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Deke Bellavia

Join Deke and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert for live, local talk about the Saints, LSU, Pelicans and much more on "Sports Talk!" 

Weekdays 4-8pm

Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com


Deke's SEC Rankings, week one

OK, the nation's toughest conference is coming off a dominant showing in bowl games last year. And some of the nation's top experts think for the second time in five years, two SEC teams could be in the hunt for the national title.

Could we see LSU versus Alabama twice this season? Is Tennessee really for real? Can Ole Miss make it through a brutal first three weeks of the season? And which coach will be the first one to be under fire early in the season? Here goes this week's rankings!

1. Alabama – The Tide are the easy pick for #1 in the SEC. Heck they are still searching for their top QB. But does anyone really truly believe this team is going to just fade away? Hell no! RTR. This week vs USC

2. LSU – They are loaded and open the season against a good Wisconsin team. LSU has talent everywhere you look. Even at QB. But can the QB be OK? This week vs Wisconsin.

3. Ole Miss – The Rebels are ranked mighty high in the national polls for a team that lost three first round picks. Oh well when you have the league's best QB back, that says a lot. I guess! This week vs Florida State.

4. Tennessee – Yes, they are loaded, but it's been 11 years since they beat Florida. And they also have to play Alabama this season too! This week vs Appalachian State.

5. Arkansas – Hey, the East is weak and the Hogs have dominated LSU and beaten Ole Miss the last two seasons. They will run, run, run and then run some more! This week vs Louisiana Tech.

6. Georgia – A new coach, a young QB and the Dog Nation is hoping the start of an era that brings UGA a national title. But it won't happen this year. This week vs North Carolina

7. Florida – Hey, they are salty on defense, getting better on offense. And they are in the SEC East. This week vs UMASS.

8. Texas A&M – Can Kevin Sumlin save his job? The play of transfer QB Trevor Knight might be the key factor in that question! This week vs UCLA.

9. Auburn – I'm going to go out on a limb here and say 'in Gus I trust!' And I'll more than likely be WRONG. I would not be surprised at all if the Tigers are 1-3 in the first month of the season. Gus may not make it to Halloween! This week vs Clemson.

The rest: Missouri, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and South Carolina. Missouri has a new coach to deal with a total mess in Columbia, Mississippi State could win more than expected, Vanderbilt could surprise in the East, so could Kentucky and South Carolina looks to be arguably the worst team in the league to start the season!
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Deke: Ranking the Power 5 college football conferences

OK - I should have titled this "Ranking the other four!" We all know that the SEC is still the nation's best college football conference. After a bowl season that saw the SEC go 7-2 in bowl games, including big wins in the National Title Game and the Sugar Bowl, the SEC made a strong statement that they are still #1, and I'd say by a pretty good margin. But what about the other four power conferences?

The Best: SEC, SEC, SEC! They are #1 and I'm not going to waste any time explaining why, but here is how I see the rest:

#2 The Big Ten
With powerful coaching names like Meyer, Harbaugh, Dantonio and Smith, the Big Ten has put up the big $$$ to land some of the most notable names in the game today. I think the Big Ten has a chance to have five teams that can win 10 or more games this season.

Look for Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin to all push hard for double-digit win seasons. And don't expect a drop off from Iowa; the Hawkeyes return two of the league's best players in QB C.J. Beathard and DB Desmond King. And Iowa does not play Michigan State or Ohio State this season.

Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State look like the most legit Big Ten title teams - look for one to make a run at the playoffs. Watch out for Penn State as James Franklin has built a decent roster and the Lions are beginning to get their scholarships back.

I'm very interested to see how Illinois does this season. Former Bears and Bucs Coach Lovie Smith is now in the lead and I think this is a perfect fit for Lovie. The reason why I place the Big Ten above the other four power leagues is that I think their teams that finish at the back end of the league are better than those teams that finish at the bottom of the Pac-12, Box 12 and ACC.

#3 The ACC
The ACC is pretty close to being #2, and the reason why is this conference has two legit title contenders in Florida State and Clemson. Louisville is going to be real good, Duke has made great strides and Mark Richt could really help the ACC climb up the ladder among the Power 5 leagues if he can turn the once dominant Canes of Miami around. UNC is ranked in the top 25 and Pitt, Va. Tech and Georgia Tech could be bowl-caliber teams this season.

The reason why the ACC is behind the Big Ten is that their lower tier teams are not as good as the lower tier teams from the Big Ten.

#4 The Pac 12
With the most consistent program in Stanford once again ranked among the nation's elite, we have the Pac 12. However, outside of Stanford, is there another legit playoff caliber team? Well, not to start the season, it seems like. The national media seems to be high on the Washington Huskies, but I tend to lean towards the Trojans of USC as the league's 2nd best team. And the Cardinal and Trojans square off in the second week of the season.

