Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Another 2008 Commitment - Ryan Baker

LSU picked up a surprise commitment yesterday from a Florida linebacker whose stock is rapidly rising. I say "surprise" because frankly I had never heard of Ryan Baker until yesterday evening. He is a 3-star (but that's going up) linebacker out of Blountstown, Florida, 6'0" 210#. His 40 time is listed at 4.55, but he looks faster than that on his videos.

Speaking of videos, his videos are darn impressive. He is definitely a little small to be a linebacker, but he plays like a Trev Faulk or a Buster Davis, who were also small linebackers. He patiently waits until there is a lane between him and the ball-carrier, and then he explodes to the ball, always bringing down his man. He is both patient and aggressive, not to mention a sure tackler. If he's really a 4.55 or 4. guy, he gets to top speed very very quickly. He's explosive.

For what it's worth, he also looks like a very solid fullback on the offensive side of the ball, but he says he's being recruited as a linebacker.

One thing that you have to be concerned about with him is his ability to fight off blocks. He's pretty small right now, and I doubt he'll ever be a 260 pound bruising linebacker. He'll have linemen and bigger fullbacks trying to block him. The difference between him being a star and him being "depth" is his ability to fight off blocks. If he has to rely on defensive linemen to occupy blockers for him, we may not be able to really rely on him as an every-down linebacker. If he's going to be able to fight off or avoid blockers, he could be a special player.

To me, he looks a lot like the kind of player Auburn has had a lot of success with in the last few years: undersized for his position, but quick and athletic. At the very least, with his sure and explosive tackling, he looks like he'll very quickly be making contributions to the kick/punt coverage teams, much like Harry Coleman did.

Immediately before his commitment, Rivals labeled him a "Stock Up" player, suggesting they are going to be increasing his rather low rating at their next update period.

Rumor also has it that we received a commitment from Texas linebacker Kyle Prater, but that is unconfirmed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Importance of Being In-Conference

Now that is a mean looking dude. His name is Will Arnold, senior, and he is a Pre-Season Coaches' All-SEC offensive lineman, first team. Unfortunately, he has never played a full season of football without injury in his time at LSU. He has reportedly had 18 surgeries on his knees, but I can't swear that's true. It's been said that he has the knees of an old man. He missed the last 9 games of last season, and was STILL named 2nd Team All-SEC. He's received All-American honors. That's a mighty high praise and high expectations for a man almost no one expects to be able to play a full healthy season.

Alright, let's assume that will Arnold really is that good*, and let's further assume that we have to limit his playing time in order to keep him healthy.

If both of those things are true, one of Miles' most important jobs in pre-season is to decide how best to use Will Arnold, and more importantly how best to limit his use. There are several strategies one can use to do this. Some of my preferred strategies are discussed below.

1. Only play him in SEC games.

When someone on a message board suggested that we not play him against Mississippi State so we could save him and rest him for Virginia Tech, I was a bit taken aback. When I replied that he should be held out of the Virginia Tech game after playing in the MSU game, one person said, "VT is much more important than Ole Miss and Mississippi State." I was a bit taken aback by this statement, until I realized that a lot of people probably agree with him. Those people are wrong.

The primary goal of the regular season is to make it to the SEC Championship Game. The outcome of the Virginia Tech game will do nothing to decide who advances to the SECCG. What's more, the secondary goal of the regular season is to set ourselves up for a possible berth in the National Championship game. If we lose to Virginia Tech, we are further from that goal, but if we win all the rest of our games, we probably have a better-then-even shot at making it to that game. Only our tertiary goal of having an undefeated season will be ruined by a loss to Virginia Tech.

In other words, while the Virginia Tech game is a very exciting matchup between two teams that should be very good, it's a game we can afford to lose and still meet most of our goals. With a loss to Virginia Tech, we'll still win the SEC if we take care of business in the rest of our games. The same is not necessarily true if we lose to Mississippi State or Ole Miss.

Granted, I think it's unlikely we lose to either of those two teams, but if you recall Ole Miss pushed us to overtime last year and honestly looked for three quarters like they were going to win that game. I'm not sure either of those teams will be as good as Ole Miss was last year (which itself wasn't particularly good), but if we fail to show up again either of those teams can beat us.

This strategy alone will keep him out of games 2, 3, 5, and 10. His schedule would be back-loaded, which could lead to a problem, but it would hopefully at least get him TO about week 6 without great risk of injury.

2. Remove him from all games in which we are ahead by more than one possession.

If we're ahead by 9 or more points, and the opposition cannot close the gap in just one possession, that's a good time to start saving Will Arnold. Honestly, this should mean that he would play limited action against Mississippi State, and probably Ole Miss as well, and possibly others.

3. Don't put him in a game until the 2nd quarter.

This is probably pushing it. Combined with Strategy #2, this would probably mean he wouldn't play at all against MSU, which would keep him out entirely until week 4 at South Carolina, a team I consider to be pretty darn good.

Why would you do this? Unlike the previous strategies, this is a risky move that could make the difference between wins and losses. It comes down to just how much Arnold can play. If he isn't playing in the first quarter, you can evaluate how your team is doing without him while saving him for crunch time. Combined with the idea of removing him from games when we're ahead by more than one score, it could keep him out of several of our games.

I don't know how much Will Arnold can play. I hope he can play quite a bit, but I think realistically he has to be limited in his playing time or he won't be around for the most important stretch of games in October and early November, which will see us play Florida, Auburn, Kentucky, and Bama.

*Am I the only person who noticed that after Arnold got injured against Auburn, our offensive line actually improved significantly. I'm not saying it's because we lost him, but it suggests that maybe Arnold isn't as essential as some believe.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

2007 Recruits - Jarvis Jones

This is the penultimate installment of our 23-part series on LSU's 2007 signing class. It is about Jarvis Jones, the last in the LSU Jones Trilogy, behind CB Phelon and SS Chad. Jarvis is listed at 6'7" 250# and plays offensive tackle. He's a 4-star recruit out of Lamar Consolidated High School in Rosenberg, Texas. He seems awfully thin for a 6'7" offensive lineman, but both Rivals and Scout agree on that number, so I won't dispute it, at least as of Signing Day. However, LSUsports.net lists him at 265 now, so he probably put on some weight.

He still has a long way to go. He needs to get to about 300 pounds before he'll really be at his best. He said during his recruitment that he has never really eaten much, so he'll probably pack on the weight once he starts getting into the LSU nutrition program.

There were a few interesting things about his recruitment. When it came down to brass tacks, he was choosing between LSU, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M. He chose LSU, but because he is a rather young recruit, a parent was required to sign off on his Letter of Intent. Rumor was that his mother needed convincing that LSU was the right place for him, in part because LSU was not as close to home as OU or TAMU. Being a parent myself, I have no problem with a parent who wants to take her time and be sure, as long as the parent isn't simply forcing her will on her child for her own selfish reasons. Particularly in this whole recruiting thing, where kids are flattered, wined and dined, and often shown an exaggeratedly rosy view of the life to come, a kid can really be rushed into an unwise decision by a manipulative coach. I can't blame Mother Jones for being concerned.

What happened next was that Jarvis took a visit to LSU with his mother. His mother met the coaches, saw the facilities, talked about her son's future, and toured the campus. In the end, she agreed that Jarvis had made an OK decision and signed off on it.

Jarvis went on to shine at a recent high school all-star game between Louisiana and Texas players. Louisiana dominated the game, but it was reported that Jones beat whoever he went against, and was one of the few Texas players who stood out.

When I look at Jarvis Jones, I realize just how deep and how impressive this 2007 signing class is. Jarvis is a solid 4-star recruit who shined against other D-1 prospects and seems like he has a lot of room to improve, yet he got almost no press because he was overshadowed by other recruits likes Jarrett Lee, Chad Jones, Terrance Tolliver, Joseph Barksdale, etc. Because of his size and position, Jones will very likely redshirt while he gets himself ready to play, body-wise. After that, he could very well end up taking over for the departing Carnell Stewart and be a 4-year starter. This from a guy who was hardly even noticed due to the depth of the class.

