1. UGA- It almost pains me to write these words knowing that somewhere along the line Georgia will Georgia as hard as they can and lose to someone that they have no business losing to. However, the difference this season will be the fact that UGA’s eastern counterparts will lose more. Im sure, as always, UGA has a ton of NFL talent throughout the roster, and we will go on to see many of these players succeed in the league, but the question remains- can put together a full season and make it back to Atlanta for the first time since 2012? What's the main reason I am picking UGA despite their unknown QB situation? DUH…. Nick Chubb.
2. Mizzou- I don’t know what to do with Mizzou. They truly are the enigma of the SEC. Are they underrated after winning back-to-back SEC East titles, or are they actually overrated for that very same reason? I like quarterback Maty Mauk as a third year starter, as well as the deep experience sported by Mizzou’s offensive line and I love Head Coach Gary Pinkel. If a young linebacking and receiving corps can learn to compete on an SEC level quickly, Mizzou might just snag the east. The Show Me State says Show Me Three…peat.
3. Tennessee- This is my question to Head Coach Butch Jones and Tennessee… if not now, when? Jones has put together a couple of impressive recruiting classes and finished last season on a high note, dominating Iowa in the prestigious Tax Slayer Bowl (doesn’t matter, Kirk Ferentz still gettin paid). Tennessee has played a TON of young guys over the past couple years and we shall see if it finally pays off as they return 17 starters. The East is weak… if the Volunteers are to make a move and rise back to prominence they need to strike while the iron is hot.
4. South Carolina- I might be sleeping on the ole ball coach here considering the fact that the Gamecock’s season wasn’t quite as bad as it looked last year. They lost a few close ones they had no business losing and they suffered defensively from playing a young inexperienced group. The offense, however, was spectacular last season and I do not expect to see them slow down. If the defense can improve under new defensive coordinator Jim Hoke the Gamecocks might have a chance. Hell, the bar has been set pretty low seeing as how they gave up 36.8 points per game last year, so to show improvement in the strictest sense of the word shouldn’t be too hard.
5. Florida- I almost did it… I almost sat here and convinced myself that Florida was going to be good and needed to be higher on this list. I mean, with a secondary as talented as the Gators’ how could they not be one of the better teams in the conference? All-American Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III returns with his eye on the title of Best DB in the Nation. New Head Coach and offensive specialist Jim McElwain should improve what was an abysmal offensive attack last season, so why exactly won’t UF be good? OFFENSIVE LINE. It all starts up front, and 12 of the 13 scholarship offensive linemen have never started a game…. good luck? By the way, only 8 of those 13 scholarship players were even on the team last year.
6. Kentucky- We all got super excited about Kentucky last year. Remember when they came to Baton Rouge at 5-1 with a win over South Carolina and a triple OT loss to UF? That was a team that was much improved. They sat on the verge of Bowl eligibility and a chance to show they were truly moving in the right direction. Well, they end up losing 41-3 in Death Valley which would send the Wildcats into a downward spiral that saw them lose 6 games in a row. I think Mark Stoops has done a solid job but at the end of the day the stark reality is that Kentucky is a basketball school and all the other schools on this list are just more talented. (Trust me… I wanted to put UK ahead of UF but SURELY the Gators aren’t that bad)
7. Vanderbilt- Head Coach Derek Mason returns for year number two after what was an utterly forgettable debut campaign. If I am being completely honest I don’t know anything about Vanderbilt besides the fact that they return 18 starters. 18 STARTERS?! Surely they should be improved right? Well, the issue is that it doesn’t matter how many people return if the returnees just aren’t that good. Vanderbilt got blown out by Temple, beat the mighty Charleston Southern Buccanneers by one point, and went 0-8 in the SEC. Sorry Commodores… you are just going to have to cry yourself to sleep while cursing James Franklin through your salty sobs.
The LSU Tiger Football team reported to Baton Rouge earlier today, meaning that the college football season is finally underway. There are plenty of articles floating around the internet today that point out “5 Things to watch during camp” or “Strengths and Weaknesses of this LSU team” but I want to do something different with this post. I want to talk about my absolute favorite part of college football… the atmosphere.