UCLA can make an early season statement with a road win over Texas A&M, which one of the Arizonas will be decent this season is still up in the air, Utah has been very good as of late, and will the Ducks of Eugene begin to quack loud once again?

I would say that after Stanford and USC, the league is pretty wide open and don't count out the high powered Cal Bears and the ever-so rising Washington State Cougars. WSU QB Luke Falk led the nation with an average of 381 passing yards per game last season.

#5 The Big XII
Oklahoma is truly a legit contender again this season. But outside of the Sooner,s I really could not tell you which team is second best! Is it TCU? Is it Baylor? Or could the Cowboys from Stillwater make the Red River Rival Game mean more this season that it's usual on the line stakes?

Simply put, in order for the Big XII to going to rise up and challenge the other power leagues, they need to first, expand. And second, have Texas be good again. The best news for the league is that word is, they want to add Houston to the Big XII and to me, that would be a great move.

If the Big XII is going to surprise some this season I think that Texas Tech has to be better, the Kansas' need to be relevant and a good season from the Mountaineers of WVU wouldn't hurt!
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What Deuce and Bobby are watching for in Saints v Steelers

Thursday on SportsTalk Bobby, Deuce and I broke down what we are all looking for from the Saints in their third preseason game as the Black and Gold host the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here, we take a look at each phase of the game, starting with Special Teams.

Special Teams
Deuce McAllister thinks that a good return on either a punt or kickoff could be just what the doctor ordered for the Black and Gold. "We've seen some good returns, but some have been hampered by not protecting the football. Having a big return could energize the crowd. But I would say that protecting the football would be the number one thing that Coach Sean Payton is looking for."

Deuce also said that he expects to see punter Thomas Morstead continue to be consistent in punting the football. And look for the Saints to try and work on their directional punting and placement kicking tonight against the Steelers.

Saints Offense versus Steelers Defense
Like the Saints defense, the Steelers defense was one of the worst in the league last season when it came to defending the pass. "If Drew has some time, we should be able to complete some passes. I feel confident that the Saints can pass the football with some success, but the biggest challenge for our offense is going to be rushing the football," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.

Bobby thinks that if the Saints can rush the football at a high level against the Steelers then that would be a good confidence booster for the Saints O-Line. "The Steelers have one of the best run defensive units in the league. Our line has not been able to get the kind of push up front we need to rush the ball with success. This will be hard for us to do."

Saints Defense versus the Steelers Offense
"Well, this Steelers offense has been the best in franchise history and that is saying a lot coming from a team that has won six Super Bowls. Pittsburgh has a balanced attack rushing the football and with a QB like Ben Rothlisberger, the Steelers have arguably the best offense in the league returning," said Bobby Hebert. Bobby feels like for the Saints defense it all starts with a decent pass rush that would force Big Ben to throw the football sooner than he would like to.

Deuce echoes the same feelings. "I think our defense has improved including the pass rush. Getting some heat on Ben Rothlisberger would be another good indication on how much more improved the Saints defense is." Deuce says that the Saints entire pre-season schedule has been filled with top flight AFC Playoff caliber teams. And facing the likes of the Patriots, Texans, Steelers and Ravens is a nice test this preseason against four of the better programs in the league.
"You're talking about teams that have good players that they put through their systems. These teams are some of the best and from the first string to the back-up's these teams have some of better players in the league from top to bottom."

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Bobby and Deuce impressed with Saints but wary of key weaknesses

The long days of training camp aren't what they used to be, but they are still widely considered the dog days of preparing for the NFL season. Today the Saints saw the end of camp come with a final practice in front of members of the Who Dat Nation.

"Overall I thought it was a positive camp. I think the defense definitely got better. Several of the off season additions sure showed they can contend to help this team get better. I liked the work the team put in and now it's time to focus on the regular season. There are still some question marks, but if they can continue to improve they can be a better team," said Deuce McAllister. Deuce also said that rookie WR Mike Thomas is going to be a star in the NFL and Thomas should be a player that helps right away. "I was pleased with camp.

The Cajun Cannon was also pleased with the Saints overall effort during training camp. "Can the Saints be better than last year? Yes they can. But what does that mean? 8-8, 9-7? the Who Dat Nation wants to see the playoffs this season. I think if this team can get to nine wins that would be good improvement."

Bobby says that the Saints defense is better but will have to go out and prove that they are better each week. Hebert also feels like in order for the Saints to contend for a playoff spot, that the offense will once again have to be among the NFL's elite. "The Saints offense has finished no lower than sixth in the last 10 seasons. We need another solid year from them," he concluded.

