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T-Bob Hebert

Talk sports and more with T-Bob and Kristian Garic on "Double Coverage!"  

Weeknights 8pm-Midnight

Twitter: @tbob53
Email: tbob@3wl1350.com

 


Mad Miles: Beyond SEC Thunder Dome

"Two Coaches enter, one coach leaves... two coaches enter, one coach leaves... TWO COACHES ENTER, ONE COAC H LEAVES! TWO COACHES ENTER, ONE COACH LEAVES! TWO COACHES ENTER ONE COACH LEAVES!"

My friends, it is once again time to enter the SEC Thunder Dome. LSU Coach Les Miles will be pitted against Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn in a battle to the employment death. Both coaches are currently facing down precarious situations in which large portions of their respective fan bases are calling for their heads. Both programs have struggled in recent years to live up to their expectations and SEC fans are only so forgiving before demanding that heads must roll.

Now, what might surprise most LSU fans is that as bad as things have been for the Purple and Gold (12-9 against Power 5 opponents in their last 21) the situation at Auburn has deteriorated to a much worse degree. Currently the Tigers of the Auburn variety have lost 7 consecutive home games and are just 3-12 overall in their last 15 matchups with Power 5 opponents. These are shocking numbers when you consider the fact that this was a team in the national championship just a few years ago, and that this was a team that was originally picked to win the SEC at the start of last season.

How quickly fate and fortune can turn. So, with so much on the line what will be the keys to deciding the two coaches' fates?

Can the LSU Defensive Line Dominate the Auburn Offensive Line

The Auburn offensive line has been flat out bad this season. Last weekend against Texas A&M, the Aggies amassed 4 sacks, 6 hurries, and an incredible 13 tackles for loss. On the year, AU's offense has been stopped for negative yardage a total of 32 times. This is the most in the ENTIRE COUNTRY.

Unfortunately for War Eagle fans it may get worse before it gets better as they prepare to welcome in LSU's Arden Key. The true sophomore has been nothing short of spectacular this season as his 5 sacks are not only good for second in the nation, but also means that he has more sacks through three games than any other player in LSU history.

@PPF_College (the college edition of Pro Football Focus) provides us with some perspective. The average NCAA pass rusher averages 1 pressure for every 10 pass rushing attempts. Thus far, Key is averaging a pressure every 3.84 attempts. This pass rush production rating is first in the nation amongst all 3-4 outside linebackers.

I'm interested to see if Key can keep up this torrid pace now that teams will continue to focus more and more on him and devote more and more resources to containing him. Still, if teams were to focus in on Key, they would still have to deal with the likes of Davon Godchaux and Lewis Neal.

Bottom line, with the way that the Auburn offensive line has played thus far, it would be a considerable disappointment if the LSU defensive line wasn't able to dominate on Saturday.

Can LSU Start Fast and Break the Home Crowd's Spirit?

As previously mentioned, Auburn has been falling flat in their home stadium. The current losing streak of 7 games to power 5 teams is the longest such streak since the 98 and 99 seasons in which the Tigers lost 8 home games in a row. That then resulted in the firing of former Head Coach Terry Bowden. When a streak like this continues to grow, home crowds begin to lose faith. They become so accustomed to the disappointment of seeing their team fail that they are much more apt to throw their hands in the air and toss in the towel.

This means that if LSU can shoot out the gates and jump on AU early, the purple and gold could potentially make the crowd a non-factor.

Now, the flip side of this situation is that such a losing streak also cultivates a sense of desperation. This is a crowd that is yearning for anything positive to latch on to. A big turnover, an early score, or a big stop; these are the types of plays that could turn this crowd from mutinous to dangerous. If Auburn manages to take the lead early or hang around till late, then suddenly you run the risk of having the stadium start to believe once again. They will start to think that tonight is the night when the streak will be broken. In turn, the team will then feed off of that belief and feed off of that energy and suddenly, in place of a discouraged, disparate team; you would have reinvigorated players that are confident in themselves once again. This is especially dangerous in a team such as Auburn where the low quality of play this season doesn't necessarily represent the high quality of talent that the Plainsmen have on their roster.

Bottom Line

Five years ago both Les Miles and Gus Malzahn were riding high. Malzahn had just won a national championship as an offensive coordinator, and Miles had just won an SEC championship and played for a national title.

Now, half a decade later, both coaches seem to be in a desperate struggle to retain their jobs. So although on paper this may just look like another game between two middle of the pack SEC teams, it could potentially mean so much more. After all, we all know the laws of the SEC Thunder Dome.... TWO COACHES ENTER, ONE COACH LEAVES!
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T-Bob's Takes: Are the Saints snakebitten?

A lot of my favorite writers have weekly columns in which they offer musings on sports with a little lagniappe, and that is what I wish for this weekly blog to be for me. I'm not going to be too rigid with structure in the beginning, as I find what I like and do not like - but I'm guessing I'll always have a "interesting stat" column with a focus on local teams.

I'll also write a couple quick paragraphs on any stories I find interesting, and then I know that I want to have a non sports related section where I talk about something outside of sports that has caught my interest. I hope you enjoy!


Its a Numbers Game!

In this section I'll point out interesting numbers sourced with where I found them, and then add my own thoughts underneath.

Peter King - MMQB.SI.com
"Offensive Touchdowns through 46 minutes of last year's Saints vs Giants game: 10 TDs
Offensive Touchdowns through 46 minutes of this year's Saints vs Giants game: 0"

Football is an exceedingly weird and unpredictable game at time. I suspect the combination of things that can happen with 22 human beings flying around hitting each other to be the root cause.

Jeff Duncan - NOLA.com | Times-Picayune
"Only four of the nine members of the 2015 draft class played on Sunday."

Is this the sign of another bad draft class for New Orleans? I know that much of this has been influenced by injuries but even bad luck doesn't explain the Saints consistent struggle to find draft picks that stick. Ironically, Andrus Peat is probably most successful of this class as he graded out at a 76.8 on Sunday.

ProFootballFocus.com
"Zack Strief has the highest grade on the Saints offensive line through two weeks with an 82.6."

The much-maligned right tackle is a constant favorite for fans to pronounce as done, yet he continues to perform at a high level year in and year out. Remember this season he's gone against Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Olivier Vernon. Now Saints fans must hope that he will be ready to go against the Falcons after leaving with chest injury late in the game Sunday. Honorable mention to Max Unger who has an 82.1 grade for the year. Definitely worth the extension.

Christopher Dabei - NOLA.com | Times-Picayune
"Coby Fleener had 3 catches for 35 yards on 12 targets Sunday"

The hits keep on coming, as the longer Fleener continues to struggle the more the fanbase will view him as yet another big money contract that failed to pay dividends.