Look, there are a ton of question marks concerning this Tiger team. No one has any idea how good or bad they truly are. Some argue they will win the SEC West while others contend the Purple and Gold will finish at the bottom. It becomes even more confusing when you realize there are valid and convincing arguments on both sides of the proverbial crystal ball. Amidst all this uncertainty, however, there remains one constant, and that is the unrivaled passion of college football fans.
The atmosphere surrounding a major college football game is something you have to experience to believe. Swirling clouds of exotic scents hang in the air amidst a cacophony of chants, cheers, and jeers that all combine to launch an assault on the senses that transports you back in time. The LSU campus begins resemble a port city of old. Pop up markets line the streets offering wares of all kinds. Modern styles are cast aside as the masses abandon their everyday clothes in favor of those colored purple and gold.
There is an electricity hanging in the air as the Tiger faithful prepare to file into the architectural masterpiece that is Death Valley. A veritable football cathedral grasping for the skies while offering sanctuary to over 100,000 intensely passionate gridiron fans. The opposing team begins to resemble an invading force that seeks only to pillage and plunder. These opposing “fans” with their strange chants and odd customs are not welcome on these lands. How dare they set foot on LSU soil?!
The enemy and their supporters must be sent back from whence they came. Surely the Gladiators wearing white and gold with the Sigil of the Tiger on their helms can defeat these houndstooth wearing miscreants. As the onset of the clash nears, the energy continues to swell as both fighting forces take the field with the ancient songs of their ancestors ringing through the humid night time air. The intensity crescendos with an emphatic roar as the ball is finally kicked off and the descent into madness begins.
This is what gameday feels like to me! An unique experience that is unmatched in the sporting world. I get giddy just thinking about it. LSU could win 12 games or LSU could win 8 and either way I know that every Saturday Death Valley will present me with an unforgettable gameday experience. Maybe it is just my past proximity with college football but I just can’t get enough of the pageantry and it might just be my favorite part of the sport as a whole. The season is just a couple weeks away and it can’t come too soon.
The odd summer of Maquedius Bain continues, as the DT has announced he is transferring to a community college in Mississippi just three days after being reinstated to the LSU football team. Bain was reinstated following a six-week suspension in which himself, Anthony Jennings, and Dwayne Thomas were arrested for unauthorized entry into a dwelling.
The fact that Bain is leaving LSU isn’t necessarily the odd part - rather it is the timing of the entire ordeal. After redshirting his freshman season and appearing in 10 games last year it appeared that this fall would finally give Bain the opportunity to be one of the main pieces of this LSU defense, but that will not be the case as this transfer comes just two days before the players are expected to report for camp.
With the Bain's departure, LSU suddenly finds themselves in a bit of a bind at the interior defensive tackle position as the Tigers have now lost three players this offseason. Trey Lealaimatafao was dismissed from the team following legal troubles, while DT Travonte Valentine transferred after reportedly failing mutliple drug tests and missing significant amounts of class. With the departure of these three tackles, LSU is left with just 5 remaining scholarship DTs in Christian LaCouture, Davon Godchaux, Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore, and Quinton Thomas.
The news was not all bad today, as senior DT Mickey Johnson has announced he is returning to the team after almost transferring this spring. I actually had the pleasure of playing against Mickey when he was a freshman and while he hasn’t found the onfield success, he is one of the most powerful players I ever went against in terms of raw strength. If Coach Ed Orgeron can help Johnson with his technique I believe you can expect Mickey to be a contributor in the upcoming season.
While the departure of Bain isn’t disastrous by any means, it does raise some eyebrows. I believe it is fair to question whether or not LSU needs to re-evaluate the emphasis they apply to character during the recruiting process. I am not saying Bain is a bad kid, but it certainly looks as if Lealaimatafao and Valentine were situations that perhaps could have been prevented? Then again, I am saying this with the added benefit of hindsight, therefore making it much easier to criticize when I’m not the one having to make the decision on whether to recruit a kid or not.
What do you think? Does LSU need to re-evaluate their recruiting process?
NOTE: A previous version of this post incorrectly had Bain listed as transferring to LA Tech. We regret the error
The charges against LSU players Dwayne Thomas, Maquedius Bain, and Anthony Jennings have officially been dropped as of today. This comes as no surprise to anyone who follows the case, as just the other day, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore was saying that he already would have thrown the case out if it wasn’t for the public scrutiny surrounding the arrests. Moore wanted to make sure that they covered all their bases before making a final decision.