Deuce's Dudes

Deuce said that he was impressed all off season long by a couple of wide receivers for the Black and Gold. "Tommylee Lewis has just taken full advantage of his chance to make this team. He catches the ball when it is thrown to him, he aids in on special teams and when his number is called, he just makes plays."

Deuce also said that rookie WR Michael Thomas is off to a hot start and the former Buckeye can really excel in the NFL. "You can see he has all of the tools needed to be successful in this league. And with a QB like Drew Brees, I think that Thomas will make an impact this season."

Over on defense, Deuce said that linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Craig Robertson both had nice training camps. "The linebacker position was upgraded and Robertson and Ellerbe had good showings. We saw what Ellerbe can do last season and I think he has only gotten better. And Robertson is going to really make a difference for the Saints defense."

The Cajun Cannon Says

Bobby also feels like the Saints have improved on the defensive side of the football and he thinks the Saints D will be better this season. "I know we are better overall on defense and again, I feel like it's going to come down to how the Saints stop the run and if the defense can create turnovers."

Bobby pointed out that the Saints are deeper along the D-Line, the linebackers are better and the Saints defensive backfield has a lot of depth, especially at the safety position. "I think we are five deep at safety and the Saints are among the best in the league at the position."

Bobby is concerned about the Saints offensive line, as the Black and Gold have a little more than two weeks before the first regular season game takes place in the Superdome against Oakland. "I know we have three solid starters up front with Strief, Terron Armstead and Max Unger. But after that I don't know who's going to start at the guard spots."

Bobby again wants to see if the Saints can consistently rush the football. "Listen if we can rush the football then things open up even more for Drew and it makes the Saints offense that much more difficult to defend," said Hebert. Bobby says that the first four games of the season will be very vital to the Saints success or lack of success this season.

"Under Coach Payton when we get off to a hot start (4-0 or 3-1), the Saints win a lot of games and make the playoffs. I think that the Saints have to get off to a good start this season."

The Big Chief's Final Analysis

OK, this is simple to me and what I mean is, let's just tell the truth about the Black and Gold. The truth is that the Saints have gotten better on defense. And in my own opinion I think the Saints are a lot better and it will show this season.

I mean, people, let's be real - if the 2013 Saints defense can go from 32nd to 4th, then thinking that the Saints 2015 defense can improve to be a top 10 defense is a legit way of thinking. And furthermore I feel like the 2016 Saints defense will put more pressure on the QBs and they will be able to create more turnovers.

On offense - to not be concerned would be, well, not right. And that concern is largely due to the big guys up front. We all know that Armstead is the LT, Max Unger is at center and big Zach holds down the RT spot. But what final two players shake out at the guard spots is up in air. But if we go by what Coach Payton has said in the past then go ahead and pencil Andrus Peat in at one guard.

The Saints have to run the football better this season and I'm afraid that is not going to be the case. Hey look I'm with you, heck I want this team to line up and pound the rock. But until New Orleans can line up and smash mouth some folks, it ain't happening.

I like the way WRs Tommylee Lewis, Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks have looked at practice and I think those three along with Willie Snead are the best pass catching options on the team.

I think the jury is still out on TE Colby Fleener, and RB CJ Spiller should be able to haul in many receptions this season because the Saints have shown at practice they want to get Spiller the football out of the backfield.

Vegas says the Saints are going to be hard pressed to be a seven win team in 2016. I think that's a fair assessment to start with. But I would have to take the over on that bet. Because if Sean Payton is what everyone says he is (an offensive genius) and if Drew Brees is the good ole Drew Brees and with an improved defense, then the Saints have to win more than seven games... don't they?
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Deke: LSU football's 2016 season all comes down to November

It was all going so great! A 7-0 start, #2 in the first playoff poll and a seemingly bright future. But then things got real ugly for the Bayou Bengals. Three blowout losses in their last four games doomed any chance LSU had at being a top 10 team and playing in a major bowl.

And if you compare the 2015 schedule to what lies ahead in 2016, things are pretty much the same. If we are assuming, then I would have to assume that LSU will be a perfect 7-0 (at worst 6-1) when the back end of the schedule begins.

I think you have to respect the Tigers' road trip to Auburn, as this battle has been a tough one over the years and LSU always has their hands full in Gainesville when they take on the Gators. The Tigers welcome in Ole Miss in late October when the meat of the schedule shows up. After Ole Miss, LSU has a bye week and then the yearly showdown with Alabama takes place, then a road date at Arkansas, then back home against South Alabama and the season finale on the road Thanksgiving at Texas A&M.

So if you are in the mindset that the Tigers are bound for the SEC Title Game, then I would say it's a safe bet that the Tigers need to be 6-1 when Ole Miss shows up on the schedule on October 22.

Now with that said, the race to 11 wins is just that - it's a race. So regardless of how a team gets to 11, it's 11. Hell last season Alabama had a loss four weeks into the season with no more room for a slip up. And the Tide ran the table and went on to win the national title.

