Saturday, June 30, 2007

2 Months to Go

Today marks 2 months until the August 30 opener against Mississippi State. It's also the end of this blog's 4th full month of coverage. I've enjoyed it immensely. I think it's time to take stock just a bit.

I'm actually slightly surprised at how prolific we've been here. June is usually a very slow month for college sports news, but this will be the 31st post of the month. I've posted almost every day, and Poseur has brought good content as well. I've had surprisingly little trouble finding inspiration in this blog. Of course, it helps that I cheat a little bit by going away from sports about one day per week.

Anyway, there is still lots to cover. Here are some topics that must be written about before teh season starts:
  • I'm going to give some kind of preview of the SEC. I haven't decided how detailed it will be. Maybe I'll preview each team individually. Maybe I'll preview each Division individually.
  • I have to, of course, finish the profiles of 2007 recruits.
  • I'm thinking about doing an SEC fantasy football pool. I already know how I want to do it, if I do it. I just haven't decided if it's something I want to do or not.
  • In-depth previews of the LSU football team, broken down by position, though I have already done this at least a little bit.
  • A discussion of Jacob Hester, a really good runing back who few people seem to understand (or perhaps who everyone understands except me).

Of course, LSU Nation is sitting on pins and needles waiting to find out what will become of Ryan Perrilloux. We're also busily fretting about what may be a down year in recruiting for 2008 (to be followed by an expected spectacular year in 2009).

Next month will hopefully be as exciting as this month was.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Quick Notes

A couple quick notes, not in reference to the earlier post of the day:
  • I need to announce a Blog Alliance with BearMeat, a Baylor sports blog that is really entertaining, despite the rather homo-erotic name of their little club, the BearBackers. I met them through Poseur, our occasional guest-writer, who is a member of the BearBackers and has written for BearMeat. They were kind enough to be complimentary towards our blog here, and their blog is really quite entertaining. I'll never be quite as funny as they are.
  • And finally, congratulations are in order to Glen "Big Baby" Davis who was drafted 35th in the NBA draft last night, and his rights traded to the Boston Celtics, which I maintain should be pronounced with a hard C, but it will never happen. He won't get guaranteed money due to not being drafted in the first round, but he has a legitimate shot to make this team.

2007 Recruiting - DeAngelo Benton

This is DeAngelo Benton, wide receiver, 6'3", 195#, 4.45 40-yard-dash, 37 inch vertical. He is a 4-star recruit out of Bastrop, and some say he is perhaps the most SEC-ready of all the wide receivers and wide receiver-maybes of the last couple of classes. Word is that he has great hands and body control, and can shield off defenders with his body, which is a very important skill that most high-level high school receivers do not possess because they are fast enough and athletic enough not to need to that. They say that Benton is the exception in that, even though he is very athletic as you can tell by his measurables, he is ready, willing, and able to fight for a ball using the higher-order skills you don't often see in a high school wideout.

He is pure wideout. He's not an "athlete" like John Williams, who has to find a position. He's not a slot receiver like a Ron Brooks or a Trindon Holliday. He probably won't be returning punts. He's a Dwayne Bowe style, line-up-against-the-cornerback-and-go-long (or medium, or short) wide receiver.

When I started this series, I did not anticipate profiling DeAngelo Benton because it was widely believed that he would not qualify academically. While he has not joined the team yet because of academic reasons, we received some hopeful news yesterday. Benton is in summer school in Bastrop retaking a course he had previously failed, hoping to get his core GPA up above 2.5. He has re-taken the ACT hoping to get that above a 17. If he can do both of those things, he will join the team in a couple weeks.

If he had been able to report to the team in time for summer workouts, I would believe there was a very good chance he'd be a solid contributor as a true freshman. However, because he's missing key development time here, and may have to miss part of Fall Practice due to the issues that kept Richard Murphy and Keiland Williams down, I don't really expect him to be able to beat out the Mitchells, Ricky Dixon, Brandon Lafell, Demetrius Byrd, and Terrance Toliver for playing time. Maybe in a year or two though.

This is, btw, the 13th edition of this series, which means we're halfway through the recruits, but more than halfway through the series. I won't profile everyone individually because I don't necessarily know a lot about each individual recruit. It's been a marvelous way to fill column inches while waiting for things of immediate importance to happen. Coming up, I will talk about the kickers we signed and use that as a starting point to discuss the importance of specialists. Hope you enjoy.

Update: Benton has fallen short of qualifying and will go to post-graduate prep school, hoping to be a part of the 2008 class.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Little guy decides not to go to Japan

On the day after the day that all-world 2008 quarterback recruit EJ Manuel announced his intentions to commit to Florida State rather than to LSU, I'm going to accentuate the positive. Sure, Manuel is arguably the best overall prospect in the country at a position where we desperately need to sign a quality recruit. I know that. I just... want to talk about something else. If you want more discussion of the Manuel recruitment, there are plenty of places where you can find quality, in-depth discussion (if by "quality, in-depth" it is meant "profane, trite").

Instead, let's talk about Trindon Holliday. Trindon Holliday is really really fast. Off course, he's more than just fast, but let's focus on the fast for just a second. He's so fast, he scored a silver medal in the 100 meters at the USA Championships and was invited to something called the Athletic Federations World Championships in Osaka, Japan. It was a huge accomplishment and a tremendous honor to be invited to participate in that.

The problem? To be involved in the World Championships, Trindon would have to miss all of fall practice and the first several games of the season. It would almost end Trindon's season as a football player. Let's then talk about the other thing Trindon Holliday does well: play football.

Sure, his football career got off to an ignominious start when he muffed a punt the first time he stepped on the field. However, he really developed from there into a dynamic offensive and special-teams weapon. While he never got back on the punt return team, and never caught a pass, he played running back, ran reverses from the slot position, and returned kickoffs. He averaged a whopping 12 yards per carry running the ball, and scored a spectacular and crucial touchdown against Arkansas on a kickoff return.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a YouTube video that isolated the Trindon Holliday kickoff return, but here's one where it shows up at the 2:02 mark.

It really is incredible. He took the ball, set up behind the wall, let the hole develop, and he EXPLODED through it. He changed speeds instantly and no one even got close to him after that. I really think we might well have lost that game if not for Trindon. Arkansas was taking the momentum following a spectacular 80 yard touchdown by McFadden, but Trindon took it right back and gave us a two-score lead again.

And he was a true freshman. It remains to be seen if Trindon develops as a receiver to the point where he can be more involved in the offense. He's only about 5'5", which makes him almost a foot shorter than many of our wide receivers, and it is difficult for a QB to find him downfield through the lines and the coverage. He's going to have to figure out how to get himself into position where the QB can get him the ball. Otherwise, he'll top out at the reverse-runner, return man, outside runner he was last year.

Oh but what a good reverse-runner, return man, and outside runner he can be. And I'm glad we get to find out if he can develop.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gift-giving Wednesday

I recently had two substantial gift-receiving events:
  • Father's Day
  • My 33rd birthday
It was, of course, my first father's day, so it was a pretty significant day for me. Anyway, my wife gave me several gifts for these occasions:
  1. The Simpsons' Seasons 2 through 6 on DVD
  2. The Complete First Season of Veronica Mars
  3. The collected graphic novel of The Watchmen
  4. Delores O'Riordan's new album
If you couldn't guess from previous writings, I'm a bit of a nerd.

Of course, immediately after receiving approximately 70 hours worth of DVDs, my DVD player broke, and I had to go get another one. Viewing is going slowly, but I definitely being reminded of just how great the early seasons of The Simpsons were. I recently saw the first appearance of teh great Lionel Hutz!

The first season of Veronica Mars really was terrific stuff. It sounds like such a lame premise: high school girl solves mysteries, but it is a dark story, a high school film noir told in 22 hour-long parts. Here is a speech delivered by the eponymous 16-year-old hero in the first episode. "I started the day thinking I had only one person I could count on, but in the end, everyone you care about lets you down." Damn.

Being an old-school comic book nerd and a tremendous fan of Neil Gaiman's work in The Sandman, I have long known about The Watchmen, which is considered to be among the four-or-so titles that really transcended "comic books" and earned the title "graphic novel", along with Maus, The Sandman, and The Dark Knight Returns. I'm reading it slowly, trying to digest it a little at a time. I'm now about halfway through it, and I can definitely see where the praise from this title is coming.

