LOVE: After Further Review
Cleaning up a busy week, spring on campus
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Editor
With spring football in the books, there’s lots of spring cleaning to do on the gridiron Tigers.
But first, there’s a bit of house cleaning I need to do up front.
Several major LSU-sports news stories cropped up during the past week away from the Ponderosa and Tiger Stadium, and all of them warrant mentioning.
So I’ll lay them out right now.
The softball team entered its Friday series opener with No. 1 Alabama at 5-6 in SEC play. Prospects on the series at Tiger Park weren’t good. Someone didn’t tell that to Brittany Mack, Anissa Young and the Tigers, who went out and won the longest softball game in program history.
LSU went on to win 2-1 on a Young walk-off homer in the bottom of the 14th … after four hours and 31 minutes and an astounding 234 pitches from Mack, who also set a career-high with 14 strike-outs.
Then, Young struck again with a walk-off job in the tenth on Saturday night. On Sunday, LSU swept the series, moving to 8-6 in conference play, in the old-fashioned seven-inning regulation variety. What a weekend at the Berm!
Switching sports to the hardwood, the men’s hoops team underwent a small facelift, as head coach Trent Johnson announced Wednesday. Sophomore guard Aaron Dotson will transfer, moving closer to his native Seattle (probably to Washington State). Also, walk-on guard Daron Populist is leaving the team to pursue scholarship opportunities elsewhere. Johnson hinted that Dotson’s vacated scholly would likely go to a point guard (either JuCo or high school).
Finally, a trio of high school football stand-outs - John Thomas (TE, Airline HS), Travin Dural (WR, Breaux Bridge HS) and Lamar Louis (LB, first Breaux Bridge HS, then Teurlings Catholic, now Breaux Bridge again) - recently committed to LSU’s football recruiting Class of 2012, rounding out the team’s current count to eight players.
Well, right before Saturday’s Spring Game, CB Dwayne Thomas out of O. Perry Walker High School made it No. 9. Scout.com lists Thomas at 6-1, 175 pounds. He’s the first defensive back to hop on-board in the ‘12 class.
Now, let’s dive back onto the collegiate gridiron and wrap up LSU spring football.
In the Spring Game, the White Team - comprised mostly of the first-team offense and defense - ran past the Purple Team, 22-7, on the strength of running back Spencer Ware and stout defending.
Here, in free-flowing style, are my lasting impressions of that game and the five weeks of practice LSU completed:
CB Tharold Simon continues to impress me as the most improved player going from 2010 to 2011. With that distinction, I predict he’ll be one of the players whose expectation level rises accordingly heading into the new season, his sophomore campaign. On Saturday, the first-team offense tried to go deep on Simon no less than two times. Simon would have none of it, running stride for stride with Rueben Randle and Kadron Boone and using his height to deflect the ball at the last possible moment. Even when LSU moves Tyrann Mathieu inside, the Tiger ‘D’ is in good hands with No. 24 (who recently told me his teammates have taken to calling him ‘Kobe’ due to the number swap).
James Wright and Kadron Boone have game, and neither will be a push-over in the battle for the No. 3 WR position just because Jarvis Landry steps on campus this summer. Boone is just so consistent and can run after the catch while Wright is more capable of the spectacular and has great leaping ability … Ware is more than capable of being LSU’s lead back, though Michael Ford is beginning to hear the footsteps of both Alfred Blue and Jakhari Gore in competition for the No. 2 spot … LSU better hope J.C. Copeland comes back strong at fullback because the offense quite simply needs a boost at that position … The young DTs (Freak Johnson, Ego Ferguson) are still a work in progress, though it’s obvious Brick Haley will count on both early next year due to limited depth … Speaking of DTs, Bennie Logan had a good showing at the Spring Game and has now successfully thrown his hat in the ring for that No. 2 tackle spot next to no-doubt starter Michael Brockers. Josh Downs will be heard from in that battle, too, though he’s never been considered an every-down player … As for a former defensive tackle, Chris Davenport, his transition to offensive tackle is going to continue to take some time (if the coaches even decide to leave him there). He got the really quick hook from the Spring Game after badly missing a blocking assignment and allowing KeKe Mingo to run in on the quarterback untouched … The depth at linebacker will be one of the biggest question marks surrounding this team heading into the summer. Middle LB Kevin Minter is still coming along, though obviously he’s nowhere near the level the incumbent - Kelvin Sheppard - was at. As such, there’s one major thing about the 2011 ‘D’ which I took away from this spring: When down and distance permit (essentially, when it’s not an obvious run down), this defense will look to go into its nickel, dime and ‘Mustang’ packages as much as possible. There’s simply too much talent overflowing from the secondary, and Chavis will gladly get five or six of them on the field at once when he can. After all, take a couple of good looks at the jacked-up duo of Eric Reid and Craig Loston - both of those guys would be lacing ‘em up at linebacker at a number of schools around the country.
Finally, the quarterback situation is what it is. And for everyone out there who’s followed LSU football the past three seasons, it also is what it was.
QUOTES OF THE SPRING
“We call him ‘Little Ben.’ He doesn’t have the same throwing motion, but as far as (being) mobile in the pocket, (and he’s) very, very football smart and football saavy. He’s like Ben. He’s got a lot of zip, good spin on the ball, and he’s got probably one of the best arms I’ve seen in a while.”
- On QB Zach Mettenberger’s Roethlisberger-like game
“Certain guys are gifted in the fact that they heal quickly. There is a physiological issue with guys who heal quickly. That’s a good thing. But there are those guys who just bite onto something, an idea, and just do not let it go. And that’s what he was. He wants to advance, and he’s really way ahead. By the time next fall comes, there will not be a whisper of an issue.”
- On DE Sam Montgomery’s ahead-of-schedule recovery
“It’s a constant competition because Coop [Coach Ron Cooper] said everybody has talent and everybody is fighting for a position, and we might actually have a rotation because everybody’s that good.”
- On the competition in the defensive backfield
“The blitzing schemes help us a lot. With the small defensive ends, it takes the size away because people have to play the speed. A lot of the way we play is run, run, run and it just helps a lot, but you can’t have slow defensive linemen out there. Even inside with Brockers and Bennie Logan, you can’t be slow. You gotta be able to run. Then, they can’t get their hands on you.”
- On how the Chavis system excels with smaller defenders
“It’s not a totally new playbook. One of the things that I did was I came in and inherited the terminology because I felt like that was the best way for me to handle it. Instead of 80 guys doing it, one guy just had to learn it. So it’s been great. I think we’ve got a good solid offense, and we’ll continue to tinker with it. The bottom line is put the ball in a guy’s hands to make plays.”
- On whether players are adjusting to a new playbook
“That’s what I came here to play - cornerback. And I proved myself there to the coaches first, then they moved me to nickel. But whatever the team needs me to do, I’m with that … Tharold will be one of the great corners to come through LSU. And I’m good with that, you know, as long as we get a national championship.”
- On his cover corner skills, then on Tharold Simon
Editor Ben Love is Tiger Rag’s lead reporter on LSU spring football. Reach him at email@example.com.