Ole Miss had a great start to the season, and even though the Rebels had a hiccup in Gainesville, the Rebels still controlled their own fate despite an ugly non-conference loss to Memphis. But who would have thunk it? The Rebels' thorn in their side was not Alabama but Arkansas. The Razorbacks kept the Rebels from playing in Atlanta the last two seasons. In fact Ole Miss is the only team in the nation to beat Alabama two years straight and not at least play for a conference title and missed a shot at a national title as well.

What I am saying is that if Tiger fans are hoping for a playoff spot, then bank on 11-1 in the regular season and then that should get them to Atlanta with a shot at the playoffs on the line in the SEC Title Game.

LSU is loaded, but to be fair I would say that a 10-2 mark is a safe bet with 11-1 and 9-3 a strong possibility depending on how the month of November shakes out.
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Deke: Are the Saints a sorry team, or set for success?

The best thing about the New Orleans Saints first two preseason games is that they are over! So what I thought I would do is try and make some sense of the two losses with some sort of fair balance. So let's see how I do!

The Pessimistic Who Dat in us says...

Man, this team is sorry! We aren't looking like a seven win team, and I've gone from concerned to flat out worried. The Saints are doing the same things now that they have done in the past when it comes to improving.

It's like every off season I hear how we are going to work on stopping the run. We will get better at rushing the football. And we are going to be a turnover creating defense. But where dey at?

I have no reason to feel any better about this season, strictly going by what I've seen so far. And I know this is not the time to grumble about the players we have on this team. But damn, did we really take Andrus Peat with our first pick in the 2015 draft? Man he looks like someone that is trying to hang around and possibly make a practice squad. He sho don't look like no first round pick! But hey neither did Charles Brownor Stanley Jean-Baptisite, two former Saints 2nd round picks that are no longer in the NFL!

I'm just tired of being below average. 7-9, 7-9 man, that's garbage. And the one sure thing we have, the best player we've ever had, is going into the season without a long term contract. Man, who decided that was a good idea?

This team will be lucky to win seven games and if that's what they are, a seven win team, then want a refund. Cause I damn sho aint getting what I'm paying for!

The optimistic Who Dat thinks...

It's just preseason. Come on Who Dats - name one team that won a Lombardi in August? If we are going to look bad, this is the time of year to do it. We have two preseason games left and the third one against the Steelers is the most meaningful game.

I see a lot of good things going on. Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen has the defense improved from last year. I like the competition that has been created on the defensive side of the football. And man we got some good young players that just need a little more time, a few more snaps to get themselves ready for the regular season.

I know that our linebackers are a lot better, we have good secondary players and I think the D-Line has improved too. And I like the fact that the players that Coach Payton feels like are not good all-around players and good locker room guys - he shows them the door.

I see a lot of improvement in the type of character players the Saints have brought in the last two off seasons. And I believe that will play a major part in the Saints move back to being a contending team.

No! The Saints are not that bad of a team, and I think that this Black and Gold club will continue to improve and New Orleans will be back in the playoff hunt this season.

After further review...

Well, truth told both of the above Who Dats make valid points. But in the end the proof is in the pudding and pudding in the NFL comes in the form of wins and losses. I myself am not ready to make a call on this team as far as if they are improved or are they not as good as they were a year ago.

With that said, after the first four games of the season I will make a call and from that point I feel like I will have a clear indication of what kind of team the 2016 Saints will be.
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Saints hope to improve in second preseason bout vs Texans

The Saints offense got off to a good start in their 22-34 loss to New England, in the first quarter - from a numbers standpoint. The Saints outgained New England 154 to 25 in total yards, New Orleans had eight first downs to just two for the Patriots. The Saints offense was well balanced with 10 rushing attempts and 10 passes and the Saints picked up 20 sacks for minus 20 yards.

What fans want to see is the Saints rush the ball at a better rate and the staring O-Line have a better showing. "Look, we need to run the football. It's been proven in the past, whenever we can rush the ball and be a top 10 ranked running team our offense is near unstoppable. We need to run the ball better against the Texans!" said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.

We should see more of the starters in this game, and fans certainly want to see some improvement from second year offensive lineman Andrus Peat.

Like the offense, the Saints defense did come out and set a good tone to their effort against the Patriots last week. In the first quarter New Orleans held New England to just 25 yards of total offense in the first stanza on 13 plays. New England had 13 yards passing and 12 yards rushing. The Saints held the Patriots to 3-of-14 on third down conversions for just 21%.

#91 Kasim Edebali has been having a very good camp, and after his effort in the first preseason game I would elevate that "very good" camp to "excellent." Edebali has a chance to emerge as one of the bright young pass rushers in this league this season. Kasim had two sacks for minus 20 yards in the Saints loss to the Patriots.

