04 C E L E B R AT I NG Y E A R S
THE BIBLE OF LSU SPORTS
The tragic shooting that sent shockwaves through the LSU and Baton Rouge communities
December 13, 1997 – September 28, 2018 WAYDE SIMS
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE BIBLE OF LSU SPORTS
Published By Kingfish Communications, LLC Business Office 10500 Coursey Blvd., Suite 104
Baton Rouge, La 70816 Phone: (888) 32-TIGER Fax: (225) 297-7539
Tiger Rag Staff President JIM ENGSTER Controller CaROYLN TRAUPMAN
STARTERS // THEN 06
Operations Manager DAWN DICHARRY Marketing Consultant ann edelman Sales Department Local Sales Manager jennifer h. marsh Account Executive KYLE COATS Account Executive STEVE LECHICH Account Executive ROMAN STARNS Editorial Department Editor james moran Assistant Editor TYLER NUNEZ Contributors CRISSY FROYD, KENNEDI LANDRY, MARCUS RODRIGUE, PATRICK YARBOROUGH Graphics/Art Department Graphic Designer JOE GALLINARO Photography 247sports, steve franz/lsu, louisiana chemical association, lsu athletics, LSU FOOTBALL EQUIPMENT, lsu sports information, lsusports.net, jonathan mailhes, MG MILLER/ LSU, mlb.com, nfl.com, chris parent/lsu, rivals. com, Ryan m C carble/lsu, Scout.com, gus stark/ lsu, twitter, TERRILL WEIL, US NATIONAL ARCHIVES, wikimedia commons TIGER RAG (USPS 447-970, ISSN 0744- 7604) is published monthly February, March, May, June, July and December; semimonthly January, April and August; weekly September, October and November by Kingfish Communications, LLC dba Tiger Rag Magazine, 10500 Coursey Boulevard, Suite 104, Baton Rouge, LA 70816-4045. Periodicals postage paid at Baton Rouge, LA and additional mailing offices. POST- MASTER: Send address changes to TIGER RAG, 10500 Coursey Boulevard, Suite 104, Baton Rouge, LA 70816-4045. Disclaimer: Tiger Rag is not affiliated with Louisiana State University, its athletic department, alumni association, fund raising clubs and foundations or any division of the University system. It is privately owned and operated with complete independence from the university and other entities. The views expressed herein are those of the newspaper staff and its contributors and not necessarily those of the university or its employees. Copyright © 2018, All Rights Reserved Cover Photo TERRILL WEIL
Mailbag/What’s Bugging You? Pres. by Terminix Fan Feeds on the Fly Pres. by BTR Metropolitan Airport
07 08 09 10 12
Name that Tiger/Trivia
Who Said That? BILLY CANNON
From the Vault STARTERS // NOW 14
The Sitdown Pres. by Hub International
Fall Baseball Preview
18 20 22 26 28 30
The Smartest Moran – by James Moran
Recruiting: TJ FINLEY
Three Things: Recruiting the Amite Area
Cover Story: WAYDE SIMS
LEGENDS 2018 36
JEFF & SHELBY WICKERSHAM
40 44 48
Book Excerpt: THE PERFECT SEASON
FITNESS 2018 52
54 56 58 60 62
JEANNE KENNEY BRAD CRESSE STACEY RASE
LSU in the Pros Tiger Tykes Arrive in Style Photo Gallery Wayde Sims Vigil Food
68 72 74 76 78 79 80
Statistically Speaking – by Jim Engster
What They Read Pres. by East Baton Rouge Parish Library
Aaron Hogan/Eye Wander Photo
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I can’t believe that you would list that asshole Nick Sabin in your magazine as number one. I hate him as many LSU fans do. I was going to subscribe to your magazine but not now. You all are total idiots to even acknowledge that jerk. How could you do that to the loyal LSU fans??? I hope LSU beats the shit out of Alabama this year and makes that asshole Sabin finally eat crow. –ROY LEONARD, via email, on our list of the 40 Most Influential Characters of the Tiger Rag Era Nick Saban #1??!! Tiger Rag had been infected with Alabamaitis. LOL –HAROLD LASSERRE, via Facebook, on our list of the 40 Most Influential Characters of the Tiger Rag Era Damn , Damn . This kid was going to break out this year and show what he can really do ! – RUSS JOHNSON, via Facebook, on our story reporting that linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson would miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury. Hate to see that happen to that kid. Hope he has a speedy recovery. – CHET FONTENOT, via Facebook, on our story reporting that linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson would miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury
JOE BURROW WON’T SLIDE “If you not going to slide, please prepare for contact and cover up. Those SEC defenders will make him pay. Stay low Joe...” – DEACON GUIDRY, via Facebook “It’s called being smart dude. You keep taking hits like that and you will be out for the year possibly. Auburn, Bama, Georgia they have some big time hitters on the defensive side of the call!! Slide!!!” – JUSTIN SOILEAU, via Facebook “Yikes. Pride/Philosophy/ Bravadeaux hopefully do not come before a (career altering) fall. Please re-consider, Jeaux.” – BRIAN BERTRAND, via Facebook “He holds the ball too long so now he will be taking a lot of sacks in SEC games. He won’t have to worry about not sliding.” – DANIELLE GUIDRY, via Facebook “Don’t slide in SEC and you will be on bench with injury.” – @jstead36, via Twitter “Then he needs to learn to fall better.” – @tiogar, via Twitter “She doesn’t recruit...literally ...we don’t have any incoming freshmen. Why would she get an extension for not doing half of her job?!?” – @DayGeaux, via Twitter “That’s a mistake” – SCOTT MEYER, via Twitter PROPOSED EXTENSION FOR NIKKI FARGAS
CORRECTIONS In our last issue, we highlighted the 40 most influential athletes, coaches and characters of the Tiger Rag Era. We referred to COLLIS TEMPLE, JR. as the “First African American on the varsity baseball team at LSU.” Temple was the first African American on the varsity basketball team at LSU.