For the uninitiated, The Watchmen deconstructs the costumed hero myth/legend by imagining costumed heros outside of a pre-adolescent-male setting. In other words, it imagines what costumed heros would REALLY be like if they actually existed, and it isn't pretty. Most are distinctly disturbed, unable to maintain any normal human interaction. They are jealous and awe-struck when confronted with someone more powerful. The people fear and loathe the ones who aren't under the control of the government, and many fear the ones that are working for the government. The ones that work for the government are involved in atrocities to preserve 3rd world dictatorships. It's ugly. It's great stuff.

Delores O'Riordan's album is very much what one might expect from the former singer of The Cranberries. She did not make the mistake of veering too far away from what her fans like, giving us a good collection of power pop with her distinct singing voice. To quote Tom Petty, however, "I don't hear a single." It's good, but it lacks that really transcendent song that The Cranberries were pretty good at making: Dreams, Linger, Zombie, etc.

If you don't visit often, please notice that Poseur published something late yesterday about the team's expectations and this team's place in LSU history. Scroll down and read it if you haven't seen it yet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How Thing Have Changed

The preseason magazines are beginning to filter out, and while I agree with Pittman’s skepticism of any and all preseason polls, it is nice to see LSU consistently ranked as a national title contender, usually as the #2 team in the nation behind USC. Of course, as Spider-Man warns us, with great power comes great responsibility.

Outside of the 2005 team, which had their season derailed by Katrina (and by derailed, I mean we went 11-2), this is the most heralded team in LSU history going into the season. Frankly, this team has to compete for a national title for it to be viewed as a success. Failing to win the SEC will be a failure. Failing to even make Atlanta would be catastrophic. I simply have no experience rooting for a team like this.

We are now one of the elite. We’ve arrived. This is what it feels like, Tiger fans. This is what it feels like to be burdened by expectations every season. This is what it feels like to take wins over decent SEC teams like Kentucky for granted. And completely looking past Mississippi State, who we own almost like no other team owns any other in the nation. State couldn’t even beat LSU when we were in the darkest days of Curly Hallman’s reign and they were consistent SEC contenders. Their only win in the past 15 years over LSU was in 1999, and was courtesy of a controversial call.

Seriously, can you imagine feeling like this ten years ago?

Actually, you probably could because we’re at the ten-year anniversary of the false spring that was the Dinardo Era. The 1997 Tigers went 9-3, finished the season ranked #13, and closed out the year with a blowout win over Notre Dame in a bowl game. It was in 1998 when things went bad.

But even then, we expected to have good teams, and maybe make Atlanta if everything went right. The feeling didn’t change that much under Saban, as we had the feeling we could win the SEC or we could lose to UAB (two feats Saban accomplished). This isn’t the same thing as today’s team. Every Tiger fan fully expects to win at least 10 games, win the SEC, and play in a BCS bowl. Anything less is going to be a disappointment.

Arrogant? A little. But it’s also true. This team is loaded. And the West lacks a real foil this season as Bama will be improved, but Arkansas and Auburn will likely take minor steps backwards. Those won’t be easy wins, but LSU will likely be favored in every single game it plays this year. We are now the hunted.

I have no idea how I feel about this. There’s already a generation of fans who don’t appreciate how nice it is to support a winning team. The idea the LSU faithful would even consider bashing a coach who had gone 22-4 in two seasons back when I was in school was insane. Twenty-two wins in two years? I would have pushed my mother under a Mardi Gras float for that level of success back in the Hallman days.

Losing breeds character. The 2003 title was so enjoyable because it brought back so many memories of so many players who bled purple and gold and so many disasters the fans suffered through. Even losing to Florida 58-3 seemed worth it. The Interception Game. The Purple Pants. Bring Back the Magic. Kevin Mawae never playing for a winning team. I don’t know if a second title, if we’re lucky enough to even play for it, would mean as much to me. Heck, I don't know if the 2003 Sugar Bowl meant as much to me as making the ndependence Bowl in 1996. There's something about coming in from the football wilderness.

I'm not blaming any Tiger fan for their high expectations. this team merits high expectations. But let's remember how far this program has come. We've climbed the mountain. We don't need another national title to confirm our place at the table. We should expect to win every game, but the sky won't fall when we don't. Even great teams lose games.

When you expect to win every game, every loss is a disappointment. But not every win is a cause for a celebration. I miss the days when it was.

2007 Recruiting - Will Blackwell

Meet Will Blackwell, 6'4", 296#, Defensive Tackle from West Monroe High School in West Monroe, Louisiana. He is a 4-star defensive tackle from probably the most important LSU pipeline school, West Monroe High. He was a teammate and linemate of the infamous Luther Davis, but was never painted with the same brush as Luther.

Blackwell chose LSU over Notre Dame, and it was certainly touch-and-go for a while. Word is that he made his decision to stay at home during the Sugar Bowl. I don't know how true that is though.

Will Blackwell is part of an awesome defensive line recruiting class that includes Joseph Barksdale, Drake Nevis, Sidell Corley, and Kentravis Aubrey, all of whom have the potential to be All-SEC calibre players in the future. This is not to say that all of them will, because not every recruit meets their potential. In fact, it's mathematically impossible for all of them to be All-SEC because there are five of them, and only 4 All-SEC slots.

Which brings up an issue. Some say that Will Blackwell, while he is a very good defensive tackle prospect, is an even better offensive tackle prospect because of his long arms, quick feet, and athleticism. In fact, even Luther Davis, upon committing to Bama, said that he was eventually going to line up against Blackwell who was destined to be moved to the offensive line.

It is certainly true that quick feet, 300+ pounds, long arms, and good athleticism is the basic recipe of a great offensive tackle. It is also certainly true that LSU is in great need of good offensive tackles, as two of our backups have been kicked off the team. For all the talk of how much the Perrilloux situation hurts the QB depth, the OT depth is in perhaps even more dire straits, and Blackwell could probably get immediate significant playing time at offensive tackle, while he would be stuck behind a LOT of talent at defensive tackle and would have little chance of being a significant contributor in the next two years while he sits behind Dorsey, Favorite, Alexander, and Woods, plus he'd have to compete with Barksdale and Nevis to be part of the next generation.

I think all signs point to Blackwell going to the offensive side of the line, and sooner rather than later.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What to Expect When You're Expecting

Yesterday, I promised a preview of Bama's schedule. I also said that I am not fond of prediction masquerading as analysis, so you won't get that. What I will do, however, is give my opinion of the relative talent levels of the teams compared to the talent level at Bama.

First, a quick talent analysis of Bama.

Strengths: Solid QB, potentially a very good offensive line, one very good wide receiver and a very solid WR corp, Simeone Castille.

Weaknesses: Weak defensive line with no steady playmakers, inexperienced linebackers, inexperience in the secondary outside of Dukes and Castille, need to find a playmaking running back.

Overrated: John Parker Wilson. I've read a lot of high praise of Wilson this offseason. Believe me, I don't think he's a bad QB. I think he's solid, but I don't think he's one of the best in the SEC. As I showed in a previous post, his school-record-setting season last year meant he was only an average SEC QB. Of course, he's now entering his second year as a starter, and it's not unreasonable to expect improvement. However, there are other QBs also entering their second years and had even less experience than Wilson, so they are also expecting big improvements. My expectations are that Wilson will again be a solid QB, but not All-SEC calibre.

Underrated: The offensive line. Everyone knows Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell are very good, but the line has had the odd distinction of being inexperienced two years in a row, but is now a solid veteran group. Smith and Caldwell may be the only real NFL talent there, but you don't need NFL talent to be a solid player. The offensive line should make holes for running backs and protect the QB solidly this year.

Alright, the opponents:

Western Carolina: Rent-a-Win

Vanderbilt: Watch out for Vandy. The talent level at Vandy is much higher than it has been in the past. Plus, they match up very well with Bama, because Bama will have a very hard time stopping the run this year due to its weaker defensive line and inexperienced linebackers, and Vandy runs a West Virginia-style offense with its QB Chris Nickson. If Vandy can figure out how to keep Earl Bennett away from Simeone Castille, he could run wild, as he is probably the best WR in the SEC.

