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Friday, June 30, 2006

Looking ahead to signing day

I know, I know, signing day is still eight months away. But in beginning to compile some football recruiting lists some things are becoming apparent.

Here goes:

It's a great year for defensive linemen in the state. Consider these top prospects: West Monroe defensive tackle Will Blackwell, West Monroe defensive tackle Luther Davis, John Ehret's Drake Nevis, Lutcher' defensive tackle Rolando Melancon, Catholic of Baton Rouge' defensive end Jason Peters.

Defensive linemen are usually among the rarest finds. This year, though, Louisiana should be an ample recruiting ground. Already, LSU has a commitment from Bastrop defensive end Kentravis Aubrey. Keep an eye on the D-Line this recruiting year.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The long road to Chicago

The only thing surprising about Tyrus Thomas' trip to Chicago is the road he took.

Most figured the Bulls to take Thomas with the No. 2 pick in Wednesday's draft. But when the Bulls passed on Thomas at No. 2, the common thought was the former LSU star would have to get comfortable in another part of the country.

Ah, but the Bulls never let Thomas out of their mind. They made a trade with Portland, which had taken Thomas at No. 4, and got their man.

The question is just who will Thomas be in the NBA: Will he be Stromile Swift, considered by some to be a draft bust, or is he the next Shawn Marion?

Time will tell. Thomas is young and raw which leads you to think he is more apt to be Marion than Swift.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Only in baseball

The next time the LSU football coaching job comes open do you think the Notre Dame coach will come calling? Probably not.

But Paul Mainieri's decision to leave Notre Dame for LSU is important for a couple of reasons.

One, LSU didn't have to settle for a coach from a mid-major. Sorry, LSU is in no position for on-the-job training. Smoke Laval tried to make the jump from a head coach at the Southland to a head coach in the SEC and it didn't work.

Two, LSU's program is still held in high regard to get the Notre Dame coach to come down to the South. Sure, LSU fans may have preferred to have Jim Wells or Mike Bianco, but getting a coach to move within the conference isn't always the easiest. And George Horton was always a long shot.

No, LSU fans ought to be happy with Mainieri. His Notre Dame teams have consistently won. He has recruited well there. He has ties to the area.

All in all, it appears to be a good hire. Check back in four years.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Really big "E''

Two former LSU football players were inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night in Natchitoches - Ronnie Estay and Eric Martin.

I admit, Estay was just a little ahead of my time. Eric Martin, on the other hand, was right on time for me.

I always liked Eric Martin. Here was a kid from Van Vleck, Texas, who came to LSU as a running back and left as a wide receiver. It was one of the few really good moves Jerry Stovall made during his time as head coach at LSU.

As a receiver for the Saints, Martin was dependable and fearless, something the club has lacked since his retirement.

Martin doesn't look like the player he was at LSU or with the Saints. He's put on a little weight since his playing days. Still, both LSU and the Saints would do well to have players who performed the way Martin did on Saturdays and Sundays.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Texas two step

There was an interesting note in The Sporting News a couple of weeks ago about LSU's interest in playing a football game in Dallas.

The magazine noted that "LSU wants a game in Dallas, and the city and the Texas State Fair are trying to make it happen against a Big 12 team.''

OK, so far so good. I understand LSU wanting to get its foot in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. There are a lot of good football players in that area. There is a growing number of alums in the Metroplex. So far, I'm with them.

The magazine continues: "The problem: No one wants to play the Tigers. LSU even asked about Notre Dame, and the Irish said no thanks because they want to schedule neutral games in Florida (Orlandon and Jacksonville).''

I imagine Notre Dame feels comfortable enough in Texas that the Irish don't feel the need to play there. Florida, on the other hand, is also a key area for recruiting. So I guess I can see the Irish bailing out.

Back to The Sporting News: "LSU wants to restart its series with Texas A&M - the last game between the two was in 1995 with LSU leading the series 26-20-3 - but lingering animosity between the programs could prevent that.''

I don't remember animosity. I remember Texas A&M not wanting to aid LSU in recruiting in Texas, which is perfectly understandable - especially the way the Aggies have been getting carved up by Texas and OU and to some degree LSU, in recruiting in that state.

Back to The Sporting News: "Texas and Oklahoma already play in Dallas each year, so that likely leaves Texas Tech as the last alternative for LSU.''

If that's the case, then you almost have to wonder if it's worth it. Let's face it, winning a game against Texas Tech wouldn't carry the same ring as winning a game against Texas or A&M or OU. And losing to Texas Tech certainly is no way to keep the fan base happy.

As it is right now, LSU can want to get into Texas all it wants. It's just going to need a willing partner to help get the Tigers in the Lone Star State.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A swing and a miss

The scenario sounded so good: Smoke Laval out at LSU, Jim Wells from Alabama to LSU, John Cohen from Kentucky to Alabama. It sounded so good it never got past Laval out at LSU.

Wells says he is staying at Alabama. It's hard to blame Wells. Yes, he is a Bossier City native. Yes, he is a former LSU assistant. But at Alabama, Wells only has to live up to himself. He doesn't have to live up to Skip Bertman and some of the unrealistic expectations that have followed.

So Wells said no. Ole Miss' Mike Bianco is happy where he is, thank you. Vanderbilt's Tim Corbin said no thanks to a second interview? That's a quarter of the SEC telling the school with perhaps the conference's greatest baseball tradition, "No.''

What is going on here?

A lot of things. One, some coaches may be spooked by seeing a coach fired for not making the NCAA Tournament. Two, LSU's pay makes saying "no'' easier than you might think. Three, coaches in all sports are less apt to bounce around.

Remember during the football search there was a lot of talk about Butch Davis. It never materialized.

Hiring proven head coaches is a difficult task.

And it is why you need to have a good idea of who you can hire before you fire a coach. Because if you end up with a worse coach than what you had, why did you fire your coach anyway?

Windy City Bound?

The Chicago Bulls are on the clock ... will they go Tyrus Thomas or Brandon Roy?

(Toronto is still rumored to be in that foreign-born draft mode, you know, that style of player in crunch time that worked out so well for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.)

The Bulls have a need for both and do see themselves as contenders in the NBA Eastern Conference. So, if you're John Paxon, do you go with the athletic freak of nature (Thomas) or the player most ready to contribute (Roy)?

Here's what Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith says about Thomas:

"He came out of the Orlando pre-draft camp with a measurement of 6-8¼ with shoes, which is small, but with a 9-foot reach. And it didn't seem good that he bailed out of part of his Bulls workout with a stomachache, though there were reports of a groin injury. Tyson Chandler had a similar episode working out for Washington in 2001, which is one reason the Wizards passed on him. (It didn't quite work out with Kwame Brown, though, did it?) Is Thomas the next Stromile Swift or Shawn Marion? The Bulls complained last season of being small at all the positions, and Thomas wouldn't change that much. But Marion, to whom he's likened at times, is awfully effective playing inside. Plus, it seems Thomas can guard multiple positions. Dallas is in the Finals without a true post presence and the Bulls can get someone with size in free agency and perhaps in next year's draft with the pick they can exchange with the Knicks."

Thomas would do well to end up in a Bulls jersey. Compared to the teams surrounding the Bulls second pick, Toronto, Charlotte and Portland, the Bulls are by far the most stable. Toronto is in never-never land, Charlotte's biggest addition was Michael Jordan becoming part-owner and Portland is, well, Portland.

The suspence will end soon, the NBA Draft is in less than a week.