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Tiger Rag @Tiger_Rag
FAN F E EDS ON T HE F L Y
James Moran @SmartestMoran
Tyler Nunez @ByTylerNunez
Baton Rouge Airport @BTRairport
Tyler Nunez @ByTylerNunez Wade: “People are excited about basketball here, which wasn’t the case a year, year and a half ago.” #LSU
Assumption Football @ACGreyhoundsFB Class of 2018 K Cole Tracy puts it through the uprights for LSU as time expires to beat #7 Auburn on the road!!! Keep doing what you do @cole_tracy!!! #HoundNation is behind you all the way!!! Peter Burns @PeterBurnsESPN @LSUfootball is the first team in 37 years to have 2 top 10 Wins in first 3 weeks of the season. Credit Coach O for getting this team to buy in and tune out the noise about the Tigers. K’Lavon Chaisson @WhosThatGuy4 God is real. Recovering like a champ. Thanks to everyone who covered me in prayer. I couldn’t do this without you all. Who’s running the 5k with me tomorrow? #Likeitneverhappened #4ourLoco
James Moran @SmartestMoran Some #LSU BSB news: RHP Caleb Gilbert underwent shoulder surgery this summer and will miss all of fall practice, according to Paul Mainieri
LSU Basketball @LSUBasketball LSU Basketball team comes in at No. 20 in NBC Sports College Basketball Talk Preseason Top 25 poll. Official practice sessions begin on Friday. Season starts Nov. 6. LSUTix.net.
Kirk Herbstreit @KirkHerbstreit LSU only up 7-0 but in COMPLETE control of this 1st Half at Auburn. Crowd out of the game. LSU Defense has been dominant and Joe Burrow and LSU offense has been aggressive with their approach. Impressive start! LSU Football @LSUfootball #LSU will unveil a statue of the late Dr. Billy Cannon, the school’s only Heisman Trophy winner, on Friday, Sept. 28, the night before the Tigers host Ole Miss in Tiger Stadium.
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NAME THAT TIGER
ColeTracytiedtherecord forthe longest fieldgoal inschoolhistoryduringtheseason openeragainstMiami.How longwas it? 1 Tracynowsharestherecordwithtwo previousLSUkickers.Whoarethey? 2 BeforeTracy,onlyoneLSUkickerhadmadea 50-yard fieldgoal inthe lastsevenseasons. Whowas it? 3 Whowasthe lastLSUkickertomakemultiple 50-plus-yard fieldgoals inasingleseason? 4 DuringLSU’sperfect1958season,howmany gamesweredecidedbyasinglescore? 5 Whichteamcametheclosesttoknockingoff theeventualnationalchampions? 6 WhothrewtheonlytouchdownasLSU defeatedClemson7-0 inthe1959Sugar Bowl? 7
HINT: THIS BRUISING TAILBACK WAS VOTED FIRST TEAM ALL-SEC IN 2008 AND FINISHED HIS CAREER WITH 2.317 YARDS AND 32 TOUCHDOWNS ON THE GROUND. HIS SENIOR SEASON WAS CUT SHORT BY A FRACTURED CLAVICLE.
HINT: THIS DUAL-THREAT QUARTERBACK SPENT HIS ENTIRE COLLEGIATE CAREER SHARING THE POSITION WITH STEVE ENSMINGER. HE ACCOUNTED FOR MORE TOUCHDOWNS RUSHING (15) THAN PASSING (8) DURING HIS THREE VARSITY SEASONS.