I think this is a key game for Bama (and for Vandy). I think the winner goes to a bowl and the loser does not, regardless of who wins. While I think Bama has overall more talent, the game is in Nashville, and the talent gap is not wide. This is definitely an early-season game to watch if you are a fan of the SEC at all.

Arkansas: I think Arkansas is slightly more talented than Bama overall, and matches up very well with Bama due its incredibly strong running game. If Arkansas can rebuild its offensive line and give McFadden some holes, he knows what to do with it. I think the Razorbacks enter this game as a touchdown favorite (assuming they're healthy), and their Wildcat formation creates matchup problems all over the field.

It's a little-appreciated fact that Arkansas not only has a couple of great running backs, but also a great receiver in Marcus Monk. Once again, the key there will be keeping Castille on Monk and/or hoping that Arkansas fails to find a QB who can throw.

Georgia: Every team in the East is vulnerable, and Georgia is not an exception, but there is a lot of talent there. Matthew Stafford will be an excellent QB at some point. If that point is now, the entire East be in trouble. They also, again, have an excellent RB corp, but the offensive line is suspect. Georgia also lost some good players on defense. Georgia is, I think, more talented than Bama, but the matchup is not that unfavorable to Bama. This is a winnable game, but it certainly won't be easy.

Florida State: Very even matchup. FSU has talent, but has dramatically underachieved lately, and has lacked in QB play. The running backs are solid, and they hired Jimbo Fisher away from LSU hoping to cure their offensive woes. If that ploy works, and they have a more reliable passing game, their offensive will be dangerous. I don't know much about their defense, but I think this is a winnable game for Bama, perhaps the most winnable of this stretch from Arkansas to here. It's also a losable game. It's basically a 50-50 game at this point.

Houston: I don't know much about Houston, but I know they were 10-4 last year, beating Oklahoma State, Memphis, Southern Miss, and Rice, all of whom were decent. They also played Miami and South Carolina tough. If Bama had played Houston last year, I guess they would have had their hands full. I don't know about this year, because Houston has lost its great QB Kevin Kolb to the NFL, and lost some of its rushing power as well. I'm assuming that this year Bama will be much tougher than Houston, but I don't really know.

Ole Miss: Bama is better, but there will be no such thing as an easy SEC game this year. Once again, Bama will have to worry about a running back, as BenJarvis Green-Ellis had some good stats last year, but Ole Miss's overall rushing numbers were poor last year. Ole Miss also lost its two best defensive players from last year's team. Ole Miss wasn't good last year (though they took us to overtime), and I don't see much reason to think they'll be better this year.

Tennessee: This one could be ugly. Tennessee has a strong running game with Lamarcus Coker. That lack of a strong defensive line could make this a very difficult matchup. Eric Ainge is a good QB, but supposedly will be limited by injuries, at least in mobility, and he won't have the terrific receivers he had last year. They also have a lot of talent to replace on defense. Tennessee is vulnerable this year, but the matchup is really poor for Bama due to that running game.

LSU: Well, let's not even go there yet.

Mississippi State: Bama will be looking for a little redemption from last year. Honestly, MSU got stronger as the season went on last year, after starting out horribly, and this wasn't as big of an upset as it probably seemed. If Bama had played MSU early in the season last year, they would have won by 3 touchdowns.

Mississippi State is, if you can believe it, probably not as good as they were last year. They lost a lot on defense, which was the strength of their game. The offense won't be embarrassing like it was at the beginning of last year, but it won't be particularly good either. Michael Henig probably wouldn't be starting at QB for any other team in the conference (except maybe at their cross-state rivals), and the line won't turn into All-SEC calibre overnight. Any victory MSU gets in a conference game this year will be an upset.

Louisiana-Monroe: Rent-A-Win.

Auburn: Auburn has question marks this year, particularly at Wide Receiver, but the skill level at Auburn is still a little better than the skill level at Alabama. They lost some offensive linemen, but I am reasonably confident they can find more. They lost Kenny Irons, but Brad Lester is probably better anyway.

I'm a big fan of Brandon Cox, who I think is a very good QB, but he has no targets to throw to. Auburn will have to find some quality receivers somewhere or they could take a big dip in offense this year. The defense will again be very fast and skilled.

So, I count five games in which Bama is the clear favorite to win. If they don't suffer a big upset in one of these games, that will eave them with 7 games against quality opponents, needing one win in those to be bowl-eligible, and 3 wins to really have a season that will satisfy some people (an 8-win season), and at least 5 wins to have much hope of making the SECCG. I think the SEC Championship Game is probably out of reach, but an 8-win season probably isn't though it will be tough to get that far.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


The Rivals network is counting down the preseason top 50 football teams, and yesterday declared Bama to be the preseason #37. I really detest preseason polls. They're just something about ranking teams before they even report for practice that strikes me as, at best, a useless exercise. What's worse, the preseason polls act as a starting point for later evaluation during the season, which usually consists of moving down teams who lose and moving teams up to replace them.

All that matters are the number of losses you have and when they occurred. Big wins mean little except that they avoid losses. This discourages teams from scheduling quality out of conference opponents, because the polls punish a loss a lot more than they punish a weak schedule. And in the end, if three teams are undefeated, there's a very large chance they'll be ranked in the order in which they started the season. Just ask the 2004 Auburn team about this.

In fact, preseason polls tend to perversely reward a weak schedule, because they typically do not profess to actually rate the skill of teams. They profess to be predictive and frequently talk about how a team's schedule lines up for success as justification for a high (or low) ranking. This year, LSU is rewarded by that because we have most of our toughest games at home. Last year, we were hurt by that.

And why does all of sports media need to focus on being so predictive anyway? I've complained before about how sports media substitutes prediction for analysis. Well, I think it's part of an even broader trend in media that extends into political coverage (all horse-race, all the time, with little analysis of how particular candidates will actually govern), somewhat into film analysis (I swear I've seen more articles questioning Evan Almighty's commercial prospects than I've seen discussing its quality). Sports media is probably the worst about it though. I think it has to do with gambling culture.

One person defended preseason rankings to me by pointing out that they have been rather good at predicting the national championship contenders. Setting aside the point that the preseason rankings are partially determinative rather than simply predictive, I question whether prediction of national championship contenders is really a worthwhile accomplishment, or even a legitimate objective of a ranking that occurs before the season. Even more importantly though, these polls go well beyond merely listing the national championship contenders. After all, this particular ranking lists a top 50! It portends to tell us who is better between BYU (#45) and Central Michigan (#50).

Despite my protestations, preseason polls are definitely here to stay and I have to live with them. This one rated Bama at #37, but the poll is not over yet so I don't know exactly who is ahead of them. I know that Kentucky was ranked #38. Those are the lowest ranked SEC teams, but I imagine several are unranked.

What? They won't tell me who is better between Ole Miss and Vandy? For the record, I think Vandy is better, and is actually a pretty big threat to make a bowl this year.

But I digress. The #37 ranking suggests that Rivals considers Bama to be a solid bowl team, but not really a threat to win the conference. I think that's a pretty fair analysis. I just wish they wouldn't put a number to it.

Tomorrow, I use this as a jumping off point to analyze Bama's schedule.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Strange Saga of Jerrell Powe

Jerrell Powe graduated from high school in 2005. He is a prototype defensive tackle at 6'3" and 345 pounds, and was a 5-star player out of high school. He briefly committed to LSU. Then he briefly committed to Auburn. Finally, he committed to Ole Miss, saying he wanted to stay in the state of Mississippi. The problem? He couldn't qualify. The rumors? He could not read.

He was unable to qualify for the 2005 season and went to Hargrave Military Academy to get his qualifications in order. He took a lot of BYU correspondence courses, which many people consider to be something of a fraud. The NCAA, after a series of lawsuits, determined that Powe was not eligible for the 2006 season in which he also wanted to enroll at Ole Miss.

There was also an article where Powe's mother allegedly said, "Jerrell really is a good child, but he just can't read." The message boards lit up, and people questioned anew the validity of whatever Jerrell has accomplished so far.