ProFootballFocus College
"LSU CB Tre'Davious White has allowed an 8.3 QB rating on passes thrown his direction in 2016. That is the best of any power 5 cornerback."

While some of this is influenced by the type of offenses LSU has played thus far, I don't expect it to change much as the season goes on. White has easily been the most dominant player on the field for the Tigers this year.

ProFootballFocus College
"With 19 pressures on 73 pass rushing attempts LSU's Arden Key leads all 3-4 outside linebackers with a Pass Rushing Production rating of 21.2"

Remember, Arden Key leads the SEC with 5 sacks and is on pace for his absurd goal of 20 that he set for himself at the start of the year.


Are the Saints snakebitten?
I always used to hear that the Saints were a cursed franchise but for much of my life they have been considered one of the better teams in the NFL. I used to think the stories were exaggerated, now, I am not so sure. The Saints just lost a game in which they finished plus 3 in the turnover margin and didn't allow their opponent a single offensive touchdown. In a series in which 5 of the last 7 matches has featured the winning team scoring at least 48 points the Saints lost to a special teams touchdown and field goals. In the end it would seem as if the Giants $200 million dollar investment into their defensive line paid dividends for the second week in a row.

On top of these incredibly odd numbers, the Saints had yet another corner go down when PJ Williams left the game with a scary looking concussion. Their highest graded offensive lineman left the game in the 4th quarter with a chest injury, and yet, despite all of this, you still only lost your first two games by a combined 4 points. Now, it should be noted that many times "bad luck" teams are just teams that are not well built and thus suffer more when injuries take place. After all, then Patriots have had starters at just about every position group hurt this season and yet they continue to win because they are an incredibly well built team. The Saints are the polar opposite. So which is it? Are the Saints badly built or just back luck?

I believe them to be a mixture of both. There is no doubt that between the years of poor drafts, and $40 million dollars in dead money this is a team that, like the Louisiana Tax Code, is structurally broken. Still, when fully healthy, this is a team that could have been so much better than what fans have seen thus far. The problem is that no one is fully healthy and having a roster with the ability to weather injuries is part of a front office's job. In the end it is like any other game that has randomness as a core element. The key to winning is mitigating the randomness and unfortunately, this Saints roster is not able to do so.

Is there cause for concern at kicker?
The Will Lutz experiment has gotten off to an inauspicious start. On top of missing the 50 and 60 yarders from last weekend, Lutz had a blocked kick against the Giants returned 65 yards for the game deciding touchdown. Although Sean Payton said it was the protection's fault, Lutz has pointed the finger of blame at himself. Though doubtless the burden of guilt is shared between the two, Lutz does raise an interesting point in that he also had a ball tipped against the Raiders.

Once is an accident - twice is beginning to trend. I've been saying that Lutz was going to have an uphill battle winning the fanbase over due to his college struggles and last minute arrival and that feeling has only been reinforced after two weeks. Although this isn't a completely fair representation of the situation, Lutz was a core piece of plays that lost each of the Saints first two games.


T-Bob Time
I love board games and I will preach the virtue of board games to anyone who will listen. We currently live in a golden age of board gaming. Thanks to crowdfunding, the ability of people with similar interests being able to meet over the internet, and a host of other reasons, board games are more fun, diverse, and creative than ever. I do not mean to disparage board games of yore like Monopoly or whatever other tried and true game your family plays but the games being created nowadays are VASTLY more interesting and most importantly much more fun!

Today I am going to give you a couple of my favorites that are not hard to get into and are perfect for either families or friends. As always, if the members are of age I would recommend pairing all games with the delicious spirits of your choice. After all, one of the greatest part of board gaming is the human to human interaction that other mediums such as video games (which I also love) do not provide. Anyway, here are the games!

Ticket to Ride
Probably the game most like the older games I referenced on this list. Exceedingly easy to learn yet just enough complexity and strategy to ensure that skill will determine the ultimate winner. Most excellent family game and I've also found it works great for both sexes as well. This is one where you can convince even the most hesitant to play by offering delicious beer and then they will thank you afterwards.

Sheriff Of Nottingham
Amazing game of bluffing in which players try to sneak in a mixture of legal illegal goods past the Sherriff and into Nottingham. This game involves lying, bribing, and calling bluffs. The theme and presentation of this game are also top notch. It is a bit more complex than something like Ticket to Ride however I would by no means call it intimidating. After one or two game rounds you will have down the mechanics and be able to bribe your way to victory!

Love Letter
Incredibly compact little card game that fits into a pouch the size of your pocket. Quick hitting 2 to 4 player game that is an excellent experience you can either enjoy for 30 mins or 2 hours. The setting of the original love letter might not appeal to all (I believe you are a Japanese or Chinese Princess trying to sneak a love letter out of your castle) but their are plenty of alternate versions in which they re-skin the game with a different theme. Personally, I have found the Batman: Love Letter to be the best version to getting people to play. This game is incredibly simple and yet, incredibly rewarding. Combines some bluffing, with deduction, and a dash of luck.
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T-Bob: LSU Tigers remain a hopeful work in progress

The LSU Tigers opened up conference play on a positive note, defeating the Mississippi St Bulldogs 23-20. The game was a tale of two halves, with LSU absolutely dominating the first two frames before the Bulldogs rallied late in the fourth and fell just short of one of the most unlikely comebacks imaginable. Overall, this is a game that will leave Tigers fans with mixed emotions; however, I feel comfortable in saying that for the second week in a row, it was a step in the right direction.

I think Deuce McAllister got me sick, so this might be a bit shorter than normal but should be no less enjoyable.

Danny Etling has Provided LSU with Reason to Hope

Danny Etling clearly showed that he is LSU's best bet to win from here on out. The QB did what so many have failed to do the last couple of years and threw for over 200 yards while completing over 60% of his passes. The offense was more productive and efficient as a whole with Etling at the helm. The passing game was able to soften up Mississippi State's defense and allow Fournette to get loose to the tune of 147 yards and 2 touchdowns on 28 carries. The most impressive part of Etling's night was at the very beginning.

LSU opened the game going three and out. Next possession they were yet again staring down yet another failed first quarter drive when they faced 3rd and 10 from the Bulldog 37. With bated breath, LSU fans watched as Etling dropped a dime to DJ Chark in the back of the end zone, resulting in LSU's inaugural first quarter points of the year. To stand up and make that throw with all the negativity and all the narratives that were floating around in Tiger Stadium was mighty impressive and sold me on Etling moving forward. There is still plenty of improvement to be made but Etling has shown that he is a solid base from which to build upon.