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HINT: THIS SWEET-SHOOTING GUARD WAS THE DRIVING FORCE BETWEEN LSU’S RUN TO THE 1986 FINAL FOUR, AVERAGING 21.6 POINTS PER GAME DURING THE NCAA TOURNAMENT. HIS 27-POINT OUTBURST AGAINST GEORGIA TECH IN THE SWEET 16 EARNED HIM REGIONAL MVP HONORS
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Below are four unattributed quotes from the world of LSU sports — some modern and contemporary; others dated but iconic. See if you can figure out which former or current Tiger said it! Who Said That? “Yeah, of course. I’m not a slider. I told Coach E and my teammates that I’m not a slider. They’ve never really believed me, I don’t think, but I don’t think that quarterbacks should slide. It’s not in my DNA.” 1 2 “No receiver is ever open. Ever. So there you go.” “I’m not saying I think the Earth is flat. I’m saying people who believe the Earth is flat have made some compelling arguments.” 4 “It’s a nice little accomplishment. I think just due to the preparation and work put in, I definitely believed it. I thought I should have done it last year, I was kind of mad at myself. Maybe next year I won’t get off to a slow start hit- ting them.” 3
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Immortal The pomp and circumstance of a public unveiling had to be scrapped in light of the tragedy that rocked the campus earlier that day, but LSU unveiled its statue commemorating Billy Cannon at a private event attended by his teammates on the 1958 National Championship team. Dr. Cannon, the only Tiger to ever win the Heisman Trophy, passed away in May, just a few months shy of the 60-year anniversary of him and his teammates putting LSU Football on the map with its first national championship — and the first without him. “It’s fitting that Dr. Cannon will be first and, so far, the only football player at LSU immortalized in this way,” LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said. “He and the 1958 team helped put LSU football on the map as a national powerhouse.” You can see the statue picture here in all its glory. And in case you were wondering, those are track shoes and a shotput at Cannon’s feet. After all, the LSU legend wasn’t just a star on the gridiron.
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FROM THE VAULT
HEADS OF STATE Talk about a weird backdrop for a football game. The LSU-Miami game in 1962 was played in Baton Rouge while the state of Florida was rightfully more concerned about the looming Cuban Missile Crisis, which began that same October week. Thankfully, intense negotiations between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev led to a withdrawl of the Soviet Union’s nuclear missiles from Cuba. Photo: U.S. National Archives
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WHAT A T IME FOR A WAR! CUBAN MISSLE CRISIS STIFLES FOOTBALL TALK
B y B U D J O H N S O N Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Fall issue of the 2014 LSU Alumni Magazine. Bud Johnson is the former Sports Information Director at LSU . “Something is going on in Cuba,” the man told me. The date was Oct. 9, 1962. He was from Coral Gables, Fla., a little more than 90 miles from Cuba. His comment got my attention. The CIA’s failed Bay of Pigs invasion, of April 17, 1961, had increased tension between Washington and Moscow. Rus- sian premier Nikita Kruschev had threatened military retaliation if the US invaded his new ally, the island nation of Cuba. The man was George Gallet. He was not in the CIA. He was the sports publicity director for the University of Miami. He was in Baton Rouge to enlighten the media on the Hurricanes and their quarterback George Mira, one of the nation’s best passers. Mira led the nation that year ... in passes,
completions, passing yardage, touchdowns ... and in intercep- tions with 18. Gallet’s statement about Cuba seemed to prioritize the events of the day. LSU’s home game that Saturday (Oct. 13) with the Hurricanes and George Mira could wait a minute. “There are military vehicles and troop carriers everywhere in South Florida,” Gallet continued over lunch. “We must be getting ready to invade Cuba.” The next day, October 10, 1962, Senator Kenneth Keating of New York told the national media that six intermediate-range ballistic missile bases are being constructed in Cuba. He demand- ed that President Kennedy take action. George Gallet told the Baton Rouge media that George Mira was the only quarterback in the country who was a threat as a runner, as a passer and as a receiver. It was obvious that No. 5-ranked LSU would have its
hands full. But who was listen- ing? Somehow the pre-occupation with the football season in Baton Rouge ... the plans for pre-game parties, post-game parties and the wheeling-and-dealing for Ole Miss tickets ... seemed to take a back seat to the news on the front page. President Kennedy, two weeks later, would address the nation on October 22, 1962 to tell the American public what he knew of the things that were going on in Cuba. The President confirmed the presence of offensive missile sites in Cuba. The threat of a nuclear war is about the only thing that could push football into the background in Baton Rouge. Three SEC teams -- Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss -- were na- tionally-ranked that year, Coach Charles McClendon’s first season as the Tigers head coach. The Rebels were coming to town November 3 for another big showdown.
