Okay, the 2014 college football season got off to a big bang for the LSU Tigers. Coming off a good 10-3 season and landing the nation's #2 recruiting class has folks in Tiger country more than optimistic. At the end of last week, the Tigers took to the field for the first of several practices leading up to their annual Spring game that goes down on April 5th in Death Valley. There is no need to mention any names here.
If I did, I would only be referencing past performances and hearsay. Because as we all know, not much information (other than "oh he looks good in individual drills out there") can be gathered during spring football practice.
We will all get a better look and a better feel on April 5th during the L-Club Purple and White Game. I've compiled a short list of things that I think LSU will have to work on in order to get to elite status.
1. Who's gonna throw it, and who's gonna catch it? After a record setting year passing the football and with two wide receivers with 1,000+ yards, the Tigers offensive staff has their work cut out for them this off season. LSU says goodbye to a veteran QB that was a solid pocket passer, and more importantly, the Tigers lose the best WR duo in the nation. Not only did Odell and Jarvis catch the ball well, both players ran exception routes, both are very good blocking WR's and both were solid contributors on Tigers special teams. Replacing these two with just a WR is not going to happen. Landry and Beckham Jr. could very well go down as two of the most complete players in LSU history. Think about it! Rob Bolden could become a quick go-to guy this spring, and former Neville star John Diarse has a serious skill set.
LSU has a legit QB derby battle on their hands. Tiger fans should feel more comfortable about the man in charge of grooming these young signal callers. Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron will have whoever he decides to go with ready for the first game of the season. What the QB's look like in spring is one thing; what the starter looks like opening day is another. You get my drift, don't you? So whether it's Brandon Harris, Anthony Jennings or someone else, LSU's starting QB will not be asked to do everything by himself.
2. Find some D-Linemen! The last couple of seasons, the LSU interior defensive 'ine has not been up to par. I mean, if you're considered the best of the best coming out of high school, a lot is expected from you on the college level. Far too many times last season, LSU could not get any heat on opposing QB's, and that left a young secondary in bad shape. The best of the best DB's have a good pass rush. The Tigers have to upgrade the interior D-line if they are going to be among the best in the SEC. Do I even have to remind you about the last quarter and a half of the Alabama game last November? I thought not!
3. Who will run with Leonard? He's the best player in the land and hailed as one of the greatest prep stars ever in the history of high school football. But all of those accolades mean nothing now. Leonard Fournette is expected to perform at an extraordinary level at LSU. With one of the best RB's in the SEC going pro in Jeremy Hill, Mr. High School Football could quickly become Mr. College Football. Am I putting too much pressure on Fournette? I think not. When you look at the QB situation at LSU, the time it will take to develop some go-to WR's and the returning O-Linemen the Tigers have coming back, I think it is very fair to say that Leonard Fournette could have a breakout year. Who will be the next guy in line to help shoulder the load for the LSU rushing attack? If the Kenny Hillard of 2011 returns and the Terrance Magee of last year is back, LSU could have one hell of a backfield.
OK, I've been out of the loop. And I'm not just saying this to get by from being on vacation! But sometimes when you look at things from a distance, you get a different take.
I, like many of you, have combed the web sites, read some of the feedback, and wondered what the Saints are doing. With that said, shouldn't history tell us something about the future?
Under the current administration, the Saints have had to make major changes before. Before I move forward I'll ask you to look around the NFL and you will find only a handful of teams that have been contending teams for a long period of time. And you won't find one of those contending teams that did not have to make major changes.
Hey man, I was a fan before I was anything else. And to sit here and say that I, too, don't have feelings and am truly grateful to players like Roman, Will, Jonathan, Lance and Darren would be foolish.
Those guys were great and they were a part of the greatest run in the history of the Saints franchise. And it's hard to see the Saints without those players. But in order to keep being a contending team the Saints obviously feel like they have to make some moves.
