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LSU’s Miles Isn’t “Visioning” Football Right Now For The Honey Badger

Yesterday, Les Miles said on ESPN radio that the story of dismissed — for this season — star Tyrann Mathieu might have a happy ending.  Most took that to mean that Mathieu could possibly return to LSU next season.  Having spent 20 years listening to coachspeak, that’s certainly how it sounded to me.

But Miles was asked to clarify his remarks yesterday and he did so as only the Tigers’ coach could:

 

“Everybody seems to have picked on that phrase.  The only thing that I can tell you is for me, to get your degree, that you handle your business, get your life in order and you go do the things you want to do.  I can’t imagine he won’t have a great post-college career at whatever he would decide to do.

I am in no way presupposing football.  That’s not something I’m visioning at this point.  I just want to look at my team and do the things that will make this team ready to play Saturday at Florida.”

 

Miles may not be presupposing or visioning football, but I’ll still go out on that limb and say if Mathieu takes care of his off-field business and wants to return to Baton Rouge to play ball in 2013… he’ll be allowed to do so.  And I think that’s a pretty safe, short, stout limb to climb out onto, by the way.

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A Happy Ending For The Honey Badger? Sounds Like Mathieu Will Return To LSU

Less than a month before the start of the 2012 season, Les Miles announced that Heisman-candidate defensive back and star return man Tyrann Mathieu had been dismissed from LSU’s team for the year.  The wording left folks on the Bayou — and in the press — wondering about the definition of the word “dismissed” is in Cajun.

After zipping through LSU’s drug policy, it quickly became clear that a dismissal is a one-year deal, not a “forever” deal, in Baton Rouge.  So Mathieu theoretically could return to Miles’ team for the 2013 season.  But would he?  After all, he could do what many troubled stars have done in the past and go to an FCS school, play one season, and then jump straight to the NFL.

Ah, but then we learned that Mathieu and his family had decided that the player known as the Honey Badger would instead head to Houston and John Lucas’ drug rehabilitation clinic (proving that the young man and his family have his best interests — and not just their bank accounts — at heart).  Mathieu then returned to Baton Rouge in time to enroll as a regular ol’, pay-your-own way student for the fall semester.

With that, it was assumed by most that Mathieu would indeed be back on LSU’s team next fall if he avoided any more positive drug tests.  Yesterday on ESPN Radio, Les Miles hinted further that Mathieu could/will be back with his Tigers this time next year:

 

“There is a very legitimate chance this will have a happy ending.  I think the point of degree, and the point of handling your business and making sure everything is right and correct, and getting your feet on the ground — I think that is a tremendously happy ending.”

 

Don’t know about you, but that sounds like Mathieu will be welcomed back provided he takes care of his off-field situation.

Then again, with Miles’ it’s rare that you’re ever going get a simple “yes” or “no” answer.  I can’t be the only one who’s reminded of Damon Wayans’ “Oswald Bates” character from “In Living Color” when Miles speaks, can I?

 

Oswald Bates Keep your butt in school www keepvid com

 

(And, yes, the headline was by design.)

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LSU Considering Proposal To Formalize An Annual Transfer Of Cash From Athletic Department To School

Louisiana State University believes it’s on the verge of doing something new in the world of college sports.  According to TigerBait.com — the Rivals site covering LSU athletics — the school’s board of supervisors will consider a policy that would formalize an annual transfer of $7.2 million from the LSU athletic department “to other components of LSU for use in supporting LSU’s academic, research, public service and other missions.”

Other athletic departments have, of course, given annual gifts back to their schools, but in addition to the formalizing of such a policy in Baton Rouge, the proposed policy would “establish a revenue sharing component that could provide additional funds to the university’s mission and ensure that all facets of LSU share in the success of the athletics program.”

LSU has been dealing with budget shortfalls and severe cutbacks in recent years, so tapping into the ever-expanding bank account of its athletic department would make a great deal of sense.

William Jenkins — the interim president and chancellor at LSU — told the website: “I am not aware of another university that has formalized a financial agreement such as this one.  The University has has long been a beneficiary of the success of our financially self-sustaining athletics program, but this policy will solidify the connection between athletic success and advancement of the university’s academic mission.”

The policy will be discussed on Friday by LSU’s board.

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LSU Officials: No Change In Game Plans Yet

LSU has announced on its official website that there is “no change in the status” of Saturday’s game between North Texas and the Tigers in Baton Rouge.  “LSU officials are monitoring Hurricane Isaac and will assess the impact of the storm after it has passed through Baton Rouge.”

Sadly, according to Weather.com, Isaac is bringing more rain than Katrina and that could really test the rebuilt levee systems in and around New Orleans.  The storm has basically decided to stall and sit for a while as it moves inland.  Heavy rain is expected in Baton Rouge today and tomorrow with winds as high as 55 mph.  By Friday, the chance of rain drops to 60% with scattered thunderstorms.  By gameday, the forecast calls for a 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms.