Of course, he could also never be a starter. You just never know. Whatever happens to him, he's going to be a valuable member of this team for a while.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Self-Portrait

This is me. The idea was stolen from Poseur, who did his own. Of course, this is me Simpsonized. I've been told it's a remarkable likeness, and as you can tell, I am a wonderful athlete.

2007 Recruiting - Drake Nevis

We continue the series on 2007 recruits with the 21st installment, this one centered on Drake Nevis, 6'1" 281#, 4-star defensive tackle with a 4.9 second 40 yard dash, and a 28 inch vertical, from John Ehret High School in Marrero, Louisiana.

Drake Nevis originally committed to Ole Miss because he did not get an offer from LSU until late in the process. The 2007 class was an incredible class in Louisiana for defensive linemen, and LSU turned away several excellent linemen in Rolando Melancon and Jason Peters, who went to Tennessee and Georgia Tech simply because they never got offers from LSU, even though they were both very good players. The class was just too deep. Drake Nevis almost fell into that category as well. Fearful that he wouldn't get an offer from LSU, he committed to Ole Miss over offers from Florida, Auburn, Miami, and others.

This was no accident. Ed Orgeron has coaches at Ole Miss with substantial Louisiana ties, like former New Orleans-area coaching hero Frank Wilson. Orgeron has assaulted the gates of Louisiana trying to take recruits from us since his tenure began, and he has signed a high number of Louisiana recruits. He has not, however, ever beaten LSU for a Louisiana kid that LSU wanted. Before LSU was sure it wanted Nevis, he committed to Ole Miss very early in the process. Then he showed his stuff in his senior year, and LSU got in on the action.

Once Drake got an offer from LSU and visited the campus, he jumped on the offer. This occurred shortly after the end of the 2006 regular season but before the bowl games. Since that time, Nevis has shined. There is some chatter among knowledgeable sources that Nevis's performance in drills so far has been a factor in the decision to move Joseph Barksdale from defensive line to offensive tackle. Well, him and Kentravis Aubrey, who has reportedly been turning a lot of heads.

With Barksdale moving to the OL, it is possible that Nevis will find himself as high as the third team this year, which would put him in the game at mop-up time. Otherwise he will redshirt.

Friday, July 27, 2007

There is No Perfect Solution

Lately, I've seen a lot of discussion about a +1 system of choosing the NCAA football national championship. The basic idea is that the NCAA, through some selection process will seed teams 1 through 4 at the end of the regular season. The traditional bowls will be used to match 1 against 4 and 2 against 3, with the winners playing in the "+1" game after the bowls are over. It's a traditional 4-team single-elimination seeded tournament, with the names Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, and Rose thrown in to name the first-round games.

Its advocates seem to believe it will solve All the Problems in Football. This is hyperbole, but its advocates seem to believe it will at least end the controversy over how to pick a champion. I am here to tell you they are dead wrong.

The current system is full of uncertainty mixed with a healthy dose of injustice. It seeks to narrow down all the teams in college football down to two early in December, with those two teams to play a single game to determine the National Champion. The first cut is made before the season starts, when teams outside the power conferences are eliminated from consideration. This narrows the field to less than half.

As the season progresses and teams lose games, they are provisionally eliminated. Teams with one loss are excluded from the process unless and until the landscape is reduced to 1-or-fewer undefeated teams. At that point, the teams with one loss are back in consideration. The key is not to win big games or defeat quality opponents. The key is to avoid losing, which one may do either by beating good teams or by avoiding playing them. If this method fails to produce a situation where it is clear to everyone who should play for the championship, as it last was in 2005 (USC vs. Texas) and previously was... never, the teams are selected seemingly at random from among the reasonable contenders. The winner of this game is then declared the "National Champion" by the NCAA, though the media may declare its own National Champion without reference to the "official" declaration.

It was not always thus. In the ancient past, there simply was no method of deciding a national champion, and various organizations were free to declare a national champion based entirely on their own criteria. Some organizations, like the AP and UPI" were considered a bit more authoritative than most, but there was nothing stopping, say, AAA Auto Club or NAMBLA from naming their own national champion, which I suppose would make for an interesting banner to hang in a stadium.

After most of a century of using this method, it was decided this was no longer good enough and NCAA put together the Bowl Championship Series Formula, which was changed year after year in such a way as to correct perceived injustices in the results of the previous year. After several years of complicated formulas that included "Quality Wins" and "Strength of Schedule", all of that is removed and the BCS results are now decided mostly by vote of the AP voters and the coaches.

A +1 system solves all of the problems alluded to above (and others) by changing the number of teams chosen from 2 to 4, and pitting those teams against each other in a tournament. Isn't it obvious that this will naturally short-circuit the current problems in the system, including:
  • The ongoing controversy over whether teams that fail to win their conference should be considered, the obvious answer under the new system is "yes", but perhaps "no" depending on your perspective;
  • The question of how to consider teams from outside the SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10, Big East, and ACC, like Boise St. (undefeated last year), Hawaii (with a real shot to go undefeated this year), and others. Until a couple years ago, Louisville fell into this category, and now that they're in a semi-power-conference they're routinely on the short list of pre-season favorites;
  • The question of how to consider strength of schedule, which is now more-or-less considered a tie-breaker to use after considering other factors like "Is the team in a power conference" and "how many losses did they have";
  • The question of how exactly the participants will be determined, which has been changed every year the NCAA has attempted to select participants in a championship game. Now there will simply be discussion of how to select participants in a championship tournament, if this idea is put to use.
The +1 format, if ever implemented, will not only fail to solve these problems, it will introduce new ones. What will happen when the team that gets in at #4 is controversial, such as when only 3 teams are generally considered worthy. What would they have done last year, for example? Without naming the teams, here is the situation they faced last year:
  • One undefeated team from a power conference, having faced a reasonably tough schedule; obviously also a conference champion;
  • One one-loss power conference champion;
  • One one-loss non-conference champion whose only loss was a close game against the undefeated team;
  • A two-loss conference champion from a power conference, who had lost the last game of their season to a lesser opponent;
  • A two-loss non-conference champion from a power conference who had lost two games on the road, both to top 10 ranked teams at the time, one of whom was the one-loss power-conference champion listed above;
  • An undefeated team from a non-power conference.
There's your landscape. Pick 4 teams you're going to give a shot at the national championship and pick two teams you will exclude.

Not easy is it? Only two are thoroughly uncontroversial picks in that environment, though many people last year, being allowed to pick only two, disagreed strongly over who the second team should have been. In picking 4, do you exclude the undefeated team from a weak conference? Do you exclude the conference champion who had lost the last game of the season to a team that was fighting to stay above .500? Do you exclude the two teams that didn't win their conference? Or just one of those teams?

Clearly, picking 4 teams out of those 6 would have been a matter of achieving great consensus free of controversy. And what will happen when a team many consider undeserving actually wins the whole thing?

What's the solution? There isn't one. There is no prospect of the NCAA putting together a 64-team tournament like they have in basketball. Any playoff that ever comes down the pipe is going to have 8 or fewer teams, and we're going to be faced with controversy year after year concerning how those teams are selected and seeded. We can't even come to a consensus that the system should only include conference champions, which seems like an obvious criterion to me. On two occasions in the last decade, a team that failed to win its conference nonetheless advanced to the national championship game, and last year many people wanted non-champion Michigan in the final game, despite the fact that Michigan not only was not the conference champion, but had ACTUALLY LOST to the other team in the game earlier in the year.

That's right. Some people actually wanted the National Championship Game to be a rematch between two intra-conference rivals that had already played each other that year. In an environment with this much disagreement over how to select teams, there is no chance of coming up with a solution that will please everyone.

What do I think they should do? Personally, if I had my druthers, I'd go back to the Stone Age method of simply not having an "official" champion. Let the AP and the ESPN and NAMBLA declare their own champions. At least that system doesn't have pretensions of being definitive.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

New 2008 Commitment - Tim Molton

At this rate, I'm never going to be able to complete my profiles of 2007 recruits. Every day, something important is happening that must delay planned posts. Yesterday Tim Molton, wide receiver, 6'3" 185#, 3-star, from Destrehan High School became the next Tiger commitment at LSU's annual July camp where he shined. He runs a very speedy 4.45 second 40 with a 36" vertical. Those numbers are impressive, as is his high school video, which shows good ability to move in space. There are also rumors swirling that QB/WR Darron Thomas committed as well, but there appears to be an issue or two holding that up.