Why exactly did Moore drop the case? “The decision is based upon the request of the victim that no charges be filed and inconsistent and contradictory statements provided. Although the conduct of these students is unacceptable, it is not one, based on the facts that warrant prosecution, although their actions could have subjected them to such.”
Basically DA Moore is saying that the players made a dumb mistake, but not one that should be blown out of proportion. The story is that Jennings had a laptop stolen and the three players broke into the burglar’s room to steal it back. Obviously, this isn’t the smartest move. As a superhero fan, I appreciate vigilante justice as much as the next person, but hopefully in the future the players will learn from this experience and let the proper authorities handle the situation.
Bottom line is that Bain, Thomas, and Jennings will be ready to roll for camp and now the big question is to what extent did the suspension this summer affect their training. Thomas was one of the most underrated parts of the Tiger defense last season before going down with a knee injury, while Bain will be expected to fill a larger role this season in the Tiger defensive line.
Will they be ready? Of course, Jennings is the headliner and rightfully so. How has Jennings’ time away from his teammates and the facilities impacted the quarterback competition between himself and Brandon Harris? Im not sure now, but we will find out soon enough!
The coaches poll dropped today, and the LSU Tigers are one of the top 15 football teams in the country slotting in at a respectable 13th. This USA Today Amway Coaches Poll ranking has many scratching their heads, as they feel it is too high. Others believe 13 to be right about where the Tigers belong. While the most optimistic of purple and gold fans feel such a ranking is far too low for the Bayou Bengals. I will lay out some quick hitting arguments for each side of the debate.
Why it is too high
LSU is a program that is unfortunately trending in the wrong direction. Since the 13-1 season of 2011, the Tigers have steadily gotten worse in each subsequent year. LSU went from an 8-0 SEC record in 2011 to 6-2 in 2012, 5-3 in 2013 and finally a disappointing 4-4 in 2014. Last year was a season in which the Tigers finished the year losing to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Music City Bowl to push themselves out of the top 25 with an 8-5 record. The 2015 team seems loaded with talent, however the most important position on the field remains a problem as the Tiger quarterbacks’ struggles are well documented. The QBs averaged just 162.9 yards throwing per game last season. Combine this issue with the tough SEC schedule the Tigers will face, and it is easy to imagine a situation in which they lose 4 SEC games. That would almost assuredly drop them out of the top 15.
Why it is just right
The aforementioned records from the past few years may look damning on the surface, however further research reveals that the Tigers dealt with some pretty extraordinary situations, the toughest of which was losing record numbers of underclassmen to the NFL draft in back to back years. Any team would struggle mightily with an exodus of talent that immense. One could make the argument that LSU actually performed admirably considering the multiple key positions they were forced to replace with young inexperienced players. This season, however, the opposite is true. Because of all these young players being thrown into the fire, the Tigers now have a plethora of players at key positions with plenty of experience. Even if the quarterbacks continue to struggle, the rest of the team is potentially talented enough to cover up their weaknesses and manage to win 10 games. A 10-3 season would find the Tigers sitting just around 13th at the end of the year.
Why it is too low
As I have mentioned throughout this article, the Tigers are seemingly loaded with talent at nearly every position in 2015. That includes sophomore Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette. If what you saw out of number 7 last season doesn’t excite you, I think you might need to check for a pulse. If Fournette can match the expectations that are currently being laid at his feet, he will be a force to be reckoned with no matter the opponent. He is a force with the ability to almost single handedly win the Tigers games. A fortunate byproduct of Fournette’s dominance would be a considerable amount of pressure taken off of the Tiger quarterbacks’ shoulders, and if the QBs can raise their level of play to average, LSU could do some serious damage. If the purple and gold can manage to overcome a couple early season tests (Miss St and Auburn) perhaps the confidence gained in these matchups might be enough to propel them all the way to Atlanta.
As you can see no one really knows how this season will play out. That is what makes it all the more exciting. The SEC West is a logjam of talented teams with question marks at key positions, which is ideal from a spectator standpoint because the landscape will be constantly shifting as the SEC West favorite changes from week to week. What do you think about the Tigers 13th ranking… Too high? Too low? Or just right?