What a time for a war! There were some tense days and nights before Kennedy and Krushchev settled the crisis. On October 27, 1962, an American U-2 accidentally flew into Soviet airspace near Alaska. It was nearly intercepted by Soviet fighters. I didn’t check but I suspect that George Mira was also intercepted that week. The US agreed not to invade Cuba. On October 29, 1962, Kru- shchev agreed to remove Russian missiles from Cuba. The Saturday after the crisis ended, LSU beat Florida 23-0. The Tigers were tied by Rice 6-6 and beaten by Ole Miss, compiling a 9-1-1 record in 1962. But the Bengals were the bullies of the bowl season, shutting out Texas in the Cotton Bowl 13-0. LSU’s Jerry Stovall and Fred Miller were selected All-America. And those Miami Hurricanes? LSU defeated them 17-3. In their final game of the season, Miami lost to Nebraska 36-35 in some- thing called the Gotham Bowl.
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the view of year two WILLWADE reflects on his first season at LSU and looks forward to the upcoming season and the great expectations that come with it
BY tyler nunez
Editor’s Note: This interview with Will Wade was conducted and transcribed prior to the death of forward Wayde Sims . TIGER RAG: Any opening statements about the start of practice? WILL WADE: “I know it’s the start of practice, but we’ve been practicing for -- with the new rules we can pretty much practice whenever, so we’ve been doing team stuff for pretty much two or three days all summer and two or three days a week in the preseason. It’s not like this is a revolutionary start to everything.” TR: How does the team look going into the first practice? WW: “We’re a work in progress. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got good players. We’ve got good talent. We’ve got some work to do.” TR: What are some of the issues you feel have been addressed with new per- sonnel going into the 2018-19 season?
to earn the right to earn their minutes. As a team, we’ve got to collectively earn the right to win. The non-conference games are going to be tough. You look at teams in the league. Kentucky -- over 30 years has earned the right to win. They’ve earned the right to be where they are. Auburn and Tennessee, last year, earned the right to win the championship and they earned the benefit of the doubt. We’re not in that po- sition. We haven’t won anything, you know, in a while. So we’re not in that position, so we’ve got to work every day to earn it, and build good habits, and give ourselves an opportunity. Certainly, our expectations internally are to work real hard and to put ourselves in the best position to earn op- portunities to win and earn opportunities to be on the big stage.” TR: Are there any injuries that you’re concerned about heading into the sea- son? WW: Any injuries we have are just kind of nagging stuff. We don’t have any major surgeries or anything like that. It’s been a tough preseason for them, a tough sum-
WW: “Some of our issues were sche- matic, but hopefully we solved some shot blocking and some rim protection just by getting bigger and more athletic at the rim. Hopefully we’ll be better defensively by being longer at the wings. Hopefully our on-ball defense will be better. Hopefully by being bigger and playing a little bigger, we’ll be able to rebound the ball. Hopefully all those things will be solved just with our new pieces.” TR: What are your expectations for this season? WW: “Our expectations internally are going to be much higher, but that doesn’t matter. You’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to earn the right to win. I talk to our players all the time, you’ve got to earn the right to play. Just because you show up doesn’t mean good things are going to happen. You’ve got to earn it every day with what you do. Earn it with how you build your habits and build really, really good habits and build championship habits every day. We’ve got to earn it. Each of our guys has
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mer. But we’ll be fresh. TR: How have guards Tremont Waters and Ja’Vonte Smart meshed so far? WW: That’s something we’re going to work on, meshing those guys together. Right now, they’re mostly playing against each other. Iron sharpens iron. We want guys to compete against each other. I like the way it’s a back-and-forth battle. Some days Trem- ont’s team wins, some days Ja’Vonte’s team wins. I love Ja’Von-
TR: How do you like your schedule this season? WW: I am a little disappointed in the weekend conference games, if you look at the TV times. I talked earlier about building a fanbase. It’s a lot better for us when the games are a little bit later in the day. We only have one game that’s at like 5 o’clock or later in the afternoon or later in the weekend. That’s a little bit tougher for our fans to come from northern Louisiana or from over in Lake Charles or somewhere like that. It’s a little disappointing, but hey, that’s the way it is. That’s the way it goes. I think it’s
te’s toughness, his competitiveness. He brings an edge to us that we didn’t have. I really like that. Those guys will each get the other one better. As we get going into practice, we’ll transition with some lineups. We haven’t done a lot of lineup stuff. We’ve just been kind of playing good- on-good. We haven’t started pairing our guys together a whole lot. We’re going to do that as we move forward. I think they’ll play very, very well together. TR: Whose going to play point guard for you this season? FM: “We played two point guards last year with Tremont (Waters) and Skylar (Mays). I think we’ll play two point guards this year. Heck, we might play three point guards. Actually, we will play with three point guards at a lot of times when we have Tre and Sky and Ja’Vonte in there. TR: What are you
our last home game that’s a 7 p.m. or a decent time. … The more night games we have on the weekends, the better it is for our fans and the more people we have. That’s a little disappointing, but that’s the way it goes with TV. TR: How import- ant was it to build a bond with your incoming freshmen? WW: I’ve tried to carve out a ton of time (for our young guys). I didn’t even recruit Fridays during the recruiting period in July. I’d come back and spend time and run practice with our players with that in mind. The most important recruits we have are on campus. I’d fly back here, run practice, spend time with them, eat break- fast and dinner with them then fly back out to recruit wherev- er we were going. TR: Is this the best recruiting class you’ve ever been a part of? WW: It’s a good
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proud of after your first season on the job? WW: “People are pretty excited about basketball here. That wasn’t the case a year, year and half ago. I understand there’s an opportunity that it doesn’t go so hot, and there are some people waiting around to say ‘Hey, how’s this thing gonna go’. But that’s good. I’d much rather have it that way than nobody cares and people not worried about us. Our biggest accomplishment as a program is that people care.
