I am going to make my stance on the Spring Game clear. I think that due to the small amount of information the media and public are given throughout spring football, we will over analyze, over think, and over critique today's game. We'll explore every nook and cranny. We'll attempt to use this game to decide who will be the starters at the beginning of the season.
We do this despite the fact that the spring game is an intentionally boring game-ified practice. The coaches don't want to give anything away and they run simple base plays, against simple base defenses.
Now, my intent is not to fully devalue the Spring Game. You can watch some 1 on 1 matchups, observe how the players respond to a crowd, and simulate some of the mechanics of an actual game. My greater point is, just don't read too much into what you saw on the field today, good or bad.
Also, recognize that today's scrimmage becomes even harder to judge when you look at the number of starters that didn't participate. Three starting O-linemen and a couple starter corners, amongst others, all watched from the sideline. With that said... What did I think?
I like the attitude of this team. They seem to have an excellent core of mature, seasoned leaders. They are a team that knows how this process works and are no longer daunted by the mental and physical grind required to be successful. Obviously, this makes sense considering the amount of Juniors and Seniors they have.
I love the fact that this team starts the season in Lambeau against Wisconsin. Its a challenge to be sure, but it is also a big stage and this is a team that believes they belong on big stages. When the Juniors had their press conference announcing they were staying, the message was made clear that this team has championship aspirations and expectations. I think they will relish the chance to make a statement when the lights are brightest.
A few obvious things to point out. Leonard Fournette ran the ball and looked good doing it. Derrius Guice continues to make fans salivate. The defensive line continues to flourish under Coach Orgeron's guidance. Beyond that, I didn't get to see much of Aranda's scheme (intentionally boring, remember?) BUT the communication from the defense seemed tight and efficient. Duke Riley made some plays stepping into the weak side LB role. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE QUARTERBACKS, RIGHT?!
Both QBs played alright. I won't give numbers because I don't think they have any value in this game, but both had their positive and negative moments. The only thing that I am fully convinced of now is that this is indeed a true quarterback competition. I believe Harris remains on the inside track, BUT this race isn't a formality. Its a contest to decide who will be the one to attempt to guide this team to their goals. Regardless of who wins the competition, its good for the team as a whole. These two will push one another to reach their full potential and any thoughts of complacency or contentedness will be hastily driven away.
Today was a boring Spring Game but I don't believe this to be a boring team. This is a team that should compete in one of the New Year's Six bowls. The only thing I am upset by is the fact that we have to wait 4 more months to see them in action.
I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to work with Hokie Gajan these last couple of years. Being the new man here at WWL, I was able to learn valuable lessons just from following his example. I learned the way a true professional conducts his business. How to treat others, how to carry yourself, and how to be tough. In fact, thats what Hokie will always represent to me. Toughness personified. A man who no matter what the problem was, he was going to do his job and he was going to do it to the right way.
This is truly a sad day and my thoughts and prayers go out to all the friends and family of Hokie Gajan.
The NFL announced its Offseason Workout Program dates - the Saints and teams around the league can officially get back to work in a couple more weeks on April 18th. Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each club's official, voluntary nine-week offseason program is conducted in three phases.
The first phase covers the first two weeks of the program and consists solely of strength and conditioning work as well as physical rehabilitation. Phase two is a three week portion of the program in which on-field workouts may include player instruction and drills as well as team practice conducted on a "separate" basis. No live contact or team offense vs team defense drills are allowed. Phase three is when things start to heat up as over the course of 4 weeks the team may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity or OTAs for short. Still, no live contact is permitted, however 7 on 7, 9 on 7, and 11 on 11 drills are fair game. During phase three teams are also allowed to hold on mandatory minicamp for veteran players. This is unique because all of the other phases we have talked about up to this point are purely voluntary.
While these three phases will include rookies, you can expect the Saints rookies to arrive a bit earlier as 7 weeks of rookie football development is allowed. This development program may begin on May 9th and during this portion no activities may be held on weekends save for one post-NFL Draft rookie minicamp which may be conducted the first or second weekend immediately following the draft. We will find out when the Saints choose to hold theirs at a later date.