I was pleased with the play of LBs Craig Robertson and Nate Stupar, and DL Bobby Richardson also had his moments. But again the Saints did not stop the run overall against the Patriots. New England averaged five yards per rush which is way too high, Bobby Hebert says. "Listen, when it comes to rushing the football and stopping the run, teams want to allow less than four yards per carry and the Saints want to rush the football for at least four yards per carry. The Saints need to slow the opposing teams run down."

The Saints got some solid production from several players. RB Marcus Murphy was an across-the-board player for the Saints. The second year 'back from Missouri touched the football 15 times for a total of 146 yards for an average of 9.7 yards per touch. Murphy carried the ball seven times for 22 yards, he had 3 grabs for 18 yards, Murphy returned three punts for 61 yards (20.3 Average) and Murphy capped off the night with two kick returns for 45 yards.

And what about little known wide receiver Tommylee Lewis? #87 really did a nice job given the opportunity. Lewis touched the ball six times in the game making an impact each time he touched the football. Hauling in three receptions for 38 yards, one punt return for 19 yards and one kickoff return for 24 yards for a total of 81 yards for an average of 16.2 yards per touch. Lewis also scored on a two point conversion taking a handoff and going around the far end for the two-point conversion.

I wrap up with prized rookie WR Michael Thomas. The receiver from Ohio State had four gabs for 67 yards and has consistently made spectacular catches at practices throughout training camp.

The action all starts at 3pm Saturday on the home of the Saints - WWL!

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Deke: Saints D looks better this year, but 2015 flashbacks remain

The Saints really got off to a good start in the first quarter from a numbers standpoint. They outgained New England 154 to 25 in total yards, New Orleans had eight first downs to just two for the Patriots. The Saints offense was well balanced with 10 rushing attempts and 10 passes and the Saints picked up 20 sacks for minus 20 yards. But all of that was kind of wiped out as the Saints had two turnovers in the first quarter including one that went for a pick six.

The Bright Spots

#91 Kasim Edebali has been having a very good camp and after his effort in the first preseason game I would elevate that very good camp to excellent. Edebali has a chance to emerge as one of the bright young pass rushers in this league this season. Kasim had two sacks for minus 20 yards in the Saints' loss to the Patriots. I would have to say that rookie wide receiver Mike Thomas also had a very good game. The receiver from Ohio State had four grabs for 67 yards. And from a production standpoint no offensive player had better numbers than RB Marcus Murphy. He was an across the board player for the Saints. The second year back from Missouri touched the football 15 times for a total of 146 yards for an average of 9.7 yards per touch. Murphy carried the ball seven times for 22 yards, 3 grabs for 18 yards, returned three punts for 61 yards (20.3 on average) and capped off the night with two kick returns for 45 yards.

And I will put a wrap on my bright spot with wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. #87 really did a nice job given the opportunity. Lewis touched the ball six times in the game making an impact each time. Lewis would haul in three receptions for 38 yards, had one punt return for 19 yards and one kickoff return for 24 yards, for a total of 81 yards - for an average of 16.2 yards per touch. Lewis also scored on a two point conversion, taking a handoff and going around the far end for the score.

Defense better than last year at this time!

The Saints got off to a good start on defense in the first quarter. New Orleans held New England to just 25 yards of total offense in the first stanza on 13 plays. New England had 13 yards passing and 12 yards rushing. The Saints held the Patriots to 3-of-14 on third down conversions for just 21%.

Defense - oh no, here we go again!!

As good as the Saints D looked in the first quarter, well let's just say the Who Dat Nation started having those 2015 flashbacks in the second quarter. After outgaining the Pats 154 to 25 in yards of offense and holding NE to just two first downs in the first, the Pats offense took it to the Saints in the second quarter. New England outgained the Saints 192 yards to just 40 yards. New England had 10 first downs earned in the second while limiting the Saints to only 2. And the Patriots played a clean quarter penalty wise while the Saints were flagged three times for 28 yards.

Up next

The Saints will head back up to West Virginia and then come back down South to practice against the Texans before playing Houston in preseason game #2 next Saturday night.

Photo via USA Today
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Deke: Depth is now a major concern for 6th ranked LSU Tigers

The 2016 college football season is still four weeks away and right now the 6th ranked Tigers of LSU have already seen too many injuries. With a total of 18 starters back this season, strength being in numbers was a strong point for LSU. Well that was then, and this is now!

In the last 72 hours, the Tigers have taken a blow, in fact three blows, in the form of injuries, and what makes things worse is that all three injuries suffered were from players that belong to the Tigers defense.