one. It’s a very good one. But we have to take it from paper to the court. The paper, the rankings, none of that stuff matters anymore. Nobody cares. Rankings don’t matter, the stars don’t matter; everybody’s equal when you get to this point. Now it’s another race. You won that race to get to wherever you got to. Now it’s another race and you have to earn it again. You have to earn a star, a second star, a third star. You have to earn all that stuff again. Because it doesn’t matter. What got you here won’t get you where you want to go. You have to keep earning it and keep moving forward.
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Courtesy of LSU Athletics
THE BIGGEST STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR LSU DURING FALL BALL By JAMES MORAN BACK TO WORK
LSU began its six-week fall practice period on Sept. 23, which will conclude with the annual Purple and Gold World Series in early November. With it begins a 2019 sea- son that comes with sky-high expectations following a windfall from the MLB Draft. Stars Zack Hess, Zach Watson and Antoine Duplantis all returned for one more season in addition to LSU signing the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, according to Baseball America . All that talent means it won’t be quite the rebuilding job that Paul Mainieri and Co. faced a season ago, but there’s work to do this fall and questions that must be answered nonetheless. Let’s run down the biggest storylines to monitor through the fall practice season. 1. WELCOMED RETURN LSU is looking for a return to elite form from its pitching staff last season, and the return of Eric Walker will be a major step in the right direction. Walker missed all of the 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery following the 2017 College World Series. The right-hander from Texas was nothing short of a freshman
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phenom during that rookie campaign, solidifying a weekend rotation behind veterans Alex Lange and Jared Poche’. Walker posted an 8-2 record and a 3.48 ERA in 95.2 innings en route to earning multiple Freshman All-Ameri- can honors. LSU opted to give Walker the summer off to ensure he was 100 percent for fall practice, but the reviews have been rave regarding his form in bullpen sessions. Mainieri has said repeatedly that you wouldn’t know Walker had even had surgery from watching him throw in recent weeks. Pitching coach Alan Dunn has been with Walker through every step of the recovery and rehabilitation process, and pitching in live scrimmages represent the next major hurdle in his return to the weekend rotation. “First off I’m just so excited when I see Eric coming to the yard every day,” Dunn said. “That’s something I missed last year. He’s just such a presence on our pitching staff, and just having him in the mix with everything we’re doing as a pitching staff, it’s just great having him there. “For him personally, I think he’s just getting his game back to where it was when we shut him down in Omaha in 2017. I’ve been pleased with the progress he’s made and how he’s feeling. His command has been outstanding in the bullpens, so I think he’s right there on the cusp of getting back to 100 percent.” Assuming Walker is healthy and shows little signs of rust, he figures to slot into the rotation behind ace Zack Hess once the regular season rolls around. 2. BACK IN THE MIX Perhaps no storyline will be more critical to LSU’s success in 2019 than making sure Josh Smith is healthy enough to step back in at shortstop. Smith missed all but six games last season due to a back injury, but Mainieri has been publicly optimistic that a summer of rest and treatment was enough for that ailing back to heal. “Josh is 100 percent as far as I’m concerned and he’s concerned,” Mainieri said. “He’s not holding back at all. He’s done everything that everybody else has done during the individual workouts. He’s swinging the ball. He’s been fielding ground balls, throwing, running — he’s doing it all. So my anticipa- tion is that Josh Smith’s injury is behind him and we’re counting on him being an every-day player for us.” LSU has one of the best outfields in college baseball with Watson and Duplantis returning to play alongside blossoming star Daniel Cabrera. The pitching staff is deep and talented behind Hess and Walker. If there’s a question mark about this roster, it’s the infield. A healthy and productive Smith would go a long way toward solidifying it. 3. POSITIONS OF CONCERN The top priority heading into any season is establishing enough pitching depth to compete at an elite level, but two positions stuck out in Mainieri’s mind as top concerns heading into the fall: A) CATCHER LSU struggled mightily to find consistency in terms of defense or offensive production behind the plate last season. Hunter Feduccia (48 games), Nick Coomes (16 games) and Bryce Jordan (two games) split time as the position. Only Jordan remains on the roster this season as LSU signed a trio of new catchers to revamp the position heading into 2019. The competition to start behind the plate will begin in earnest this fall.