The Saints will begin their work along with everyone else on April 18th before OTA's get under way on May 23-24, May 31, June 1-2, and June 6-9. June 14-16 will see the Saints host their mandatory minicamp meaning that all vets regardless of job security will have to show up.
This is where it all begins. This is where the first steps are taken into deciding who the next Super Bowl champion will be. Do you think the Saints have any chance of claiming that title?
The Pelicans' 2015-16 season has been veritable disaster from top to bottom, a series of unfortunate events that has now culminated in their franchise player shutting down his season early in order to get both the knee and shoulder surgeries he requires. A disappointing end to a disappointing year - perhaps the only silver lining is that without Anthony Davis the Pelicans will almost assuredly end the season losing almost all their games, therefore maximizing their potential draft spot.
Through his first three years in the league, many have questioned whether or not Anthony Davis was soft. Davis has never completed a full season with the Pels. In fact, the 68 games Davis played in last year mark a career high. However, with the announcement of the shutting down of Davis for the year we got some interesting news. Anthony Davis has been playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder for the last three years! I think that answers any of the doubts you may have about the toughness of Anthony Davis. As someone who has had two different labrum surgeries myself I find this shocking and it immediately raises a couple questions.
First, why in the world did the Pelicans wait so long to get this operation done if he has known about the injury for three full offseasons? From what I understand, Davis refused to have the surgery because he didn’t want to have to miss time (its a 4-6 month recovery) and he felt as if he could play through the pain.
While I respect and understand Davis’ decision, sometimes it is the medical staff’s responsibility to protect a player from himself. The Pelicans training and medical staff already has a bad reputation and, whether its fair or not, this news just reinforces the perception of incompetence. I struggle to understand what the long term plans with this shoulder were. They were just going to let him continue to play until it was irreparably damaged? Or perhaps he was going to play until he was no longer in New Orleans? From a long term perspective it just seems incredibly shortsighted to have your best asset continue to play at less than 100% instead of taking the time during the three offseasons to fix the issue so it no longer has to be dealt with in the future.
Regardless of what the long term plans were, Davis’ knee injury has spurred the team and staff into action. AD will undergo knee surgery (the full extent of the injury is still unknown) and shoulder surgery this offseason while the Pelicans will undergo a surgery of their own. This is the offseason that will make or break the rest of Anthony Davis’ time in New Orleans as the Pels attempt to build a team around Davis and Jrue Holiday.
As hopeful as fans were after the playoff run last spring, they are just as pessimistic heading into this year’s offseason.
The New York Times named the Pelicans as their most disappointing team in the NBA this season, the playoffs are basically out the picture, and the NBA’s own website gave New Orleans "D" grades for bench and scoring and an "F" for defense. Yet, as yesterday’s game showed us, despite all of the negativity surrounding this team, they are still worth watching simply because of Anthony Davis. Yesterday, Davis reminded the NBA just how good he really is when he scored 59 points and grabbed 20 boards in a 111-105 win over the Detroit Pistons.
This unbelievable stat line becomes even more impressive when you realize the elite company that a performance like this lands Davis in. AD became the 3rd player in NBA history, joining Shaquille O'Neal and Wilt Chamberlain as the only other two players to score at least 55 and grab 20 rebounds.
Despite the fact that Davis is just 22 years old, this is not the first time that he has found his name crossing paths with the NBA’s best players of all time. Last season Davis recorded a 30.81 player efficiency rating. The only names ahead of Davis on this list for best single season PER of all time are Lebron James, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain.
This is not a coincidence.
Games like last night remind you of the prodigy status of a player like Davis. Like Mozart, Picasso, or Marie Curie, Davis doesn’t let his youth hold him back from being mentioned with the best. At just 22 years old he is already rubbing elbows with the greatest of all time. I know that this season has been rife with frustration and infected with disappointment and I think the struggles caused many of us to take Davis for granted and stop watching this Pelicans team. Yesterday, Davis reminded me that this is a mistake.
Its not just the fact that Davis scored 59 points, its the manner in which he accumulated those points that causes my jaw to stay permanently planted on the floor. He can post you up, he can take you off the dribble, he can shoot the midrange jumper whether you are in his face or not, and now, in a cruel mockery of less talented human beings, Anthony Davis can shoot the three.
