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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
Posts from April 2014


Deke: LSU AD Alleva upset - bias or tradition?
Let’s face it, a nine game schedule in the SEC would make things tougher on every team.  But, more importantly, a nine game conference schedule would make things tougher on Alabama.  The bottom line, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva and others in the league feel the current eight game SEC football schedule is unfair, because every team has one constant opponent from the east division. 

Okay, LSU has to play Florida every year.  Alabama’s one constant from the East is Tennessee.  Alleva makes a point.  But is this about being fair league-wide, or is this an LSU versus Alabama thing?  
 
The way the SEC works, if you’re an LSU fan and you want to see the Tide play a tougher schedule, then you might want to see Butch Jones turn things around in Knoxville.  The way things currently stand, the only hope LSU and other SEC teams have is to see the Volunteers get better and get better fast.  
 
Also, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said last weekend that SEC schools will be required to play at least one non-conference game against a team from either the ACC, Big XII, Big Ten or Pac-12. 
 
I love the idea, but come on…are we really going to see them follow through on this?  Or, will we see games like LSU versus Syracuse, or Alabama versus Indiana?  If the SEC really wants to have their teams play a tougher non-conference schedule, then let’s pit Alabama against Oregon, Auburn versus Baylor, Texas A&M versus Texas.  You my point, don’t you?  
 
And, enough of this neutral site junk!   How about we do what was done back in the day, when you played a tough opponent at their house, and then they returned to yours.  If Mr. Alleva talked with the SEC commissioner and told him how important and how special it is for LSU to play games at home, and to play games at night, then shouldn’t games be scheduled in Baton Rouge…not Houston, Atlanta and Green Bay? 
 
In a way, what the LSU AD is saying is fair, but it also kind of sounds like this is about singling out Alabama.  Is everyone in the SEC upset about Vanderbilt playing Ole Miss every year?  I’ve not heard anyone complain about Georgia playing Auburn or Missouri taking on Arkansas. 
 
Everyone has their own opinion and they are entitled to make it.  So, I’ll sit back and see howfuture schedules are made, and I’ll see if more true home games (not neutral site games) will be scheduled, and if those non-conference SEC games will be made against national powers and not rent-a-wins!  
 
Like Alleva said in his most recent open letter, “look forward to seeing you in Tiger Stadium this fall … when the sun goes down.”  Well, it sure is a lot easier for Tiger fans to see the sun go down in Death Valley ...rather than Reliant Stadium and Lambeau Field! 

I believe in tradition, but other schools have traditions also.  Let’s recognize tradition for what it is…tradition for everybody. 
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Deke: '81 Draft class was foundation of success for Saints
It was the draft class that laid the foundation for the Saints to become NFC West Champions... the class that took the Saints from pretenders to contenders.  And most importantly, the class that began to help form the famed "Dome Patrol."
 
Bobby and I talked to Rickey Jackson today and he had this to say: “We had a lot of draft picks that year, and that was key. Bum did a great job drafting players.  And we had a lot of players that were not really that known that came in and made our team better.”

FULL AUDIO: Bobby and Deke talk to Rickey Jackson about Saints draft history
 
Five players from the class of '81 (RB George Rogers, LB Rickey Jackson, DE Frank Warren, TE Hoby Brenner & DL Jim Wilks) are in the Saints Hall of Fame, four of them played for 13 seasons in Black and Gold, and Rickey Jackson is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

18 players were taken in the 1981 NFL Draft by the Saints.  Other players of note included CB Johnnie Poe, RB Toussaint Tyler, OG Louis Oubre and successful back up QB Dave Wilson.  “I think Bum Phillips did a great job with that draft class,” said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. 

When it comes to all time fan favorites, our own Hokie Gajan is high on that list. Gajan finished second in Saints History an average of 5.4 yards per rushing attempt, and in 1984 Gajan led the league averaging 6 yards per carry with a minimum of 75 attempts.  Hokie’s tenure with the New Orleans Saints organization is most unique. Since leaving LSU in 1981, Hokie has been with the Saints in one way or another for over 33 years.  Hokie has been a player for the Saints, a team scout, and since the 2000 season, Gajan has served as the Saints Radio Network Color Analyst.

The Saints built their famed "Dome Patrol" defense around the 1981 NFL Draft.  The Saints landed LB Rickey Jackson with a 2nd round pick, DE Frank Warren from Auburn was taken in the third round while the steal of the draft came way down in the 12th round when New Orleans selected San Diego State’s Jim Wilks. 