Saul Garza and Brock Mathis, two junior college signees, are the leading contenders to win the job. Garza hit .381 with 23 home runs at Howard Junior College last season while Mathis hit .270 with four home runs in an inju- ry-shortened season at Northwest Florida State. Ultra-talented freshman CJ Willis is the wild card at catcher. The Ruston native likely would have been a high draft pick were it not for a shoulder in- jury in high school, and that injury will limit him this spring. Willis has been cleared to hit and catch bullpen sessions, but he won’t throw until the spring. “Willis is a month ahead of schedule with his hitting,” Mainieri said. “He’s hitting full speed now starting this week. He’ll play defensively at either left field or first base, but he can’t throw the ball at all.” B) THIRD BASE The hot corner will be an open competition beginning this fall with an emphasis on defense, Mainieri said. Freshman Drew Bianco and Gavin Dugas and Tulane transfer Michael Kirsch will all see time there in scrimmages with the odd man out playing second base on a given day. “We’re going to watch them all fall and see if somebody is the all-around player that we need to have,” Mainieri said. “But if they can’t play defense adequately to our level, then they can’t play third base no matter how much they hit. We have to have a good defensive third baseman.” If none of the newcomers are ready for the job, Mainieri has an ace in the hole in slick-fielding sophomore Hal Hughes. Hughes stepped in at shortstop in Smith’s place last season and the staff is optimistic he can develop into more of a hitter as he matures. “Hal is a much-improved hitter,” Mainieri said. “He’s not going to hit with the same authority strength-wise that some of the new guys might, but that’s how much emphasis I place on defense at third base.” 4. YOUNG GUNS It’s too early to make any proclamations, but three of the rookie arms have stood out to Mainieri up to this point. Here’s a sound byte from Mainieri on each of the big three: RHP LANDON MARCEAUX: “The guy who I look to the sky and say ‘Thank you Lord that he showed up to school’ is Landon Marceaux. I’m not saying he’s the next Aaron Nola, but he has a chance to be. Great command. Every fastball is 92-93 mph. He’s got a curveball with great tight spin. It looks like a Ma’Khail Hilliard curveball with a 93 mph fastball and impeccable control. He’s got a good changeup, too.” RHP JADEN HILL: “Jaden Hill told me he’d never thrown a bullpen in high school. He played infield when he didn’t pitch and played quarterback in the fall. So Alan Dunn has had him throw two bullpen sessions so far, and I sat behind the catch the last time he threw, and I was sitting here like this (mouth open). And you think he’s raw? People just make this stereotype that because he played football in the fall and he’s a big guy that didn’t get drafted, that he must be raw. His control was impeccable, he had a great changeup and he was throwing the ball in excess of 90 mph. Not sure what else you look for. He’s got a chance to be something special.” RHP COLE HENRY: “Cole Henry has thrown the hardest of anybody and he’s got a good feel for his breaking ball and a changeup. I think Alan Dunn is going to sprinkle a little bit of the Dunn magic on him and he’s going to be something really good.”
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TIGERRAG.COM | OCTOBER 2018 | TIGER RAG EXTRA | 19
ED ORGERON, LSU PROVING EVERYBODY WRONG THROUGH IMPROBABLE START THE SMARTEST MORAN STARTERS: NOW
a stadium that’s been a house of horrors for the program since before anybody on the roster was even born yet. An interception by Grant Delpit on the second play from scrimmage led to an early touchdown and a 7-0 LSU lead. There were numerous chances to stretch the advantage, but LSU led 10-0 before Auburn got on the kind of roll that makes Gus Malzahn’s team a perennial SEC West contender. Auburn ripped off two touchdown drives to take a 14-0 lead into the half. If that wasn’t demoralizing enough, an attempted fake punt blew up in Orgeron’s face to allow Auburn to score again early in the third quarter. Trailing by two scores on the road under an avalanche of 21 unanswered points, LSU could have bemoaned the early opportunities it let slip away and packed it in. They could have become resigned to what seemed at the time like certain defeat. Instead LSU rolled with the haymakers and kept on swinging. That’s a testament to LSU’s mental toughness as a football team, and like it or not, that’s a credit to its head coach. Quarterback Joe Burrow, the coveted graduate transfer Orgeron went out and landed, led the charge back. He threaded the needle on a 71-yard scoring strike to Derrick Dillon that got LSU within two points late in the fourth quarter. A defense that appeared discombobulated and tired during Auburn’s run
Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared in the Sept. 17 edition of Tiger Rag following LSU’s 22-21 upset of Auburn. It’s been edited slightly in the interest of timeliness. AUBURN, Ala. — Of all the go-to football mantras that live near and dear to Ed Orgeron’s heart, perhaps none get more play than “block out the noise.” Whether it’s pundits picking LSU to finish fifth in the SEC West, a string of arrests and subsequent suspensions or half the quarterback room transferring during fall camp, the fiery coach preached that same message. And dammit, the door that separates the
By JAMES MORAN Tiger Rag Editor
visiting locker room from the media at Jordan-Hare Stadium did its best to block out the noise, but it could barely muffle the raucous celebration of the players and coaches who pulled off LSU’s stunning 22-21 upset of Auburn. “We were stronger!” Orgeron’s gravelly voice bellowed through the locker room walls. “We were ready! We were bigger! We were more physical than them! Yeah baby! Yeah!” There were some four-letter epithets in
found its footing, getting stop after stop to get the ball back to Burrow and Co. The final five Auburn drives ended with three punts, an interception and a missed field goal. Aided by two pass interference flags, Burrow led LSU on a game-winning drive that ate up the final 5:38 remaining on the clock. The out route he hit to Dee Anderson on third-and-seven and the slant to Stephen Sullivan on fourth-and-seven were nothing short of clutch dimes. That set the stage for Cole Tracy, the
there too that aren’t fit for print, but you can use your imagination. It was the same kind of raw elation that poured out of Orgeron as he skipped through the bowels of AT&T Stadium a few weeks earlier after LSU finished its demolition of favored Miami in Dallas. Orgeron got most of that raw Cajun fire out of his system surrounded by his players and staff before putting on a calmer face for his post-game press conference. That’s how he managed to provide his standard go-to response when asked what taking down another top-10 foe meant for him personally.
