Yes, I know that all coaches and most players say it, but it's true! When it comes to football, championships are won in the off season. Saints Offensive Guard Ben Grubbs is also in that number.
"I believe that the road to the Super Bowl does start in the off season," Grubbs told me and Bobby Hebert.
Grubbs will enter his second season in a Black and Gold uniform with the hopes of better results in 2013 compared to a disappointing 7-9 season a year ago. Grubbs is coming off his first-ever softball charity event that took place Wednesday night at Zephyr Field.
"We (Saints) are enjoying working together and everyone is showing up and showing out," he said.
Ben went on to talk about when he played for the Ravens and how he blocked for RB Ray Rice. And Grubbs was real high on the current stable of running backs he paves the way for.
"What's so great about playing here is that we (Saints) have multiple guys that can be just as successful as Ray. We don't want to pass the ball 70 times per game. We want to have more balance. It's not just about running the ball more. It's about running the ball more effectively."
The Saints' lack of a running game last season has been one of the more pressing topics this off season when discussing how the team can improve going into the season. New Orleans ranked 25th in the NFL during the 2012 season with an average of 98.6 yards per game.
Grubbs went on to talk about his role in the community here in New Orleans and also talked more about the Saints working this off season to have a better running game.
You can listen to our entire interview with Grubbs by clicking below:
A lot of special moments are expected this weekend as the #2 ranked LSU Baseball Tigers take on the Ole Miss Rebels. Head Coach Paul Mainieri told me and Bobby Hebert that even though his team has sewn up the SEC West, they are in no way going to relax this weekend. "This is an important series because it is the next opponent. We want to continue to play well before the SEC Tournament begins next week," Mainieri said.
LSU improved their overall record to 46-7 with an 11-2 win over UNO Tuesday night. The Tigers' 46 regular-season wins are the most regular-season victories in school history since the NCAA adopted the current 56-game regular-season schedule in 1992. The Tigers clinched the SEC Western Division Title last Saturday with a win over Texas A&M. This season LSU has won every SEC series with the exception of a 2-1 series loss to South Carolina.
With their win over UNO LSU continued their streak of wins versus in-state competition. The Tigers have now won 27 consecutive games against Louisiana schools. And, LSU has netted 34 straight non-conference mid-week victories.
They say that there is a thin line between winning and losing, and the Tigers have been excellent in close games. The Tigers have complied a 13-3 record in games decided by two runs or less one this season. "We have had a lot of guys step up each week. We will need that kind of play the rest of the season," according to the Coach. Mainieri went on to talk about his decision not to play star pitcher Aaron Nola the rest of the regular season, as well as discussing this weekend's opponent, the Ole Miss Rebels.
The Tigers open their three game series against Ole Miss Thursday night right here on WWL Radio. LSU will also have a special ceremony this weekend to name their current field Skip Bertman Field. The Tigers will have senior night on Saturday, and they will also honor the 1993 National Championship Team this weekend as well.
"It's going to be a special time and the weather should be great," Mainieri said.
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton joined Bobby Hebert and me for a chat following the team's rookie minicamp on Airline Drive.
Coach Payton told us the session went well.
"You have a short period of time to do that and the three days we had gave us a really good opportunity to look at some young guys," Payton said. "We also had our players from the practice squad last year participate in it. So I think we got that done, there are a handful of guys that made a pretty good impression, and I think it worked out well."
He also agreed with Bobby about not being too judgmental about players at rookie camp, given that one long-term standout Saints player in particular didn't have that great of a rookie camp.
"I think we have to be very cautious about coming to any conclusions one way or the other. Over the years, there are a number of examples like Marques Colston where a player comes in and maybe he's not in the best of shape, but there is a reason for that. I think, more than anything, (this) is really teaching them how we practice, how we teach, how we install, and then making sure they understand that they are behind, all these guys, regardless of if they have been drafted or not."
We also asked Coach about a player whom fans might not know about that he's eager to see more of.