“They had to take on people and keep us free.  Frank Warren and Jim Wilks were two of the best.  They would both occupy blockers and allow us to make plays.  I can remember Sam (Mills) saying how important it was for us to have Jim (Wilks) and Frank (Warren) in front of us,” said Jackson.   

All three (Jackson, Warren and Wilks) played for 13 years for the Saints defense.
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Deke: It was a good week for the Tigers!
The LSU Tigers won three of four games last week, including an SEC road series win over the Ole Miss Rebels.  “The week got off to a good start for us with a win over Southern Mississippi.  Then we were able to end the week on a high note with two wins over Ole Miss,” said LSU Coach Paul Mainieri.

After the Tigers 13-5 win over USM in the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic, LSU traveled through the night to Memphis.  From there, the team spent some time at St. Jude Hospital.  “It was a great visit.  I think our team got a lot out of seeing so many kids at St. Jude.”

The Tigers then took on Ole Miss in a three game series with LSU taking the first game 3-2 in 13 innings.  “It was a tremendous win for us.  And then, to shut out Ole Miss in the third game of the series really capped off a good week for the Tigers."

LSU became the first team to shut out the Rebels as the Tigers blanked the Rebels 2-0 on Saturday.  Now, the Tigers have four more games on tap this week beginning Tuesday night with a rival game against the Tulane Green Wave.

The Tigers will be at home all week long as LSU welcomes in Tennessee this weekend for their SEC series of the week. 

FULL AUDIO: Bobby and Deke talk to LSU Baseball Coach Paul Mainieri
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Deke: Saints Draft history; a look at position picks
As the Saints prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft, over the next several days we’ll look back at some of the great moments in Saints Draft history.  This May the Saints will participate in the Draft for the 48th time.

Let’s look at the picks of the Black & Gold.  Previously the Saints selected 523 players in 47 college drafts.  In addition, the Saints were allowed to pick from a select group of players in the 167 Expansion Draft.  And, New Orleans landed three players including a member of the “Dome Patrol,” LB Vaughn Johnson, in the 1984 USFL Supplemental Draft.

A few more interesting notes:  the Black & Gold drafted more running backs (69) than any other position.  Next in line, wide receivers--a total of 66.  And, the third most drafted position-- 63 linebackers.

So, where do the Saints players come from?  The Saints have taken more players from the University of Southern California (17) than of any other school.  (16) Nebraska Corn Huskers have been drafted by the Saints, (12) Ohio State Buckeyes, (11) Notre Dame players and (10) from the Boomer Sooners.

And, what about the Saints first NFL Draft pick?  On March 14, 1967 the Saints picked Alabama full back Leslie Kelly with the 26th pick in the first round.  In that first ever Black & Gold draft, the expansion Saints were given the first and last choices of each round (17 rounds).  And the Saints also got an additional choice at the end of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds of the Draft.

Later this week we will take a look at some of the early successes the Saints had with draft picks in their first few drafts.  
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Deke: A look at the NBA Playoffs
Love them or hate them, the Miami Heat are still the team to beat!  Miami is seeking to become the sixth team to win three straight titles.  Consider the 52-54 Minneapolis Lakers, 59-66 (eight straight titles!) Boston Celtics, 91-93 Michael Jordan-led Bulls (did it again from 96-98), and the last team to win three straight was the 00-02 L.A. Lakers.

Miami is 16 wins away from making history.  But who’s the team most likely to derail the Heat from a three-peat?  Is it the Spurs, Pacers, OKC, Clippers, or how about the up and coming Rockets or Golden State Warriors? I think the Western Conference playoffs are going to be some of the best by a division we’ve seen.  The Eastern Conference is muddled with six teams whose record is in the 500 range, while over on the much stronger West, every team in the post season has won 60 percent of their games or more (the Mavericks are 49-33 - .598). 

I picked the Spurs to take the title last season.  Miami edged San Antonio 4-3 in seven games.  San Antonio has rested their players and gained home court throughout the post season.  Will the Spurs get one more shot to get it right?

Could you be thinking the Thunder from OKC?  How about the CP3-led Clippers from L.A.?  Golden State Warriors, or what looks to be the Heat’s biggest obstacle in the East the Indiana Pacers.  These playoffs look like they are going to be two months of great action.

I get one of those "man, I got to watch that" feelings when I think about the first round match-up between the Warriors and Clippers in the West post season bracket.  Golden State and L.A. split the season series winning two games each.  Both teams won their games at home.  Could home court really play out here with the Clippers winning a game 7 in Staples?  Or will Steph, Klay and the Warriors breakthrough and win a game in L.A.? 

