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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tigers on the tube

No, we're not talking Tigervision for Saturday's game against UL-Lafayette.

We're talking "Eye of the Storm'' on Fox Sports Net on Sunday night. The one-hour documentary of LSU's 2005 season dealing with Hurricane Katrina makes its debut Sunday night.

I had the chance to talk with Fox Sports Net president Bob Thompson today and he's excited about the way the show has come out. John Goodman will be doing a voiceover and the final footage is being shot on Saturday night as the team comes out of the tunnel. It will bring the story back full circle.

Anyway, we'll have a story with more details at LSUBeat.com this weekend to give you a little better idea about what to expect.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How much of an advantage?

LSU freshman Jacob Cutrera was the only member of the Tigers' recruiting class to enroll last spring.

You may remember early enrollment was all the rage at one time. Now, only 14 freshmen in the SEC enrolled early. Georgia leads the way with six early enrollees and Floriday had four. Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt didn't have any.

So this begs the question: How much of an advantage is it to enroll early?

Well, of the 53 true freshmen in Division I-A who enrolled early, exactly one has earned a starting position - punter Kyle Yelton of Illinois.

As for players who aren't specialists, well, second team is about high as you can go. Cutrera is second team on the depth chart. He is joined by a handful of others in the same boat.

Is it worth it? That's a good question. Would Cutrera be second team if he hadn't enrolled early, probably not. Is he starting now? No. But he may start sooner after being on campus longer than the average freshman.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

In-state games

LSU opens its season with Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.

It wasn't that long ago that it would have been unheard of for LSU to play an in-state school other than Tulane in football. Kudos to the LSU athletic department for playing in-state teams.

Let's face it, in only the rarest of years will LSU lose one of these games. So competition really isn't a factor.

LSU also gets some benefits from these games. Ticket sales go pretty good. ULL had no trouble selling its tickets for Saturday's game. The same can be said pretty much every time an in-state team travels to Tiger Stadium. Also, the guarantee money is staying in the state when LSU plays an in-state team. And, finally, fans of other teams get to experience Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night.

While LSU deserves kudos for playing in-state schools, there is a question of why the school plays out-of-state Division I-AA teams.

If you're going to play a I-AA team, and apparently LSU will again in future years, shouldn't the same in-state philosophy apply?

Let's face, McNeese, Northwestern State, Grambling, Southern, Southeastern and Nicholls aren't going to beat LSU. But shouldn't they have the same opportunity as the in-state I-A teams?

If not, then shouldn't LSU quit playing I-AA teams altogether?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Academics matter

Memo to high school recruits: If you want to play early, then you better take care of your work in the classroom.

LSU has brought in three high-profile running back recruits - Richard Murphy, Charles Scott and Keiland Williams. Of those three, only one of the running backs didn't have NCAA Clearinghouse problems - Charles Scott.

So it's little wonder that of the three prospects, only Scott looks like a sure thing to see playing time this year.

"Charles Scott has put himself in position to play,'' LSU coach Les Miles said at his weekly news conference today.

Miles all but said Scott will play. Of Murphy and Williams, it appears only one of the two will play with the other one expected to be redshirted.

The early leader for playing time is Williams.

"Keiland has been a fast learner,'' Miles said.

So count on seeing Scott and Williams this season and expect to see Murphy wearing a redshirt.

And the moral of the story: Get your grades - on time.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Mississippi: Football USA?

The states of Texas, Florida, California and Louisiana may care to object, but the youth football organization, USA Football has declared that Mississippi is the best football state in the nation.

I have no defense for this so I'll leave it to the organization to explain its finding.

"The study ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on five different criteria: percentage of professional football fans (Mississippi ranked 21st), percentage of college football fans (15th), percentage of varsity high school football players divided by the state’s male population 15-17 (3rd), percentage of signed NCAA Division-I recruits for 2006 divided by the number of 11-man varsity high school football players in that state (7th) and the percentage of NFL players in 2005 divided by the number of 11-man varsity high school players in the state (8th). The states ranking in the top 10 included (in order of finish) Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, Kansas and Florida."