Now it appears that he may make himself eligible, two years after graduating high school. The new problem? Ole Miss may decide they don't want him anymore. Montgomery, Alabama attorney Donald Jackson is working hard to convince the NCAA to clear him and to convince Ole Miss to take him. If Ole Miss doesn't, his recruiting will open up to other SEC schools. Says Mr. Jackson about the prospect of other schools being offered Mr. Powe's services: "The first thing they're going to do is sh-- in their britches. And then after they get that cleaned up, they're going to say, 'What do we need to do to make this happen?'"

They say he's really that good.

There are reasons to take Jerrell Powe:
  • He's allegedly really really good.
  • If you don't take him, you'll probably end up facing him during the season.
  • He'll be eligible for the NFL after this year, so he probably won't clog up your depth chart for a long period of time.
  • You get to tell the world you took the unselfish act of allowing a troubled young man a chance to pursue his dream.
  • Absolutely no one has said that Jerrell is a bad kid.
There are reasons not to take Jerrell Powe:
  • He won't exactly reverse a school's reputation of taking football more seriously than academics.
  • If he is cleared and plays, and then his eligibility is somehow revoked, it is possible that the school will be forced to forfeit games in which he played. I don't know the rules on this, but I certainly don't take a chance on a kid I know may have these kind of problems.
  • It is clear that the NCAA is not backing this kid, and going to bat for him could lead to retaliation in the future.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm rooting for the kid. If he really has the kinds of learning problems that are rumored, you have to wonder what his parents and teachers were doing about it back when he was about 7 or 8 years old. It appears they only started trying to help him his academic difficulties became embarrassing to them. If that's true, and I don't want to say for certain that it is, Mr. Powe is to some extent a victim of indifference by his parents and exploitation by his schools. If getting into school helps him overcome that, good for him.

That said, I'm not sure I want him at LSU. We have outstanding depth and quality at defensive tackle. Adding a one-and-done supposed star who may not be eligible for a bowl game could harm chemistry and morale more than it helps the on-field talent. This, of course, assumes that we have a scholarship available to give him. But then again, I don't want him lining up for Auburn or Bama either. If he's really that good, he'd be perfect for Bama, whose primary team weakness right now appears to be a lack of quality defensive tackle.

Let's just say this is one of those situations where I'm going to trust the judgment of Les Miles, whatever he decides to do.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Jarrett Lee

LSU signed only one QB in the 2007 class, after signing none in 2006. It is a risk that very well may backfire on us if Ryan Perrilloux can't stay with the team.. If Perrilloux is not on the team for 2007, then LSU has only two scholarship QBs on the roster: 5th year senior Matt Flynn and incoming freshman Jarrett Lee, 6'2", 192 #, 4.7 40, 4-star recruit out of Brenham, Texas.

Am I worried about the prospect of our potential national-championship-contending squad being quarterbacked by a guy who was reading high school defenses less than one year ago? You bet I am. Let's all be very hopeful that Matt Flynn stays healthy and that Ryan Perrilloux. I'm not really one to criticize the Les Miles regime, but if this situation blows up in our faces, the blame falls squarely on Miles for not signing a QB in 2006.

But anyway... While it is certainly nothing new that I use this series, ostensibly about profiling prospects, to illustrate larger points well beyond mere profiling, let's at least try to focus on the positive.

The positive here is that Jarrett Lee looks like a good quarterback. It's not his fault he may be our 2nd stringer and may himself be backed up by no one. OK, there's Jimmy Welker, who I often have to remind myself is not Frank Welker, the legendary voice actor who gave us Scooby-Doo's Fred, Jabberjaw, Schmoo, Mohawk from the Gremlins, and the original Megatron. Seriously, check out the dude's IMDB page. He's one of the bigwigs of cartoon voice-acting.

Is it a good thing that my first thought about our potential 3rd string QB is that he is NOT the voice of Jabberjaw? I'll let you decide the answer to that. I feel an irresistible urge to link to my posts about why it isn't necessary to treat all discipline problems the same.

Alright alright. Back to Jarrett Lee. You can tell from his stats that he is tall, slightly built, and not particularly fast. His videos show a solid arm, but he won't be confused with Jamarcus Russell's cannon. He's got good touch, and looks like he's a QB in the Danny Wuerffel mode, which is not a bad thing. He throws with good touch and finds the open man. If you want a more recent comparison, I think he looks a lot like a young Drew Tate. In his last two years of high school, he threw for 71 touchdowns and over 6000 yards, but I doubt you're going to see any of JR's patented 50 yard heaves while leaning on his back foot. Lee is more of a touch passer, but his videos suggest he does that well.

Let's hope he's a fast study.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Quothe the Raven, "Eat My Shorts"

For my first Father's Day, my wife gave me seasons 2 through 6 of The Simpsons on DVD. I quite adore the early seasons of the Simpsons, and yes, I still watch the newer episodes even though the quality has declined a bit. Yesterday, I watched the first Treehouse of Terror special, which includes this brilliant adaptation of The Raven.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Demetrius Byrd

The young man to the left is Demetrius Byrd, wide receiver, 6'2", 195#, 4.4 40, out of Pearl River Community College. He was a late commitment to the team in 2007, and the only junior college signee of the class. He was a 4-star on Rivals and a 5-star on Scout.

I may have mentioned before that the recruiting services update and change their ratings and rankings as the season progresses, and Demetrius Byrd is a great example of that. He is also an example of a prospect about whom there was wide disagreement among the recruiting services. For the longest time, Scout had him listed as a 5-star, the highest rating given, while Rivals had him listed as a 3-star, a middling rating. Late in the recruiting season, however, Rivals changed their rating of him and made him a 4-star, partially closing that gap. Perhaps it was because LSU, in the midst of a great recruiting class, was pushing hard for him.

Why was LSU pushing so hard for a JUCO wideout? Well, there are several reasons:
  • He has great measurables
  • Outside of Early Doucet, our receiver corp is very young, inexperienced, and unproven, such as Brandon Lafell, Chris & Jared Mitchell, and Ricky Dixon (not to be confused with Richard Dickson).
  • We had several other wide receiver recruits who were questionable on making the grades to qualify, two of whom reportedly will not qualify.
Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot more to the wide receiver position than running fast and catching true, especially in a Gary Crowton-led offense. All wide receivers have to learn how to make the hard cuts that have a chance to leave a defensive back behind. All wide receivers have to learn how to make hot reads to protect a QB who is being blitzed. All (LSU) wide receivers have to learn how to block reliably. Gary Crowton's wide receivers also have to learn how to read defensive backs and make their moves based on what the defense is doing. This is different from how Jimbo Fisher ran his offense, and is probably the single biggest adjustment the offense will have to make.

As a JUCO guy, Byrd has done all of this much more than his just-out-of-high-school counterparts like John Williams, Terrance Toliver, and Ron Brooks. The expectation is that he will join the team in the fall much more ready to contribute than those guys are because he's spent two years out of high school getting higher level coaching and playing against higher level competition. It worked with Claude Wroten several years ago, and there's no reason it can't work with Demetrius Byrd.

Of course, we only get him for 2 years.

If all goes well, he competes with Brandon Lafell immediately for the #2 receiver spot, with the loser of that battle taking the #3 spot.

If I may make a bold statement, I don't think we would have signed Byrd if the coaches were pleased with the progress of Jared Mitchell, Chris Mitchell, and Ricky Dixon. Then again, this signing may be a way of motivating those guys, because if Byrd passes them on the depth chart, those guys may never play.

Monday, June 18, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Ernest McCoy

Sorry for not updating yesterday. We had a sick baby who needed to go to a doctor and spent much of the morning screaming her lungs out.

Anyway, this is Ernest McCoy, not to be confused with Texas QB Colt McCoy, although at 6'5" 330#, the 4-star offensive guard can hardly be mistaken for the QB. McCoy is a Belle Glade, Florida recruit.

There really isn't that much to say about the guy other than that he chose us over West Virginia. He is, perhaps, the flip side to the Luther Davis saga. Ernest McCoy committed to LSU in October of 2006, 5 months before signing day. He told coaches that he wanted to take a visit to West Virginia. As you recall from the Davis story, LSU does not allow committed recruits to go on visits to other schools. The idea is that if a recruit wants to "commit", he shouldn't still be shopping around.