My advice for the rest of the Pelicans season? Forget about the playoffs, forget about the injuries, forget about this whole miserable season and just watch Anthony Davis ball. My hope for the rest of the season is that the Pelicans continue to focus on the big man. I wouldn’t mind them force feeding AD to the point where it perhaps becomes a detriment to the team because the bottom line is that the Pelicans best chance to win rests on his very broad shoulders.
Davis’ tenure with the Pelicans may be a marathon, not a sprint, but if you aren’t careful you might miss some incredibly special moments along the way. So, once again I say unto you let go of your disappointment and watch Mozart ball.
Once a year at Senior Bowl, the aristocracy of the football world travels down to Mobile, Alabama in search of solutions to their current problems. Like the royals of old, the aristocrats bring a wide range of personnel with a wide range of problems in their wake. Some are looking for the stars of the future, while others are hoping to make connections in order to find a job. Coaches, agents, scouts, players and everyone in between know that a solid week in Mobile can set up a solid year of success. For the players specifically, this week could potentially decide the direction of the rest of their lives.
In my opinion, the most unique part about the Senior Bowl from the players’ perspective is the amount of pressure that these young men are under. There may not be 90,000 people in the stands, there may not be championships on the line, but that doesn’t matter, because the Senior Bowl represents a different type of pressure than these players are accustomed to.
When you win or lose in college, you win or lose as a team. The individual is allowed to melt into the greater framework of the tribe, thus spreading the joy of success and burden of defeat across multiple shoulders. This week the situation is flipped on its head. The concept of team is pushed to the background while the success of the individual, or lack thereof, reigns supreme. When playing games in college, these players knew that win or lose, there would be another game next week. However, during this week these players know they are competing for their future.
Although the Senior Bowl is made up of the best veteran college football players in the country, less than 30% of the players competing will find themselves on 53 man rosters when the NFL season begins. This percentage provides us with some perspective on how tough it truly is to succeed in the League, as well as some context on what is on the line for the participants this week. The Senior Bowl is an excellent chance to kick start some positive momentum heading into the draft evaluation process. Because of the nature of the NFL, the higher you get picked, the better chance you have of making a roster. A solid week in Mobile can see you increase your stock from a late to mid round, mid to early round, and so on and so forth. This year is no different and the New Orleans Saints will be keeping an eye on the names rising up draft boards.
In my opinion, the Saints' priorities are the interior defensive line, interior offensive line, and linebacker positions. Thankfully there is no shortage of impressive prospects from which to choose. Alabama DT Jarran Reed is a name to keep an eye on as well as Sheldon Rankins from Louisville. Rankins specifically has been dominant in one on one pass rush through the first two practices winning nearly every rep.
As far as offensive line is concerned Kansas St Guard Cody Whitehair has stood out in both run and pass blocking and although I don’t expect the Saints to take him, Michigan St center Jack Allen has played very well at both center and guard despite being just 296 pounds and six feet two inches.
Finally, the linebacker position is flush with talent not the least of which is former LSU linebacker Deion Jones. Jones led the Tigers in tackles last season and has the speed that NFL defenses are falling more and more in love with at the linebacker position. Inside linebacker Jake Ganus from UGA has been a surprise as well as he wasn’t on many people’s radars yet has made play after play through the first couple of practices.
Half a week down, half a week to go. The cream will continue to rise to the top and it will be interesting to see which players will FORCE teams to pay attention to them.
What do you think? Should the Saints be focused on the offensive and defensive lines or would they be better suited searching elsewhere? I’ve heard rumor that the Black and Gold may potentially be in the market for a cornerback… smart move?
The New Orleans Pelicans are dead in the water, Alvin Gentry is a terrible coach, and Anthony Davis isn’t nearly as good as he was last year. These are the myths that the average New Orleans sports fan will try to sell you if you ask them their opinion on the State of the Pelicans.
Well my friends, have no fear because I am here to inject a bit of optimism into your basketball-hungry heart. First things first, in order for us to be able to have a logical discussion we must first lay out where our expectations for this team currently lie. Going into the year, most would have said 4th or 5th seed in the West and to make it out of the first round of the playoffs.