Anyhow, I'm sure this is good from drumming up some publicity for Football USA, but being the top state for football sure hasn't translated to the home grown college football fields.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Worth watching

Fox Sports plans to show a documentary next month on the LSU football team's 2005 season. The peg is how the team dealt with Hurricane Katrina.

While this story is certainly well-documented, this is probably an hour worth watching.

I say that after having seen an early promotional copy. The viewer will get some insights from coach Les Miles and several players that will certainly add to what you already know.

The final part of the show will include the 2006 season opener against UL-Lafayette and then air later in September.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Beware the stat man

LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell completed 16 of 23 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns in a scrimmage Tuesday night.

At least that's what LSU sports information tells us.

I don't doubt the honesty of LSU sports information. I am a little skeptical about stats from a closed scrimmage.

In 1991, Curley Hallman regularly had closed scrimmages. After each scrimmage, the stats always had Chad Loup completing some obscene percentage. I think he was 12-of-14 or something sick like that.

So, given those numbers, members of the media wrote about a new and improved Chad Loup.

Then the season started. And it was the same ol' Chad Loup.

Nothing against Chad Loup. He was a nice enough fellow. But those stats - whether they were inflated by the coaching staff or inflated against a bad defense - did nothing to predict how the season would go.

Now, Les Miles is the coach and LSU released just Russell's passing numbers. Which tells me the other guys were either really bad or really good and they don't want anyone to know.

As for me, those numbers from Tuesday's scrimmage are taken with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


There is a quarterback battle brewing at LSU after all, but junior JaMarcus Russell is not involved in it.

Russell is clearly No. 1 as he was last year and ever since Marcus Randall finished at LSU in 2004. He actually should have been No. 1 before that, but that's another story.

The race is for No. 2 between junior Matt Flynn and red-shirt freshman Ryan Perrilloux.

Alabama coach Ray Perkins, the second best of seven Bear Bryant replacements after Gene Stallings, once told me that a coach never has to name a No. 2 quarterback.

Flynn may be the first off the bench should LSU build a big lead against Louisiana-Lafayette in the opener on Sept. 2, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. LSU coaches, who are so conscious of their quarterbacks' feelings that one would think they are in Williamsport, Pa., will put Flynn in first this season for mop-up duty based on seniority.

But if they need a real No. 2 quarterback in case of a sputtering offense or an injury to Russell or Russell just having a bad day, look for Perrilloux to be the man.

Perrilloux has drawn even with Flynn in August camp if the Aug. 19 scrimmage is any indication.

Flynn did not throw with a lot of sharpness and did not throw the next Monday because of a sore arm. Perrilloux has never had a sore arm and is just more talented. He is also improving on a daily basis.

LSU coaches also have to keep Perrilloux happy moreso than Flynn. Perrilloux, who was the No. 1 quarterback in the nation coming out of high school, was told he'd have a shot at the job and some playing time when he signed. Flynn was not nearly as large a signing. He was not the No. 1 quarterback in Texas, much less the country. He's a solid and dependable backup who could start and win at a lot of other schools, but he's not going anywhere. He's happy where he is.

Meanwhile, Perrilloux has a little more leverage. He could leave at any time, like this week.

LSU's coaches also know what Flynn can do under fire. They are more interested in what Perrilloux will do in such live situations, particularly early in the season, so he will be that much better if really needed later on.

So make that depth chart Russell and Flynn/Perrilloux.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Crunching the numbers

On the day LSU announced record season-ticket sales for football at 67,800, the University of Texas announced its record season-ticket sales for football at 72,000.

A closer look at the numbers shows Texas selling more season tickets than LSU, but Austin's Memorial Stadium seating roughly 6,000 less fans than LSU's Tiger Stadium.