Tim Molton said, upon his commitment, "I always wanted to stay home and play at LSU, and now I can." You have to like a kid who says he always wanted to play at LSU and that he was just waiting for an offer.

And what an interesting offer it was. LSU is in on a lot of very highly regarded wide receivers, people like Julio Jones, DeAndre Brown, Chris Tolliver, Corey Surrency, Jeff Fuller, and Brice Butler, who are all national-level recruit who are 4- or 5-star recruits, and yet this is the second 3-star local wide receiver who has committed to LSU (with the other re-opening his recruitment two days ago). It suggests that the long-standing rumors that Louisiana's high school talent is down this year may not be true. The chatter on the message boards is that the coaches believe the talent-level in Louisiana is just fine, and I would trust their judgment on this. They've proven they know talent.

Mlton's offer also suggests that LSU is either going to take quite a few receivers this year, or DeAngelo Peterson may have lost his scholarship slot. LSU hopes to add recently-prep-school-bound DeAngelo Benton to next year's class, hopes to add all-world receiver Julio Jones to this class (that will be a long recruitment though), strongly believes in-state talent Chris Tolliver (the highest rated player in the state at any position according to the services), and DeAndre Brown (the highest rated player in Mississippi and a strong lean to LSU)to the 2008 wide receiver corps. Early commitment Jhyryn Taylor also projects as a wide receiver. Is LSU going to take 7 wide receivers this year? That sounds like an awful lot. I can't see Les Miles shutting any of those guys out to take Peterson or Molton.

Congratulations to Tim Molton. He is definitely a very good athlete, and I look forward to hearing more from him.

Of course, rumors also swirl that Jhyryn Taylor is unlikely to qualify due to grades, and that Tolliver, Molton, and Brown all have work to do to get qualified as well. We may be taking 6-7 wide receiver commits this year hoping that 4 will qualify. We took 4 pure wide receiver recruits and came rather close to having NONE of them qualify. So far, two have been confirmed not to qualify and we're still waiting on Demetrius Byrd's results. Molton was allegedly told months ago that he'd need to get his academics improved in order to get an offer, and it has been reported he did well in some summer school classes which will pull his GPA up considerably, leading to his offer. He still has to improve his ACT, however, but word is that he is within striking distance of qualifying.

So this may be the most interesting of LSU's commitments so far, because of what it tells us about:
  • the coaches' opinion of Louisiana's talent level,
  • the coaches' approach to wide receivers this year, which is to take a lot of them, and
  • suggests that Molton's academics may be close to being in order.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Lots of Action Yesterday

There was lots of news yesterday about current LSU players and future LSU players, and those who aren't future LSU players. As predicted earlier this year, Alley Broussard decided to leave the team. I'm not going to get into conjecture about why he decided to leave the team. The official story is that he wants to focus on his degree, which he should get in December. I'll accept that and wish Alley the best in his life. He was one of the last links to the 2003 National Championship team, along with Kirston Pittman. A few others, Matt Flynn included, were on the roster at the time but did not play that season. Broussard had an excellent season in 2004, and had a very bright future in front of him before a devastating knee injury changed his life. For whatever reason, he was never able to get back to where he was in 2004.

While Broussard's career is ending, another Tiger's bright career is just beginning, but is already getting a big change. Joseph Barksdale, 2007 recruit out of Michigan, has been moved from defensive tackle to offensive tackle. It's no secret that LSU's depth at offensive tackle is a serious issue, and it's unknown if this move is simply to help with depth for this year, presaging a move back to the defensive side of the ball for next year, or if this move is permanent. Rumors of him moving to offensive line have been swirling since long before Barksdale ever signed, and most people thought either he or Will Blackwell would eventually be moved.

While Broussard has moved on from football and Barksdale has moved around THE football, another of LSU's signees has moved to a new football team. DeAngelo Benton came up short on his goal of qualifying for the team and will attend Hargrave Military Academy next year trying to get qualified for next year. This is the best thing for him and for LSU short of qualifying. Hargrave is a school in Virginia that takes post-graduates from high school and tries to increase their test scores and core grades to get them qualified for college. They also play football at a rather high level (similar to the junior college level) without losing a year of eligibility in college. Benton will go to Hargrave for a year and hope to return to LSU at that time with 5 years to play 4 seasons of football, the same as any incoming freshman. Hargrave military academy counts Keiland Williams and Larry Fitzgerald among its graduates. This option is better than JUCO if a kid can afford it, because you don't lose him for two years and you don't lose any college eligibility.

And last, and honestly probably least at this point, DeAngelo Peterson, a commitment for the class of 2008 has decided to re-open his recruitment. Peterson is a wide receiver prospect out of Desire Street Academy in Baton Rouge. He jumped on an offer from LSU, but has since had second thoughts, seemingly coinciding with increased attention from programs like Florida and Bama. He lists himself as a "soft commitment" right now, and I'm here to tell you that people who are "soft commitments" usually end up elsewhere. Not always, but usually. This is a disappointment, because Peterson is a very good athlete and is certain to have the academics to qualify, a big need among our 2008 receiver class. We have quite a few very good receivers on our radar, however, and LSU will be fine even if we lose Peterson.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New 2008 Commitment - Cordian Hagans

Sometimes you write an article that is more timely than you could possibly have imagined. On Sunday, I wrote and published an entry on Ron Brooks where I said:
Always take a risk that a superior athlete will find a way to contribute. This applies if the great athlete isn't the proper size for any particular position, or if he has only been playing football for short period of time, or if he has not been well-coached to this point in his career.
[original emphasis removed, new emphasis added, endnote removed]. Later that day, Les Miles accepted a commitment from Cordian Hagans, a 3-star defensive lineman/offensive lineman out of Duluth, Georgia who has only played one year of organized football.

Hagans is a complete mystery to me and to most people who don't pay a lot of attention to the state of Georgia. There is no film of him readily available. He hasn't given a ton of interviews. What little we know of him is this:
  • He came to and LSU camp this weekend and impressed enough that Miles asked for his commitment and got it
  • He was being heavily recruited by, among others, Auburn and South Carolina
  • He claims to be 6'5" 285# with an eye-popping 4.9 second 40 time, which is excellent for such a big man
  • He was not, at this time, being recruited by the in-state schools UGA and Georgia Tech
He's listed as a defensive tackle, but considering so little is known about him, it is entirely possible he could become a defensive end or an offensive lineman. It's discouraging that he was not being recruited by UGA, but as I've said before, Tommy Tuberville has a track record of uncovering diamonds in the rough. With both Tuberville and Spurrier wanting the guy bad, any worries I may have about his unimpressive star-rating is alleviated.

With a kid like this, we simply have to keep an eye on him in his senior year. We also have to be mindful that he is still very much learning the basics of football. At this time last year, he had literally never played a down of organized football except maybe at a Pee-Wee level. Just judging from that, expect a long understudy period at LSU, with a redshirt year in the offing when he gets to campus. I would be surprised if the kid sees the field in a meaningful situation before 2010, but you never quite know.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Recruiting 101 - Silent Commits and Package Deals

My two least-favorite terms in the entire college football recruiting lexicon: "silent commits" and "package deals". First, the definitions:

silent commitment: n. A recruit who has given a verbal commitment to a particular team, but has not announced that commitment to the recruiting media, and publicly holds himself out as still uncommitted and open. Ex. "Chris Tolliver says he's open, but he's really a silent commit to LSU."

package deal: n. A set of two or more recruits, always friends and often from the same high school or area who are said to have made a pact to attend the same college, even though the college may not be known. Ex. "JB Shugarts and Sam McGuffie are best friends, and we could have had them as a package deal if we'd offered McGuffie."

I simply never believe any statement that certain players are a "package deal" or that there are "silent commits", at least not for any appreciable length of time. I understand that players may commit and then hold off from telling the media until they can set up an announcement in their own preferred way, such as in a press conference, but people don't usually mean it in this innocuous way when they say someone is a silent commit. They usually mean that the recruit is just playing with the fans and the media and/or is manipulating other recruits or allowing himself to be manipulated by a coach to help that coach get other commitments.