Arden Key is a Monster
Before, the season pundits scoffed when sophomore Arden Key said he wanted 20 sacks. Three games into the year, it seems much more realistic! Currently, Key leads the SEC with 5 sacks in 3 games, and for those keeping up at home, that puts Key on pace for 19.5 sacks. Key was surrounded by a ton of hype coming into this season being ranked as one of the top returning sophomores in all of college football, regardless of position, and he has lived up to that billing and then some. Cannot wait to see how good Key will be by the end of the year as he continues to have success and continues to grow in confidence.

This LSU Team Remains a Hopeful Work in Progress
In a way Danny Etling is kind of like a microcosm of the LSU team as a whole. There is plenty to be impressed with, but there are also just enough flaws to constitute cause for concern. After three games we still don't know who good Etling or this team will be. Are they the team that exploded for 27 points in the second quarter against Jacksonville State or the team that managed just 7 points in the other three quarters of that same game? Are they the team that jumped out to a 23-3 lead over Mississippi State or the team that failed to score in the second half and nearly wasted a twenty point lead? I still do not know the answer; however, when situations become hard to read I like to look at trends. This is an LSU team that is currently trending in the right direction. They may be doing so at a rather humble pace, but each week has been better than the last and at the end of the day that is the goal.

Bottom Line
A win is a win is a win. Doesn't matter how ugly it may seem; correcting mistakes after a win is always superior to a loss. I really liked what I saw out of Danny Etling tonight. I believe he is the answer for this team going forward. I think there are still very interesting conversations to be had about why he wasn't the starter this entire season but those are long talks that require ample thought and time and I fear I have grown weary. The big question that jumps out at me with next week's Auburn game is how will Etling and this LSU team respond to a hostile SEC environment. Auburn represents another slight increase in difficulty in LSU's climb to the most brutal parts of their schedule and will be yet another chance to unpackaged the enigma that is the 2016 LSU Tigers.

Photo via USA TODAY
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T-Bob: Is LSU good enough to exploit Mississippi State's weaknesses?

The LSU Tigers prepare for their most important game yet as they open up Southeastern Conference play against the Mississippi State Bulldogs this Saturday in Death Valley. Although these two sides came into the season with drastically different expectations, they have experienced similar up and down moments within their first two weeks alone.

Both teams suffered unexpected and disappointing losses in week one; followed by both teams going on to switch their starting quarterback in game number two, before being rewarded with wins and with something akin to offensive hope. The Bulldogs avenged their embarrassing loss to the University of South Alabama by handing the offense to sophomore Nick Fitzgerald and came away with a 27-14 win over South Carolina. LSU replaced Brandon Harris with Danny Etling and got markedly more offensive production in the final three quarters against Jacksonville State.

During this offseason this was a game that was deemed uncompetitive. However, in the constantly shifting landscape of college football just two weeks has made this matchup seem much more competitive than originally predicted. If the Tigers are going to open up conference play on the right foot, what will be the keys to the game?

Can LSU Exploit Mississippi State's Weakness in the Secondary?

On paper, this is a Mississippi State team with some very clear weaknesses, especially in the defensive secondary. This is a Mississippi State team that lost both of last year's starting cornerbacks to the NFL and suffered a run of bad luck when both of this season's projected Senior starting corners were injured during fall camp. In all it means that State is down to their third and fourth corners in their base and then reaching even deeper into their depth chart for nickel and dime formations. This is a secondary that a competent passing attack should be able to exploit. South Alabama's Dallas Davis went 24/34 for 285 yards 2 TDs 0 Ints in their week one upset of the Dogs.

The problem for LSU fans is they don't know whether or not they actually have a competent passing game. The Tigers' struggles through the air are well documented and everyone knows that Danny Etling represents the final hope of LSU finding some sort of consistency and production through the air. The problem is that we don't know what to make of Etling as the sample size of evidence we have is exceedingly small and exceedingly erratic. Do we see 6/8 first half Danny Etling or 0/6 second half Danny Etling? One group that will have a major impact on the answer we seek is the LSU offensive line. Which brings us to our next key…

How Will This LSU Offensive Line Hold Up Against a Very Good Mississippi State Defensive Front?
If there is one part of this Bulldog team that remains a threat to any team they line up against, it is the defensive line. A group led by Senior DE AJ Jefferson, this Mississippi State crew is deep with legitimate SEC talent including 5 star DT Jeffrey Simmons. Last week the heralded freshman had six tackles, 1.5 for loss, a forced fumble, and a QB pressure in the first half alone. In last week's win over South Carolina, as a group this Mississippi State D-Line amassed 11 tackles for loss, four sacks, and allowed just 34 rushing yards on 31 attempts. These numbers represent potential cause for concern for what LSU wants to do offensively.

This is not a defense which you want to stubbornly run at over and over again. They have both the talent and the depth to withstand such a barrage. If LSU is going to have success they must take to the air. Still, even that is not necessarily a guarantee. The Bulldogs' best pass defense is their pass rush. Senior AJ Jefferson leads the SEC with 3.5 sacks on the year thus far. This is an LSU offensive line that many, myself included, believe to be the biggest remaining question mark concerning this team. The struggles the LSU line has displayed thus far casts an air of uncertainty as to whether or not they can give Danny Etling the time required to take advantage of such a porous Bulldog Secondary. If LSU is able to do so than just like last week you should see an increase in rushing production as the passing game continues to open up the defense.

How will Dave Aranda's Defense Hold Up Against Nick Fitzgerald and Dan Mullen's Spread Attack?
Two years ago in Tiger Stadium, Dak Prescott threw for 268 yards 2 TDs and rushed for 105 yards and 1 TD en route to a 34-29 win over LSU. The win marked State's first in 14 against the Purple and Gold and lifted a burden off of Bulldogs' backs. Presently, Mississippi State may not have Dak Prescott, but they do have a 6'5 230 sophomore Nick Fitzgerald who is coming off of a dominating performance after winning the starting job. Last week Fitzgerald completed 65.5% of his passes for 178 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT. More impressively, he carried the ball 17 times for an astounding 195 yards. After last week's LSU game there are questions concerning this Tiger defense and their ability to handle the zone read.

Last week the Purple and Gold faced off against one of the best dual threat QBs in the country in Eli Jenkins. JSU ran 26 zone read plays for 105 yards. Granted, LSU seemed to defend it better as the game progressed, but Mississippi State's O-line also represents more of a challenge than that of Jacksonville State's. Personally, I am confident in LSU's ability to adjust and improve in their defense of the zone read. One of the signs of a good coach is being able to identify weaknesses and quickly correct them. Since I believe Dave Aranda to be a good coach; I have to imagine that LSU has gone out of their way to gameplan against this zone read attack.