So Texas has fewer seats than LSU, but sells more season tickets.

What does it mean? It means it's tougher for a student to get a ticket at UT. It's especially tough when you consider the size of the University of Texas. It's also tougher for an opponent to get a ticket to a UT game. And it's tougher for Joe Fan to get a ticket.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

SI jinxed?

Sports Illustrated has the Tigers ranked No. 4 in the nation in its college football preview.

There may not be an LSU fan from Lake Providence to Lake Charles, from Shreveport to New Orleans, who wouldn't take that season. Because a No. 4 national ranking would put the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl for the third time this decade as SEC champions.

That's the good news. The bad news is SI's predictions sometimes flame out. (Wink, wink Phil Fulmer).

And isn't it interesting that SI would have the Tigers No. 4 when the magazine's own Web site earlier this summer pegged LSU as a team that could flop the way Tennessee did.

Again, the polls, the previews, they're all good for stirring up interest - and not much else.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Say what?

So I'm at the library with my 7-year-old daughter in the kids section and there is a copy of Sports Illustrated for Kids. It's the magazine's college football issue.

I decide to pick it up and just see how SI for Kids is shaping the minds of young sports fans. And was I in for a surprise.

The magazine's preseason No. 1 pick? Florida. Excuse me, but isn't this the same Florida program that hasn't played in the SEC Championship Game since 2000? This is the same Florida team that has Chris Leak trying to run the spread option.

Then, at No. 2 is Michigan. Look, if you want to pick Michigan No. 2 in the Big Ten, then I'm with you. But No. 2 in the country? What kind of joke is this?

OK, so where is LSU in this magazine? Glad you asked. SI for Kids has the Tigers ranked No. 8. That's in line with a lot of other publications and rankings, so there is no gripe there.

The gripe comes with what was said about LSU. The magazine looks at what could go right and what could go wrong for the Tigers. Under what could go wrong, it suggests a potential quarterback controversy if JaMarcus Russell doesn't play well. That's hardly a novel concept. What is new is the magazine suggests fans and reporters will be clamoring for RYAN PERRILLOUX.

Uh, Perrilloux hasn't taken a snap in a college football game. More likely, the screaming would be for No. 2 quarterback Matt Flynn.

So that's what the kids are being fed these days - a bunch of hogwash.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Tracking the polls

All right, so the coaches have LSU ranked No. 9 in the nation in their first preseason poll.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the Tigers ranked No. 8 in their preseason poll. The newspaper is counting down to No. 1. So if you want to check out what they have to say about the Tigers go to www.startelegram.com.

The Associated Press poll comes out Friday. So where will the Tigers be in that poll? Gee, I'm going to guess somewhere between No. 8 and No. 10.

Now here is the good news for LSU fans, a national ranking in the top 10 to start the season should put the Tigers within striking distance as this year's top two teams aren't set in stone.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Since news broke of LSU having four ineligible incoming players and four others having to wait for the OK from the NCAA Clearinghouse, LSU fans and some media members, who are nothing but fans, have been decrying the methods of the NCAA.

Gone for the 2006 season due to grades are safety Shomari Clemons of West Monroe, defensive tackle Charles Deas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., cornberback Jason Teague of Carthage, Texas, and offensive tackle Phil Loadholt of Garden City Junior College in Kansas. All are very good players. Loadholt could have started this season.

Don't believe what coach Les Miles is saying now about him providing depth. He was recruited to play right away, and Miles and his assistants said that when Loadholt signed in February.

Unable to practice until their late summer work is thoroughly checked by the NCAA Clearinghous are nationally recruited tailbacks Keiland Williams of Lafayette and Richard Murphy of Rayville. They are falling more and more behind each day, and LSU needs new tailbacks as veterans Alley Broussard and Justin Vincent are each coming off knee injuries.

Also still awaiting clearance are offensive guard Steven Singleton of Buford, Ga., and defensive tackle Al Woods of Elton. LSU needs every able offensive lineman possible.