The biggest of the three injuries was Senior defensive lineman Christian LaCouture. LaCouture went down with a knee injury and he is expected to miss the 2016 season. He had been one of the Tigers' most reliable defenders the last couple of seasons and his play and veteran leadership will be missed.

LaCouture started in 23 games and was having a good camp in the Tigers new look 3-4 defensive scheme. With the loss of the veteran leader, having Travonte Valentine be ready to play has now become an important must-have. Valentine was the nation's No. 3 high school defensive tackle coming out of high school in 2014.

The other two other hurt players on the Tigers defense are linebackers Isaiah Washington and Corey Thompson, with Washington gone for the season and Thompson reportedly missing up to eight weeks with a broken fibula. Thompson had been converted from safety to linebacker, where he was expected to help provide depth in the middle of the Tigers defense.

LSU has lost some good depth at linebacker and now must dig deeper into the chart to work on depth at those two positions. First year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will now work on getting players to step up, and have a chance to climb the depth chart on get into the defensive rotation.

Over the course of the last few seasons, LSU has been trying to build depth at all positons, and had liked the progress made along the D-Line and at linebacker. And now just a week into fall camp, the Tigers have to put this behind them as the overwhelming majority of camp is still in front of the Purple and Gold.

LSU still has several scrimmages to conduct and the Bayou Bengals first game is not until September 3 when they face Wisconsin in Green Bay. Things can change in the blink of an eye and that is certainly the case in Baton Rouge. If you tend to look at the positive side of things, then one would say that at least LSU has four weeks to get some players ready to help ease the loss of these three players. But regardless of how you look at things, depth on defense was a concern for LSU before camp began. And now depth is a major concern!
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Bobby: Saints defense playing with a lot of energy

"The Saints won," said Bobby Hebert with Deuce McAllister seconding that motion. Both of our former Saints greats were encouraged by what they saw today as the Saints practiced with the New England Patriots.

Both Bobby and Deuce saw many things at practice that pleased them, including the Saints' ability to take the ball away. "They made it an emphasis to work on creating turnovers. So far this team has improved in that area," Deuce said.

The Saints did have their slip ups at times, but overall the Black and Gold had the edge at today's practice. Defensive End Cam Jordan and Corner Back Delvin Breaux did not practice today. Breaux was held out of practice, while Jordan was enjoying the birth of his child.

Deuce's Take

Deuce saw the Saints pass rush show up on the positive side more times than not. "Kasim Edebali, Sheldon Rankins and Dannell Ellerbe all got after the Patriots quarterbacks, and Rankins had two sacks," he noted.

Deuce said overall, he was encouraged with the Saints defensive play. "Now there were some drops on the Patriots side, as they missed out on some completed passes. But you have to give the Saints some credit for those as well."

McAllister wanted to see how the Saints running backs did in pass protection, but nothing really stood out, good or bad, in that area. "There were some plays in which the backs had to fall into protection but nothing really stood out in practice."

Deuce was not impressed with the Saints ability to rush the football today. "It wasn't good. I thought it could have been cleaner, more crisp, but the Patriots got the best of us. We just didn't rush the ball well."

The Cajun Cannon says

Bobby said that the Saints got off to a hot start as Dannell Ellerbe nearly picked off a Tom Brady pass on the first play of seven on seven. "Talk about setting the tone. Although we did not come up with the pick, the Saints came out with good energy and the defense was inspired today."

Over on offense, Saints QB Drew Brees tossed two TD passes to his tight ends Colby Fleener and Josh Hill. Bobby also said that Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks had his moments at practice against the Patriots DB Malcolm Butler.

Bobby was really encouraged by what he saw from the Saints defense. "We practiced with a lot of energy, the guys that were not in on a play were really encouraging the players that were on the field. And the Saints were able to come up big forcing turnovers!"

Hebert was pleased with defensive backs Ken Crawlew and Devonte Harris. "They were around the football, they both made plays and Harris came up with a nice pick today. We have a lot of good competition in the secondary, and I see the best coming out in a lot of these players that know they have a shot to make the active roster."

The Saints will practice again tomorrow with the Patriots and then take on New England Thursday Night in both team's first preseason game.

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Saints LB Davis Tull back from injury and ready to sack

Not many knew much about him a year ago when the Saints drafted him, and truth be told there still are a lot of fans that don't know his name or what jersey number he wears. But as Davis Tull prepares for his second NFL season, none of that matters - as long as he's playing football.

"Spending last year on Injured Reserve and missing camp and now being able to be here and get in on some of the reps has been great. Camp is going well so far," he told WWL. Tull's name is one that you might want to pay a little closer attention to this season.

Tull began to make a name for himself on the college football scene as a freshman for the U.T. Chattanooga Mocs back in 2011 when he was named a Freshman All-American. Tull would go on to have one of the most productive and successful careers in U.T. Chattanooga history. The Saints selected Tull in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft - he was brought in to give the Saints some much needs help in the pass rushing department, but his season was cut short due to injury.