James Moran is the editor of Tiger Rag. He is a graduate of the LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. Reach him at James@tigerrag.com . But for now Orgeron and Co. are going to savor the way they’ve exceeded all expectations through what on paper looked like an impossible start to the schedule. And if you’ve got a problem with his explicit postgame bluster, he’s got an answer for that too. “I have a right to do that,” Orgeron said defiantly. “And I’ll do it again.” Division II kicker who Orgeron was roundly mocked for using a scholarship on. Tracy calmly trotted out onto the field and drilled the 41-yard field goal to set off jubilation on the LSU sideline and silence the sellout crowd at Jordan-Hare. “We had confidence that he was going to make it,” Orgeron said. “There was no doubt in my mind that he was going to make that field goal. It worked out perfect.” If this season works out as perfectly as that fourth-quarter comeback will be determined in the weeks to come. LSU figures to be favorites in its next three games (Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss and at Florida) before a brutal three- game stretch during which Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama come to town. It’ll be a different kind of noise that must be blocked out as LSU shifts from constant underdog to one of the 2018 season’s media darlings amid this undefeated start. Press clippings will constitute rat poison to borrow a phrase from Nick Saban, instead of Popeye’s spinach in verbal form.
“It’s not about me,” Orgeron responded, asked if upending Auburn again was the biggest win of his roller coaster coaching career. “It’ll never be about me. We’re 3-0. It’s about this football team and coaching staff.” With all due respect, LSU’s improbable 3-0 start is very much about its underdog of a coach. The Tigers have shown the college football world that they’re better than anybody in Baton Rouge or abroad had thought with two wins over top-10 foes in three weeks, both of which came away from the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium. And Orgeron is subsequently making a Freezing Cold Take of everyone who listed his name among college football coaches on the hot seat in 2018. Things can change in a hurry in this sport, but it’s time to stop treating Org- eron like he’s the punchline of a coach who crashed and burned at Ole Miss. It’s sort of poetic that Orgeron improved his career record to 34-33 — one game over the .500 mark — by beating Auburn. He’s now 18-6 since taking over at LSU and a respectable 24-8 as a head coach since getting fired at Ole Miss. Winning at a .750 clip is solid, no matter who you are. This LSU team is proving itself to be a reflection of its head coach. Not perfect by any means, but a group that never stopped fighting and appears fueled by those who continue to pick against them week after week. LSU came flying out of the gate against Auburn as a 10-point underdog in
20 TIGER RAG EXTRA | OCTOBER 2018 | TIGERRAG.COM
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Courtesy of 247Sports
8 : Finley is regarded as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the 2020 class and the No. 8 prospect in the state of Louisiana, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.
22 TIGER RAG EXTRA | OCTOBER 2018 | TIGERRAG.COM
STARTERS: NOW GAME CHANGER WITH A ROCKET ARM AND NEXT-LEVEL MENTALITY, 2020 COMMITMENT TJ FINLEY WANTS TO END THE STIGMA SURROUNDING QUARTERBACK PLAY AT LSU
BY crissy froyd • Special to t iger rag
In the history of Ponchatoula High School and specifically the long tenure of head coach Hank Tierney, the option offense has been king. But now there’s someone under center to change that. That’s four-star quarterback TJ Finley. “It’s kind of funny because in my history in particular, we’ve always been an option offense,” Tierney says. “We’ve never had kids who have thrown the ball like that.” And the quarterbacks that fit that scheme came and went, including Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, typically switched positions at the next level. “Most of my quarterbacks have gone on to play college at another position, but not at quarterback,” Tierney says. “So when TJ came here, we switched the offense. We went 360, so to speak. He was completely uncharted waters as far as us.”