Unfortunately these sort of expectations were swept away in the terrible tornado of misery that was New Orleans’ 1-11 start. While it certainly isn’t ideal to readjust your expectations, it is merely the reality of the situation. If you can’t accept this, then I’m afraid we must agree to disagree. But if you are open to giving this team a second chance then please read on...
The Pelicans team you are witnessing this last month is wholly different than the one that began the year, both in personnel and success level. If you take away the 1-11 start, the Pelicans have been a .500 basketball team, which is good enough to make the playoffs in the Western Conference this year. However, I believe the Pelicans to be an above .500 basketball team when operating at full capacity.
This was a team drastically set back by a series of unfortunate events. Massive numbers of injuries, combined with personnel turnover, and the struggles in adjusting to a new head coach have seen the Pelicans go through some exceedingly rough growing pains. Its almost as if this young team is going through all the worst parts of puberty. Acne, cracking voice, and hairy ears and back; you name it and the Pelicans have got it. However, upon closer inspection I do think that this team is starting to turn the corner. They’ve learned to shave their back, it looks as if their skin might be clearing up, and their voice is developing into a pleasant baritone.
The Pels have currently won 4 of their last 5 games with their only loss coming at the hands of a red hot Grizzlies team by a mere two points. Also, Alvin Gentry’s team will play their next 5 games in a row at home in the Smoothie King Center. This is significant, seeing as how the Pelicans are MUCH better in New Orleans, actually owning a winning record of 10-9. Perhaps of more importance than the numbers is the simple fact that the team is simply more enjoyable to watch. An unrestricted Jrue Holiday combined with continued training in this Gentry system has the team learning and improving.
I recognize that the current state of the Pelicans is far from perfect, and I’m not telling you to blindly support a team, but I am telling you that things are not nearly as dire as the numbers or the majority of fans would have you believe. Anthony Davis is still averaging 24 and 10. He’s top 10 in the NBA in points per game, rebounds, and blocks. He is 6th in the League in player efficiency rating and is only getting better as the season progresses. In last night’s 115-99 domination of the Detroit Pistons Davis notched his 2nd 30 point game in a row and his 5th straight game scoring at least 21 points. The team as a whole is also closer than you might think seeing as how they remain just 4 games out of 8th place despite a 15-27 record.
Now that you have armed yourself with the power of optimism, why not give this team another shot? When I talk to people around town, many are telling me they are done with this team and seem content to wait until next year to see if they can improve. Well, the Pels are improving - only its happening RIGHT NOW. What's done is done, no one can change the past, but why not give this team a second chance in the future? Who knows, I have a sneaking suspicion we are in for a helluva ride in 2016.
When the news about the departure of Kevin Steele originally broke, I couldn’t help but think the firing had the potential to be a blessing in disguise. While there is always a certain amount of inherent risk in a coaching change, Steele didn’t have the success at LSU that many were hoping for, which is why it was so surprising to hear that Auburn wanted to take him out of Baton Rouge.
Now that LSU has hired Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, it is my opinion that the unexpected departure of Kevin Steele has undoubtedly worked out best for the Tigers of Baton Rouge in the end.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Coach Aranda will give his first interview on WWL Radio today on "Sports Talk" with Bobby and Deke at 5:20pm. Don't miss it on AM/FM and streaming at WWL.com.
Dave Aranda’s hire is the antithesis of the Kevin Steele hiring. Although Aranda was also interviewed for the job last year, the Tigers ended up settling on the more experienced coach. Steele didn’t have the best resume, statistically, but he had a ton of experience, was well connected and respected throughout the south, and was a former national recruiter of the year. In other words, he may not have had the most on field success, but he was an old, southern football coach who was well known.
Dave Aranda is the opposite in many ways. Hailing from Redlands, California, the west coast product has rocketed up the ranks thanks to an impressive resume filled with on field success. At 39 years old Aranda is a young up and comer who many have described as a “philosopher-coach.” Aranda has his own style and it doesn’t include appearing to have a brain aneurysm while yelling at his players (like so many of the coaches we see on Saturday).