Bottom Line
This is a game infinitely more interesting than it seemed just a couple of weeks ago. Still, Vegas doesn't think this one should be very close. As of Wednesday night LSU was favored to win by 13. This might sound confusing as this is a Tiger offense that has looked wholly ineffectual throughout the majority of their first two games. So then, what does Vegas know? The bookmakers are rarely too far off the mark so I offer up a couple silver lining explanations for Tiger fans.

Perhaps, Sin City thinks that Danny Etling has the ability to provide the Tigers with the middle of the road QB production this team so desperately needs? Perhaps the oddsmakers believe that despite its struggles LSU is just flat out far more talented than are the Bulldogs? While I cannot say for sure, I would lean towards Vegas' outlook being a positive omen for LSU. Still, who knows? LSU's hasn't had a problem with getting lofty expectations assigned to them this year, their issue has been living up to said expectations.

Coverage starts at 1 o'clock with our "Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Tiger Tailgate Show" with the Big Chief Deke Bellavia & our resident Tiger T-Bob Hebert... live from LSU's campus in front the ticket office on North Stadium Drive. At 4pm--its LSU's official pre-game with the "Voice of the Tigers," Chris Blair & color analyst – former LSU great – Doug Moreau… kick-off is 6 o'clock.
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T-Bob: The more LSU changes, the more they stay the same

LSU notched their first win of the season Saturday when they defeated the Jacksonville State Gamecocks 34-13. In a game that saw LSU fans' emotions run the gamut, LSU looked as if they were doomed, then looked as if they were saved, and by game's end looked somewhere in the middle.

We said going into the game that Tiger Stadium was going to be a tenuous atmosphere, and that it was. LSU's offense looked terrible in the first quarter for the second game in a row, going three and out twice for a grand total of 6 plays. This led to widespread booing throughout the stadium and led the coaches to make the switch and replace Brandon Harris with Danny Etling. The next three quarters were a bit of a mixed bag. A red hot start met by an equally cold finish. In the end, this is a game that felt much better than last week's; however, upon closer inspection it starts to simply look like more of the same.

Danny Etling is Your Starter, but Temper Expectations
If you need proof as to how desperate the Tiger fanbase is for anything resembling a competent passing game look no further than that of the fan reaction to last night's Danny Etling performance. Tiger fans enthusiastically celebrated a 6/14 100 YD 1 TD 1 Int 1 Rushing TD stat line as if it were 22-26 300 yds and 3 TDs.

"But T-Bob, didn't it just feel better?" Yes, I do believe the offense looked way more productive and seemed to operate more efficiently with Etling behind the controls. However, it also felt very similar in a way. Host of "After Further Review" Matt Moscona hit the nail on the head when he drew parallels between Saturday's game and the New Mexico State game of 2014. Anthony Jennings had been struggling through the first couple of games before collapsing totally against NMS. On that night Jennings made inexplicably bad decisions and seemed like a player broken mentally. Much to the pleasure of the LSU crowd after 7 struggling series Jennings was replaced by Brandon Harris . Harris would go on to lead the Tigers to 7 straight scoring drives in a row. Funny how things can change.

Saturday night, Harris played role of incumbent starter pushed to wit's end while Danny Etling played challenger. Etling came in red hot going 6/8 (should've been 7/8 save for a bad drop from Malachi Dupre) and leading the Tigers on a flurry of scoring that saw LSU explode for 27 second quarter points. Unfortunately, the rest of the night was not so pretty. Etling finished the second half 0/6 with an interception and a fumble (he did have a rushing TD for what it's worth). I don't bring this up to disparage Etling or say that he can't be good, I merely wish to tell LSU fans to temper their expectations. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I do believe that Danny Etling is your starter moving into next week, but what exactly that means remains to be seen.

The Defense Struggled Against a Very Good QB
LSU's defense did not always look like the dominant Dave Aranda group that Tiger fans have been expecting throughout the offseason. That isn't to say the defense played bad, as I do not believe this to be accurate either. However, there were some worrying signs, chiefly a couple of missed assignments that resulted in huge plays for Jacksonville State including a 76 yard TD. These missed assignments brought up flashbacks of last year's struggling Kevin Steele defense.

Still, their performance contained more good than bad. LSU's pass rush had some success by the end of the game with Arden Key getting his second sack in as many games. Also, as LSU learned first hand, JSU QB Eli Jenkins is one of the best dual threat QBs in the entire country and much better than the QB play they will face out of either Mississippi State or Auburn over the next two weeks. Jenkins finished with 248 yards through the air and 82 yards on the ground. In the end, confidence in this defense remains high and I view Saturday's mistakes as some of the growing pains that take place when a new coach takes over.

Tre White is the Man
For the second week in a row Tre White has shown that he is arguably the most valuable player on this Tiger team. In week one it was White returning an interception for a TD to give LSU a fighting chance. In this second week, it was an insane punt return for a touchdown that made Tre White look like a man amongst boys. The work that he puts in defensively doesn't always show up in the box score as teams are hesitant to throw his way. In the offseason we said that having a potential first round pick return for his final year at school was going to be a massive advantage, but I still didn't expect White to be this good. Think about it though - two games, Tre White, a cornerback, leads this team in TDs. LSU's offense as a whole has scored 5 TDs while White has 2 of his own. If LSU is going to fix some of the defensive mistakes and look to be a top ten group in the nation Tre White will be at the heart of that movement.

Bottom Line
The more things change the more they stay the same. Although the initial entrance by Etling made quite an impact, the final game box score shows a story not too unlike last week. LSU still only managed an abysmal 127 passing yards on 8 of 19 attempts. The Tigers lost the time of possession battle as well for the second week in a row with Jacksonville State holding on to the ball six minutes longer than the purple and gold. LSU had multiple turnovers once again as well. Now, that isn't to say that there wasn't improvement. I though this game was important for Derrius Guice to regain some of his confidence and I believe a 19 carry 155 yard with a TD stat line will do just that. I believe that Danny Etling should be the starter heading into next week's conference opener, but I still believe it is important to Tiger fans to temper their expectations. Although Saturday was better, it still wasn't great.

Photo via USA TODAY
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T-Bob: LSU Tigers in precarious spot ahead of Jacksonville State game

Although it may have gotten lost in the shuffle due to the seemingly endless conversations regarding Les Miles' employment status, LSU plays their home opener in Death Valley tomorrow night against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. #GetCocky! No, I did not make that up, that is one of State's sanctioned rallying cries. And yes, much like the proud cockerel, despite being relatively small in stature, Jacksonville State puffs out its chest, flaps its wings, and refuses to back down. In the end, however; what kind of chance does a rooster stand against a Tiger? Well, that is where things gets interesting…

This weekend's matchup represents a bit of a no win situation for LSU. If they come out and dominate JSU, the fanbase will remain unimpressed. Many see Jacksonville St in the same light as a Nicholls St or a Northwestern St. Just another cupcake to be guiltily devoured and then quickly forgotten about. This, despite the fact that JSU has 13 former DI players, pushed Auburn to OT last season, and finished 2nd in the Nation in the FCS. This is a Gamecock team that can scrap, and said scrappy nature could lead to some larger than expected consequences for LSU.