"I tell you what, there are a slew of guys, not only that the fans aren't familiar with, I'm just barely getting familiar with," Payton said. "I think a handful of our practice squad guys that went to this past camp, for me it was the first time in three years that we've had this, that I've been involved in this camp, last year I wasn't here and the year before was the lockout. So, I don't know if anyone is going to jump out, I think all of these guys understand the importance of special teams and the first way to get on this team, if you are a backup, is in the kicking game."
Coach also agreed with Bobby's observation that the team has its best success when there is a good balance between the run and pass on offense.
"Each year is a little bit different, but certainly we had balance and our most success when we have had a good run-pass ratio. When it gets tilted heavy to one end, it's hurting more than just your offensive production; it begins to weigh on the defense and other elements of your team. I think we had that balance in '06. We were a different team then. Certainly in '09, when we also had the turnovers which were critical and had balance offensively."
LSU will play a three games series at College Station against the Aggies with game one of the series Thursday night here on Tiger Radio WWL.
LSU was a perfect 4-0 last week with wins over McNeese State and Florida. The Tigers beat the Cowboys in a midweek game 7-3 and then LSU swept the Gators. In three wins over Florida, the Tigers outscored the Gators 26-8.
The Tigers are now 43-6 overall on the season and in first place of the SEC West with a conference mark of 19-5.
Despite all the recent success, Coach Mainieri says he is concerned about Texas A&M.
"They may not have a great record but they are a very good team. We just have to go out and play well in each game," he told me.
LSU will send one of the nation's hottest pitchers to the mound in game two of the series when Aaron Nola goes to the hill for LSU. Nola has pitched four straight complete games and he is coming off his second shutout of the season as he guided the Tigers to a 5-0 shutout win over the Gators last Friday night.
The 3rd ranked LSU Tigers are gearing up for another big Southeastern Conference series when the Florida Gators come to town. Florida has been hot, winning their last three series. The Gators are 25-20 overall and 12-9 in SEC play. Florida swept South Carolina earlier this season.
Coach Paul Mainieri visited with Bobby Hebert and me on SportsTalk to talk about this hot SEC matchup. "They are a hot team right now and Florida always has great players," Mainieri said. Florida was 11-16 at the end of March before posting a 14-4 record during the month of April.
Coach Mainieri announced his pitching rotation. He'll send Cody Glenn to the mound for LSU Thursday night. Aaron Nola will pitch Friday. Ryan Eades will start for the Tigers in the series finale Saturday. You can listen to all the Tigers versus Gators games on WWL Radio (the BIG 870AM or 105.3 WWL-FM).
The Tigers lost their first SEC series of the season last weekend dropping two of three games to the South Carolina Gamecocks. "We have a lot to be proud of. It's hard to win all of your series. We were able to bounce back with a nice win over McNeese to win our 40th game of the season."
You can listen to the entire interview with Coach Mainieri by clicking here.
Yes, if the rest of the nation were not already hating enough on the nation’s best, toughest, greatest, most difficult conference…well you get the picture. After last week’s three day NFL Draft, the hate got a lot deeper for the Southeastern Conference.
Yes, the mighty SEC has won seven straight national titles in football and now the SEC has set yet another historic record. 63 players from the mighty conference down South were drafted and many more were signed on as undrafted free agents. The 63 players drafted from Southeastern Conference schools shattered the old record of 55 that was a benchmark set back in 1983 when 55 players were drafted from the Pacific 10 Conference. And give some love to the new kids on the block.
Missouri and Texas A&M combined to have seven players selected in the draft last weekend. And how god is the SEC West Division? Well, I’ll let you decide. The ACC (Atlantic Coastal Conference) had a solid 31 players drafted over the three day weekend. The SEC West alone had 32 players taken in the draft. Dayum!
The SEC tied a NFL Draft record when 12 of their players were drafted in the first round of the 2013 draft. In the last seven NFL Drafts the SEC has averaged nearly 40 players drafted including more than seven first round selections per season as well.
And here’s another one for you SEC haters out there. Remember after the 2011 season when the rest of the country said, “Oh no, please, not another boring, low-scoring game. We want action! We want some points,” coaches from other schools and analyst cried. Well boo who to those fools!