How does this allegedly work? Let's say you're a coach, and you want to get two.. oh.. cornerbacks, and you have your eyes on two guys, both of whom are allegedly great. You recruit CB1 and CB2 hard. CB1 gives you his commitment, and you think it's solid, but you are scared that CB2 will be scared off by CB1 if he hears about CB1's commitment, and that CB2 will want to go somewhere else where the competition won't be as stiff. You ask CB1 to keep his commitment quiet to help him land CB2 as well, and CB1 agrees.

I have two problems with this supposedly typical scenario. One, why would CB1 ever agree to this? It's not in his benefit to hold back on telling people he's committed. Two, why would a coach set this up? If CB2 really is scared of CB1's competition, he's going to have to find out about CB1 eventually, and then he'll just be scared off at that time. Or worse, he'll be offended at having been misled. Even if CB2 commits and signs in that scenario, the coach has created a serious team-chemistry problem by using one player to deceive another player, when those players may have to be on the field, in the dorms, and in the classroom together in the future.

Coaches' deception is a time-honored practice in recruiting. It is relatively common that a coach will tell a player, "Sure, we'll let you try out at wide receiver, but if you don't work there we're moving you to safety," all the while with his fingers crossed behind his back knowing that his try-out at wide receiver will last all of 2 practices. "Sorry kid, you just don't have the hands. Report to the defense." Using another player as an accomplice in your deception just seems foolhardy, and like it has a great potential to blow up in your face. I can't imagine any good coach would do it.

Plus, it is my observation that big-time recruits are almost never scared away by competition at their position. They almost universally believe they can beat out anyone.

So-called "silent commits", which due to the nature of the beast can never be confirmed by any official source, are often the subject of message board rumors and innuendo. They have a long and storied track record of failing to come to fruition. While I suppose it is possible that silent commits exist, the unsubstantiated and eventually-disproven rumors about silent commits greatly outnumber the rumors that eventually prove true, and even those may be only by coincidence.

Package deals are a different story. They come in one of two flavors:
  1. To get a great player, you also have to offer a scholarship to his unworthy best friend, or
  2. One slick recruiting job can net you two great players.
I can see it happening. Two guys are good friends and they want to go to the same school. The only problems are that you never hear any recruit say something like, "Me and so-and-so are a package deal," and the rumors of package deals seem to almost never work out. It sounds like a nice idea, but you simply never see it, and it's certainly never openly discussed by recruits.

At this time of year, and on into the off-season, you will hear innumerable rumors of "silent commits" and/or "package deals". Don't believe any of them. These players seem to invariably make their decisions independently and with their own best interests in mind. They play a lot of games with the process, but if there is any such thing as a "silent commitment" or a "package deal" in the recruiting world, it is certainly rumored a lot more often than it is true. I just don't pay attention to the rumors, and you shouldn't either.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Ron Brooks

As this series winds down slowly, we take a look at one of the most athletic players in the 2007 recruiting class. This is Ron Brooks, 4-star athlete (meaning he has no set position that the recruiting services know of), 6'0" 170# listed, 4.4 second 40 time, 32" vertical jump. He played wide receiver and quarterback for his high school in Irving, Texas. From what I understand, his listed height is something of a fib, and he's closer to about 5'9" or 5'10".

His videos show him to be electric with the ball in his hands, but he's too light to be a traditional running back, too short to be a prototypical wide receiver, and doesn't have the arm to be a quarterback. He's also a very accomplished ball-hawking defensive player with 10 interceptions as a senior, and a return man, not afraid to hit or be hit.

At All-star games, he usually played wide receiver, and performed well.

He's undersized for most positions, except corner, but has ball skills to suggest he should be on the offensive side of the ball. As a man without a position, he is perfectly illustrative of one of the first principles of college football recruiting. Always take a risk that a superior athlete will find a way to contribute*. This applies if the great athlete isn't the proper size for any particular position, or if he has only been playing football for short period of time, or if he has not been well-coached to this point in his career.

For my money, given the choice between two athletes, one of whom is the prototypical size and has received great coaching through the high school ranks, and the other of whom is a phenomenal athlete who isn't the ideal size for his position and has only been playing football for two years, take the phenomenal athlete. You'll be better off in the long run.

Les Miles has illustrated this principle successfully with Trindon Holliday, who is much too small to be a prototypical anything at the college level. Despite being only a 3-star athlete due to his size, he is proving to be very valuable in a limited, specialized role because he is a superior athlete. Ron Brooks is bigger than Trindon and has better ball skills, though does not have the same straight-line speed (few if any college football players can keep up with Trindon on a straight line).

If I was to say who Ron Brooks reminds me of at this stage, it would be Tyrone Prothro, former wide receiver for Bama. Prothro was also below 6' tall, but was athletic and had great ball skills, and became the best offensive player in the SEC before his injury. I'm not by any means suggesting that Ron Brooks is destined to be the kind of player Prothro was, but I think Ron Brooks, at this stage, is similar to Prothro more advanced than Prothro was at the same stage. Prothro, of course, developed and developed and developed until he became a very serious player. It remains to be seen what Brooks can do.

*The contrary principle is never take a risk that a bad character will turn himself around. My above illustration doesn't apply if the phenomenal athlete has spent a lot of time at juvie or if he has a bad work ethic. Let some other school take a risk on him.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

2007 Recruiting - The Tight Ends

For the 2007 recruiting class, LSU signed three tight ends. The one to the left is Jordan Corbin, formerly called Jordon Hammond. He is a Lakeland, FL prospect (a hotbed of recruiting for several schools). He is a 4-star tight end, 6'5" 235# with a 4.7 second 40 time. Like a lot of superior athletes, he played on offense and defense in high school, recording 25 receptions and 50 tackles as a senior. He appears to be the most athletic of the three commitments and the most likely to be a solid receiving target.

This is Mitch Joseph from Catholic-New Iberia, a school that has developed into a pipeline for LSU recruiting lately, with Mitch, Jared Mitchell, Zhamal Thomas, and Ryan St. Julien all giving their pledges to LSU out of Catholic-New Iberia in recent years. Mitch is a 3-star tight end at 6'4" 243#, a 4.8 second 40 and a solid 28" vertical. Mitch is reportedly a terrific blocking tight end, with sure hands but without the speed and athleticism to really be an offensive playmaker, though he could move the chains reliably. If, in fact, Gary Crowton's offense is going to rely more heavily on receiving tight ends, one wonders if Mitch Joseph might use his blocking skills to find another home on the offensive line.

This is Alex Russian, a 3-star tight end out of Round Rock, Texas. He is 6'4" 231# and runs a very respectable 4.66 40 yard dash with a very impressive 33" vertical leap. He was Academic All-State in Texas (honorable mention), so he's an intelligent kid, which would bode well for him if in fact he changes positions. He is another great athlete and some say a sleeper recruit of this class, and had offers from Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Nebraska among others. Many think he was recruited primarily because he's a solid deep snapper, and every team needs one good deep snapper who can get the ball to the punters quickly and reliably. He caught 24 passes for 7 touchdowns as a senior in high school.

A lot of people have wondered, why have we signed three tight ends (and two kickers) in the 2007 class. They always ask it together, but the answers are basically the opposite. We've discussed the kickers. You know my opinion that it is necessary and desirable to have good specialists on the teams, as these people can and often do decide the outcomes of close games. While kickers are specialists, tight ends are generalists. They are often very good athletes with good coordination, good hands, large frames, and are roughly in the 230-250 pound range. Most teams will use three tight ends regularly over the course of a season.

But most important is a tight end's versatility. A tight end is also the right size to play fullback. If he's got quick feet and good blocking ability, and if you need a solid fullback, put him in the backfield. LSU did it with David Jones a little bit in the 2005 season when Shawn Jordan was suspended. You can also move a tight end to defensive end. LSU famously did this with Marcus Spears, and he ended up having an All-American calibre career and was a 1st round draft pick. You can also beef up a tight end and move him to offensive guard or offensive tackle. I recall that a great Arkansas tight end of recent years made the move to tackle upon reaching the NFL. Dwayne Jarrett of USC was originally recruited as a tight end and became one of the best wide receivers in college football over the last couple years.