However, as Ernest McCoy proved, the rule isn't written in stone. I'm not sure what the reason was, but coaches gave Ernest special permission to visit West Virginia. He made the visit, maintained his commitment to LSU, and reported for workouts last week.

I think Ernest will compete for playing time early. He has the size. Unlike a lot of offensive line recruits, he won't have to put on bulk. You wonder if the size has the right proportion of muscle, but at least he won't be bowled over by bigger defensive linemen. The offensive line remains thin, especially on the right side, and especially if Will Arnold is not healthy enough to play.

Still, Les Miles has shown that he does not like to play true freshmen on the offensive line, as he did not do so at all in his first two seasons, so a redshirt is more likely.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Shomari Clemons

This is 2007 signee Shomari Clemons, SS/LB, 6'2", weighs between 205# and 230# depending on which service you believe, runs between a 4.5 and 4.6 40 depending on which service you believe. Shomari is a 4-star recruit and adds to what is a special class of defensive backs for the Tigers in 2007 that includes Chad Jones, Phelon Jones, and Stefoin Francois, all of whom appear to have All-SEC and NFL-calibre ability. There is also Delvin Breaux, who of course has to overcome a serious injury, but who some say is a real gem.

Shomari Clemons was supposed to be a member of the 2006 class out of West Monroe High School in West Monroe, Louisiana, which has been a prime feeder school for LSU football. He didn't make the grades, however, and decided to return to high school rather than go to junior college. He made the grades on his return and re-committed to LSU without substantially re-opening his recruiting.

So Shomari will enter LSU a little older than his other true freshman teammates, and also having overcome a little more adversity. I'm sure it was frustrating and embarrassing not to grades at the proper time, but you have to commend him for going back and making it right.

Shomari Clemons is tall enough to play any position. If you believe that he is 205# and runs a 4.5, he's the right size for a safety. If he's 230# and 4.6, he's the right size for a linebacker. He's a guy who I'll be very interested in knowing how he does in the strength and conditioning program. If he's going to be a safety, you'd ideally like him to be in the 215# range without losing any of his 4.5 speed. If he's going to be a linebacker, hopefully he can be bulked up a little further, also without losing any of his 4.5 speed.

One of the most important and least predictable aspects of transitioning from high school to college athletics is the transition from high school strength and conditioning to college strength and conditioning. The training and nutrition programs in college are much more intense than in high school, and every athlete has to make the transition. Their bodies then change as they get more muscular. Most get significantly bigger.

What separates an elite player from an ordinary player is that the elite player gets bigger without losing speed or quickness. This is true at all positions. Most every player has to get stronger to compete at the college level, and if you can get stronger without getting slower, you will probably be a special player. If you get stronger and lose quickness or speed, you probably won't.

I'm not sure I can articulate precisely why I'm bringing this up in relation to Shomari Clemons, but it has to do with his disagreeing profiles. The 4.5 speed at 205# is nice, but the 4.6 speed at 230# worries me. If he slows down upon bulking up, that will limit what he can do. However, he hasn't played football in a year, so the 230# number might simply mean that he was out of shape, in which case the 4.6 speed is actually pretty impressive. He hasn't been playing football and hasn't been in the advanced program that Tommy Moffitt will give him since he first committed in 2006, and now he will be.

God, I can't wait for football.

Friday, June 15, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Sidell Corley

This young man was tangentially involved in one of the stranger recruiting stories of the year. He is Sidell Corley, defensive end, McGill-Toolen High School, Mobile, Alabama, 6'4", 250#. Sidell is a 4-star recruit, and he initially committed to Florida rather early in the process.

As the process went along, he soured on Florida and a short time before signing day he declared himself open and started taking recruiting visits again. It was around this time that LSU got a commitment from defensive tackle Luther Davis of West Monroe, who had previously given his commitment to Louisville.

LSU has a rule that if you are committed, you cannot continue taking visits to other schools. If so, you are considered uncommitted and your scholarship can be given to someone else. Shortly after Luther Davis committed to LSU, he secretly took a visit to Bama. When reports came out that Davis was sighted on campus and in restaurants in Tuscaloosa, he started getting calls on his cell phone, and he informed people that he was in West Monroe to attend the funeral of a relative.

In calls to his home, reporters were told by his brother, "He's not back from Tuscaloosa yet." When he was called and asked about that, Davis said that his brother was just messing with people. At the end of the recruiting trip, other recruits who were on that visit reported that Davis was in fact there. Depending on who you believe, either Miles pulled his scholarship offer or Davis decommitted and eventually committed to Bama.

This left a spot open in our recruiting class for a defensive lineman. Enter Sidell Corley, recently decommitted from Florida, and a big target of Nick Saban because he was an in-state product. Miles began recruiting Corley in earnest. Sidell Corley's father was quoted saying very nice things about Les Miles, but still many thought he was going to Bama. He gave his commitment to LSU and ended creating a great spokesman for the program in the elder Mr. Corley. He talked about how much he liked Les Miles' integrity, and how proud he was of his son for going to LSU.

Anyway, Mr. Corley is another member of the very strong defensive line recruiting class, joining Joseph Barksdale, Will Blackwell, Drake Nevis, and Kentravis Aubrey. We are stacked at defensive end right now, with Tyson Jackson installed at left end and Ricky Jean-Francois, Pep Livingston, Tremaine Johnson, Rahim Alem, and Kirston Pittman (no relation) all battling for playing time at the right side. Corley will compete for playing time, and don't be surprised if he plays a good bit in garbage time. I wouldn't expect him to be a key contributor this year though.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Recruiting 101 - More on star rankings

Rivals put out its list of 3-star players yesterday, and all of LSU's recruits who did not get a 4-star ranking got a 3-star ranking. Here is a list of current commitments and their rankings. This is a mild surprise, but not a big surprise if you consider two facts:
  • LSU is considered a top program
  • One factor the recruiting services consider in making their ranking is the quality of program recruiting the players.
Therefore, because LSU took a commitment from these players, they must be pretty good. There's a certain element of self-perpetuation there. Of course, it also makes a little sense to do it this way. Let's say you run a recruiting service, and you have two players Player A and Player B. You scouted Player A for two games and watched some film, determining him to be a 4-star player. You did the same with Player B and determined him to be a 2-star player. However, Player A has no offers from BCS schools except for Mississippi State and Mizzou while Player B has offers from Oklahoma, Nebraska, and every SEC school. If you're intelligent, you probably question your own rankings.

The thing to keep in mind about this is that the schools watch these players a LOT more than the services do. The services aren't there in the camps. The services don't see as many of their games as the coaches. The services scout EVERYONE, but because they don't have an endless list of scouts, they only each recruit a few times. The coaches only closely follow a couple hundred players, hoping to get commitments from 25 to 30 of them. Each of those few hundred gets a LOT of attention from the coaches.

The recruiting services tap into that attention the coaches give by relying at least in part on what those coaches think about the players, which is manifested in making an offer or taking a commitment. It's simply another way of gathering good information about a recruit in an economical way.

Of course, we've discussed that 2-star recruits and small school recruits sometimes do very very well, which of course means that recruiting services and coaches are often wrong, or that players are sometimes late bloomers. The system if far from perfect, and everyone is basically trying to be fortune tellers anyway. That same discussion also established that while all that information sometimes leads people to the wrong answer, it often leads to the right answer.

Anyway, the bottom line is that LSU has three 4-star recruits and six 3-star recruits right now. That will change as these players go through their senior years. The rest of the class will more heavily concentrate on out of state recruits (only 1 commitment is out of state now), and will probably have a higher average star-rating than the current group. We will see though.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Whimsical Sundays

Alright, as you may have guessed, I am a big fan of '90s alternative music. It's kind of out of favor now, but it's the music I had my formative years with. It's my "things were better back then" back then times.

One of the most underrated bands of the '90s was The Sundays. They were kind of like The Cranberries or the 10,000 Maniacs, but more reclusive and less interested in fame. They put out three albums (of which I own two) over a period of about 8 or 9 years, so they weren't particularly productive. They did not do a lot of press and never really promoted their music publicly. Now that their time has passed, the oft-imitated lead singer and the main songwriter have shunned the limelight, leaving fans wanting more, which as they say is what showbiz wants to do.