Do not blame the NCAA. Blame these "student-athletes" and LSU for signing them.

Funny, when LSU did not have many eligibility problems and did not have to deal with the Clearinghouse in the past, fans did not criticize the NCAA. Fans and media are like this everywhere, and it just makes me laugh. A sports editor of mine in Mobile, Ala., did the same hypocritical thing. When Ole Miss was slapped with major NCAA probation in the early 1990s, he said nothing. But when his beloved Alabama got penalized in 1995, he cried bloody murder and considered an expose on the NCAA itself!

Considering the tradition of cheating that has been in college football since it started, I commend the NCAA for whatever policiing it can do.

If LSU wants to avoid the NCAA and its Clearinghouse, which checks the grades and courses of players because of the tradition of high schools fixing grades for its star players, then LSU coach Les Miles needs to recruit better students. Nick Saban did it. So can Miles. He just has to work harder.

The only players the Clearinghouse deals with this close to the beginning of the season are stragglers who just got their test scores, grades are course requirements up to snuff in late summer. Those who graduate in May with everything in line and get their work to the NCAA promptly, hear back promptly. Those are the players Miles needs to sign. Those are the players Saban signed.

You don't sign a bunch of players in February who you think might make it by August. You sign a bunch of players who you know will make it because they've already shown that they're in line to finish fine.

The best way to do this as LSU's coach is to sign at least 12 academically qualified, out-of-state players every February when you're signing a 25-man class. This is what Saban tried to do. The simple truth is, Louisiana's education system is not good enough to produce 25 good football players who will also be good enough in the classroom to qualify without sweating out August waiting for the Clearinghouse to weed through all the other crammers.

LSU is a good enough football program to attract nothing but academic qualifiers. Miles and his staff have to be good enough to find them.

Dose of perspective

It's easy to sometimes think of world events not really having much of an effect on our lives in the United States.

Then something happens that brings it home.

The latest example comes from the Middle East where Israel and Hezbollah are waging war. Most of that war is affecting Lebanon. Most in the United States are watching this one from the sidelines.

You may not realize it, but a former LSU basketball player, Brian Beshara has been playing basketball in Lebanon. Beshara is on that country's national basketball team and will be playing in the world championships beginning on Aug. 19.

For now, Beshara is safely out of harm's way with the Lebanese national team. But, as you read Kevin Sherrington's column, Beshara will have some decisions to make about his hoops future.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Worth a read

If you can't wait until Sept. 2 for the season opener against UL-Lafayette, then maybe you can pass the time away with a good LSU read.

Former Times-Picayune sports writer Marty Mule' has a new book, "Game of My Life: Memorable Stories of LSU Tigers Football'', which should be of interest to Tigers fans. The concept of the book is this: Each chapter is about a former LSU star and a memorable game that the player starred in.

There is something for just about every LSU Tigers fan in this book. For younger fans, there are chapters with JaMarcus Russell, Marcus Spears, Matt Mauck. For middle-age fans, there are chapters on Charles Alexander, John Ed Bradley and Leonard Marshall. For older fans, there are chapters on Ken Kavanaugh, Billy Cannon and Max Fugler.

It's an interesting and entertaining book. One that will bring back its own memories.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Blocking Holes

The weakest link on LSU's football team just got weaker with the academic loss of junior college offensive tackle signee Philip Loadholt of Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kansas.

Loadholt, who is 6-foot-9 and 345 pounds, was one of the very big reasons why LSU coach Les Miles was in such a good mood at the signing day recruiting bash in downtown Baton Rouge last February.

"We filled our needs," Miles said. "Offensive line was one of them. He's about the largest man I've ever seen."

He had a large hole to fill as well. LSU has to replace four-year starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who is now in the NFL. Miles did not mention Loadholt at the Southeastern Conference Media Days last week. This was before news broke that he would not make the grade. He also dropped a bit of a bombshell that redshirt freshman left tackle Ciron Black would be "probably the guy that we're going to count on first and foremost."