The LSU Tigers are preparing to take on the TCU Horned Frogs in their opening game of the College World Series this Sunday at 2pm. But, if you are like me, you are asking yourself “Who are the star players on TCU and what are their strengths and weaknesses?” Well, my fellow uninitiated friend, allow me to give you a bit of a primer on this Horned Frog baseball team.
First off, Sunday’s game will mark a battle of regular season conference champions. Sure, winning your conference tournament is nice but it isn’t as impressive as winning the regular season. If you are crowned regular season conference champs, it means that you weren’t just good for a week, or peaking at the right time. No, it means that you were consistently a force to be reckoned with throughout the year no matter the situation, no matter the opponent. TCU comes into Sunday’s game as the Big 12 regular season champion sporting a dominant 49-13 record (18-5 in conference).
TCU had a helluva time making it to Omaha. The Horned Frogs won their regional with a 10-inning battle over North Carolina State that saw them barely come out on top by a final score of 9-8. However, the dramatics were just getting started. Their super regional was an exhaustive back-and-forth three game battle between two in-state rivals as Texas A&M and TCU fought it out for the right to travel to Omaha. TCU won the first game handily, but A&M would force game three when they won a defensive 10-inning battle 2-1. Game 3 is the real story - the two sides played a 16-inning marathon match that saw the Horned Frogs come out on top 5-4 when the winning run crossed at one in the morning!
LSU should be prepared for extra innings, as they have played in 9 such contests this season and come out on top in 5 of them.
LSU may face their toughest opposing pitcher of the entire tourney this Sunday when senior right hander Preston Morrison takes the mound. Morrison is currently 11-3 on the year with a 2.55 ERA. He was just taken in the 8th round of the MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs and could present real trouble for the Tigers if he is in his zone.
Also, TCU’s lineup will feature Big 12 Player of the Year Senior OF Cody Jones. Jones has amassed 5 home runs and 33 RBI’s on the year but the most impressive stat is the incredible .371 batting average he is sporting! Jones just got drafted as well as the red hot Royals took the Big 12 POTY in the 6th round, 189th overall.
Bottom line, LSU will have their work cut out for them from here on out. If you don’t like close games then DON’T WATCH! These are the 8 best teams in the nation and it this point anything can happen.
Congratulations to the Tigers for making it to this point… now it is time to see just how far they can go!
In part one of my Alvin Gentry blog, I took a look at some of the cons associated with the hiring of Gentry and attempted to view them through a "glass half full" type of lens. Today, we will look at the positive aspects of the Gentry hire. What sort of unique skill set does Gentry bring to the table? Why does he deserve to be the coach of your New Orleans Pelicans?
As far as unique skills go, Gentry’s strongest selling point can be summed up in one word… offense. Alvin Gentry has made a habit lately of taking pretty good offenses and pushing them to the next level. Two years ago he helped raise CP3 and the LA Clippers’ level of play to the top spot when he made them into the #1 ranked offense in the NBA and this season he outdid himself when he left for Golden State and made the Warriors into the best offense in the entire league.
Although Gentry was an assistant for both of these teams, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had this sort of success as a head coach as well. In the 2009-2010 season Gentry took the Phoenix Suns all the way to the conference finals averaging 115 points per 100 possessions along the way. This wasn’t just the league’s top offense that year, it was one of the top offenses OF ALL TIME.
The Pelicans are in desperate need of Gentry’s offensive prowess. Last season the Pels were the 2nd worst team in the entire NBA as far as “pace of play” (possessions per game) was concerned. In fact, in the Pelicans' 13 years in New Orleans, only once has the team finished amongst the top half of the league in pace of play (shoutout to Jim Eichenhofer for the stat).