Rather, Aranda prefers a more subdued approach, and that isn’t to say that he is any less effective. One of Aranda’s greatest strengths is his ability to communicate with his players and get his message across. His teachings originate in the mental side of the game and it is his unique mind side approach that I find so intriguing. This is a man who didn’t play football in college and barely got to play football in high school, yet he has always studied and consumed as much football as he could get his hands on.
This unique evolution has created a coach less fettered by the chains of bias, one whose ultimate goal is to maximize his players strengths while minimizing their weaknesses by crafting defenses around his team’s skill set. 3-4, 4-3, 3-3-5 - its all just labels to Aranda. He is going to field a formation and system that will work best with LSU’s personnel regardless of what the formation actually looks like.
I haven’t been this excited for a coaching change since John Chavis found his way from Tennessee to Baton Rouge. Before we go any further, I think it is appropriate to congratulate Joe Alleva and the LSU administration. After weeks of missteps and bad publicity, the Dave Aranda hire seems to be a step in the right direction. Allevia and company signed Aranda to a 3 year deal that will pay him 1.3 million dollars a year (750k raise for Aranda) and isn’t dependent on the employment status of head coach Les Miles.
Essentially the administration put “golden handcuffs” on Aranda. A more Brando-esque way of putting it would be that they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The potential within this hire is enough to make your pulse quicken. If Aranda put together the number one scoring defense in the nation at Wisconsin, what will he be able to accomplish with the talent at LSU?
The LSU Tigers capped off a tumultuous year on a positive note when they thoroughly trounced the Texas Tech Red Raiders 56-27 in the Advocate V100 Texas Bowl. Before the game, I claimed that the future of LSU hung in the balance as the outcome of this game could have a massive impact on the entire program moving forward.
Fortunately for Tiger fans it looks as if the game against TTU will serve as the proverbial launching pad into what should be a championship contending year in 2016. In a season filled with massive highs and similarly monstrous lows the Tigers managed to finish with a dominant bowl win that essentially earns them a ten win season. This team is only losing five starters to graduation and doesn’t look as if too many eligible players will leave early either. Needless to say, the future looks bright for LSU.
The Offense Was Spectacular
The struggles of LSU’s offense in the month of November were well documented. In fact, the continued frustration with the Tiger O was one of the main reasons why Les Miles’, Cam Cameron’s, and Brandon Harris’ jobs were ALL under fire. The game against Texas Tech represented the perfect opportunity to right the ship going into the offseason and provide the LSU faithful with some confidence in the program moving forward.
When it was all said and done LSU racked up a stunning 638 yards of total offense. Brandon Harris overcame some first half struggles as he finished the night by completing 60% of his passes for 254 yards and scores both through the air and on the ground. I firmly believe Harris to be the long term answer at quarterback for LSU. This was his first year starting and he will only get better from here on out.
On the ground Leonard Fournette dazzled audiences across the country one more time this year as he scored an NCAA Bowl record FIVE touchdowns while gaining 212 yards on the ground on 29 carries (7.3 avg). I’m not entirely sure what I can say about Fournette that hasn’t already been said. The young man is simply astounding and I can’t wait to get to watch him again in 2016.
The Defense Passed a Massive Test
There aren’t many times in which an LSU defense will be happy about allowing a team 399 total yards, however when we are talking about an offense as explosive as Texas Tech’s, that 399 is in actuality an impressive number considering the fact that the Raiders ran 82 plays on the night. While the LSU offense rushed for an absurd 384 yard total the Tiger defense held TTU to just 29 rushing yards on 26 attempts. LSU averaged 9.6 yards per carry while Texas Tech averaged 1.1.
One of the biggest reasons for this dominance was MLB Kendall Beckwith. The Jr LB put on a show as he racked up 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss. It will be interesting to see if Beckwith decides to return for another season in Baton Rouge and convincing him to return must be at the top of the coach’s priority list.
Before we go any further I would be remiss to not bring any attention to Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes II. The sophomore quarterback is one of the most exciting players I have seen and Raider fans should be beside themselves knowing that he still has a couple years left in Lubbock. His ability to extend plays while keeping his eyes down field is among the best I’ve ever seen.