I’ll give my take, my way.  I think the Spurs will battle the Heat again and I again think San Antonio will win.  But here are some other things I think about the NBA Playoffs.  I think that the 2014 version of the Indiana Pacers is not as good as the team that took the Heat to seven games in 2013. 

I think if there is one team in the Eastern Conference that might give the Heat a run for their money, it is the Brooklyn Nets.  Brooklyn swept the regular season series, and the Nets roster features some big time firepower. 

Chicago is a Rose (Derrick) away from making the Eastern Conference Playoffs tougher.  Chicago is a dangerous #4 seed in the East and if they win their series with Washington they could be staring at Indiana, the team they love to hate. 

So first round I say Spurs over Mavs in five, Houston takes out Portland in seven, OKC beats Memphis 4-2 and the Clippers prove that having a Doctor in the house makes a difference.  Over in the East I’ll take the Nets in six over the Raptors, Heat sweep Charlotte, Indiana clips the Hawks in five and the Bulls beat the Magicians 4-2. 

In the Western Conference Finals, I say we will see the Spurs and Thunder and in the East and I’ll go with the Pacers versus the Heat.  Spurs and Heat make it to the Finals, and I as stated earlier, I’ll again pick the Spurs to win it all. 

I was a taped-off court and chilled champagne away from coming through on that prediction last time.  That was about as close as you can come to winning without winning.  But the Heat prevailed.  If they do so again this year, they would only add more truth that LeBron James clearly is one of the greatest of all time! 
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Deke: Mainieri and Tigers back on track
Just two weeks ago LSU’s baseball team was coming off a week of action in which they did not win a single game.  Since then the Tigers won seven of their last eight games. 

“We did not play our best, but we did what we needed to do to win the series.  Anytime you can win a series in this league you feel good about yourselves,” said LSU Coach Paul Mainieri. 

The Tigers highest ranking is 7th in the USA Today coaches poll.  LSU beat Lamar last week 5-0 followed by back to back wins over Arkansas defeating the Hogs 5-3 and 5-4.  But the Hogs were able to win the series finale 10-4 over LSU.  The Tigers have owned the Hogs in league play winning nine of the last ten series. 

“Our players understand how hard it is to sweep an opponent in league play.  We had a chance up 2-0, but we got off to a bad start in the last game.  Things did not work out for us in that game because we got off to such a bad start.”

The Tigers have four big games on the schedule this week beginning with the annual Wally Pontiff Classic at Zephyr Field Tuesday night against the USM Golden Eagles. 

“Wally Pontiff Jr. was an outstanding young man who played at LSU. We keep his memory alive with this classic every year.  Wally was a great person on and off the field.”

LSU then heads to Oxford, Mississippi to take on the Ole Miss Rebels.  The Rebels are currently in second place in the SEC Western Division with a 9-5 conference mark.  Game one of the three game series is Thursday night…pre-game 6pm; 1st pitch 6:30 here on WWL - Tiger Radio. 

FULL AUDIO: Bobby and Deke talk to LSU baseball Coach Paul Mainieri
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Deke: LSU QB Harris looks like a star in the making
Some of his passes were overthrown; others too short and he was only 11-of-28 in pass attempts, BUT after watching freshman QB Brandon Harris at the LSU spring football game, I came away impressed.

Certainly you have to realize Harris was in a controlled scrimmage and the team he faced was his own.  However, the young man just got on campus in January…and a handful of months ago he was on the football field competing against high school talent.

I'd say inconsistent, erratic, rushed, nervous and confused are some descriptions of Harris’ performance Saturday.  On the flip side, what should get Tiger fans really optimistic about the future—Brandon Harris’ ability to extend plays with his feet, his running style and the strength of his arm.

Now I'm certainly not saying it’s a far gone conclusion that young Brandon Harris is going to be the starting QB for the Tigers, when they open the season in August against Wisconsin.

I am saying Harris has shown in a short amount of time that he has the potential to be a very good player.  Who knows, maybe even a great player.  270 yards and four touchdowns are nice numbers in your first college football outing.  

Coach Les Miles assessment is pretty much the same.  “I think that things that you do in a game certainly are things you must recognize.  He made some really big plays and nice passes, but he also made some mistakes. It was certainly reviewed very positively by us. We’re a ways away, but there needs to be improvement in both spots.  I really think he made four to five major errors in the scrimmage, but he improved through the adversity.  If we can eliminate the mistakes and play to the advantages, that’s what he’s looking to do," said Coach Miles.