And they are making some strong ones. This is a business and nothing is done with a knee jerk reaction. But team's change from year to year. Tom Brady is the last real piece of the Patriots Franchise that once dominated the entire NFL.
Whoever thought that Peyton Manning would end up somewhere else besides with the Colts? Hell, I was shocked as Hell the day I found out that the 49ers parted ways with the great Joe Montana. But those things have and still do happen.
Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton are two smart people. And from the moves they have made I feel like have a plan in place. And by the way that some of the players are reacting to them being let go also tells me that this franchise is taking care of there business in a professional way.
In fact the only negative tweet or info put out I have seen is from Tight End Jimmy Graham. Graham tweeted that he was" shocked and disappointed in what has taken place this off season with his team."
I would advise Jimmy to keep quiet. Truth is, these moves that are being made are to make sure the Saints have enough money to offer him a big contract. So I'll give Mr. Graham a pass on that obviously immature comment. Come on, Jimmy, make sense when you tweet!
And since I'm giving my two sense... there are very few players in the NFL past, present and future that are worth two first round picks. And in my own opinion Jimmy Graham is not!
Bottom line, regardless of what is read, said, written or broadcasted, this is a business. And the Saints don't want to be one of those contending teams that keeps a player a year longer than the value and production indicates.
In a feel good candy land type world New Orleans would still have all of the same players that walked off the field four years ago in Miami when they beat the Colts 31-17 to win the Super Bowl.
But my people, this is real life. And real difficult and tough decisions have to be made. New Orleans has a plan. And if you go by the past, their previous plans have panned out far more than they have not. Since the 2006 season New Orleans has been to the playoffs five times. That level of sucess is more than worthy to me to give the Saints Brass credit that they know what they are doing. So I'll take the wait and see approach on how these current moves pan out before I rush to judgment.
So to all the players that have been let go and are moving on to other places I wish each of them nothing but the best. Those players were champions and those players will always be welcomed and dearly loved in the Big Easy.
Ok the way I felt about last year is that it’s just that, last year. I don’t buy into how tough a team’s schedule is going to be based on what they did a season ago. But that is exactly how some evaluate how tough a team’s schedule is going to be.
According to the four letter sports leader, the Black and Gold will have the 8th easiest schedule for the upcoming 2014 NFL Season. Now to me, basing a team’s strength of schedule on what took place the year prior makes no sense.
This is the NFL. In this league, when you win you are sent to the back of the line and when you lose you get the pick of the liter. In the NFC alone, three of the six playoff teams in the 2013 season did not make the playoffs in 2012.
New Orleans, Carolina and Philadelphia were all in the NFC post season in 2013 after each failed to make the playoffs the season before. So there is one example on how you can’t fully determine how tough a team is going to be from one season to the next.
And the Saints don’t need to look any further than their own division to see how tough things can be. The top seed from the 2012 season did not make the playoffs in 2013 as the Falcons went from the Penthouse to the Outhouse in a matter of months. Do you think Atlanta will be that bad again this season? I sure don’t.
And what about the 4-12 Buccaneers? Tampa Bay has as good as a good core of young defensive players as any team in the NFL. And Tampa Bay has brought in one of the most successful coaches in the game today in longtime Bears Coach Lovie Smith. I don’t know about you, but I know that Coach Smith will have the Bucs competing at a very high level in 2014.
So looking ahead to how the Saints 2014 schedule sets up, here is what we know thus far. Outside of their NFC South Divisional Schedule the Saints will be matched up with teams from the NFC North Division as well as the AFC North. So that means aside from facing Carolina, Atlanta and Tampa Bay twice this season the Saints take on Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Home games for the Saints in 2014 feature games in the Dome against the Bucs, Falcons and Panthers along with home dates against Baltimore, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Minnesota and San Francisco.
The National Football League has long tried to clean up its image on and off the field. Now the NFL is targeting the use of the N-word. The league is hoping to pass a new rule that would call for a 15 yard penalty to be thrown against anyone using the N-word.