While I won't go so far as to say that there is no limit to the number of tight ends you can have on a team, I am not concerned at all if there is a large number of them, precisely because of their versatility. Mitch Joseph, it appears, could move to offensive line. Jordan Hammond may move to defensive end. Alex Russian may move to fullback for all we know.

Or, they could all end up being tight ends. It's unlikely that ALL of them will be tight ends, I suppose, but you never know. For all the talk of tight ends being versatile and easily moved, it is also true that a team needs several people to play tight end.

The 2007 recruiting profiles are approaching the end. There are only 4 profiles remaining, and it is my goal to finish them all before Fall Practice starts, with is I think a good demarcation between "off-season" and "pre-season". I didn't think about SEC Media Days, which start next week, and which I will be paying close attention to for the first time in my life, because this is the first time I've covered college football "professionally". I suppose that could be the demarcation point, but these profiles won't be finished by then, and I was always shooting for the start of Fall Practice to be finished with this. I'm in good shape for that.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Coaches' All-SEC released

Yesterday, in advance of SEC Media Days, the SEC released its official Coaches' Pre-Season All-SEC teams. You can find it here. A brief rundown of LSU players on it:

First Team:
Will Arnold, OL
Early Doucet, WR
Glen Dorsey, DL
Ali Highsmith, LB
Chevis Jackson, DB

No team has more first team selections.

Second Team:
Brett Helms, C
Tyson Jackson, DL
Darry Beckwith, LB
Jonathan Zenon, DB

Third Team:
Ciron Black, OL
Herman Johnson, OL
Craig Steltz, DB

LSU tied with Arkansas for the most overall selections with 12. Arkansas's selections were of course led by Darren McFadden.

I don't have as big of a problem with pre-season All-conference teams as I have with pre-season team rankings. Firstly, they give me a lot of useful information about players I don't know anything about. For instance, I know now that Vandy probably will have a pretty good offensive line, considering they had two OL All-SEC selections, including one on the first team. Second, they do not have the same negative impact on the future of the football season. It's just a symbolic honor to be selected, not an entrenched attitude that will hurt competition, and that's fine with me.

This is not to say that I have to agree with everything though. There are some disagreements here:
  • No DJ Hall? Anywhere? With TWO Florida receivers getting 3rd team honors? I'll just say this. DJ Hall had more receiving yards in 2006 than 3rd teamers Andre Caldwell and Percy Harvin COMBINED.
  • BenJarvis Green-Ellis got first-team honors even though Ole Miss was a poor running team last year. Green-Elis got yards, but his YPC average was significantly less than DeShawn Wynn's was last year, and most people seem to forget Florida even had a running back. I think Felix Jones is better, as is Corey Boyd, LaMarcus Coker, Keiland Williams, Jacob Hester, Cason Jackson-Garrison, and probably others. Green-Ellis is just plain-old overrated.
  • Speaking of, where did Chris Nickson as 3rd team QB come from? Nickson got more than half of his passing yards by throwing to Earl Bennett. He was also the team's leading rusher, but to have him over the criminally underrated Blake Mitchell? Madness. And if you're going by upside and potential, how about Matthew Stafford? Or Tim Tebow?
  • Are there really 4 offensive linemen in the SEC who are better than Andre Smith? I won't say I have encyclopedic knowledge of offensive linemen, but I find that doubtful.
  • What has Wallace Gilberry done recently to merit 3rd team All-SEC selection? Nothing. After a surprisingly productive freshman season, he really hasn't done much in the last two years.
  • And for that matter, why is the All-SEC team based on a 3-defensive-linemen, 4-linebacker formation when few SEC teams actually run that defense?
  • I know Trindon Holliday wasn't used much until mid-season last year, but if there are 3 "return specialists" who accomplish more this year than Trindon, I'll be very surprised.
Otherwise, it really wasn't bad. They did not make the mistake of overrating John Parker Wilson. They didn't leave off many deserving people. I understand why Keiland Williams and Jacob Hester were left off, even though I think both are excellent running backs, (though I don't understand why Brad Lester would be picked if neither of those guys would). I could wish that Charles Alexander would have made it, but it's not that big of a deal. It was a solid, respectable effort and is actually helpful to understanding where we are right now.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Kentravis Aubrey

Have you seen this man? He is Kentravis Aubrey, 4-star DT/DE out of Bastrop High School, 6'3 285#. The picture on the left reminds me of a certain defensive end who played a prominent role on the 2003 national championship team.

I have been dreading doing his profile for the simple reason that nothing is known about him. If I can get a little consciously meta for a second, let me just say that I have endeavored to make these profiles much more interesting than a simple biographical recitation of facts about a player. With every player, I have tried to find some kind of a hook to talk about, either to make him interesting or use him to discuss a broader point about football or recruiting. This has been impossible with Kentravis Aubrey. He is the most mysterious recruit LSU signed in 2007. How does a 4-star recruit at defensive line generate almost no interest among fans?

It starts with where he played. He played for a state power at Bastrop, where he was not the highest profile college recruit on his team. That honor belongs to DeAngelo Benton, the wide receiver attempting to get himself qualified to enter school in the Fall. He gave his commitment in the Spring of 2006, making him one of the earliest commits for the 2007 class, and never wavered on the commitment. With his recruitment ended early and his quiet but productive senior season, there has been very little attention paid to him and no one knows much about him. I couldn't find any kind of a hook. Even my attempts to simply ask people on the message boards about him got mostly a chorus of crickets chirping.

Then I realized that I have a hook. The hook to his profile is his utter lack of drama and pre-season attention. If Kentravis Aubrey had stunk it up his senior season after his early commitment, we would certainly have been talking about that. If Kentravis had decided to listen to overtures from Bama or Oklahoma or whomever, we would certainly have been talking about that. If he was in danger of not qualifying, we would certainly have been talking about that. None of that happened. He simply gave his commitment and then went about his business on the field and in the classroom.

I can think of a couple other people who committed early, never wavered, never created drama, never generated a lot of buzz, and had great careers at LSU. Curtis Taylor is falling into that category. He committed during the summer before his senior season and it looks like he'll be a starter this year. An even better example is Glen Dorsey, though Dorsey was more high-profile of a recruit. He didn't create a lot of drama, but he's a pre-season All-American now.

The point is, just because he didn't provide a lot of copy for the message boards and the recruiting journalists, don't think the guy isn't that good of a recruit. He excelled recently at an All-Star game between Texas and Louisiana All-Stars, and for all we know he could end up being better than the much more high-profile guys signed along the defensive line.

What started out as a profile I was dreading has, in all honesty, become one of my favorite profiles to write. I've grown a new appreciation for Mr. Aubrey, who has simply done everything right and everything that should be expected of a fan favorite. I still don't know much about him, but maybe that's for the best. It just means he hasn't been seeking attention, acting like a prima donna, or getting into trouble. He's just been doing his job, and I look forward to seeing how he looks on a football field.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Whimsical Wednesday

It's been a long time since we've done a Whimsical Wednesday. I've been too inspired to talk about the upcoming football season, which inches closer and closer, sometimes agonizing slowly. We're just over 6 weeks away now, and it'll be a long wait still.

Anyway, one of my favorite bands is a band called "eels". Not "Eels" or "The Eels". Just "eels". It's really a one-person band, where Mark Oliver Everett writes everything, plays many of the instruments himself, and hires musicians to play the rest. It's really a solo project masquerading as a band.

Their biggest crossover hit was a song called "Novocaine for the Soul" back in 1996. He's still making music today. The first album I owned by them was 2000's "Daisies of the Galaxy" with the minor cross-over hit "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues", which appeared on numerous movie soundtracks including "Road Trip". Here's its video, with appearances from the cast of Road Trip:

I went on to buy all their other albums. He is maybe the most talented pop musician of his generation. His music is beautiful, and his lyrics often dark but without angst. He also has a wonderful and dark sense of humor that comes out in the oddest places. You hear it a lot in his definitive album "Electro-shock Blues", which was written after a period of time when Everett lost his mother to cancer and his sister to suicide. It's a very emotional album, but at the same time it's a very adult album of grief and healing, not a juvenile album of angst and self-pity. It's the album where he really found his voice, and each subsequent album has explored a lot of dark territory as well.

