris Todd had a nice day at quarterback with 255 passing yards and no interceptions. Mario Fanin played receiver and caught eight passes for 83 yards, leading the team. They play a very interesting game against Mississippi State this week.

ARKANSAS:  The Hogs also had an impressive offensive performance in the debut of new quarterback Ryan Mallet. Mallet was 17 of 22 for 309 yards and a touchdown. His backup, Tyler Wilson, went 13 of 19. The offense notched 591 total yards against hapless Missouri State.

VANDERBILT:  Vandy had a surprisingly great day on offense, compiling 620 total yards with 433 coming on the ground. A pair of freshman running backs each had over 100 yards. Quarterback Larry Smith was 10 of 18 for 153 yards but added 66 rushing. Vanderbilt played their usual solid defense holding Western Carolina to just 115 total yards.

FLORIDA: The Gators had no trouble taking care of Charleston Southern in a 62-3 rout. It's interesting to note that the Gators' defense allowed over 200 yards to Charleston Southern in the first half.

ALABAMA:  Against Virginia Tech, Alabama dominated the game on the stat sheet even though the game was competitive on the scoreboard. Alabama's tough defense allowed just 155 yards while gaining 498 of their own. However, the game was close well into the fourth quarter. Sophomore running back Mark Ingram had a monster day with 150 rushing yards and two total touchdowns. Greg McElroy was just OK in his first game as the Tide's starting quarterback. He was 15 of 30 with 1 TD and 1 INT. Bama gets Florida International next.

OLE MISS:  Ole Miss defeated Memphis by a score of 45-14 but their performance was not as impressive as the score indidcated. Jevan Snead threw a pair of interceptions on what seemed like an off day for him. Starting running back Cordera Eason struggled, but the other running backs did very well. The Ole Miss team has been fighting off the flu, but they are off this weekend and that should allow them some time to recover.

KENTUCKY:  In another impressive performance by an SEC team, Kentucky defeated Miami of Ohio 42-0. They also put up lots of yardage with 488 while holding Miami to 188. Ten different players carried the ball for Kentucky.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Washington Recap


Traveling on the road against a BCS conference opponent for the season opener is never an easy thing.  You can ask LSU's 2002 team about their trip to Virginia Tech or the 2005 squad about their trip to Arizona State.  Things become more difficult when a team must travel over 2,000 miles and face one of the nation's most talented quarterbacks.  But LSU did just that, and they defeated the Huskies without ever being in any serious danger of losing the game.  So the faithful LSU fans should be satisfied with the victory then, right?


That's not the case.  And rightfully so.  Achieving victory should not be easily dismissed as a certainty; however, I think we were all hoping for a bit better performance from the Tigers on Saturday...especially from the defense. 

After hearing all off-season about the new defensive coaching staff, LSU fans became optimistic that a return to playing outstanding defense was imminent.  So to see LSU surrender 478 yards and allow 11 of 19 third down attempts was especially disheartening. 

After hearing all off-season about how "hungry" the team was after a lackluster 2008 campaign, it was disappointing to see the team play without a sense of urgency and with seemingly little enthusiasm. 

But things were not all bad. 

While I would have liked to see the Tigers run the ball between the tackles with more success, the offense played well as a whole.  Jordan Jefferson wasn't perfect but he was very composed and he threw three touchdowns without turning the ball over.  That's a welcome change from 2008, no?  He also added 42 yards rushing.   Terrance Toliver enjoyed a career day with two long touchdowns and 117 yards.  And while the running backs seemed to get stacked up at times, they averaged 5.3 yards per carry as a group.   LSU averaged more yards per play on the night (6.6) than did Washington (5.8).

Also in the "good news" department is that LSU made adjustments in the locker room and performed much better in the second half.  LSU allowed just 116 yards in the Huskies' first four second half drives. They then gave up 81 yards for a touchdown on Washington's last drive while playing a prevent defense.

The real story of the game was the time of possession.  Washington held the ball for 37 minutes as opposed to just 23 minutes for LSU.  The Huskies ran 83 offensive plays while the Tigers ran just 48.   That's an incredible disparity, and I wanted to examine why this took place. 