Coach Miles told me last week he liked the progress both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris made during spring drills.  And with the instruction of a coach like Tigers Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron, LSU could be in better shape at the QB spot than originally thought.
Sure, there will be growing pains.  There will be times when we all scratch our heads and say…WHY did Brandon do that?   I also think that over the course of the next few seasons we will all scratch our heads and say HOW did Harris do that?

After seeing the young man play twice at Parkway High School, I thought quarterback Brandon Harris could come in and compete for playing time.  But caution is much better served when creating expectations for players, who excel at the high school level.  It oftentimes is not a predictor about performance on the college level.

With the nation's #1 player coming on campus very soon (RB Leonard Fournette); the nation's top rated Wide Receiver (Malachi Dupre) and record setting play of WR Trey Quinn, LSU could have the best young set of offensive weapons in the nation.

Experience seems to be all these young men need.  And when they get those reps, that should net positive results for the LSU Tigers.  It's only one game…a spring game at that, but I think Brandon Harris is a star quarterback in the making.  

Big Chief’s other notes:

Several things stood out in the Tigers L-Club Spring Game.  The play of rising DE Danielle Hunter was impressive.  Hunter recorded two sacks along with several pressures.  Hunter gained attention last season with his quickness on the edge as a solid pass rusher and looks poised to have a breakout season.

LB Ronnie Feist was a tackling machine recording 14 tackles--all in the first half.  The former West St. John Rams star has been out of site/out of mind his first two seasons in Baton Rouge.  Could this be the year he stands out?  He's got a lot of momentum going into the off season for sure!

Fellow linebackers Deion Jones and Kwon Alexander both had pick sixes for the Tigers D.  And, WR Travin Dural could very well be the top veteran player at the position.  With Dupre and Quinn coming this summer, Dural needed a nice showing before the nation's top freshmen come on campus.  Five grabs, 130 yards and two TD's is a nice start.

Another true freshman stood out--Ed Paris.  One of the nation's top high school defensive backs will play CB for the Tigers.  Paris looked good in the Tigers secondary.  He made a real nice play on the ball breaking up a pass early in the game.  Paris should be another young impact player for LSU this season.  
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Deke: Ahead of LSU spring game, Les Miles "likes where we are"

The LSU Tigers will conclude spring football practice this weekend as they hold their annual L-Club spring game, and Coach Miles joined me on "Sports Talk" Wednesday to talk about their preparations.

“I think we’ve been able to get in some quality work.  We have a lot of work to do.  But I like where we are,” he said. Miles enters his 10th season as head coach of the Bayou Bengals this fall.

READ MORE: T-Bob: The importance of LSU spring ball, part one

Miles said he’s pleased with the progression of his QB’s, Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris.  “They are both competing at a high level.  Anthony has done a good job of throwing the football.  And Brandon Harris is a talented player.  We are excited about their play.”

The Tigers' spring game is this Saturday at 1pm.  Our pre-game coverage (with myself and T-Bob Hebert) begins at 10am.  Listen to my entire interview between with Les Miles by clicking below. 

FULL AUDIO: Deke talks to LSU head coach Les Miles about spring game

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Deke: LSU's Mainieri says "We'll be ok"
In his days of coaching the game, LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri has not often had weeks in which his team did not win a single game. “Wasn’t much fun, I can tell you that.  Let’s hope we don’t experience that again.” Mainieri was talking about the Tigers 0-4 week in which LSU lost to Tulane 3-2, and then got swept on the road by the Florida Gators.  LSU is now 20-8 overall on the season and 3-5-1 in SEC play.

READ MORE: Tigers swept in Florida, 11-7

Coach told me that one reason why his team is losing is due to lack of offensive production.  “When your best hitter is not hitting well, you will struggle,” Mainieri said, referring to Alex Bregman.  Bregman, one of the nation’s best players, is just 3-of-35 at the plate in SEC Games this season for the Tigers.

Mainieri said in no way is he laying the blame on Bregman or any one player.  “We’ve had a couple bad days of pitching too.  But let’s give some credit to the teams we played last week: Tulane was able to get a big win against us and Florida is one of the most talented teams in the country.”

The Tigers fell from the #4 spot in the Baseball America Top 25 to #18 in this week’s poll.  The Tigers have four more games this week.  Wednesday, LSU plays host to McNeese State followed by a three game SEC Series against #9 Mississippi State.

“We have another tough week this week against McNeese and Mississippi State.  I can tell you we are going to regroup and get ready for four games.  We are glad to be home this week.”  

FULL AUDIO: Deke talks to coach Paul Mainieri about Florida sweep, previews this week
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