That classic so called game of the century that saw LSU edge Alabama 9-6 in overtime without a touchdown in the game has produced some big time talent. Did you know that when LSU took to the field at Bryant Deny Stadium in November of 2011 that 31 of the players that played in that game have been drafted by the NFL? Wow! Now that is amazing.
Yes folks, since Florida ripped The Ohio State University 41-14 in the 2006 BCS Title Game, the SEC has by far been the kings of football. And if you go back and look to see how the SEC Champion landed in the BCS Title Game, you would see that the team that was beaten to get to the title game could have very easily been in the title game too!
So what does that mean? It means with a new four team playoff forthcoming in two years the likelihood of an all-SEC National Title Game like the one we saw in New Orleans two seasons ago is more possible to take place than not.
And now as we get ready to go to newsstands and buy those ever-so-fun preseason magazines that get us fired up for the upcoming season, we all know that regardless of what predictions are made and what the national media says and thinks, the SEC will be the one standing with that crystal ball.
And if you’re looking at more history, then check this out. Did you know that picks #9, #10 and #11 in the NFL Draft were all from the University of Alabama? Yes, for the first time in draft history three players from the same school were taken in order.
The Tide’s Dee Milliner went to the New York Jets with the #9 pick, guard Chance Warmack to the Tennessee Titans at #10 and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker to the San Diego Chargers at #11. And for the fourth consecutive year, the first defensive back taken in the draft came from the SEC.
In fact, 33 of the first 99 players drafted last weekend came from the SEC. Former USC Coach Pete Carroll must love the SEC, as he led the league drafting five players from the Southeastern Conference.
Five other teams took four players from the SEC, including the Bengals, Titans, 49ers, Lions and Miami Dolphins had four SEC players on their draft day lists while the Texans, Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars all selected three SEC players. In fact only three of the NFL’s 32 teams did not pick an SEC player. Those teams were Atlanta, Carolina and New England.
There has been at least one SEC player drafted in the last 146 rounds of the NFL Draft. LSU and Alabama led the way for the SEC with nine players from each school being drafted. In a side note for the ACC, Florida State led all schools in the 2013 draft as 11 Seminoles were drafted in this year’s draft.
So what else can be said? What else needs to be said? The only thing that can stop the SEC is the SEC. And when we move to that new playoff format the rest of the nation will have to count on an SEC Team to keep another SEC team from winning it all!
The dominant ways of the SEC will only become stronger.
Don’t we all like to poke around and see what they are saying out there about the Saints and their draft class? Exactly who are “they?” Well they can be a variety of folks. But Who Dats, what I did was search around the net and found six places that graded out the entire 2013 Draft and gave their expert analysis or, so as they say, thoughts on how each of the league’s 32 teams did over the three-day draft period.
The five sites I went to include Sporting News, ESPN.com, Fox Sports.com, CBS Sports.com and Sports Illustrated -SI.com. All of these sites had solid opinions, and of the five I went to, Chris Burke of SI.com gave the Saints their lowest draft mark, giving the Saints Draft Class a C.
Before we get into what they said you know in life we all make mistakes. From the worst of the worst to the best of the best, EVERYBODY messes up at the very least every now and then. Example, when I checked to see what Sporting News said about the Saints 2013 Draft Class this is what I found.
— 2014 NFL Draft preview: Clemson's Clowney early favorite for No. 1 pick
Oh snaps! Now a lot of folks know exactly who Jadeveon Clowny is but I'm quite sure that not everyone knows where Mr. Clowney plays college football. With that said I’m sure the inbox and voice mail to the SN was peppered with both Gamecocks and Tigers Fans about that line above. Clowney plays for the Ole Ball coach at South Carolina and the Gamecocks’ biggest and most hated rival, you guessed it, is Clemson. Ouch, that one hurts SN!