First and foremost, LSU really struggled in the first half at getting off the field on third down while on defense.  LSU would make two solid defensive plays before allowing Washington to convert on 3rd and long.  So despite playing very good defense 66% of the time, the Huskies were able to keep drives alive and keep LSU's offense on the bench.

Additionally, it was clear that LSU's strategy on defense was to play a "bend but don't break" style.  This worked to an extent because despite 470 yards of offense, LSU held Washington to just 16 points until the final play of the game.   LSU played the safeties very deep and often had the linebackers drop deep on passing plays.  While this opened up the short middle of the field for quick crossing routes and contributed to Washington's success on third down, it prevented big plays for the most part and allowed LSU's defenders to attack the ball carriers and receivers by running towards the line of scrimmage.  I thought that LSU made some big plays.  They had a pair of turnovers and several tackles for little to no gain.  And it was on one of those drops by a linebacker that enabled Jacob Cutrera to intercept a pass and return it for a touchdown.  However, some of the fundamentals were lacking.  Missed tackles and bad angles led to a few Husky drives staying alive when they didn't need to.  Those fundamentals are things that often improve a great deal after the first game or two, and we hope that's the case moving forward. 

Lastly, LSU scored quickly on a couple of long touchdowns to Terrance Toliver which gave the ball back to the Huskies quickly. 

It was a surprise that Russell Shepard didn't see the field at all on Saturday.  Perhaps one of LSU's best offensive weapons stayed on the bench.  Les Miles indicated that the game was close and couldn't afford any mistakes that a freshman might make.  Many others speculate that Miles doesn't want to "reveal" Shepard until SEC play begins so that he will be more difficult for opponents to gameplan against.  I'll buy each of those reasons, but not entirely.  It'd like to see Shep on the field Saturday and involved in the offense. 

Lost in the negative discussion about the defense were some very good individual performances.  Three guys really stood out to me as having played great games.  Patrick Peterson, Drake Nevis, and Harry Coleman were all outstanding. 

LSU's punting has to improve.  Derek Helton's debut as the Tiger punter wasn't a good one.  Helton averaged just 32 yards on four punts, and that's not going to get it done. 

So while it wasn't pretty, it could have been worse.  Just ask Georgia or Oklahoma.  Red Flags?  Yep.  Time to panic?  Not for me.   I'm going to take a "wait and see" approach for now and I'm going to expect a good win against Vanderbilt on Saturday. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

8 Questions Heading Into The Season; Week 1 Predictions


1) Will the quarterback play be better in 2009? 

Heading into 2008, we know that LSU had serious question marks at quarterback.  But most figured that the green QB could lean on a strong defense and just manage the offense, make good decisions, and win games.  Well, the defense wasn't strong and the guy who ended up playing the most was not a good decision maker.  Heading into 2009, things are much different.  We've seen Jordan Jefferson a bit, and he seems to take care of the ball and make good decisions.  He's also a good runner, which keeps defenses honest.  In all likelihood, he'll have a better defense to help him out too.  So while Jefferson will make some rookie mistakes, the quarterback play will undoubtedly be a huge improvement from a year ago. 

2) Will the running backs be similar to last year?

The short answer:  Probably.  I expect Charles Scott to be the main man and get the bulk of the carries.  However I do think we're going to see a different Keiland Williams this year and I think it's going to lighten the load on Scott.   Based on comments from the coaches, I'd expect to see more of Trindon Holliday this year and a bit less of Richard Murphy.

3) What wide receivers will step up to help out Brandon Lafell?

Just like other star wide receivers before him such as Bowe, Davis, Doucet and Lafell, Terrance Toliver has waited his turn.  It's now Toliver's turn to become a significant contributor.  I think Toliver will do one better and become a star in the SEC.  I've got him pegged for at least 40 receptions with the potential to do much, much better.  Senior Chris Mitchell will be a solid #3 wide receiver until true freshman Reuben Randle takes over.  Randle will show glimpses of future stardom himself, but don't expect a Julio Jones-like impact in Season #1.  He has the luxury of playing behind star players with experience.  Senior RJ Jackson will be in the mix too. 

4) Deangelo Peterson is now a tight-end? 