It's a common refrain with me that I often have no idea why mainstream success eludes really talented musicians who have a true artistic vision while really bad music becomes really popular. Everett is a guy who really deserves a wider audience. He probably doesn't want legions of screaming fans, but I think a little more mainstream success has been earned.

Here's a video to his song "I Need Some Sleep." It's an unofficial video put together by a fan, but it's very effective. It's beautiful and somber, and perfectly illustrative of what the eels have done for years.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blue Ribbon Preview

ESPN Insider has a very interesting free article previewing LSU football. There is lots of good talk about this article at other sites, the high points being:
  • We're really good
  • Expectations are enormous
  • The defense will be outstanding
  • There's pressure to beat Bama
  • We're really good.
I want to talk about Miles' quotes though, in reference to what happened last week. To recap, last week, Miles talked smack to the Pac-10, calling out USC for having a weak schedule year after year, and calling out Stanford and Washington for being poor teams. I thought it was unhelpful. This time around, however, Miles says stuff like:

"It's certainly a compliment to our team," Miles said, "but it's not warranted by any means. Anybody can tap a team as being capable of winning a national championship, and that's all well and good, but as well all know, you have to earn it. No one here is fooled by that.

"There are a number of pieces in our puzzle that we have to put together before we can finish the complete picture. We've got a quarterback who has started just one game in his career. We understand that. We're young at tailback. We have some losses in the secondary. We had four players drafted in the first round, including the first player drafted, and we have to replace them.

"And yet we're talking about improving. It's not a bad thing to be picked in the preseason top five, but we know it's a position we have to earn."

Now THAT is coach-speak. Appreciation for the positive publicity? Check. Acknowledgment that ultimately it's meaningless? Check. Acknowledgment that there are question marks on the teams that the players will have to correct? Check. Insinuation that the whole team is focused on the goals of the season? Check. All that's missing is a statement respecting the competition:
"We play everybody but the Dallas Cowboys, but at least we play them at home," Miles said. "Each schedule has its own challenges, and our schedule is challenging. I don't think there's a tougher schedule in the country, but the good news is we'll play a lot of our major opponents at home."
Oh. There it is. This is how you say we have a tough, but manageable schedule, which we do. Our schedule is difficult, with plenty of opportunities to slip up, but it's also a schedule that finds most of our biggest games at home, and most of our toughest opponents looking more vulnerable than usual this year. It is, therefore, a schedule that will allow us to run the table if in fact we're as good as we think and if we play each game at our best. Those are two big ifs, and the schedule won't allow us a lot of opportunity to have an off-game. Miles manages to say all that, but doesn't insult other teams.

Gary Crowton, LSU's new offensive coordinator, must have given him lessons in politic responses to the media. Here is Crowton on his former employer: "Oregon was an excellent place to coach and Coach [Mike] Bellotti is an excellent man to work for, but I just felt like we had a chance to win it all here," Crowton said. respect for former employer? Check. Strong statement of excitement for current employment situation? Check.

But doesn't Miles jump out of his shorts when talking about Saban and Bama? Well, here's that section:
"Yeah, there's some interest in that game," Miles said, laughing. "Ultimately, it really doesn't matter who the coach is over there. The great fortune I have is that I represent Louisiana and LSU, and we're as excited as we can be to play whoever we play wherever we have to play them. But Nov. 3 is certainly a game we'll look forward to playing."
That quote isn't making its way to a locker room wall any time soon, but it doesn't deny how big the game is, and at the same time it compliments his fans. This is the proper way to approach the game at this point, with excitement growing later in the season.

Please understand, I like Les Miles. I like him a lot. I think he's been and will continue to be a fine coach at LSU. however, I reserve the right to disagree with things he does on a case-by-case basis. I thought his quotes about USC were unhelpful, and that he has said and done a number of things in the media that strike me as... odd. I'm not a fan of trash-talking, especially by coaches, but Miles isn't even particularly good at it. To be a trash-talker, you have to be a clever wordsmith, and he just isn't. He'll never be the trash-talker that Steve Spurrier and Tommy Tuberville are, and he shouldn't try. It's unbecoming of him.

He makes up for it by results on the field and on the recruiting trail, which in my opinion are well beyond expectations. Not quite "above reproach", but beyond expectations, and I definitely think he is capable of bringing us to even greater heights.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Some tidbits on players

It's no secret that two of our bigger problems the 2007 LSU football teams faces are depth at quarterback and depth at offensive tackle. These problems were created by certain players who managed to get themselves kicked off the team or suspended from the team. It now appears that one of those players just may unexpectedly make it back to the team.

Kyle Anderson was expelled from the team following allegations that he laid in wait outside of a local bar and sucker-punched a patron leaving it. His loss along with that of Zhamal Thomas, kicked off for burglary and identity theft, left LSU with a big hole in the two-deep at offensive tackle.

Now, however, Kyle Anderson may be coming back. He has reportedly had the most serious charge he faces reduced to a misdemeanor and has offered Les Miles to come back to the team as a sophomore walk-on, paying his own way. This is in the face of several D-1 programs out there offering Kyle Anderson a scholarship to transfer. His return would solidify the depth chart at offensive tackle. There is no word yet on whether or not Miles has or will accept his return on that basis.

There is some indication that Kyle's parking lot escapades were not an isolated incident, and that his dismissal was more about a series of problems than about this one incident. I don't know Kyle Anderson. I don't know anything about him other than what I've read and been told. For that reason, I trust that whatever Miles decides about Anderson's future with the team will be the correct decision. If Anderson's presence on the team will be a positive in the locker room, then his presence on the field will definitely be a positive, helping the team get the starters valuable rest.

There is still no word on Ryan Perrilloux. There is speculation that one of the conditions of his return to the team is that he complete summer school without incident and in good standing. Summer school has not closed out yet, and his return awaits that. But I don't know if that's really true or not. The other rumor is that Miles will wait on re-instating Perrilloux until the eve of Fall Practice, which starts on August 2nd. Most rumors have him eventually returning to the team, which is good for LSU's QB depth in 2007, and if he can stay with the team through 2008 or 2009, it will be good for those years too.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Meet the Beat-Alls, part 2

In part II of the 2-part series on really big-time 2008recruits LSU hopes to land, we will cover those who are anticipated to play on defense. We will not get all of these guys, and we may not get any of these guys, but they are players we will make room for no matter what if they want to come here.

The Defense

This is T.J. Bryant, 6'1" 175#, 4.4 second 40, 5-star defensive back from Lincoln High School in Florida. Lincoln High is a famous Florida State football factory, and recruits from Lincoln almost invariably end up at FSU if FSU wants them. However, word is that T.J. Bryant is different. If you believe the rumors, he is looking to leave FSU and that his most likely destination is Baton Rouge. I maintain a healthy skepticism about those rumors, but I don't dismiss them out of hand. Those rumors actually come from FSU recruiting sources. Bryant is a tremendous athlete who would probably step on the field almost immediately at cornerback and compete with the likes of Jai Eugene and Phelon Jones for the starting spot when Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon leave after this year.

Most likely destination: unknown.

This is Chancey Agheyere, a name I do not known how to pronounce. He is a 6'4" 240# defensive end out of Garland, Texas, 4.7 second 40, 32" vertical, and a 5-star prospect. He is the kind of speed-rushing defensive end in the Jevon Kearse mold that LSU has not had in quite some time. He's the type of player that Auburn seems to get a lot and use effectively, but we have recently preferred bigger defensive ends. We definitely aren't turning this guy down though. The rumors on him have been flying a lot, having him variously leaning to University of Texas, LSU, and Florida. He is either inscrutable or he changes his mind a lot. He also has missed all the football camps this summer recovering from a torn meniscus that hopefully won't affect him long term.

Most likely destination: right now it looks like Florida because that's the only official visit he's scheduled, and he plans to announce his destination right after his trip to Florida, but ask again in a week or two and it might change.