New Orleans Saints: The Saints got their key components for Rob Ryan's new 3-4 defense, a terrific all-around safety with good blitzing pop (Texas' Kenny Vaccaro) and an ideal nose tackle (Georgia's John Jenkins.) But this is the Saints, so we look to their offensive steals. They should feel good about turning athletic Arkansas-Pine Bluff Terron Armstead into a rock of a left tackle given their small-school history with linemen (see Jahri Evans, Jermon Bushrod.) Oklahoma wide receiver Kenny Stills has the skills to thrive with Drew Brees, too.
Up next, the guys over at CBSsports.com gave their take on how the Saints did. CBS Sports is a very good site in my opinion and they do have so good folks that put together some good stuff on each team. Here is what the Columbia Broadcasting System’s sports web site said about the Black and Gold:
New Orleans Saints- The road to the NFC South Division crown now runs through Atlanta and its dynamic passing attack, so the top cover safety in the draft, Kenny Vaccaro, makes sense in the first round. Really like the selection of highly athletic offensive tackle Terron Armstead as a potential replacement for Jermon Bushrod at left tackle. Armstead wowed at the East-West Shrine Game and improved throughout Senior Bowl week as a late addition before his eye-popping combine workout. If big Jon Jenkins can stay away from the po'boys, he could be a star in New Orleans. Watch out for wide receiver Kenny Stills as well. Sean Payton has shown a willingness to let young receivers earn roles, and Stills has the size, athleticism and swagger to become a trusted outlet for Drew Brees. I like the Saints' class, as a whole, but was disappointed that more help wasn't brought to the pass rush. Grade: B-
Now on to the four letter network, ESPN. ESPN began broadcasting coverage of the NFL Draft back in 1980 and since then the Draft has become a must-see and must-listen ritual for those football crazed fans that can’t go get a quart of milk without knowing what their team did. Here’s what ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. had to say about the Saints!
"Welcome back, New Orleans. Last year, the Saints were basically shut out, with no picks in either Round 1 or 2. This year, they got some pretty good players at a few different spots. Kenny Vaccaro is the best safety in what is a really good draft class of safeties, so getting him at No. 15 was by no means a reach, particularly when that's a big need for this defense. Terron Armstead was a pretty good value at another need position all the way down at No. 75. He's an extremely athletic left tackle prospect. The problem is he needs time to develop, and that position looks really shaky headed into 2013. John Jenkins is a huge, high-effort defensive tackle who can play immediately. If there's a big question for New Orleans, it's whether it should have taken Jarvis Jones at No. 15, because the Saints could use a pass-rusher. But they got better over these three days." Kiper gave the Saints a B on their draft class.
The four letter network’s biggest competitor, Fox Sports.com had several different folks give their breakdown of the draft. Fox Sports.com used their experts to give their take on each draft class of every NFL Team. Of the three, Alex Marvez gave the Saints a B+ and said that safety Kenny Vaccaro would push Roman Harper for the starting job, and he also gave high marks to Saints OT Terron Armstead. Another Fox Analyst, Floyd Engel, said that new Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro is the real deal. Other comments from Fox included a prediction that Kenny Vaccaro will be a star in the NFL and the guys at Fox Sports.com loved the big linemen the Saints drafted.
The Saints ought to be thrilled with S Kenny Vaccaro, their first-round selection. They were not on the clock for 60 selections after that and only made five total picks. The best of the rest might be DT John Jenkins, who’s faster than he looks. OT Terron Armstead was a value at 75, but he will not help the Saints’ issues at tackle until at least 2014. Grade: C
Other SI notes came from writer Don Banks. Banks has come on the show with Bobby and me a few times, and he pointed out a few things from this past weekend’s NFL Draft. Here is what Mr. Banks had to say:
“The NFL is big on having guest selection announcers in the second and third rounds in recent years, but I'm not sure it will ever top Friday's highlight in that department: Former New Orleans Saints special teams standout Steve Gleason, who is wheelchair-bound and suffering in his fight against ALS, came on stage and announced the Saints' third-round pick of Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive tackle Terron Armstead.
In order to communicate these days, Gleason has to look at a computer screen and spell words by looking at letters one at a time. Then the screen translates those words into his pre-recorded voice, and that's how he "announced'' the Saints pick. It was a moment that rendered so much of the pomp and silliness that goes on at the draft utterly irrelevant.”