So he knew something was up, or down with Loadholt. If a redshirt freshman has to be "counted on" at any position, you're in trouble. If a redshirt freshman has to be counted on in the offensive line, you're really in trouble. Especially if you're at a supposed national championship contender that will go into the season ranked in the top 10 in virtually every major poll.

Miles is a missing his right tackle, too. Senior Brian Johnson, who started 12 of LSU's 13 games last season at right tackle, was moved to right guard after the season to replace departed senior Nate Livings. This leaves senior Peter Dyakowski at right tackle. Dyakowski just started getting significant playing time last year. Miles is robbing from Peter to pay Paul. This does not look like a good move. Wouldn't Johnson be better staying at tackle after playing an entire season there?

Of course, guard is looking thin, too. Will Arnold and Brett Helms are solid guards, but Helms is at center now with heir apparent center Ryan Miller coming off a knee injury. The other guards are green except for Brian Johnson and 6-7, 339-pound Herman Johnson, who may be better at tackle.

All in all, LSU's offensive line looks nearly as weak on paper today as late in the Gerry DiNardo era when the Tigers finished 10th in the SEC in rushing offense with 82.5 yards a game, and DiNardo was trying to say he would have better rushing numbers if quarterback sacks were not counted toward the rushing total. (Uh, Gerry, it's like that with all college teams, so it's all relative.)

In addition to the loss of Whitworth, Livings and starting center Rudy Niswanger, LSU also loses fullback Kevin Steltz. You remember, Steltz. He was that guy who looked like a bowling ball with cleats. You should never had made fun of him. He is one of the best blocking fullbacks LSU has had in years. He will be sorely missed. Jacob Hester, Steve Korte and Shawn Jordan have the size to be good fullbacks and LSU's coaches rave about the talent they have at the position. But none of them can block like Steltz.

This could be a rough year for LSU's rushing attack, regardless of who is at tailback.

If Miles keeps signing classes with four academic casualties, which is the latest count, his teams will start to resemble those of DiNardo more and more and not those of Nick Saban, who rarely had academic casualties.

That's just a warning.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Auburn down two LBs for LSU game

ESPN reports that Auburn has suspended two of an already thin group on linebackers for the first three games of the season. Of course, the third game in that season just happens to be against the LSU Tigers.

Auburn was the overwhelming choice out of the SEC Media Days to win the SEC West. A large part of that equation had to do with LSU's conference road schedule which has them traveling to Auburn, Florida and Tennessee.

Sept. 16 looms large and it is one of those games, if not THE game, that serves as a barometer to how effective Les Miles is as the head coach at LSU. These are the type of games you must find a way to win as the underdog on the road. Last season's game in Alabama doesn't count, LSU should have won that game, Auburn is expected to win this one.

I know our colleague Jay G. Tate, who covers Auburn for The Montgomery Advertiser, was "shocked" to see Auburn voted as the easy favorite to win the West; we'll see what he thinks of Auburn's chances now.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Much ado about nothing

So I'm driving around listening to the Dan Patrick Show on Sirius when I hear Patrick and Keith Olbermann discuss Nick Saban's refusal to dine with President Bush the other night in Miami.

A Dolphins mouthpiece says Saban had a previous commitment with a special guest speaker he had address the Dolphins. Dan and Keith thought otherwise and then went on to speculate on why Saban would stiff the president.

The main gist of their argument was Saban refused to dine with Bush because of the government's ineffectiveness during Hurricane Katrina.

"The government abandoned Saban's family."

Olbermann countered that it would be hypocritical for Saban to hold a grudge with Bush since Saban also abandoned Louisiana.


I enjoy Olbermann's wit, commentary and observations, but he's off base on that cheap shot. Saban was long gone to South Florida before hurricane season had even begun.