Some say trying to police the use of this word is going to be hard, especially since the word is used so much by African American players. Others argue the policy is necessary and policing it is a responsibility, not a choice.
“I don’t think that a 15 yard penalty is enough,” said CBS Sports.com NFL writer Clark Judge. Judge was adamant that the NFL’s integrity is on the line, when dealing with the use of the N-word.
Personally, my take…it’s all or nothing, when it comes to this topic. I understand that some who say and use this word don’t mean it in a negative way. Many people in the African American community use it as a term of endearment; others rap about it. But, how can a word with a history of hate ever be viewed as anything but negative?
To me, it looks as if the NFL is trying to delete the use of the word altogether. Zero tolerance is the way to go. The N-word has no place in society and the only way to police it is to not use it at all.
Sure, some people will continue to use this word. But, the only thing the NFL can control is what’s said, what’s tolerated in its league. Regardless of a person’s skin color, background or heritage, no one should be allowed to use a word that’s caused so much harm and pain to so many.
Will the N-word be used again? Sure it will. But at least the NFL is doing their part in making sure that it will not be used in its workplace…in its family. What matters most is not how the word is used, but how the word is taken.
I do believe some players, who use this N-word don't mean it in a negative way, but that's no excuse. A word like this does far more harm than good. I don’t care what Jay-Z, Kanye West or Chris Rock, who preach that using the N-word takes its power away, say. The N-word demeans.
The 2014 college baseball season is underway, and both the LSU Tigers and the Tulane Green Wave are both off to perfect 4-0 starts. “I could not be more pleased with our progress. We are hitting well, running the bases well and we are playing sound defense,” said LSU Coach Paul Mainieri
Mainieri and his 4-0 LSU Tigers will entertain Virginia Tech this weekend in Baton Rouge. Mainieri told me that he certainly thinks his team has a lot of things to improve on and this weekend’s match-up will serve as a very good test.
“They (Va. Tech) are very good. They hosted a regional last year and they are going to provide us with a tough series.” Game one of the series is Friday Night at 7PM right here on WWL Radio.
Tulane Coach Rick Jones has his Wave off to a 4-0 start after Tulane swept Arkansas Pine-Bluff last weekend. “I thought we did some good things. But there are a lot of things to work on,” Jones said.
The Wave open Conference USA Play this weekend on the road as they are in Ruston taking on in-state foe Louisiana Tech. Tech comes in at 1-2 after dropping 20 out of their first three games last weekend to Southeastern.
Roman Harper spoke to me on Sports Talk about his career that lasted eight years with the Saints including five trips to the playoffs and a Super Bowl Title in the 2009 season. He is as classy as they come. “It’s a business, Deke. We as players know that the day is going to come,” said Harper.
Harper says that he has something left in the tank. “I still have two great years left in me. I’m going to see what’s out there for me and I’ll make the best choice for me and my family.” Roman said that Coach Sean Payton called him and the two met and talked before the word was released that Harper would be officially released from the team.
Roman talked about how players deal with injuries and pain throughout an NFL Season. And Roman thanked the fans for all of their support over the years. “I want to thank the fans and playing in New Orleans has been great.”
From the time the 2014 NBA All-Star Jam session opened up the huge weekend last Thursday, till the Eastern Conference knocked off the West 163-155 in the highest scoring All-Star Game ever, the host city was as gracious and grateful to host the NBA as any city in the world could have been.
"New Orleans has been great. We've really been able to have a great time and the league is pleased with the turnout of events," said Patrick Sullivan, Vice President of NBA Events.
This year marked the second time since 2008 that the NBA All-Star Game was in the City of New Orleans. Yes, once again, the place that can host, entertain and party with a purpose (or without one) better than any other place on the planet was a part of history.