Banks also gave a nod of praise to the Saints in the club being able to trade Chris Ivory and get another pick. “It didn't get much notice Friday night, but kudos to the Saints for getting a fourth-round pick out of running back Chris Ivory in a trade. New Orleans sent him to the Jets, as long rumored, for New York's fourth-rounder, 106th overall. Ivory went undrafted in 2010, led the team in rushing as a rookie, and the Saints wound up getting three seasons and a decent mid-round draft choice out of him. That's the way you win the personnel wars in the NFL,” Banks said.
New Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro joined me, Bobby, Mike and Hokie during Draft Fest shortly after the Saints selected him as their first pick. You could tell by the tone in his voice that the level of excitement in Vaccaro is extremely high.
“I felt good after my work out here in New Orleans and I felt like I would be here,” Vaccaro told us.
During his career with Texas, Vaccaro recorded 92 tackles, two interceptions and forced two fumbles during his senior season with Texas.
Kenny Vaccaro said he’s excited about his new team and he’s ready to get to work.
“New Orleans was the last place I visited before the draft and I thought the visit went well and now I’m just very glad to be a member of the Saints team.”
Two weeks before the draft Vaccaro tweeted out that he was at the Saints Practice facility and he said he thought he would be back in two weeks. He was right!
Click the play button to listen to our full interview with Vaccaro:
Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan gave his take on the Saints pick. “I liked the outside linebackers that were available when the Saints picked. Obviously the coaches think that Vaccaro can come in and contribute right away.”
The Saints’ pick of Vaccaro marks the sixth straight year in which New Orleans picked a defensive player with their first available pick in the NFL Draft. “I feel like my experience at Safety is one of my strengths. Playing in a conference with a lot of good quarterbacks has given me a chance to face some great competition.”
Saints Coach Sean Payton talked about some of the strong points in his new safety: “He has good football intelligence and a high football I.Q.” The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert was not too excited about the Saints first draft selection. “Man we should have taken a pass rusher. I think Vaccaro is a good player but Saints would have liked the team to take a pass rusher with that pick.”
If the Saints stand pat with their current picks, the Black and Gold will next pick in the third round of the draft, the 75th overall pick.
The Falcons had the best record in the NFC last season and they earned the #1 seed in the post season, coming up short of playing in the Super Bowl. Atlanta finished the season with a 13-3 record, champs of the NFC South and they were just a few yards away from winning the NFC Title. However, there was not much input last season from the Falcons’ draft class.
The Falcons had six draft selections last season with their top pick Guard Peter Konz from Wisconsin having the biggest impact a season ago. Konz came in and played in 15 games last year for the Falcons, earning nine starts.
With their second pick in the draft the Falcons picked up OT Lamar Holmes from Southern Mississippi. Homes played in one game last season. Holmes is in the future plans for Atlanta as he was signed to a four year deal last season.
FB Bradie Ewing was picked up in the fifth round by Atlanta. Ewing got off to a good start in training camp but was lost for the season injuring his knee in a preseason game against the Ravens. With another fifth-round pick, Atlanta took Troy DE Jonathan Massaquoi.
Massaquoi was considered one of the better pass rushing prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft. Massaquoi gave the Falcons some quality depth and could make a bigger impact this season. SS Charles Mitchell was picked up by Atlanta in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Mitchell was somewhat a pleasant surprise for Atlanta last season as he played in 10 games giving the Falcons more options in their defensive backfield. And with their final pick the Falcons scooped up DT Travian Robertson from South Carolina.
Robertson played in seven games with one start a season ago. So although the Falcons’ draft class did not finish up the season with high marks, overall the class did help the Falcons with depth and all players made the team.
Atlanta can really upgrade their roster in the 2013 NFL Draft this week with a boat load of draft picks. The Falcons have 11 total picks currently available to them in this week’s draft: One pick in the first round, second round and third round and Atlanta has two picks available in the fourth round, one in the fifth and sixth rounds and the Falcons finish up with four seventh round selections.