2015 was one of the most turbulent, volatile, and tempestuous years in LSU’s history. A season filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, yet when you look at the Tigers final tally I believe that this team deserves credit for a job well done. As I mentioned earlier, if we count the McNeese game as a win then this team basically won ten games this fall.
Really, the biggest legitimate complaint that fans have at this moment is that LSU lost to Bama once again, but besides that, If we are being honest and objective with ourselves, than most would agree that the ten win number is magnificent considering the youth of this team. For the vast majority of this offseason we did not expect LSU to be amongst the country’s elite. That changed right before the start of the season through a combination of LSU becoming the trendy playoff pick (thanks Herbstriet) and the unstoppable Leonard Fournette hype train. However, it would appear as if our original instincts were closer to the truth. This team was never the second best team in the country. They were an extremely talented, yet youthful team learning to play in the toughest conference in college football.
I am of the opinion that the adversity faced by this squad in 2015 will only strengthen them heading into 2016 and when you look at the returning talent the Tigers are sporting, what a year it could be.
Tonight LSU will play in its biggest post season game since the 2011 National Championship. While some may accuse me of falling victim to hyperbole, I firmly believe that the stakes in today’s Advocate V100 Texas Bowl are abnormally high.
Usually, a lesser known bowl against a 7-5 Texas Tech team would do little to heighten the average LSU fan’s pulse, however, given the recent drama surrounding Les Miles and this program, a convincing win is desperately needed in order to reassure fans that this program is heading in a positive direction.
Just a few weeks ago, there was a significant portion of both the LSU fanbase and leadership that wanted Les Miles run out of town. Citing a consistent four year decline, this group was willing to pay $15 million dollars just to have someone new at the helm in Baton Rouge. Yet, through a series of strategic missteps from the administration and deft handling of the situation by Coach Miles, the Mad Hatter was able to pull off his greatest escape yet as Athletic Director Joe Alleva announced that Les Miles will continue to be the coach of the Tigers following their season-ending victory over Texas A&M.
On the heels of this well publicized spectacle, LSU watched its number one recruiting class take a hit as multiple recruits decided to decommit from Baton Rouge. A win in today’s game will go a long way towards reassuring recruits that this program is on stable ground moving forward.
If LSU does indeed go on to defeat Kliff Kingsbury’s Red Raiders, it would give the Tigers a bowl win and a 9-3 record. This is sneakily impressive for Coach Miles and company because if you factor in the fact that the McNeese game was cancelled, you can make the argument that this was essentially a 10 win season, which is impressive considering the 2015 Tigers featured just 5 senior starters.
As positive as a win would be, however, a loss would be equally as devastating. If the Tigers fall to Texas Tech they will feature an overall record of 8-4 (on the heels of an 8-5 season) and will have lost four of their last five bowl games. This is hardly indicative of a team trending in the right direction. The splintering of the fanbase would be intensified as everyone who was in the “fire Miles” camp will shout from the rooftop that they were correct and that Les is not the correct man to lead this program. We have already seen the impact that a coach’s job security, or lack thereof, can have on the recruiting trail, and a loss in the Advocate V100 bowl game would re-ignite both a national and local conversation over whether or not Coach Miles is the long term answer for the Tigers.
LSU’s future is currently balancing on a knife’s edge. A win in today’s game could propel this team into a very bright future. Let's not forget that next year’s team returns a vast majority of their starters and, in my opinion, has the potential to contend for championships.
Sometimes, a big bowl win can erase the negativity of a disappointing year and provide momentum and confidence moving into the following season. In the same vein, a loss can demoralize a team. The cloud of negativity that will follow this team if they do fall to 7-5 Texas Tech could have dire consequences. Maybe it leads to more draft eligible players deciding to leave. Maybe it leads to re-newed calls for Coach Miles head. No matter what happens it has become increasingly clear to me that Tuesday's Advocate V100 Texas Bowl is not just another randomly named, mildly interesting mid-tier bowl, rather it is a game that has the potential to directly influence the future of the football program at LSU.