Tull told me and Deuce that he thinks the Saints defense is a lot more organized this season and the players are working hard with the goal of making improvements each day. "Everyone is really working hard, flying to the football and the effort has been good."

One of many young faces the Saints are hoping to cash in on in the form of quarterback sacks this season, Tull knows a thing or two about taking down QBs. Having played both defensive end and linebacker in college, Davis was a player that was dependable and durable. He started a school-record 48 straight games and was lights out on the field as a Sophomore in 2012 setting school records on his way to becoming the conference player of the year, and he earned First Team All American honors.

Davis says that right now it's all about improving. "I'm just trying to be as consistent as I can be. I want to become a complete player that is consistent against the run and good at putting pressure on the opposing quarterback," said Tull.
Davis had a good of a college career as any defensive player could at any school on any level. He is the SoCon (Southern) Conference all time sack leader with 37, he was named the conference defensive player of the years in each of his last three seasons in college and he finished his career as the UTC all-time sack leader, tackles for loss, and forced fumble leader.

You can listen to Deuce and Deke's interview with Saints Linebacker Davis Tull by clicking below.

FULL AUDIO: Deuce and Deke talk to Saints LB Davis Tull

Photo via USA Today
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Deke: Saints LB Bobby Richardson excited about year two

To say he made an impact as a rookie in 2015 would be an understatement. Saints second year defensive lineman Bobby Richardson is looking forward to becoming more of a complete player for the Saints D.

"It's all about doing everything I can to get better each day," he says. "In the classroom, on the field, as a teammate, I just want to do everything I can to become the most complete player I can." Richardson came to the Saints as an undrafted free agent from Indiana University.

Richardson played in 15 games as a rookie, starting in 11 as he recorded 40 tackles (20 solo), an interception and half a sack. As he goes through his second training camp as an NFL player, Bobby likes the work he has put in thus far. "Things are going good. Obviously the goal is to improve every snap, but I think that our defense is working hard and right now we are coming together on the field."

Richardson is a humble young man that is not taking his first year success for granted and he knows he has to reprove himself this season. "I have to work on my health and my hips. I've got to be able to use my hips to come out of my stance at a faster pace. Everybody has to be able to play all over. I want to be more versatile and I want to be able to help my team as much as I can."

Bobby says he's looking forward to next week's competition against the Patriots. "We've got to treat every game like it's a real game. We have to keep getting better. I've got to keep getting better."

You can listen to Bobby and Deke's interview with Bobby Richardson by clicking below.

FULL AUDIO: Bobby and Deke talk to Saints DL Bobby Richardson
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Deuce and Bobby like good intensity at Wednesday Saints practice

The Saints practiced for the sixth time this training camp, with the Black and Gold not going in full gear. "It's always good to see healthy competition, and I thought today at the end of practice we really saw the best come out of the offense and the defense," said Deuce McAllister.

Deuce was speaking about the last team session with things kicked up a notch. The intensity level was as high as it has been at practice this camp, and the defense ended on a high note stopping the offense batting down a pass.

The Cajun Cannon thinks that any win for the Saints defense is something to build on at this point. "I mean it wasn't like it was Drew and the first team out there at the end. But it is still somewhat of a confidence builder anytime the Saints defense can make a play."

One bit of good news was the Saints seeing the return of veteran DB Keenan Lewis. Coach Payton said it was good to have Lewis back with the team today.

"Marcus Murphy had a very good day," Deuce said. "Today he showed me something. He did a good job rushing the football and he did a good job of catching the ball out of backfield." Deuce feels like the Saints are being as prepared as any team in the NFL can be.

"You can tell that Coach Payton has this team going through every situation possible," he continued. "If they need to be in a game situation to down the football, take a safety, or get into victory formation, there is not a game situation that Coach Payton won't have the Saints prepared for."

Deuce was also pleased with the Saints defense coming up big on the back end of practice. "This defense has made some strides. Now we have to see it next week against the Patriots. But we have to call it like we see it and so far the defense has been making strides."

Deuce sees the Saints having more speed on defense and says the defense looks more in tune to what Coach Allen is asking them to do and you are seeing it on the field.

In one on one drills with LB's in coverage, Bobby was impressed and gave the edge to the defenders. "I thought in coverage our LBs won the day versus the offense. I was impressed with the way the linebackers covered and that is something that the defense has to improve on."

Bobby said that LBs Craig Robertson, Dannell Elerbe and James Laurinaitis all did well in pass coverage at Wednesday's practice. Bobby also was pleased with the play of Saints defensive lineman Tyeler Davidson.

"He's got a nose for the football and he does a good job of stopping the run and he get penetration in the backfield on passing downs." Bobby's notes also pointed out some offensive highlights.