This LSU fanbase is starting to crack. Like a large pane of glass that has had bits of weight haphazardly added on through the years. Thus far the glass has held, but cracks have begun to run. Spiderwebbing here and there like the grasping branches of a naked oak. It seems as if a total shattering could be imminent. It is in this fragile state of mind that 100 thousand (probably closer to 90) LSU faithful will file into Death Valley tomorrow night. They enter as a fanbase still reeling from shock. A championship season years in the making… derailed… in week one. An ugly train wreck of inefficiency and incompetence that led to the Tigers plummeting 16 spots in both the major polls.

Yet, hope remains. Some have recalled a 2014 Ohio St team that lost its opening game 35-21 to a poor Virginia Tech side, before going on to beat Alabama in the National Championship later that same year. Still, if LSU is going to inspire hope for a similar fairytale they must give this doubtful fanbase something to latch on to. Unfortunately, I do not believe this game to be that lifeline.

If the Tigers dominate Jacksonville St who will care? Sure, the most optimistic will see it as a sign of a team heading in the right direction; however, the vast majority of LSU fans will believe that the Tigers should dominate on FCS opponent and that it changes nothing. On the other hand, if LSU reveals even the slightest hint of weakness, the frustrated fanbase could shutter. What happens if LSU's offense goes three and out in their first series? Second series? Do we hear boos? Do we hear calls for a QB switch? Do we hear calls for a head coaching switch? How then do the players deal with this? How do these 18-23 year old kids deal with a stadium that has gone rogue? A fanbase thirsty for revolution? A poor showing against this Jacksonville State team will exacerbate all the negative feelings awoken from the week 1 loss. The discontent that results from missed expectations will be allowed to ferment for another 7 days and spawn new feelings of anger and disappointment. It could heighten tensions and continue to flan the flames of desired change.

Still, there is an old cliche in sports that winning soothes all wounds. So despite the mountain of negativity this team has faced a mere week into the season a path to redemption remains at their feet. At this time LSU must ignore all outside noise. Stop thinking about championships, conference games coming up... hell, stop thinking about tomorrow. This Tiger team needs to go narrow in its mindset. Become hyper focused on the task at hand. Ignore the surrounding noise and commit yourself fully to the present. Don't think beyond the next class, don't think beyond the next practice, don't even think beyond the next play. Live in the present and focus on doing your job. Keep your head down and work and let the chips fall where they may.

As an analyst do I believe this to be a team capable of pulling off such a run? Unfortunately, no, I do not. With the (admittedly small) sample size we have, LSU has given us no reason to think they can compete with the best teams on their schedule, but isn't that the great part about sports? The unpredictability? The stories too strange to be true? Yet, if LSU is going to weave one of these fables it will start this weekend with Jacksonville St. A matchup against a poisonous cupcake in a mutinous Tiger Stadium, in what will be a tense Saturday Night in Death Valley. Are they up to the task?

Join us for wall-to-wall LSU football! Coverage starts at 2 o'clock with our "Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Tiger Tailgate Show" with the Big Chief Deke Bellavia & our resident Tiger T-Bob Hebert live from LSU's campus in front the ticket office on North Stadium Drive. Join us at 2 o'clock as countdown to LSU's official pre-game show; Jim Hawthorne takes over at 4:30… kick-off is 6:30. It's LSU Saturday on TIGER Radio WWL!
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T-Bob: LSU was terrible at Lambeau, but how will they respond?

The LSU Tigers' much anticipated dream season quickly devolved into a nightmare as the Purple and Gold fell to Wisconsin 16-14 in historic Lambeau Field. The loss snapped a 52 game non-conference regular season win streak that dated back to the first game of the 2002 season.

As disappointing as the day was, what really upsets fans isn't the fact that LSU lost, rather the manner in which they lost. It seemed as if all of Tiger fans' greatest fears were realized. This may be one of the most experienced teams in the entire country, but they are also appear to be one of the most stagnant teams in the entire country. Any hopes of offensive growth or evolution were dashed upon the rocks when LSU's first series featured three run plays and a punt. Unfortunately, this trend would continue over the entire 60 minutes.

This is a team that had championship aspirations coming into the day and by sundown fans were wondering whether or not this team is capable of winning ten games.

The Offense was Terrible, and Everyone Deserves Blame, not just Brandon Harris
LSU's offense was horrendous Saturday. Managing just 257 yards with a full quarter less in time of possession than Wisconsin. They turned the ball over three times and were an abysmal 2-10 from third down. This would be bad regardless of the surrounding narratives, but it is exacerbated when you look at the fact that the constant question gnawing at the back of LSU fan's minds throughout the offseason was whether or not this offense could evolve and open up. Unfortunately, Tiger fans didn't get the answer they were longing for.

Like seemingly every season in recent memory, the Tiger faithful were zeroed in on the quarterback position wondering whether or not this would be the season in which they could achieve middle of the road production. Alas, the more college football changes the more the Tigers stay the same. I was particularly disappointed in Brandon Harris' performance because I have been pitching his talents to anyone who would listen throughout this offseason. This was a QB that had only started one season as a 19 year old, surely we would see major strides going into his second year starting… right? WRONG. Harris and the passing game picked up where they left off posting a 12/21 131 yds 1 TD 2 INT stat line.

Still, Harris does not bear the burden of blame alone, as every single position group in this offense contributed their own special ingredients to the rotten gumbo that was LSU's offense Saturday. The Wide Receivers did not catch the ball well. A lot has been made of Harris' inaccuracies and some were worse than others, but I counted at least 4 drops on catchable balls that could have drastically altered the outcome of this game. I'm not saying the catches are easy, but if Malachi Dupre wants to be considered amongst the best WRs in the country, these are the plays you have to make. Tall receivers make their living high pointing balls and coming down with receptions. Much ado was made about the height of this WR group and they failed to take advantage of that height on Saturday.

The offensive line was, in my opinion, the single biggest question mark going into this season and after game number one I believe those suspicions to be validated. LSU's front was getting handled in the trenches. TJ Watt and Vince Beigel made play after play and this much heralded rushing attack managed just 126 yards on the ground. The pass blocking wasn't ideal either, as Harris was under pressure throughout the night culminating in a harried final interception to end the game in which Will Clapp let a free blitzer through the B gap. Harris had to spin to avoid the immediate rush, panicked, and threw the ball to a Wisconsin defender. Game over.