This should excite you, Pelicans fans. If you have ever bemoaned the plodding pace in which the team seemed to operate in recent times get ready for a style of basketball that literally has not been seen in this city. It is scary to think what Gentry can do with Anthony Davis and this team. Which brings us to our second, and perhaps most important point…
Alvin Gentry WANTS to be here. John Calipari didn’t want to. Tom Thibodeaux didn’t want to. Alvin Gentry does. In fact, when Gentry went to meet with the Pelicans he had prepared all sorts of charts and graphs to basically sell the team that he was the man for this franchise moving forward. What was the specific point of all these charts and graphs you ask? Gentry made the case that Anthony Davis was underutilized last season and as a byproduct was not able to maximize his own and the team’s full winning potential.
Alvin Gentry knows the value of having a player like Anthony Davis. In fact, he said the opportunity to coach in New Orleans could be a career defining moment. Now, I know we all love this city, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that its not the beignets that have Gentry so excited to be here. Nope, it is all about Anthony Davis and if we have already acknowledged that the future of this franchise as a whole depends on Davis (which it does) then doesn’t it make sense to bring in a coach whose entire game plan revolves around the young superstar?
What say you… is Alvin Gentry the right man for the job? Or do you worry Dell Demps and company just replace mediocrity with mediocrity?
In the 24/7 sports media world we have gotten accustomed to hyping up big games/races/fights to the brink of stratospheric levels only to be let down when these competitions fail to live up to our heightened expectations. Nowadays, this seems to be the case more often than not. However, in my opinion, that makes it all the more extraordinary when you witness a game that not only meets expectations but EXCEEDS them.
Last night was one of those special games. This was a game in which much of the pre-game chatter surrounding the two teams was focused on the hype and the exorbitantly increased ticket prices. Needless to say, these two fanbases were asking for a show and in return they got a three act masterpiece that peaked in a beautiful crescendo that will have both sides talking for years to come.
Led by the bat of Jake Fraley and the arm of freshman Alex Lange, the Tigers set the pace in Act I. In his first two at bats Fraley notched three RBIs, two of which came on a crushing home run to right field that sent the Purple and Gold crowd into a wild frenzy. On the other side of the ball Alex Lange was straight dealing as he claimed victim after victim with a ferocious curve that befuddled batter after batter. Act I was on the verge of spiraling out of control for the Ragin Cajuns, but Coach Tony Robichaux and company would not be so easily put aside. This is a team, after all, that had proven multiple times recently that it isn’t how you start - it is how you finish.
If Act I belonged to the raw power of LSU, Act II was all about the resilience and fight of ULL. Led by the incredible defensive wizardry of Joe Robbins and the unshakable arm of freshman pitcher Wyatt Marks, the Ragin Cajuns slowly but surely started to turn the tide of the game against the Tigers. I cannot say enough about the performance of Wyatt Marks. The amount of maturity, poise, and skill that he displayed in an environment as pressure packed as a hostile Alex Box was nothing short of remarkable. ULL would finally get on the board in the 6th on an RBI single from Tyler Girouard to make the score 3-1. The Cajuns seemed to be wearing down the barbarian Alex Lange and momentum was on their side. Momentum, that they would carry into Act III.
The third and final act of the drama sees the underdog Cajuns fighting and clawing their way back into the game run by grueling run till we arrive at the top of the ninth inning. Alex Lange had given ground begrudgingly up to this point and although ULL did seem to be hitting with more success, Lange had still managed to fight his way out of jams and avoid any major damage. With this in mind Paul Mainieri sent his freshman Ace back on the mound with a chance to earn the complete game.
In a move of unexpected brilliance, Tony Robichaux sent the hobbled lefty Brenn Conrad to pinch hit against Alex Lange. Conrad hadn’t homered on the year yet that didn’t stop him as he turned on the first pitch he saw and BLASTED it over the RF wall to tie the game up at three apiece. The rogue contingent of ULL fans exploded while LSU fans began to wonder to themselves if perhaps the Cajuns' inexplicable late game heroics were destined to continue. The HR marked the end for Lange who when it was all said and done put together a scintillating performance that saw him strike out 11 batters. Parker Bugg would replace Lange and proceed to retire the first three batters he saw and send the game into the final frame of the final act with the score tied three to three. With one out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, Chris Sciambra walked to the plate as Tiger fans throughout Alex Box looked on in nervous ignorance as to how this game would play out.
On a 2-2 count the DH Sciambra squared his hips and rocketed a ball into the right field bleachers causing LSU fans, coaches, and players to erupt as Sciambra jogged around the bases cementing the 4-3 win in walk off fashion. Wow… what a game.