The bigger issue, of course, is the damage that might be done in Baton Rouge as the storm passes through.

All our best to those of you going through this.  Be safe.

 

UPDATE — LSU cancelled practice today.

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LSU Wooing Penn State QB Bolden; Not A Bad Idea

Maybe Les Miles is just taking a shot in the dark.  Maybe he wants more depth at the quarterback spot.  Maybe the potential of any ex-starting, BCS-level quarterback is too good to pass up.  Maybe he’s still not over losing Gunner Kiel (swagger, confidence, and chest be damned).

Or maybe Miles just misses having the ability to rotate quarterbacks.

Over the weekend, former Penn State starter Rob Bolden made an official visit to LSU.  According to The New Orleans Times-Picayune (what’s left of it), a source claims Bolden might transfer to Baton Rouge now that the NCAA has declared it open season on the Nittany Lions’ roster.  Bolden could join the Tigers without having to sit out this season.

Bolden is a former 4-star prospect who became the first freshman to start a season opener in Happy Valley in 100 years.  He went on to make 16 starts total before losing his job.

Down in Baton Rouge, Zach Mettenberger is expected to bring a new downfield passing element to LSU’s offense in 2012.  (He himself came to LSU from SEC rival Georgia… via the juco route.)  But behind Mettenberger on the depth chart are two redshirt freshman.  So having a junior with big-time starting experience fall out of the sky probably isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

But…

We all know Miles’ devotion to Jordan Jefferson.  Jarrett Lee — the passing quarterback for the Tigers last season — handled the job admirably while Jefferson dealt with a suspension.  The combination of Jefferson’s return and Lee’s struggles at Tuscaloosa gave Miles enough ammo to make the switch at starter.  Lee became little more than an afterthought, was given a mop-up snap in the SEC Championship Game, and was completely ignored as Jefferson took his turn struggling against Alabama in the BCS title game.

So might Bolden become a change-of-pace guy in the same way that Jefferson/Lee flip-flopped at times the past couple of years?  Not likely.

Below are the combined 2010 and 2011 numbers for Jefferson and Bolden:

 

  QB   Comp   Att   Yds   Comp %   YPA   TD   INT   Rush Yds
  J. Jefferson   179   309   2148   57.9   6.95   13   12   713
  R. Bolden   165   328   2045   50.3   6.23   7   14   27

 

As you can see, Jefferson was much more of a running threat while Bolden — a dual-threat QB in high school — was used as more of a traditional passer at Penn State.  Now, it must also be pointed out that Jefferson was playing on a better team than Bolden and that fact no doubt aided his overall numbers.  Taking that into account and noting that Jefferson’s numbers were from his last two years while Bolden’s came from his first two seasons, it’s easy to see why Miles and the Tigers would have some interest.

If nothing else, Bolden’s start as a passer has been in the ballpark with Jefferson’s finish as a passer.  There’s still room for improvement.  And he’s got more experience than either of LSU’s current backups.

While many will pooh-pooh this idea — and don’t you hate having an idea pooh-poohed? — we don’t see the problem.  Bolden has experience and potential.  But he doesn’t appear to be the type of runner at the collegiate level who’s likely to make Miles want to take Mettenberger off the field just for a change of pace.

If that’s the case, win-win.

But if Miles lands Bolden and tries to unleash him as a runner (a la Jefferson), then Tiger fans might once again be left asking, “Why is he in the game right now and not the other guy?”

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Mizzou And A&M Get An Atlanta Welcome To The SEC

Last evening, Missouri and Texas A&M enjoyed a little Southern hospitality from the folks in Atlanta.  According to Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, officials from both schools were surprised by the turnout of “nearly 1,000″ Aggie and Tiger fans who showed up at Buckhead’s JW Marriott for the event.

“This is like walking into a bowl game,” A&M’s Kevin Sumlin said.  “Or the Final Four.”

“(Joining the SEC) is huge for our fans,” Mizzou’s Gary Pinkel said.  “It’s been good for ticket sales, and it’s been very, very good for recruiting… Recruiting in the SEC has been nothing but positive for us.  Everyone believes the SEC plays the best football, and to high school kids there’s no question who’s the best… This leagues is like the NFL — every week you’ve got to play well.”

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said his school’s move to the SEC goes further than just football:

 

“We haven’t had a good national stage so one of the drivers for me was the recognition that the SEC provides a lens through which the world can see Texas A&M, not simply for athletics, but for its many dimensions.  We think this is going to be a great boost for the brand, if you will, for Texas A&M and puts us on a national stage like we haven’t been before…

The SEC has always been a conference where everybody shared equally and everybody had the same voice.  That wasn’t always the case in the Big 12 or before it, the Southwest Conference.  We find this to be the way to achieve long-term stability.  The SEC is an old conference and it’s going to be around a long time longer.”

 

Even SEC vets like Georgia president Michael Adams and commissioner Mike Slive walked away impressed by the turnout.