I've got high hopes for Peterson at tight-end.  A special teams standout and backup wide receiver as a freshman, Peterson made the move to tight-end in the off season.  He's all the way up to 240 pounds on his 6'4" frame, and he'll be very difficult for a linebacker or safety to cover.  He'll play some this year, but probably as a specialty player.  Richard Dickson is still the man at tight-end.  Mitch Joseph will once again take over as the blocking tight-end.  Peterson is strictly a receiving tight-end right now, but he'll continue to improve on his blocking and I think he'll show us enough in 2009 for us to believe we'll see no drop off when Richard Dickson departs. 

5) Is T-Bob Hebert going to be OK at center?

T-Bob Hebert was signed two years ago and redshirted in 2007.  He played sparingly on special teams and even some at fullback before injuring his knee last year.  He's healthy now and all set to be the starting center for LSU against Washington.  He's never snapped a ball at the college level but from all accounts, he's ready to be the man.  One of the center's responsibilities is to recognize the defense and make calls at the line of scrimmage and Hebert has drawn praise from the coaches in that regard.  The silver lining is that while Hebert was out with his injury, redshirt freshman PJ Lonergan stepped up and showed he can play at the college level.  That will prove quite beneficial since LSU may want to rest Hebert from time to time due to his knee.  So the center position is certainly a question mark, but a couple of young players have shown the ability in practice to get things done.

6) Will the defensive line return to being dominant?

I'm not sure if the D-line will go back to being dominant like they've been for most of this decade.  But I do think we'll see a huge improvement from the product that was on the field last year, despite the loss of guys like Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois, Kirston Pittman, and Marlon Favorite.  The reason?  Coaching.  Earl Lane seemed like a super guy and he was a very good recruiter, but his players on the defensive line didn't play up to their ability and they didn't get it done on the field.  New defensive line coach Brick Haley has a resume to suggest things will be much different from his group.   I'm excited to see Drake Nevis, who I think is a star in the making as well as a much slimmer and quicker Al Woods.  Keep an eye on several young defensive ends. 

7) How good will Harry Coleman be at linebacker?

Moving down to linebacker after starting 13 games at strong safety last year, Coleman is primed for a big year.  I think he's going to be the breakout player on this defense.  John Chavis has a history of taking speedy, athletic players like Coleman and turning them into big time linebackers.  Coleman will be playing on the strongside and tasked with covering tight-ends and sometimes receivers.  But he'll get into the backfield often, and I have a feeling he'll be putting some licks on any quarterbacks who try to scramble. 

8)  With a couple of former five star recruits now starting, how good can the secondary be?

Very!  I firmly believe LSU fans will see breakout years from both Chad Jones and Patrick Peterson this year.  Both guys may land on some All-SEC teams and earn some hype as potential All-Americans heading into 2010.  Of course, they only make up half of the starting secondary.  Sophomore Brandon Taylor will apparently take over at strong safety and he'll give LSU some speed and coverage ability in the deep half of the field.  It looks like a slimmer and quicker Jai Eugene will be the starter opposite Peterson, and I expect him to be solid.  Chris Hawkins will play a lot at corner.  I also think we'll see Danny McCray, Karnell Hatcher, and Ron Brooks on the field in various sets and all guys have talent and experience.  All in all, I think we'll see players in the defensive backfield being aggressive and actually making plays. 


I won't go into too much detail on the game since I recently previewed Washington's team.  I expect LSU to endure some first game mistakes.  But so long as those mistakes don't involve multiple turnovers, then LSU won't have too much trouble on Saturday night.  Washington quarterback Jake Locker might present some problems, but the simple fact is that he doesn't have any help.  In the end, the Huskies will be overwhelmed by LSU's talent.   The first game mistakes will prevent a total blowout, but LSU will notch an impressive win regardless. 

LSU 34
Washington 10
Line: LSU -17.5


NC State 24
South Carolina 13
Line:  NC State -4.5

Oklahoma State 31
Georgia 20
Line: Oklahoma State -5

Tennessee 38
Western Kentucky  10
Line:  Tennessee -30

Kentucky 28
Miami (OH) 17
Line: Kentucky -15

Auburn 27
Louisiana Tech 13
Line:  Auburn -13

Arkansas 41
Missouri State 7
Line: None

Ole Miss 34
Memphis 10
Line: Ole Miss -17

Mississippi State 28
Jackson State 10
Line: None

Vanderbilt 27
Western Carolina 6
Line:  None


Saturday Night Slant - LSU Sports & Recruiting