Though they were indie-rock darlings, their music is really accessible. A lot of their songs sounds like something that might be played on Sesame Street. One apt description I read by a random commenter on a YouTube video sums it up nicely. "The SUNDAYS' music had many moments that were literally achingly beautiful and mesmerizing - moments when you caught yourself not breathing. Harriet's voice haunts the soul." I guess they just didn't kiss the right butt to get more radio play.

Here's their cover of the Rolling Stones "Wild Horses", which they definitely make their own:

See if you can think of other singers who've tried to sound like Harriet Wheeler. She has a stunning voice that stays with you. What's more, though she is capable to belting a song, she knows when it's best to sing it quietly, and that's when she's most effective.

The song itself has been used in many television shows and movies, most famously in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was not a fan of Buffy, but I understand that fans of the show consider the use of this song during a love scene to be one of the most pivotal and memorable moments of the series and still react emotionally when hearing the song because of it.

Anyway, here's another Sundays song, "Summertime":

It was a minor hit back in the day and gives a different aspect of their sound.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Steven Ridley

This is Steven Ridley, Athlete, 6'0", 210#(some say 225#), 4.6 40. "Athlete" means that the recruiting services or coaches don't know at this time what position he's projected to play. It is believed that Ridley will play either fullback or linebacker. Mr. Ridley is a 4-star recruit out of Trinity Episcopal High School in Natchez, Mississippi.

Ridley really stands out in one respect. He went to a VERY small high school in a very low-level league in Mississippi. This has been cause for concern among a lot of commenters. They ask, "What kind of competition has he faced?" It's a legitimate concern most of the time, but I think I have some insight as to how coaches evaluate players who play at a level where most of the competition wouldn't even make the team at a place like Catholic - Baton Rouge or John Curtis. They want to know a) how good was his coaching, and more importantly b) how did he perform in football camps.

I have so far neglected to mention football camps on this blog. Quality football players are regularly invited to football camps put on at colleges nationwide during the summer. At the camps they receive instruction from college coaches, but more importantly they get evaluated by college coaches and compared to other top-notch high school players. Many a player has received a scholarship offer based on his performance at a camp.

It is especially important that a player like Ridley, from a very small school in a very low-talent league, perform well at camp because you can get very little quality information from watching their games or film. Even players who aren't D-1 level prospects can dominate those leagues. At camp, you can find out how good of an athlete the recruit really is, i.e. whether he is an LSU-level recruit or a McNeese-level recruit.

I mentioned evaluating coaching earlier. Besides the risk that a player of this competition-level just isn't as athletic as you may think, there is also the risk that the player doesn't know as much about the game or about technique as players from bigger schools. It is intuitive to me that bigger schools (with bigger athletic budgets and greater opportunity for glory) get the best high school coaches. If a player at this level has not had quality coaching, the player may be far behind the learning curve when he gets to campus.

The coaching staff obviously really liked what they saw of Steven Ridley, as did the recruiting services that made him a 4-star player. Despite the plethora of 4-stars in our recruiting class last year, 4-star players don't grow on trees. At this point, the 2008 Louisiana prospect class only has a total of nine 4-star players. They don't just hand them out to anyone, but they handed one to Ridley.

Still, because he's taking a HUGE jump in competition level, expect a redshirt while he finds a position during the 2007 season. We're going to have to rebuild both the fullback position and the linebacking corp (potentially) for the 2008 season, and Ridley could be a key part of either.

Monday, June 11, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Joseph Barksdale

Today we continue our profiles of incoming freshmen, who by the way are starting their summer workouts with Tommy Moffitt today, assuming they are academically qualified. Joseph Barksdale, 6'6" 323#, defensive tackle, Detroit, Michigan, is not only academically qualified, he's actually been in school for a semester. He was an early enrollee, meaning he entered school in January, which gave him the benefit of going through a Spring Practice with the rest of the team. He's the only 2007 signee to do that. It puts him well ahead of the learning curve.

Joseph Barksdale is another marquee name in this recruiting class. A total recruiting coup for the Tigers, he is an extremely rare LSU recruit who does not come from the Southeast or from Texas. He bypassed offers from most of the Big 10 to accept an offer to come down to LSU. He is a high 4-star, almost-5-star player, and you can tell from the stats that he is huge. He is also very quick and athletic.

Unfortunately, his early enrollment put him in a very awkward position earlier this year when Troy Giddens allegedly sucker punched him during an altercation after Giddens had been kicked off the team. The rumors were that Barksdale's jaw was broken, but this has never been officially confirmed. Yeah, I'm not going to miss that Giddens character. The good news is that Barksdale is around and is participating with the team.

Les Miles made some comments during Spring Practice that Joe needs to work on his body. He said that he has a typical freshman body, which I take to mean he's a little flabby and undermuscled for a man of his size and position. I'm sure Moffitt will work diligently to correct that starting today.

Trivia: during the Spring, he roomed with Ricky Jean-Francois.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I've created controversy

When this blog first started, I posted a few links to it on Tigerdroppings. I thought it was harmless and that LSU fans would want to know about the existence of a new LSU-themed blog. Instead, the management of Tigerdroppings took umbrage at my actions and sent me a nasty cease-and-desist private message. I then put the address of this site in my signature, and they went into my profile and edited it out.

I still didn't see what the big deal was, but I more or less followed the rules for a while. Eventually, another frequent poster on Tigerdroppings started his own college football blog, which he discussed on the board. I warned him that management did not take kindly to people posting links to their own blogs on the board. He responded, "It does involve LSU to an extent." To which I replied, "Mine is strictly LSU content." He must have been shot down by management because the conversation is now heavily edited by him. This happened only a few days ago.

Last night, I saw a post expressing some interest in incoming recruit John Williams. I replied to it with a link to this post. Even though it was perfectly on topic, I knew I was probably breaking the unwritten rule. I got some positive feedback.

This morning, I get up and log onto Tigerdroppings, and I see a Private Message from the management of Tigerdroppings sternly warning me about posting links to the blog and further (and I think appallingly) asking me not to mention on the board that I am not allowed to post links to the blog. I took offense to this, because it means that not only am I not allowed to post the blog, but I am not allowed to post about the fact that I am not allowed to post the blog. I am supposed to pretend that this rule and this blog do not exist, and that all is cool with me and Tigerdroppings management.

I took action. I made a post to the Help board, which has since been deleted, saying that I wouldn't follow that directive. I think some of my exact words were, "The only reason not to allow me to discuss it is because you're embarrassed you're doing it. I won't go for it."

A few minutes later, my posting privileges were taken away with a note to send them an email if I want to post again. I'm not sending that email. I can't in good conscience agree to abide by their latest directive. It's too Orwellian. I am supposed to follow certain rules, but not mention that the rules exist or discuss their impact on me and others.

So, I'm off of Tigerdroppings, which will probably greatly enhance my productivity. I honestly do not understand their position about this. This blog does not in any way compete with Tigerdroppings. Not one bit. In fact, I consider this blog to be something of an offshoot of Tigerdroppings, like a sitcom that spins off from another sitcom. This blog is "Facts of Life" to Tigerdroppings' "Diff'rent Strokes".

If Tigerdroppings was concerned about some kind of a rash of people posting links to their blogs, it's just not a legitimate concern. There aren't enough fans out there with their own sports blogs to worry about it. It won't clutter the board in the least.

And if they were worried about cluttering the board, they certainly don't show it. It's widely acknowledged that the Tiger Rant is filled with idiots, malcontents, and assorted people who post the same topics over and over again. The OT Lounge is admitted, even by its denizens, as a wasteland for attention whores, pictures of half-naked women, sexual obsessions, and bathroom humor. Links to well-thought-out blogs would actually increase the quality of discussion.

So anyway, this is my first banning from Tigerdroppings. It's entirely possible I'll never be back. I doubt they'll miss me that much.

Another new 2008 commitment - Ryan St. Julien

Yesterday, another new 2008 commitment came out of the closet. Ryan St. Julien, cornerback, 6'1" 169#, 4.6 40, out of Catholic High - New Iberia, announced his verbal commitment to LSU. He is likely to be rated as a 3-star to start.