The best Skills competition ever, one of the greatest 3-point shootouts, and the "dunk" that brought back the annual Slam Dunk Contest were just three of a lifetime of things that took place during All-Star Weekend.
Who will ever forget after the first quarter of Sunday night's game that everyone in Smoothie King Center chimed in to sing "Happy Birthday" to the league's greatest champion of all-time. The ever so known tune "Happy Birthday" is the most used song in the world, but perhaps the most famous rendition in the history of sports took place Sunday Night. With 11 time world champion Bill Russell courtside, a special NBA moment happened as everyone joined in to wish #6 a Happy 80th Birthday.
Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and many others raved about being able to be a part of that special historic moment. And yes, it happened in New Orleans, Louisiana!
Or what about the incredible hip-hop pre-game reunion that saw Pharrell Williams (who once gained national exposure by singing back-up on Mystikal's "Shake it Fast") came out and roared the crowd before the game began. It was another historic All-Star moment as Williams did his thing and then welcomed onto the stage Diddy and Busta Rhymes. Then the Snoop Dee oh double Gee waltzed onto the stage to sing Beautiful. Man, was that another classic moment or what? And all of this took place less than 24 hours after perhaps the greatest NBA All Star Saturday Night went down in the very same location the day before.
In the closest Skills competition ever, Trey Burke and Damian Lillard beat out Michael Carter Williams and Victor Olapido by a tenth of a second to win the Skills title.
The drama would reach a fever pitch later as Washington's Bradley Beal hit his final six shots to force a 60 second playoff in the final round of the NBA 3-Point Shootout. Beal caught fire and the fans were the big winners as overtime was needed to decide this winner of this year's event. In the playoff round, San Antonio's Marco Belinelli filled it up to the tune of 24 points to capture the 3-point title.
Then the nightcap saw the Hall of Fame panel of Dunk Contest Judges give excellent reviews to this year's dunkers. The great Julius "Dr. J" Irving, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and the "Human Highlight" Dominique Wilkins all went wild over what they saw on the floor.
The Eastern Team knocked off the West in Team Dunk competition and Washington's John Wall was voted as the best Dunker. In fact the winning dunk by Wall prompted Dr. J to say "that dunk brought back the dunk contest," need I say more?
Then, the already historic, super star filled weekend ended on an even higher note as the highest scoring All-Star Game went down as the East beat the West 163-155 for a record total of 318 points. For those keeping up with the odds, the total on the game was 293 so if you had the over you are making a nice deposit today I would assume!
Blake Griffin had over 10 dunks by halftime in a first half that featured a record number of points (165) with the West up 89-76 at the break. Kevin Durant poured in 38 points, Carmelo Anthony made a record eight 3-pointers band Cleveland's Kyrie Irving took home the MVP in an instant classic.
The game was so entertaining and so many marquee moments went down that I watched the encore presentation right after the live broadcast was finished. Yes folks New Orleans is a football town, but the NBA has found out in two trips that know other place can have a ball, share a ball, and make players ball-so-hard.
With another outstanding job of hosting the NBA's showcase event, you can best believe that the Big Easy is clearly on the NBA's radar for hosting future All-Star Games, and I would bet that it would host another game sooner than later!
So to those of you who took time to enjoy some excellent, quality, family fun at the NBA Jam Session, to those who had the pleasure of going to the All-Star Game itself, the Big Easy, made it so easy for all to have a great time. And simply because that's what we do down here!
It is that time of year again folks! Yes, the 2014 College Baseball season begins this weekend with teams hitting the Diamond for the first time this year. “We have a lot of new faces and as many freshman players we’ve had to start a season since my second year,” said Tulane Coach Rick Jones.
The Green Wave open their 2014 season this weekend with a four game series Uptown against Arkansas Pine-Bluff. The Wave have to replace three solid pitchers that were lost to Major League Baseball: Tony Rizzotti (San Diego Padres), David Napoli (Washington Nationals) and Alex Byo (Arizona Diamondbacks) are all now playing in the Majors, leaving Coach Jones with some big shoes to fill on the mound for his Wave Team. We are excited about the potential of some of our younger, newer pitchers. Corey Merrill and J.P. France are two players that Coach Rick Jones is looking forward to seeing start off their seasons.