To me, LSU's final offensive play represents a microcosm of their offensive performance as a whole. Confused, panicked, and ineffective. Now, continuing on our path of condemnation, I think the obvious next step leads us to the coaches.

If every single position group on one side of the ball looks ill prepared and overwhelmed, at what point do the coach's bear the majority of the responsibility? Sure, players failed to execute on plays throughout the night, but when you look at when LSU has played the better teams on their schedules the last few years, they have produced a CONSISTENT MEDIOCRITY. A mediocrity that spans multiple recruiting classes. In other words, if the players change, but the results remain the same at what point do we look at the root source of the problem?

Cam Cameron is the highest paid assistant coach in all of college football. What I witnessed Saturday did not live up to that billing. I don't know if Cameron is only effective with guys who already have a skill base (Brees, Rivers, Flacco) but it appears clear that he is unable to develop quarterbacks on the college level. If the offensive struggles continue, his salary will act like a ballast around his neck. Dragging him down until fans and media alike demand that a change must be made. That said, when you look a bit deeper you realize that much of the offensive mediocrity referenced earlier was present even in the pre-Cameron era. Therefore, applying the same logic we did previously, if the coaches change but the results remain the same at what point do we look at the root source of the problem?

This is when we arrive at the common denominator in all of this, Coach Les Miles. Let me preface this by saying that I do not think that Miles is a bad coach or dumb or any of the other absurd things Twitter spews out on a constant basis. However, all great coaches lose their edge eventually and this loss coupled with the last half decade of LSU football has many people wondering if perhaps that time has come for Coach Miles. This game was an embarrassment. Not because you lost to Wisconsin (Wisconsin is a good team) but because you fell painfully short of expectations. This was a team that appeared woefully underprepared for the challenges the Badgers presented them with. If I didn't know that this was one of the most experienced teams in the country, I would have guessed that it was a roster primarily consisting of young guys trying to adjust to Power Five game speed. Well then, if Coach Miles is the common denominator in this sad offensive equation surely a change must be made…. correct? He should be fired... right? WRONG

Coach Miles Should Definitely NOT be Fired
LSU was embarrassed last season on a national stage when they had very public private talks with another head coach behind their current head coach's back. What appeared to be the end of the Miles era ended up as the Mad Hatter's greatest escape yet. By the end of the debacle, forgotten were the struggles of November. Fans' anger was replaced with sympathy as their most successful head coach in school history was hung out to dry by his bosses in the most public of forums. Coach Miles became a sympathetic figure. From villain to victim. In the end, Coach Miles retained his job and established dominance over Joe Alleva and his higher ups. This is the first reason why Coach Miles should definitely NOT be released, the fact that LSU does not want to be embarrassed once again on that national stage.

The second and by far the most important reason why he should not be fired is the same reason I said he should keep his job last season… the price tag is too damn high. Coach Miles' buyout only went down two million dollars this season. When you account for his buyout, assistants' buyouts, and then hiring a new head coach and a new staff you are looking at a total north of 20 million dollars. I don't know about you, but I absolutely cannot justify that when you have a school in the dire financial straits that LSU currently finds itself in. A school where educators are payed 30% to 40% less than that of the national average. A school that has cut nearly 350 faculty and staff positions since 2008. A school that has dealt with the single largest divestment in higher education in the entire country. Sure, talented educators might be leaving, buildings might be falling into disrepair, and the quality of education might be tanking, but we should definitely pay over 20 million dollars for a new set of football coaches. (In case it doesn't come across in text, you should read that sentence dripping with sarcasm).

"But T-Bob ya big dummy, the school wouldn't buy Coach Miles out, the boosters would!" Trust me I am fully aware, but my question is are you aware of how ridiculous that sounds? Are you aware in the message that sends to the country? To the students at LSU? To the kids who wanted to grow up and go to LSU? I can't tell you how many people I have heard argue in favor of further cutting higher education because programs are wasteful, inefficient, or redundant. Then, those same people turn around and yell that Les Miles needs to be fired no matter the cost. Paying a coach millions of dollars not to work is the epitome of inefficiency. The flippant manner in which these people say the money could be easily raised infuriates me. If coming up with over 20 million dollars to fire a coach is that simple for the TAF than I say put your money where your mouth is and match that price tag dollar for dollar with a donation to the school. Bottom line is that when you look at what is going on with higher education in this state I morally, ethically, and logically CANNOT support a move such as this. Joe Alleva made this bed when he signed Coach Miles to an insane contract following a fake flirtation with Arkansas a few years ago now he must sleep in it.

NOW. Buckle up folks, because you are about to get hit with a jarring transition.

Dave Aranda and the Defense Lived Up to the Hype (Also Tre White is a Monster)
Although I've heard many people say they were unimpressed with LSU's defensive play I have to imagine such statements are borne of emotion and frustration. Objectively speaking this defense was great. The Tigers held Wisconsin to just 339 yards and 16 points despite the fact that the Badgers ran a full 50% more plays than did LSU. In then end, the defense forced 4 turnovers (two ints, one fumble, turnover on downs), only gave up one touchdown, and scored 7 of the Tigers 14 points. If at times it felt as if they were struggling it is because they are only human. This defense was on the field for 23 minutes in the first half alone. 23 MINUTES!!! That number represents kryptonite to even the most talented of defenses. Eventually the laws of nature dictate that you tire out and start to get pushed around, however this never really happened to this Tiger defense. They remained strong throughout the night. Bending but not breaking.

When its all said and done, the Badgers only produced 6.6 yards per pass, 3.2 yards per rush, and were just 3/15 on third down. That is winning defensive football. Special shoutout to Tre White. He proved once again why he was given the hallowed number 18. He was dominant both on the outside and when he shifted inside to nickel. If you would have told me Friday that White would have a pick six I would have bet everything I had on LSU winning (Its a good thing you didn't tell me).

Bottom Line
Whats done is done. LSU has no time to feel sorry for themselves. I've written about it before but once the season starts there is no stopping it. The train will continue to roll on and come hell or high water this team has to be ready to play. Technically all of LSU's goals are still within their reach, as this was not a conference game. However, that doesn't even matter at this point. Right now, it is about personal pride. Forget about championships, forget about legacies, forget about all the extraneous noise and narrow your focus. Think about the next game, the next day, the next practice, the next play. This is a team that is going to be bombarded with negativity throughout this week (see above article) they have to tune it all out and focus on the task at hand.

I say it all the time, but what defines the measure of a team isn't the adversity they are confronted with, rather it is their response to said adversity. How will this team respond?