Drew Brees took advantage of CB Keenan Lewis being back for the first day. Drew went right after Lewis hitting a 35 yard strike to WR Brandin Cooks and then Brees came right back and hit WR Willie Snead for about a 10 yard pick up also against Lewis.
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Bobby and Deuce impressed with Saints offense on Day 5

The first wave of Saints training camp is in the books! The Black and Gold have wrapped up their first five days of camp. "I think we've got in some pretty good physical work. We've got a long way to go. But I do think these guys are working and I like the level of work the players are getting in," said Saints Coach Sean Payton.

The theme the first five days has been the pretty good look at what seems to be an improved Saints defense, but today both of our resident pros Bobby and Deuce both gave the nod to the Saints Offense.

"I think when you look overall starting with the drills, the defense had a good start," Deuce said, "But when they got into the team portion of practice, I though the offense had the upper hand. The defense made some plays but overall today I would give the day to the Saints offense."

Deuce says that the Saints defense was winning the one on one battles during the team drills early on. "I thought guys like DL Bobby Richardson and Delvin Breaux among others really stood out in the first portion of practice."

McAllister likes what he has seen from second year DB P.J. Williams. "He's a nice size cornerback and I think he has the ability to play in the nickel formation as well. I like how he's progressed so far."

Deuce is pretty pleased with the Saints first five days of work. "So far things have gone pretty good. I like tempo the team has been showing and the intensity during the three days in pads was where it needs to be... so far so good."

Bobby Hebert was watching Roman Harper today and said "I don't think he's over the hill. Harper has a lot left in the tank. He caused a fumble today and it was against one of our top players TE Coby Fleener. Today, Roman Harper stood out."

Bobby said bringing a guy like Harper in was not from a feel-good standpoint but more of adressing a real need. Roman is coming off of two seasons with the NFC back to back champion Carolina Panthers in which Roman started in all 32 regular season games for the Cats.

Roman was active this morning in team drills and the veteran safety forced a fumble against RB Mark Ingram which fellow safety Jairus Byrd recovered.

The Saints offense had some nice moments today particularly in the team drills. "I thought Drew made a nice throw when he hit Coby down the middle for a 40 yard TD pass. The TE position has been doing well this camp."

Bobby's also noted that third string QB Garrett Grayson came up big when he tossed a 50 yard TD strike to rookie WR Tommy Lee Lewis.

Bobby asked Coach Payton after practice about the progression of the Saints DB's and wide receivers. "I think both of those groups (WR's and DB's) are competing at a good level right now. I think we have a good mix of players at both of those positions and having competition only helps bring out the best," he said.

Up next for the Saints - a day off on Tuesday and then back to work with practice on Wednesday.
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Deke: LSU fans want to believe this is the year!

The LSU Tigers report to training camp this week with one of the most anticipated seasons in the Les Miles era set to begin. Since the start of the 2005 college football season there have not been many, if any, starts to a year that have had more hype and more promise than the 2016 season does about the Bayou Bengals.

With 18 starters back, experience in key spots and some new coaches, LSU looks the part. And oh, how dearly the Tigers fans want to believe all of the hype; but hey, LSU and their fans have been here before only to fall short of the hype.

LSU can wipe away all the doubt and all the years of close calls, short misses and ugly, embarrassing losses with a run this season at the National Title. With a running back that many feel could be one of the best ever coming out of college, a defense that features no less than future NFL caliber players and a load of talent at all the skilled positions, LSU is seemingly ready to take the next step.

But LSU fans have heard this song and dance far too many times before to have only one national title in the 11 year tenure under Coach Les Miles. I do believe that LSU fans enter this season optimistic and just from the feedback I receive alone on the show via email and text, I feel like Tigers fans are cautious when it comes to thinking this is the team that brings the title back to Baton Rouge.

There is so much on the line - the future of coach Les Miles, the career of QB Brandon Harris, a possible Heisman Trophy could be on campus, and of course the ultimate team goal winning the SEC and National Title - all in the same season!

But has this team learned from past mistakes? Has the coaching staff fully developed this talented group of players and helped them reach their full potential in college? Hell, we know that these players are going to be good in the pros. But to not win or at the very least play for the SEC Title with a group like this would be very unacceptable.

With home games against rivals Ole Miss and Alabama, LSU has the right mix of players coming back at the right time schedule-wise. And I think it's one hundred percent fair to say that if this group does not play for an SEC Title than this rare recruiting class will have not reached their potential team wise.

So as practice opens next week, LSU is one of the teams that the rest of the nation thinks has what it takes to win it all. And Tigers fans want to believe that. But the only way to believe it is to achieve it. And then Tigers fans will not only be able to believe it - they will see it!
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