Marcus Forston, defensive tackle from Northwestern High School in Miami, a powerhouse program that will have a minimum of seven D-1A recruits for 2008, and in which Forston despite being a high 4-star, 6'2" 286#, may not be the highest rated recruit on the team. He's also not the only one that LSU is recruiting. He's not even the only defensive lineman that LSU is recruiting from that high school, as we are also going after Benjamin Jones, a 3-star defensive end on the same team. We're going after Forston, but right now it appears that we are on the outside looking in. It seems like he's down to Miami and Notre Dame, but you never quite know.

Most likely destination: Miami

This is Brendan Beal, a very talented linebacker from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania who apparently isn't interested in going to Linebacker U in-state. Whatever, dude. We aren't really heavy on linebackers this year, and we already have a commitment from Kellen Theriot. The rest of the class at linebacker will likely be either Beal, Mark Barron, or no one, and both Beal and Barron seem like longshots at this point. Beal looks like a strong lean to USC, and talks up his contacts with them quite a bit. They're the team to beat for his services. Beal is 6'4" 235#, runs a 4.5 second 40 with a 33" vertical. He says he's down to USC, Florida, and Boston College, but his quotes suggest LSU may be getting into it. Still, it's a long shot.

Most likely destination: USC.

Mark Barron, 6'2" 205#, 4.5 second 40, a great athlete and a 4-star recruit. He will likely play either RB or linebacker at the next level. He's out of St. Paul's in Mobile, Alabama. St. Paul's is another school in the Mobile pipeline. He's going to be tough to get out of the state, but LSU is in his top 5. The Mobile guys will probably be watching the season closely to see what becomes of Bama, Auburn, and LSU, and that will likely impact their decisions.

Most likely destination: Bama or Auburn, but watch closely.

Note: This post and the previous one were posted with generous contributions from my 4-month old daughter, who sat with me and "helped" my gather up the info and type it. Her generous help converted this from a 30-40 minute job to an hour long job.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Meet the Beat-Alls

Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday. I was feeling uninspired, so I decided simply not to write rather than write something frivolous. Of course, that assumes that football isn't always frivolous, but let's not even explore that question.

Today is the day to introduce readers to the really highly-rated 2008 recruits who are reportedly considering LSU. They are undeclared right now, and they are certainly looking at other schools, but LSU is among their favorites.

Julio Jones, wide receiver, Foley, AL. The consensus #1wide receiver in the country at 6'4" 215# with sub-4.5 40 and a 41" vertical. His videos are incredible. He outjumps defenders, outruns them in the open field, and must be gang-tackled. He is truly a top shelf recruit, and reportedly the #1 guy on LSU's recruiting board. He's the most highly regarded offensive playmaker to come out of Alabama since Brodie Croyle and Cadillac Williams. Most of the rumors have him leaning strongly to Bama, but probably the second most frequent rumor has him leaning to LSU because of track. His YouTube video is outstanding:

Most likely destination: Bama

Darrell Scott, running back, 6'0" 205# with a 4.4 second 40 out of California by way of Florida. He is the consensus #1 running back and a native of Florida. He ran for over 3000 yards last year and scored 45 touchdowns against solid competition. He has offers from everyone. In a year where LSU isn't dead set on taking a running back, we would certainly take him. His recruitment is national, but word is that he wants to leave the West Coast and return closer to home, most likely to Florida, but he has said some very good things about LSU, putting us in his top 3. It seems unlikely that he's coming here, but just never know how these things will shake down over the long recruiting season.

Most likely destination: Florida

Deion Walker, wide receiver, 6'4" 184# with a 4.4 second 40 and a 37" vertical, Christchurch, VA. A step below Julio Jones, but still a 5-star. He is currently on a fascinating cross-country journey with his father visiting school after school, including current favorites Florida State and LSU. He recently concluded his trip to LSU and it sounds from his quotes like he really enjoyed his time in Baton Rouge and that he got along very well with the coaches and the current players, referring to many of the players by their first names. Before this, he wasn't REALLY considered a serious prospect for LSU, but now perhaps we're rethinking that. He will also visit USC, Auburn, South Carolina, and other schools on his road trip.

Most likely destination: unknown

Matt Patchan, offensive tackle/defensive lineman, 6'7" 265#, high 4-star offensive tackle from Armwood, Florida. He's the highest rated offensive lineman still on the board for LSU. He has said that he wants an opportunity to earn playing time on both sides of the ball. I think that's unrealistic, and most high school players who want that eventually change their minds upon reaching campus and seeing how much work they have to do to earn playing time at ONE position. Patchan has visited LSU and reportedly liked what he saw. He has family history at U of Miami though, and that will be hard to overcome. Obviously, he's a little small right now, but his frame looks big enough to add 30-40 pounds without looking fat, and he looks like he's going to be a good one. Our chances seem slim, but you never know.

Most likely destination: U of Miami

DeAndre Brown, wide receiver, Ocean Springs, Mississippi, 6'6" 208#, 4.6 second 40, 28" vertical jump. DeAndre is a high 4-star wide receiver with tremendous size and ability to catch in traffic. His measurables, if accurate, suggest that he is not the raw athlete that Julio Jones and Deion Walker are, but he's highly skilled, like a Michael Clayton-type, who you may recall did some positive things in his time at LSU. He has a former high school teammate at LSU in Richard Dickson, and he is reportedly a very strong lean to LSU, but is also looking at Florida and Bama. He has a lot of work to do in the classroom to get himself qualified though, which is the biggest concern with him.

Most likely destination: LSU, if he qualifies.

Chris Tolliver, wide receiver, Rayville, LA, 6'1" 180#, 4.4 second 40, high 4-star recruit who is also a heavy lean to LSU. Not the physical specimen that DeAndre Brown and Julio Jones are, he is nonetheless a great prospect due to his speed and playmaking ability. He is terrific with the ball in his hands, with open-field skills that lead to a lot of yards-after-catch. He reminds me a lot of Craig Davis in that respect. He has talked up Bama and Florida a bit, but inside word is that he is going to end up at LSU. He has a lot of work to do in the classroom, which unfortunately seems to be a trend with athletes from Rayville. In 2006, Richard Murphy had trouble getting through the NCAA clearinghouse, and in 2007, D'Montreal Wilson initially committed to LSU but was forced to go to junior college instead. Tolliver has to work at getting qualified, but if he does it, he should be at LSU a year from now.

Most likely destination: LSU, if qualified.

Antoine McClain, offensive tackle, 6'6" 317#, Anniston, AL, he is a high 4-star recruit from about 2 hours east of Tuscaloosa. Little is known about him, but word is that the coaching staff is high on him and would like to sew up his commitment ASAP. It appears he is, like most of these others, a longshot and most likely to stay in-state, probably at Auburn. While LSU recruits parts of Alabama very well, Anniston is situated between Birmingham and Atlanta, making it not a particularly ripe place for LSU to pick. We'll give it a shot though, because he has college-ready size and a lot of ability.

Most likely destination: Auburn.

Tomorrow, we look at defensive prospects.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Josh Dworaczyk

This is a profile I've been meaning to write for quite some time, and I think this profile is very apropos at this point, following the commitments of DeAngelo Peterson, Ryan St. Julien, and Rocky Dulplessis. This is Josh Dworaczyk, a young man whose name I can almost pronounce. He's a 4-star offensive tackle out of Catholic-New Iberia, 6'5" 263#, with an alleged 33" vertical jump, but I don't believe that. Anyway.

If you've read this blog for the past couple months, you've picked up that a lot of recruiting happens in the summer before a prospect enters his senior year of high school. It appears, for example, that LSU will have about half of its 2008 commitments before the 2007 season begins. The coaches have spent the summer watching these kids perform in camps, evaluating them at their high school practices, talking to their coaches, etc. At a time when the recruiting services and recruiting-watchers are only beginning to really evaluate these kids, the coaches are knee-deep in them.

Mr. Dworaczyk was one of these kids. He committed to LSU in the summer of 2006, before his senior year began. He was, at the time, ranked in the low-30s in Rivals' rankings of Louisiana prospects. Not national. Louisiana! If he was really the 35th-40th best prospect within the state, LSU would not have given him a serious look. LSU takes only about 10-15 Louisiana prospects per year, and the 35th best simply would not make the cut. The 35th best might get a look from Ole Miss or Mississippi State, or possibly Vandy if his academics are strong, but most likely the 35th best football recruit in the State of Louisiana would be headed to Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern, or maybe La. Tech. But not LSU.