You can tell from those numbers that he is rather slightly built at this point. Some would say that he isn't particularly fast either, but I've given my opinions on 40 times in the past. If you don't like his 40, take a look at his vertical jump. It's reported at an impressive 30 inches, which is probably 24 inches higher than mine.

He was high school teammates with incoming recruits Mitch Joseph and Josh Dworaczyk (TE and OL respectively). Catholic High - Pointe Coupee therefore is become a real feeder school for LSU.

This is looking like it may be a big class for corners and safeties. Robby Green of John Curtis and Prentiss Waggner of Clinton High are both going to be 4-star players, and we're looking out of state at 5-star TJ Bryant and a few other 4-stars. We could sign 4 corners this season.

I don't know a whole lot about Ryan St. Julien except that he has an excellent name. Just say it, Ryan St. Julien. Obviously he's going to have to bulk up at least a little, but with a 6'1" frame, that shouldn't be a big problem. He's probably still growing, and he looks like he may end up being a rather tall corner. Typically, cornerbacks run in the 5'11" to 6'1 range, and Ryan is already reportedly at the high end of that.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Chad Jones

Now seems like an appropriate time to profile Chad Jones, Safety, 6'2", 220#, alleged 4.45 seconds in the 40. He is one of the marquee 2007 signees, as he is arguably the best safety prospect in the country for 2007 as a 5-star on both Rivals and Scout, the two major commercial scouting services. Furthermore, his grades are in order as well. He'd also play on the baseball team.

What's not to love? Well, as mentioned yesterday, he's also a prospect for major league baseball, so there is a chance that he will sign to play minor league ball and bypass LSU entirely. Yesterday, he was drafted in the 13th round by the Houston Astros.

The good news is that the young Mr. Jones has said that he won't sign for less than top round money, and he was drafted well after the top round, primarily due to problems expected in getting him signed. The bad news is that he was drafted by the Astros, who did not have picks in the top 2 rounds, and who have reportedly been excited about Chad Jones for a long time. They have the budget to offer Jones serious money, but probably a lot less than what he's requesting.

The question is whether Chad Jones will come down off his demands enough to come to a deal with the Astros. Nothing is guaranteed.

If he makes it to LSU, I predict he'll be a starter for the football team in his second year, either at Craig Steltz's strong safety spot, Ali Highsmith's weak-side linebacker position (he could go pro), or at Luke Sanders strong-side linebacker position. Do we want him to be a big safety or a fast linebacker? Either one works. He'll also be a corner outfielder and possibly a spot-pitcher for the baseball team.

Yeah, it makes a big difference if he signs or not.

Friday, June 8, 2007

New 2008 Commitment - Thomas Parsons

The LSU football and baseball programs got a lot of good news yesterday. First, Thomas Parsons, an offensive lineman from Spring Branch, Texas, a massive 6'6" 265# offensive tackle gave his verbal commitment to the Tigers. He will likely be a 3-star when the first set of rankings are complete. He had a long list of offers, including an offer from the University of Texas. He's considered a "fast riser" who may gain a star as his senior season goes along.

Offensive tackle is a giant need in this class. It was thin to begin with this off-season and then Zhamal Thomas and Kyle Anderson were kicked off the team. Thomas Parsons is the first pure Tackle signed (though Matt Branch may be moved to tackle), and it's possible we'll take two more.

In further LSU football news also relevant to the LSU baseball team, Chad Jones, who was one of the marquee signees of the 2007 football recruiting class was not selected in the MLB draft yesterday. Major League Baseball began its draft yesterday, holding the first 5 rounds. Jones hoped to be drafted in the first two rounds, but remains undrafted as the process heads into its second day. He has made statements to the media that he will sign with a major league team if the money is right.

Typically, players drafted outside of the first few rounds do not get very large signing bonuses, but is possible that teams are simply shying away from Jones due to his potential future in football. He will be drafted at some point today, and sometimes players who slip through the draft due to football get signing bonus offers that are much larger than those of players drafted near them. For example, rising sophomore Jared Mitchell was drafted in the 10th round of the MLB draft last year and reportedly turned down a contract offer that was similar to what would have been offered to a 2nd rounder.

We're not out of the woods with Chad Jones, but it is definitely good news for LSU fans that he was not drafted yesterday.

Only one LSU baseball signee was drafted on the first day. Drew Cumberland, shortstop signee from Florida, was selected in the "Compensation" round between the first and second rounds by the San Diego Padres. He is strongly expected to sign with the Padres and forego his college career. Other LSU signees were not drafted in the first 5 rounds and will probably end up reporting for duty in Baton Rouge.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

2007 Recruiting - T-Bob Hebert

Part 3 of a continuing series on LSU's 2007 recruiting class.

T-Bob Hebert, Center, 6'3" 256#, Norcross, GA

If you think this fine looking young man looks familiar, it's because he's related to former New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert (I think he's Bobby's nephew, but I'm not sure). If the name T-Bob is derived from the cajun/creole tradition of naming children T-[relative's name] with the "T" being short for "petit", meaning small, he really needs to drop the T, because he's north of 256 pounds, and probably will only get bigger.

He's also a really good recruit in his own right. He is a 4-star recruit, and according to Rivals the #2 Center prospect in the country. He's also a rare Georgia recruit, but in all honesty he was for the most part considered an LSU lock very early in the process. Word is that Bobby Hebert was LSU's primary recruiter for him.

Let's just say he's a much better prospect than Bobby was out of high school. Bobby Hebert took the long way to the NFL, being a relatively unknown recruit out of high school before signing with Southern Miss. He waited his turn at Southern Miss, put together a great senior season, and ended up in the USFL. He went from the USFL to the NFL and the rest is history. T-Bob hopes to take a more direct route, by going to a power program known for putting talent in the NFL.

He looks a little light to be an immediate contributor, but LSU has depth at center, so it won't be necessary for him to contribute immediately. Expect a redshirt unless there are injuries at his position. He'll be a big part of the future though.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Cribs Wednesday

My friend Jason sent me this link. He comments as uberschuck, which is a name I don't understand. He's from St. Bernard Parish, and he has a really good sense of humor about it. There's no humor quite like FEMA trailer humor. It's not safe for work, due to a handful of 4-letter words.

It's only funny, I suppose, if you're at least vaguely familiar with MTV's "Cribs", but here's hoping most of you are. Don't skip this one. It's worth five minutes of your time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

2007 Recruits - Delvin Breaux

Delvin Breaux, DB, New Orleans, LA, McDonough 35 High School, 6'0", 175#

Delvin Breaux committed to LSU before suffering a serious neck injury during his senior season. Despite being told that Delvin could not play contact sports for as many as 3 years, Les Miles stuck by the commitment. Delvin has gone on record as saying he will be back sooner than that, but I think we need to assume he is quite a ways away from playing. He will be on the track team immediately, however.

Delvin Breaux was a 3-star commit, who many say is probably the best man-to-man corner we recruited, with more heralded Phelon Jones being more of a zone corner.

Delvin sometimes posts on TigerDroppings, though there is some doubt that it's really him. I've seen his posts, and I think it has the ring of truth to it.

Because of his injury, Delvin was originally asked to "greyshirt", which means he was asked if he could delay his enrollment until the Spring, saving a year of eligibility and not counting towards this year's scholarship limits. With indications that some of our recruits may not qualify academically, it is possible this request was rescinded and that Delvin will be joining the team in the Fall.

Monday, June 4, 2007

2007 Recruits - John Williams

As a preliminary matter, it looks like sanity has reared its ugly head and caused Billy Donovan to change his mind about going to the NBA. I wonder why he ever thought about it in the first place.

This will be a continuing series, as I try to find ways to fill some column inches in this blog while so very little is going on. I will give a rundown of the recruits of LSU's 2007 recruiting class. Keep in mind, there is a handful of recruits I know little about, as they've been pretty quiet. Those I will handle collectively at some point. This series will be posted in no particular order, starting with John Williams.

John Williams, WR/DB, Breaux Bridge, LA, 5'11", 175#

He was one of the early commits for the 2007 class, and despite being a 4-star, is a rather unsung member of this class. He was recruited as an "athlete", meaning he was not promised or assigned to any one position. I think he'll probably end up at wide receiver, but he could be a cornerback.