Not much more I can say about this one. It was an absolute pleasure to watch and I cannot wait for game 2. The game one win puts LSU in a dominant position as the team that wins the first matchup in a super regional goes on to win the series 73% of the time. However one would be foolish to count out a ULL team that has proven to be unflappable in recent times. They don’t care how long the odds are, in fact they may thrive on it. LSU will send Friday night starter Jared Poche to the mount later tonight. The sophomore has been excellent this season with an 8-1 record and a 3.05 ERA. Poche is coming off of one of the best outings of his career and will be matched with ULL Freshman phenom Gunner Leger. Besides having the most appropriate first name of all time for a pitcher Gunner has had quite the dominant season himself. His 6-4 record doesn’t tell the whole story as Leger has compiled a 2.87 ERA. The 6’3 lefty has a 4.4 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio and was excellent in his own regional. Will we see another classic drama unfold tonight? Im not exactly sure but I know I sure can’t wait to watch.
The Pelicans future got a lot clearer recently when they announced the hiring of Alvin Gentry as their next head coach. The hire was met with polarizing reactions from the fanbase, as many felt Gentry was a perfect fit for the job while others found him underwhelming.
Personally, I fall on the optimistic side of the spectrum - I believe that Gentry will bring some much needed change to New Orleans and could be a key piece in keeping Anthony Davis here for the long term. Today, we will take a look at the negative side of Alvin Gentry’s resume and later we will focus on the positive side.
Anyone who is against this hiring will be all too quick to tell you that in Alvin Gentry’s 12 full seasons as an NBA head coach, he has only finished above .500 in four of them, and has only made the playoffs twice. For a reference point, Monty Williams made the playoffs twice in his five years with New Orleans. On the surface this looks even worse than a lateral move, in fact you could say it was a downgrade... but I do not believe this to be the case.
Just like I don’t hold Monty Williams’ overall record against him because of lackluster rosters, you cannot hold Gentry’s record over his head. The NBA is a players' league first. Look at former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown. In 2009, Brown won 66 games and was NBA Coach of the Year. Of course, he had Lebron James. Following King James' departure, Mike Brown has been fired from 3 different jobs in 5 years. Why is this? Because it is a player’s league.
That isn’t to say some coaches aren’t better than others. There are certainly coaches out there who can take a player’s game to the next level - however the next level of an Alexis Ajinca doesn’t exactly equal the next level of an Anthony Davis. With this in mind, if you take a look at the rosters Alvin Gentry had to deal with, they were subpar to say the least. In fact, the only time he had a solid roster in Phoenix the team made it to the conference championship before losing to the eventual champion LA Lakers.
Alvin Gentry knows that the chance to coach a player of Anthony Davis’ caliber is a career-defining moment. This Pelicans team is young and they are ready to consistently win. They don’t need a coach that is unsure of himself. They don’t need a coach that will require learning on the job or training wheels. No, they need a coach who has a clear vision and is ready to hit the ground running and with twelve years of experience under his belt, I believe Alvin Gentry is ready to be that coach.
One of the other knocks against Gentry is that he doesn’t necessarily excel at coaching the defensive side of the ball. He is widely recognized as an offensive mastermind. Well, in an encouraging moment of self-awareness, Gentry seems to have already addressed this issue with the hiring of Darren Erman. This hiring raised some eyebrows, as Erman was fired in 2014 for secretly taping other coaches on the staff he was a part of during his time in Golden State under Mark Jackson.
While I am not excusing the fact that Erman was secretly taping coworkers, it does say something that immediately after he was fired from Golden State, the Celtics and Danny Ainge scooped him up. Also, the Pelicans were not the only team vying for his talents this offseason, but Erman decided New Orleans was were he wanted to be. A former member of the Tom Thibodeau school of defense, Erman helped transform the Warriors' D from the 26th worst in the league to the third best in just two years. The Pelicans NEED this kind of transformation because last season, despite having Anthony Davis and Omer Asik, the Pels gave up more points in the paint than every team except for the Toronto Raptors.
In my next post I would like to ignore the negative and focus on the positive. New Orleans fans should get excited to witness a brand of basketball that has literally never been seen around these parts. Remember the words of House Gentry… Offense is Coming.