Photo via USA Today

LABOR DAY: Monday we'll have 2 live, local football specials for you from 1 till 8pm! Kristian Garic & T-Bob Hebert will talk Saints & LSU starting at 1 o'clock! We'll drill down on roster cuts – who did the Black & Gold cut – who'd they keep? And, did they make the right choices? We'll talk LSU - what's your first impression of the Tigers? Then, at 4 o'clock – "SECOND GUESS" with Bobby Hebert & Mike Detillier live from the Silver Slipper Casino on the beach in Hancock County Mississippi at 4 o'clock. Join with the Cajun Cannon & our NFL analyst when they assess the Saints 53-man roster & compare the Black & Gold to other teams in the division & league. How competitive will the Saints be? And, what's their take on LSU/ That's live, local Saints, LSU & football talk... tomorrow 1 till 8pm on your home of the Saints & the NFL – WWL!
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T-Bob: LSU Tigers turn their attention to Title Town

College football is back, and LSU fans are in for a treat as tomorrow afternoon the Tigers will kick off the 2016 campaign against the Wisconsin Badgers.

It marks the beginning of a season riddled with championship expectations. How appropriate, then, that the venue of LSU's inaugural match is none other than Green Bay, Wisconsin aka "Title Town." For the first time in its hallowed history Lambeau Field will play host to a Division I college football game. The question on Tiger fans' minds is whether or not this historic venue marks the beginning of a historic crusade.

LSU seems to have all the pieces to the championship puzzle. They have all the ingredients championship teams possess - an abundance of upper class leadership, NFL talent, and an X-Factor caliber player in Heisman Hopeful Leonard Fournette. The debate now is whether or not LSU can follow through on all of this potential.

Purple and Gold fans have seen their expectations fall over the last four years, as LSU has finished 13th, 14th, unranked, and 16th. This has led many to believe that despite all the apparent advantages the Tigers have, it matters not, as they will trip up somewhere along the way.

If this Tiger team is going to prove that they are a legitimate championship threat, they must set the tone for the season against Wisconsin tomorrow. I can speak from first hand experience to how crucially beneficial defeating a major opponent in that first game can be for growing the confidence of your squad. If LSU is going to accomplish their goals, here are the keys to making that vision a reality.

Can LSU's Defense live up to the hype in their inaugural game under new D-Coordinator Dave Aranda?
Storylines abound for this LSU-Wisconsin matchup, but the premier narrative has to be Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda returning to Wisconsin to face his former team. Aranda spent three years in Wisconsin and never had a defense finish worse than ranked below 7th nationally. His run up noth culminated in a dominant performance last season that saw the Badgers finish 1st in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 13.7 points per game and 2nd in total defense allowing just 268 yards per game.

These were some of the key reasons why LSU decided to slap the golden handcuffs on Aranda as he will make $1.3 million dollars in Baton Rouge this season. That is nearly 1 million more than he was earning at Wisconsin. Aranda brings an incredible resume and it is easy to see why experts and fans alike are so excited, despite himself and his players having just 8-9 months to get this defense ready to perform on the biggest of national stages.

I think the best analogy to use when describing Aranda is the "Heisenberg" analogy. In the TV show "Breaking Bad" Bryan Cranston's Heisenberg originally is making meth in a run-down RV, and although he may not have the best equipment, and the set-up isn't ideal, he still makes some exceptional meth. Eventually, his excellence leads to him being recruited by Los Pollos Hermanos along with a raise and a high-tech upgrade.

The move to LSU mirrors Heisenberg's own move from the run-down RV to the high tech Los Pollos Hermanos-funded meth lab. All of a sudden, Aranda/Heisenberg has the best possible facilities along with the latest and greatest tools to employ; the question now becomes whether or not he can make the best possible meth?

Personally, I remain confident that Aranda and this defense will be dominant this season; however, for this game there is cause for concern and it can be found in the fact that Wisconsin knows Dave Aranda and knows what he wants to do. Aranda's defense wants to dictate the pace and style of the game to the offense. It wants to control the flow through a mixture of guile and deception; but, can Aranda fool his old squad when they already know all of his tricks? Can the Wizard of Oz still be as effective when you've seen behind the curtain and you know he is really just Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs?

How will this relatively new Offensive Line perform?
If there was one group during LSU's fall camp that was constantly shifting and rotating, it was this LSU offensive line. By camp's end, LSU settled on a lineup that will feature just 2 of 5 returning starters in the trenches. Center Ethan Pocic has two years of starting experience while Guard Will Clapp has one. They will be joined by the less experienced group of Junior KJ Malone, SR Josh Boutte and the aristocratic sounding sophomore Toby Weathersby. Last year's freshman starter Maea Teuhema will play the role of the 6th man having the ability to play either guard or tackle on either side. The following is the lineup you can expect to see tomorrow:

LT- KJ Malone LG- Will Clapp C- Ethan Pocic RG- Josh Boutte RT- Toby Weathersby

Throughout the offseason I have consistently described this group as the biggest question mark concerning this team. The reason why has less to do with this year and more to do with last year. When LSU went through their November collapse last season much was made about the sub-par play of Brandon Harris and the slowing down of Leonard Fournette. What went largely overlooked is that in the three game descent of November 2015 is the fact that the offensive line got DOMINATED. Where this becomes a bit worrying, is that this was a line that just a couple of months ago had both of its tackles drafted into the NFL. So continuing to ride that thought train, if last season you struggled against the best teams on your schedule despite having two NFL tackles, what happens when you have two new players filling those roles?

This isn't to say that KJ Malone and Toby Weathersby couldn't end up being even better than Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins, but merely to point out that this represents potential cause for consternation in a team that is built from the ground up around running the ball. I feel confident in saying this offensive line will dictate the success of Brandon Harris, Leonard Fournette, and the team as a whole.

Bottom Line
As good of an opponent as Wisconsin represents (10-3 last season with a bowl win over USC) if LSU is as good as we believe them to be, and if they truly have championship aspirations, than they should win tomorrow's slugfest in Lambeau handily.

Look no further than last year's Wisconsin-Bama matchup in which the Tide took down the Badgers 35-17. Can the Tigers emulate that scoreline? More importantly, can they set the tone for the season and continue to grow in confidence as they move forward. This is where the train ride that is the season begins, and once it gets underway there is no stopping it. A young team may just be trying to hold on for dear life, trying to avoid derailing. However an experienced team is no longer daunted by the ride itself, rather they turn their attentions to the destination. This is an LSU team that is now asking themselves where is their final destination? Where does this team's destiny lie? I don't know the answer, but I do know where it begins.

Tomorrow, in the Land of Milk and Cheese at 2:30 pm! Our coverage starts at 10:00 right here on Tiger Radio - WWL!