He perhaps wasn't as widely heralded because he was injured his junior year, so there wasn't much hype on him before his commitment. His videos are some of the more impressive you will see, however. In high school, he played QB, DB, and returner. Like a lot of high school QBs, he played the position primarily because he was the best athlete on the team, and they wanted the ball in his hands every play. He's not a QB prospect, however.

While LSU got other recruits at the WR position, there are doubts about some of them qualifying academically, but John Williams is fully qualified. Quietly, he put together a great senior season at Breaux Bridge. I'm at least as excited about him as I am about certain recruits who got more press, namely Ron Brooks and Terrance Tolliver, both of whom are also very good prospects.

John Williams is, by the way, the cousin of former LSU great Dominick Davis, who is now called Dominick Williams.

Because he was not a receiver in high school, he probably has a steeper learning curve than some others, and may for that reason have to redshirt if he wants to play receiver. Or perhaps play sparingly. He may be given a bigger role immediately if he plays corner.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Recruiting 101- star ratings

I've been wanting to talk about the importance of "star ratings" in recruiting for quite some time. Now that Rivals and Scout have put out some of their first rankings, and we have our first commitment from a rated player, now is the time.* It will also transition well into a series of profiles of 2007 recruits, which will be a good way to fill some time between now and the start of the season.

I want to evaluate the importance and significance of a recruit's rating on the recruiting services. The problem is that it is often difficult to distinguish a "successful" player from an "unsuccessful" player. The easiest way to quantify it, I think is to look at NFL draft picks. That requires a lot of research, and unfortunately, GeauxTuscaloosa's budget for hiring a research assistant has undergone recent cuts, from $0.00 to something less than that.

Fortunately, someone on TigerDroppings did some of the work for me. Here is a breakdown of the recruiting star ratings of players drafted in the first two rounds of the 2007 NFL draft.

5-star: 5 in the first round, 3 in the second round; Adrian Peterson selected highest at #7
4-star: 17 in the first round, 10 in the second round; Jamarcus Russell selected highest at #1
3-star: 7 in the first round, 14 in the second round; Gaines Adams selected highest at #4
2-star: 3 in the first round, 4 in the second round; Jamaal Anderson selected highest at #8
other: 0 in the first round, 2 in the second round; Ilaikai Alama-Francis selected highest at #58

I think the immediate lesson to learn here is that stars clearly don't mean everything. There were more 3-stars picked in the first round than there were 5-stars, and almost as many 2-stars picked in the first round too.

Does this mean that stars mean nothing? It does not mean that, and this becomes clear when you know that Rivals only gives about 30 people per year a 5-star rating. I don't know how many get 4-star ratings, but I know it is several hundred. There are probably thousands of 3-stars, and thousands more 2-stars.

So, if you are a 5-star, you have about a 1 in 4 chance of being picked in the first two rounds, if 2007 is representative. If you're a 4-star, you have about a 1 in about ten 10 chance of being selected so early. Not bad, but definitely much lower. If you're a 3-star, it drops to about 1 in 50 or more. Any lower, and you're a longshot to get that call.

Now of course, you can have a very successful college career without being drafted in the first two rounds, and if I were trying to do something more definitive, I would look at the entire draft, and perhaps even go beyond the draft. After all, Justin Vincent was a 5-star, and he had one really great year before his production dropped, and he was not drafted. Is he a "successful" college player? Borderline. It would be a tough call.

From all I've seen, the results gotten by analyzing the first 2 rounds of the 2007 NFL Draft hold up to closer scrutiny. 5-star players sometimes bust at the college level, but usually don't. 4-star players bust more frequently, and 3-star players bust more frequently still. However, it is also true that 2-star and 3-star players can become VERY VERY good.

The point is that it is really nice to get a lot of 4- and 5-star players, but don't go thinking that the two-stars on the list are "wasted scholarships" or some other ignorant pejorative. I doubt Clemson would say that Gaines Adams was a wasted scholarship, and I doubt Louisville regrets recruiting Amobi Okoye.

So, relax. Chill out. Enjoy the spectacle that is college football recruiting. Cheer at the 5- and 4-star guys we will sign, if indeed we sign any 5-stars. But don't make an ass out of yourself over the 3-star and 2-star guys we got commitments from early. Sometimes those guys turn out to be very good, and I promise you that Les Miles and the rest of the coaching staff knows more about them than Rivals.

* I prefer Rivals rating system to Scout's. I find it is considered more definitive, and this analysis is based on Rivals ratings, rather than Scout's. Scout is a little more generous in giving out 5-stars, and from what I understand they do not have as big of a scouting staff as Rivals.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

7th Commitment

LSU received its 7th verbal commitment for the 2008 recruiting class yesterday. Matt Branch, a tight end who is likely to be a 4-star recruit, committed to the Fightin' Tigers. Here's a picture:

He is the first tight end commitment of the 2008 class, hopefully to be joined by Tyler Edwards (brother of former LSU tight end Eric Edwards) and Chase Clement (close relative of former LSU great Eric Andolsek). He will join three tight ends signed for the 2007 season: Jordan Corbin, Alex Russian, and Mitch Joseph, plus two tight ends signed in 2006: J.D. Lott and current starter Richard Dickson.

You may ask yourself, why are we signing so many tight ends. Party, the answer is that an awful lot of really good tight ends want to sign with us, and it's hard to turn down a great athlete at any position. But the primary reason we are signing so many tight ends is that tight ends are extremely versatile.

A tight end, if he is a good athlete, can bulk up and move inside to tackle or guard. He can move to the fullback position and use many of the same skills. He can move to the other side of the line and be a defensive end like Marcus Spears. If he's undersized for defensive line and sufficiently athletic, he can be a linebacker.

As for Mr. Branch, he is 6'7" 240# according to Rivals, and Scout gives him similar numbers. Many think he will eventually be moved inside to the offensive line. Branch made a comment about that. "Coach Miles was excited. He said it was a good place for me and they were going to give me a fair shot at tight end." In other words, he said, "I'm moving to the offensive line." At least, that's my take on it.

He'll have to gain about 50 pounds, but he's only a junior in high school. He will likely put on 20 pounds before graduation, but even then his body will have to continue to develop if he will make the move.

Either way, he's the biggest name to commit to LSU for the 2008 signing class thus far, and his commitment is excellent news.

Friday, June 1, 2007


Billy? BILLY? What are you doing?

We talked about this. You were going to stay at Florida, win a dozen SEC Titles, win a couple more National Championships, get some roads and buildings named for you in Gainesville. You had everything. You had the recruiting train rolling. You had Florida in position to permanently supplant Kentucky as THE basketball program in the SEC. With back-to-back titles, you hardly even had to work for it anymore. Success was just going to continue breeding additional success. Your life was going to be the stuff of legend. You were going to be a modern Adolph Rupp. The Bear Bryant of basketball.

Now you're the new Rick Pitino. You're the Steve Spurrier of basketball. You're going to take your absurd college credentials and go to the NBA, which is an entirely different game, requiring entirely different coaching skills. You're leaving the kids of college and getting the egomaniacal adults of the NBA. You're leaving the college world where recruiting advantages and past success meant you were going to have more talented teams than most of your opponents probably for the rest of your career, and you're going to the NBA where the salary cap means that most teams have similar talent levels, and talent is added by a soulless draft. You're leaving a world where NCAA regulations limit practice times and effectively limit how complex the tactics you use can be, and you're entering a world where, by your own admission, the coaching is incredibly sophisticated and all the coaches are extremely intelligent.

And you're taking over the Orlando Magic, a below-.500 team. Granted, they have a good young nucleus in Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic.

In general, I think the "successful college coach going to the pros" is rarely a good idea. There have been a lot of high profile failures at this story. Rick Pitino, Steve Spurrier, and Nick Saban. There are others too. I can't think of a single success story of a coach going from college to the pros in any sport. It just doesn't happen. The games are too different, and the qualities that make a coach successful in college don't really translate to the pros. I honestly don't know why so many coaches still try it.

All three of the listed coaches, Pitino, Spurrier, and Saban, were heading to legendary status at their schools, but threw it away for a chance to coach in the pros. All three quickly fell behind the curve and never recovered, and are now back in the college game. Donovan was heading to those lofty heights too, and I think he'll be back in college in 5 years as well.