The more I read on the Darren Erman hire by the #Pelicans I realize I might have been too quick too judge based off of headlines
Rounds 4 through 7 of the NFL draft are always a bit odd in my opinion. The reason being that the majority of the players selected today probably won’t end up on an active NFL roster by the time the season begins later this year. This is the part of the draft where no one really knows who everyone is or which player will end up with which team.
It is also a time in which teams can find diamonds in the rough. Specifically I find that small school guys tend to fall to this part of the draft - yet if the scouts are correct in their evaluation about their guy, these less heralded players can become key parts of your favorite team. Saints fans need look no further than Jahri Evans out of Bloomsburg University, Jermon Bushrod out of Towson, or the Quiet Storm himself Marques Colton out of Hofstra. I should warn Saints fans that these are exceptional cases and should not be considered the norm. That said, lets look at what the Saints did in rounds four through seven today.
The Saints didn’t have a 4th round pick and had till wait till the 5th round before they once again got to make a selection. With the 148th pick the Saints chose outside linebacker Davis Tull out of UT-Chatanooga and if there is one guy that was chosen today that Saints fans should get excited about it is Tull. First off, Tull has great size at 6’3 240 lbs. Second, Tull has some of the most insane testing numbers I have ever seen. In fact, one of WWL’s excellent producers Jordan Feigel informed me that if you combine vertical, broad, and bench it results in what scouts call an “explosive” rating.
Tull had the 9th highest explosive rating of any prospect in the past three years and the second highest in this draft class to Vic Beasley. Finally, Tull has the production to prove that he is more than an underwear olympian. When a player goes to a small school like UT Chattanooga you want to see them dominate and you cannot get more dominant than Tull was during his college career. Davis was a 3-time South Conference DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Thats insane. I struggle to put into words how crazy this is when you consider what an individual award Player of the Year is. That means in his conference there wasn’t even one guy better than Tull for THREE STRAIGHT YEARS. As if this all wasn’t nice enough he is a smart kid as well finishing up school with 3.54 GPA. Did I just fall in love? I think I might have during the writing of this blog. Bottom line, Sean Payton said they were pleasantly surprised that they were able to get Tull so late and I cannot wait to see him firsthand when OTAs get underway this summer.
Just a few picks later the Saints finally decided to address interior defensive tackle position as they chose Tyeler Davison out of Fresno St. At 6’2 309 Davison isn’t the biggest DT, however he has excellent technique and production. Davison amassed 61 tackles, 13 TFLs, and 8.5 sacks his SR year. Much of Davison’s technical success probably comes from the fact that he was a state champion wrestler in high school. I don’t know if he will be great but if nothing else he will push the veterans in front of him and not allow them to get complacent.
It seemed as if the Saints were done until round number six but out of nowhere the Black and Gold returned to the 5th round when they traded their 2015 and 2016 6th round picks to the Washington Redskins. The reason why the Saints decided to move back into the 5th was because they had a particuliarly high grade on UGA cornerback Damian Swann. During Swann’s conference call, I noticed that Damian seems to have personality in spades so it came as no surprise when I learned that he was a defense captain for the Bulldogs and winner of the UGA’s Coach’s leadership award. The Saints now have a pretty crowded defensive backfield, however as Coach Payton said after the draft, in today’s football environment with the way the game has evolved you can never have too many defensive backs.
The Saints would go on to wrap up their 2015 draft class with running back Marcus Murphy out of Missouri. While Murphy played RB in college and put up respectable numbers, his real value may lie in the return game. During his time at Mizzou, Murphy had 7 kick/punt returns for touchdowns and we all know how badly the Saints need more production in that part of the game.
When it was all said and done the Saints chose 6 defensive players and 3 offensive players. In the first three rounds we can see the groundwork of the Black and Gold’s future being laid. In the final four rounds it appears that the Saints were committed to giving defensive coordinator Rob Ryan multiple guys to throw against the wall and see what sticks. Although there is almost absolutely no point in trying to judge a draft class I would say that overall I think the Saints did a solid job. They stuck to their guns, didn’t overreach, and may have laid the blueprint for the future while improving in the present as well.