Photo via USA Today
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T-Bob: Who are LSU's most irreplaceable players?

The question of who LSU’s most irreplaceable player is seems to be obvious.  As with almost any question about this LSU team, the answer is Leonard Fournette.  However, if you take Fournette out the picture, than the conversation becomes much more interesting.  It also highlights how tenuous the depth on this LSU team is at a couple of positions.  

Irreplaceable can mean a few different things.  In some cases a player might be irreplaceable because there is a steeper talent drop off behind him as compared to the other positions.  In others, a player might be so talented that though he has acceptable backups, his ceiling is so high as to make him irreplaceable (think Fournette).  The players on my list fall into one or both of these categories.  Here are my top 3 most irreplaceable players on LSU’s team:

Ethan Pocic
I know I might be biased due to my love of the O-line and the center position in particular, but I think there is ample evidence to back this up.  Ethan Pocic is an All-SEC, 3 year letterman, 2 year starter who is on this year’s Remington watch list (award for best center in college football).  Pock has started 25 games and has an incredible 216 knockdowns including 132.5 last season as a junior.  Pocic’s backup Andy Dodd, on the other hand, played just 17 snaps all of last season.  I don’t say this to disparage Dodd (there’s nothing wrong with being buried on the depth chart behind a player of Pocic’s caliber), rather I point this out to show that there is a large experience drop off once you get past Pocic.  When you combine this with the fact that LSU’s offensive line is the group with the most question marks going into this season it becomes obvious that not only is Pocic’s playing ability invaluable but his leadership as well.  

Kendell Beckwith
Beckwith could have left for the NFL last season, but like others on this list he decided to come back for his senior year and attempt to fulfill his dream of winning a championship.  Beckwith is a 3 year letterman who was a semifinalist for both the Badnarik and Butkus awards last season.  At 6’3 247 he is a physical specimen, however he has the leadership and intelligence to complete the package.  Beckwith has the same issue as Pocic in that there is a steep experience drop-off behind him on the depth chart, still, I believe that his biggest impact comes in the leadership department.  When Jalen Mills left this team there was a vacancy in leadership on the defense.  It is Kendall Beckwith’s job to fill this hole.  Also, new Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda’s scheme is reliant on a middle linebacker that fully understands the concepts they want to run and can make sure that everyone is in the correct spot and understands what their job is.  We all know how critically important the quarterback position is and Kendell Beckwith truly is the quarterback of this defense.  Having to place a backup in this role is potentially devastating.  

Tre White
White’s case is unique amongst my list because I believe that LSU has very strong depth at the corner position.  Where Tre White separates himself is just pure talent and skill.  White most likely would have been taken in the first round of the NFL Draft had he decided to leave this spring.  In today’s college football, to get a player to return to school and push back the NFL is increasingly rare.  This will be White’s 4th year starting for the Tigers and his leadership and talent have been recognized, as LSU has chosen White to wear the hallowed number 18.  Not only is White a true lockdown corner, but he has also served as an excellent punt returner for the Tigers averaging 11.2 yards per return with a couple of scores along the way.  Still, what makes White most invaluable to this team is the role he will play in Dave Aranda’s defense.  In the base, White will be on the edge guarding WRs like any other lockdown corner, however when LSU moves to their Nickel Formation (bring on an extra DB), White will slide inside to the slot and be asked to be a play maker.  An easy comparison is the role that Tyrann Mathieu played during his time at LSU.  Aranda has placed White in this position due to his ability to make plays.  Whether blitzing or dropping into coverage Tre White’s role is generally to wreak havoc.  If he were to go down, LSU would not only lose a true leader of this team but also their best defensive playmaker.
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T-Bob: All aboard the LSU Express - Title Town or bust!

The start of Fall Camp for the Tigers has finally arrived, and with it comes a season that has been years in the making.  

Normally when you see that a team has 18 of 22 starters returning it is a bad sign of where the program stands as a whole.  Normally you only see these kind of big returning numbers if a new coach comes in and puts in his own players in place of the old or something else out of the ordinary (Tennessee this year is the perfect example).  It is rare to see a team which has the year in and year out NFL talent of LSU to have this many returning starters.  

Obviously, this is reason for excitement.  Ever since Leonard Fournette signed with LSU three summers ago, this is the season that everyone already had circled on their calendars.  Fournette and the rest of the 2014 signing class were heralded as the most talented class to ever come out of Louisiana.  This was the group that was going to bring LSU back to the mountaintop.  Back to Atlanta.  Into the Playoffs. And into the Championship.  This was the group that was going to beat Alabama and stop the skid.  Well, it is finally time.

Anything that has been said up to this point, anything that has been done up to this point, none of it matters.  All that matters is the road ahead.  It doesn’t matter if you are the most talented team in the country if you don’t go out there and win the game within the 60 minutes alotted to you.  You could have worked harder than you every have previously and it won’t matter if you lose.  You could have invested more time into studying film than you ever have previously and it won’t matter if you lose.  You might have committed more to this season than you ever thought you could BUT it won’t matter if you lose.  

The groundwork has been laid.  This is where the track begins to be laid down and in a few weeks the train will start chugging along up in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Once that train starts there is no stopping it.  The ride rolls on whether you are sick, hurt, or tired; so no matter what you MUST find a way to win.

Many times as a younger player it can feel as if the train is moving too fast.  Hurtling down the tracks at top speed with every game a hairpin turn that threatens to derail everything you have worked for.  You do your best to hold on and keep the train on the tracks and sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.  Eventually the ride comes to an end and preparations for next year’s trip begin.  As you age, the train seems to slow.  You know where to expect the bumps in the road, you know how to deal with repairs on the fly, you know because you have experienced the ride first hand.  

So, what happens when you have a train full of operators that know exactly what to expect?  Well, I imagine you can expect one of the smoothest rides possible.  Instead of worrying about the ride itself and being intimidated about the ride itself, you are suddenly more focused on the destination.  Where is this train going to end up?  Does it end in Baton Rouge? Does it end in Atlanta? Is it possible to ride this train all the way to Tampa for the CFB National Championship?  That is what we are about to find out as this camp is where the preparations begin and LSU has the most experienced crew it has potentially ever had coming back to work the controls.  

That isn’t to say that there won’t be adversity or unexpected obstacles along they way, because those are unavoidable.  The advantage of having a crew this experienced, however, means that you can overcome those problems without derailing the train... hopefully.  At the end of the day it is one thing to say you know what you have to do and another thing to go out and do it.  LSU has the ability, they have the correct attitude, now they just have to go out and execute.  One task at a time, one day at a time, with one single goal in mind, to win a championship.  So sit back and enjoy the ride, LSU Tiger faithful, because it may be many years yet before a crew this experienced comes along again.  
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