Across town there is a new yet familiar man back on the bags for UNO. “I’m rejuvenated! If I can give back to UNO, that’s what I hope to do,” said Coach Ron Maestri. Coach Maestri is back coaching again for the program he once led to the College World Series. And this weekend Coach Maestri and his UNO Privateers will take on the LSU Tigers. “I’ve learned a lot from these kids. These players have done everything I’ve asked of them and I’m proud to be their coach.” UNO will open their season Friday Night at LSU.
Speaking of LSU, the Tigers are roaring to get the season underway. “This is my thirty-second year of having an opening game. And there is a little something special and exciting about the first game of the season,” said Coach Paul Mainieri. He and his #2 ranked Tigers will play three games this weekend. The Tigers entertain UNO Friday night, then the two play Saturday at Zephyr Field, and the Tigers round out the weekend Sunday against Grambling State.
Coach Mainieri says his team is ready for the season. “Preparations for the season have been outstanding. Of course we have had to deal with some bad weather over the last month. But we got in a lot of good work.”
The Tigers look to be a team that is in the thick of things when it comes to the 2014 College World Series. And one strength LSU has is their pitching. “When Aaron Nola is on the mound we are very confident. He (Nola) is one of the best players I’ve had the pleasure of coaching."
From the time he was dazzling all as a Purple Knight to his success as a player and coach at the highest level, New Orleans’ own Avery Johnson represents the Big Easy loud and proud. “It’s an exciting time here in New Orleans. This All-Star Weekend will be something that everyone can come out and enjoy,” he said.
Avery joined me and Bobby this week on Sports Talk to talk about him being an Ambassador for New Orleans during this NBA All-Star Weekend. Avery became a great player at the high school level with St. Augustine before going on to have an outstanding career for the Southern University Jaguars.
Avery won an NBA Title with the San Antonio Spurs back in 1999, and Johnson had his #6 Spurs Jersey retired as well. Johnson would go on to coach in the NBA where he led the Dallas Mavericks to the Finals in 2006, marking the first time that Dallas made a trip to the league Finals.
Johnson talked to us about how excited and honored he is to represent New Orleans, and Bobby and I snuck in a few questions to Avery about the current state of the league. So we asked someone that would know as good as anyone if he had to start a team today in the league which player would he choose to start his team with.
“I’d take LeBron,” Avery said. We then asked Avery to select between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. “LeBron is currently the best player in the game today. He has been to the Finals for three straight years, he’s won back to back titles and he’s playing well.”
Johnson said that Kevin Durant is having a great year and that either player would be great to start a team with.
He is on what I consider the best pre-game/post-game sports show on television today, and then, two time NBA Champion Kenny “The Jet” Smith was a guest on Sports Talk with me and Bobby. “We had a great time the last time (2008) we were there for the All-Star Game," he said, "and we are excited to be back in New Orleans this weekend.”
Smith is in town covering the 2014 NBA All-Star Game this Sunday at Smoothie King Center. Smith was a World Champion with the Houston Rockets in back to back seasons in 1994 and 1995.
Bobby and I spoke to Kenny about a variety of topics, including his days in the league, the current state of the NBA, this weekend’s All-Star Game, and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Of the Pels, Smith says “I think the Pelicans are a young team that has had to deal with some injuries this season. I think if they can work their way to contend for that seventh or eighth spot in the West that would be good.”
Smith said that he thinks Pelicans Coach Monty Williams is doing a pretty good job right now and Smith also talked about how difficult it is to be a team in the NBA’ Western Conference.
Smith will also be in town raising money and distributing food to needy families this Saturday in New Orleans.