According to Tierney, Finley was a natural from the moment he hit the football field in Ponchatou- la. “I think his knowledge of the game is as good as I’ve seen for someone his age,” he says. “I wish we could take credit for that, but he came in here with a high football IQ. He understood coverage, he understood reads, he understood everything. Everything about him mentally is outstanding.” The video game numbers Finley put up in the second week of the season were unlike anything Tierney had ever seen in his 41-year coaching career. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound quarterback was 20-of-36 for 639 yards and seven touchdowns with two rushing scores. Finley showed some extra versatility too, catching a two-point conversion pass that ultimately made all the difference. “We knew he could throw, and he’s had some
nice games, even though it was nothing like he had two weeks ago, Tierney says. “It was one of the best performances I’ve seen. It was as exciting of a game as I’ve ever coached, and I’ve been a coach since 1977.” Perhaps the most impressive thing about Finley is that he didn’t know, nor did he place a lot of thought into his own numbers that night. Finley wasn’t keeping track of how many yards he had thrown for. “I wasn’t really concerned or worried about my personal stats,” he says. “No one really told me my personal stats until after the game. I didn’t know how many yards I had thrown for. I just knew at the end of the game I was happy because my teammates and my defense stepped up at the end and finally stopped the opponent’s offense to win the game.”
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You’d think that a quarterback who had put up numbers like the ones he did would rush to get the final line on his stats as the clock hit zero. But that’s not TJ Finley. The high school junior has never been his own top priority, and his actions go to show that. Just as long-standing as the option offense has been at Ponchatoula, so too has the internal rivalry between offense and defense. But it looks like Finley has done just as fine of a job of flipping the attitudes of his teammates as he has the offensive scheme of his team. “It’s making sure I’m always giving my teammates positive feedback, and not ever downing them. Making sure there’s never a beef between offense and defense,” Finley says. “Because so far, here at Ponchatoula, our defense has struggled to stop people a little bit. Making sure I tell my teammates not to talk bad about or argue with the defense and stuff like that. You have to keep a positive attitude towards the whole circle.” As a young athlete, Finley knows he has to not only be a leader, but keep his image and priorities in check. He says he looks up to a certain pair of NFL quarterbacks to “model” himself after. He uses the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton as a reminder of what can happen if he makes a bad decision. “I look at Cam Newton because I know his backstory having to transfer out of a D1 college, to JUCO college, back into a D1 college,” Finley says. “And then, you know, he made it into the league. So, I just try to watch everything that I do. You never know what can come back and bite you.” As more of a role model figure, Finley pays attention to none other than New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “For the mental part of the game, I’ve studied Tom Brady,” he says. “I mean, he’s just a student of the game.” Finley will need to do all the studying and preparing he can right now. He’s faced with a tall task at LSU, entering a program that’s struggled heavily at the quarterback position for over a decade. But he isn’t afraid of the challenge it presents. In fact, he thinks he can play a major role in putting the stereotype to rest. “I’m not worried about it,” he says. “I feel like I can be one of the quar- terbacks that can go in and make a difference and change the stigma ... I want to go in there and change the culture of them having bad quarterbacks, and finally be one of the good quarterbacks. Well, maybe I wouldn’t use the word ‘good’. But I want to be one of the quarterbacks who succeeds not only through college but possibly through the NFL.” His head coach thinks what the Tigers have brewing on offense lately couldn’t be better for Finley. “I think what LSU and Coach (Steve) Ensminger want to do with this of- fense fits TJ Finley like a glove. You want a kid who can throw the ball down the field, who can make all the throws,” Tierney says. “And LSU is always going to have really good receivers. They’ve always had really good running backs, and TJ will be part of that with a good supporting cast. With his ability to throw the football, I think that’s what Coach Ensminger likes about him.” Finley has all the tangibles, and most analysts will agree on that. What’s less talked about is the maturity and dedication he shows. Tierney thinks that’s something people need to hear about. “I’ll tell you what he does not get enough credit for,” Tierney says. “And that is the fact that his work ethic is out of this world. A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, well he’s just got a strong arm’. But no, he studies the game, he works very hard, he continuously wants to practice. He wants to throw. He wants to throw even in the offseason. His competitive nature and his work ethic is probably the best thing I can say about him.” Finley’s changed the narrative at Ponchatoula. Here’s to hoping he can add a welcomed twist to the story in Baton Rouge.
Courtesy of 247Sports
“I feel like I can be one of the quarterbacks that can go in and make a difference and change the stigma. I want to go in there and change the cul- ture of them having bad quarterbacks, and final- ly be one of the good quarterbacks. Well, maybe I wouldn’t use the word ‘good’. But I want to be one OF the quarterbacks who succeeds not only through college but possibly through the NFL.”
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