Josh Dworaczyk was a 2-star recruit, or possibly a 3-star, but he was given an early LSU offer and he accepted. The fans cried foul. Les Miles was stinking up our team with "Oklahoma State"-level recruits. He was ruining our program by taking such weak athletes onto the team.

Then came the 2006 high school football season, where Josh Dworaczyk excelled and climbed up the rankings. By the end of the year, he was in Rivals' Louisiana Top 10 and in the Rivals250 for 2007, a ranking of the 250 best recruits in the country. He was a solid 4-star by this time, and thanks to the lack of depth at LSU, he may well end up in the 2-deep at offensive tackle before the first game of the season, with an inside track to being a starter in his second year in the program.

Did Josh Dworaczyk make a drastic improvement between his junior and senior years? Did the blind squirrel Les Miles find a nut despite himself? Probably not. What probably happened was that Josh Dworaczyk was underrated by the services all along because of lack of exposure and lack of information. His commitment to LSU got the services to look at him more closely during the 2006 season, and they liked what they saw. The coaches, by virtue of seeing him at the camps and following him closely, simply knew more than they did.

Which brings us to one DeAngelo Peterson, of whom I knew almost nothing before yesterday. Of whom almost no one outside of coaching circles knew much of anything, including the Rivals Network, Mike Scarborough, and Sonny Shipp. We may not have known much about him, but I assure you that Les Miles, Gary Crowton, Larry Porter, and DJ McCarthy (his future head coach, future offensive coordinator, designated recruiter, and WR positions coach, respectively) know all him. They know his 40-time. They know about his hands and his route-running and his footwork. They know his character. They know his taste in girls. They know EVERYTHING about him, even if the rest of us don't.

And they aren't going to talk about him, so don't even ask.

This applies to all of the recruits we have. This is not to say that LSU is necessarily going to have a great recruiting class for 2008. It's not necessarily so, but trust the LSU coaching staff to get the very best that is available to them, and to only accept commitments from those recruits who are the best we will be able to get.

Note: Incidentally, after my post yesterday about Mr. Peterson, a lot more information came out through the rumor mill. He reportedly is already a full academic qualifier, who may have even considered graduating a year early last year. His coach says he's a great athlete who potentially can play any position from wide receiver to defensive end (?) if he bulks up. So, he's a wide receiver, but maybe he's a linebacker or a tight end or a corner or a safety. Who knows at this point?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New 2008 Commitment - DeAngelo Peterson

Rumors have abounded lately about LSU picking up new 2008 commitments. There have variously been rumors that LSU got a commitment from Kye Staley, a 4-star athlete from Oklahoma; Dallas Thomas, a 3-star offensive tackle from Baton Rouge; and Chris Martin, a 3-star defensive lineman from Florida.

I woke up this morning, however, to find that the first person to make it all semi-official (keeping in mind that it's never official or binding until National Signing Day) is sleeper wide receiver DeAngelo Peterson, 6'3" 195#, low 3-star, no reported 40-time, 34-inch vertical out of Desire Street Academy in Baton Rouge. Despite his rather low rating by the recruiting services, he had an impressive list of offers, including offers from most of the Western Division of the SEC.

I assure you that with his list of offers, and his commitment to LSU, his rating will go up at the next re-evaluation. We've talked about this before. This is especially true in the case of Peterson, who has gotten a committable offer despite the fact that the wide receiver position is very strong in-state in 2008, and despite the presence of very highly rated out of state receivers like Julio Jones and DeAndre Brown. Brown, in particular, is considered to be a very strong lean to LSU, as is in-state high-4-star Chris Tolliver.

Perhaps this signals that LSU has no confidence in landing Julio Jones, who is simply the most heralded offensive playmaker out of Alabama since Brodie Croyle, and is part of the Mobile pipeline that Nick Saban is trying to shut down. But perhaps it doesn't signal that at all. Perhaps it just means that they really like Peterson, who has been slowly gathering up a little more attention from the people who follow recruiting, and reportedly earned his offer by excelling at a camp, which is another thing we've talked about. He has the size for a wide receiver, but we don't know much about his athleticism yet. I'm sure Miles does though.

Update: Peterson has re-opened his recruitment. See this post for details.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Phelon Jones

This is Phelon Jones, 6'1" 185#, 4-star cornerback from McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile, Alabama. He runs 4.4 in the 40 and has a 36 inch vertical. This kid looks like he has NFL written all over him. He's the perfect size for a cornerback, with the great speed you want at that position. His videos and credentials are incredible, including reportedly shutting down 2008 5-star wide receiver Julio Jones (a guy LSU is targeting).

It remains to be seen whether or not Phelon will meet the potential he seems to have. That is, of course, a question for all recruits. All of them have a lot to learn and a lot of pitfalls between here and there. Phelon, however, has some advantages in this regard. First, he's a coach's son, and much like Sidell Corley's father, his father's media comments showed him to be a high character man who certainly nudges his son in the right direction. I understand his father is now coaching in Baton Rouge.

If all goes well, I think Phelon Jones becomes the third member of the 2007 recruiting class who will eventually be a starter at defensive back, along with Chad Jones and Stefoin Francois. Along with 2006 recruit Jai Eugene, I think these guys make up the starting secondary in the 2009 season, after all of the current starters graduate.

The other important consideration in looking at Phelon Jones is to look at his place of origin: McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile, Alabama. He's part of a Mobile pipeline that has given LSU a number of good players in the last half-decade or so, including Jamarcus Russell and Chevis Jackson. You better believe Saban will do everything he can to cut off this pipeline that has given us quite a bit of talent. You better believe also that Les Miles is going to do whatever he can to keep it open in hopes of getting future great recruits like Julio Jones, DJ Fluker, and A.J. McCarron.

Keeping the Mobile pipeline gong is one key to LSU remaining a national power. The stakes are going to be very high in this battle.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Coach Speak

When asked whether he would like for his team to play USC in the National Championship game two months before the season starts, the proper response would be:

a. Say it's an honor that people are talking up the team so much, but it's a long way from January and there is a lot of football to be played;

b. Say that we can't control our destiny for the national championship, so our goal is to win the SEC, but we would of course love the opportunity to play a team like USC if that chance arises; or

c. Call out USC on having a weak schedule and conference, insulting certain Pac-10 teams by name in the process?

If you said "c", you really like Coach Miles, and you are either a motivational visionary or you need to stop talking to reporters.

Coaches are like politicians. Their every public utterance needs to be measured against how it will affect their teams and their opposition. This particular public utterance has made it into the national media and frankly makes Miles look bitchy. For the next time we play a Pac-10 team, particularly Washington or Stanford, those teams will have substantial locker-room material to use for motivation.

Also, does he not recall that USC has played SEC teams three times recently: Auburn in 2003, and Arkansas in 2005 and 2006. It won all three by blowout, and twice those opponents ended up being pretty good (though the 2006 Arkansas team was clearly much weaker early in the season when USC played them than they were later in the season).

I really don't understand what Les is doing with these comments. Stewart Mandel believes he was just giving red meat to the LSU- and SEC-faithful, who have long believed that USC has been at a substantial illegitimate advantage on the national scene by not playing as many tough, physical games as we do.

Even if this was the case, however, I think Miles could have done it a lot more gracefully and tactfully. He could have said, "It would be an honor to play USC in the national championship game, but the SEC is the toughest conference in the country, and we have to play a lot of good strong teams before we even think about the post-season possibilities." It's an expression that the SEC is the strongest conference and that it is especially hard to win here, but it doesn't give anyone any locker room material.

I think he was just speaking candidly, without thinking, and the consequences will not be good. His comments make us a target in the media. It puts the bullseye squarely on us at a time when we have really way too much media attention anyway. Plus, at a time when most coaches want to deflate their teams a little bit when they are ranked really highly, Miles is essentially saying, "We're awesome." It's hard to see how this helps.