“They’re amazed… I’m amazed,” said Adams.  “What a turnout said the commissioner,” who invited the Aggies and Tigers on hand to travel and experience more SEC fever at road stops across the league:

 

“What you’re seeing tonight is the kind of pride and passion — the pride and the passion — shared by the fellow members of the SEC.  And we hope that each of you will visit the traditions on other SEC campuses in the coming years and experience first hand a Saturday between the hedges, a night under the lights in Baton Rouge, a game in The Swamp and a visit to the Grove, just to name a few.

We look forward to reliving old rivalries and developing new ones in the years ahead.”

 

Those games will come soon enough.  They will inevitably be followed by the name-calling, the conspiracy theories, and the hate that goes with sharing an athletic conference with rivals.  But for now, MU and A&M officials and fans continue to enjoy a warm reception into their new league.  And behind the scenes, they’ve already found that the SEC has more of an arm-in-arm spirit than the conference they just left behind.

 

UPDATE — Eric SanInocencio has posted a photo gallery from last night’s party at the SEC’s official website.

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LSU To Introduce Jones As New Hoops Coach Today

Last Tuesday, we broke down for you exactly how we expected LSU’s coaching search to go:


1.  AD Joe Alleva would chase a few big names to please the fanbase.

2.  Then he would most likely wind up hiring someone the complete opposite of Trent Johnson — a man who failed to connect with Tiger fans and never could build strong relationships with Louisiana high school coaches or recruits.


We ended that story by saying that North Texas’ Johnny Jones — an ex-LSU player with strong ties to the state — “would seem to have the edge on that front.”

For those who missed it over the past week, LSU’s Alleva reportedly had some type of contact with “name” coaches like VCU’s Shaka Smart, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon among others.

But today at 2pm ET, it will indeed be Jones who’ll be officially introduced as LSU’s new hoops coach.  Hired over the weekend, Jones’ resume at North Texas is causing concerns for some while others are thrilled that someone from “inside the family” has been tabbed for the job.  In their view — and you can count ex-Tiger coach Dale Brown among them — Jones enters Baton Rouge with a knowledge of the job and a knowledge of what he must do to be successful in that job.

Jones has already been busy contacting some of Louisiana’s top prospects as well as some players Johnson was recruiting before he hit the road for TCU.  Jones is also in the process of filling out his coaching staff which could include another former Tiger, Randy Livingston.

Brown — the SEC’s second all-time winningest coach behind Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp — gave Jones his seal of approval over the weekend in a written release:


“I compliment Joe Alleva for making a thorough search with his staff — without hiring an expensive search firm — to find the very best basketball coach for LSU, Louisiana, and all the LSU fans scattered around the world.  We all got much more than just a basketball coach.  We got a person of integrity, humor, superb work ethic, strong will, a unifier, a disciplinarian and a bright and pleasant gentleman… Hold onto your seats.  This will be an exciting ride.”


One wonders if Brown’s first draft also referred to Jones as being a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick-maker.

In 12 seasons as a head coach — an interim year at Memphis in 1999-2000 was followed by 11 years at North Texas — Jones took two squads to the NCAA Tournament, won 20-games five times (all in the last six years), and compiled an overall record of 205-162.  While the record won’t floor anyone, it should be noted that he built North Texas up over the course of his stay there.

Still, it’s clear Jones’ hiring has more to do with connections to the past and an understanding of the job and the Louisiana people than it does his record.  And those ties and connections are exactly why we thought last week that he’d have an edge on the competition for LSU’s job.

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LSU Search Includes – Of Course – Minnesota’s Smith, VCU’s Smart

For those in the LSU family who want ex-Tiger player and assistant Johnny Jones — currently the head coach at North Texas — to be hired in Baton Rouge, the latest news on Joe Alleva’s search probably won’t please them.  According to Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com, the school has been in contact with Minnesota’s Tubby Smith.

Well, of course, it has. 

We’ve long joked that if the job of dog-catcher in Muskogee, Oklahoma came open, Smith and Jon Gruden would be mentioned as candidates to fill the vacancy.  They’re mentioned whenever a basketball or football gig, respectively, opens.  VCU’s Shaka Smart has recently joined those two as a member of The Always Mentioned Club.  And, he too appears to be on LSU’s radar.  Naturally.

Alleva seems to be channeling Captain Renault from “Casablanca.”





As for Smith, he just completed his fifth season with the Golden Gophers and his track record in Minneapolis looks like this:


2007-2008:  20-14, NIT bid
2008-2009:  22-11, NCAA bid (first-round loss)
2009-2010:  21-14, NCAA bid (first-round loss)
2010-2011:  17-14, No postseason bid
2011-2012:  23-15, NIT bid (runner-up)


His teams have gone 38-49 in the Big Ten during that span including back to back 6-12 league marks the last two years.  Going back further, his last two Kentucky teams went 22-13 (9-7 in the SEC) and 22-12 (9-7 in the SEC).

In addition, Smith will turn 61 in June which means he’d likely be a short-term solution on the Bayou.  Do those facts wow Tiger fans?

Glenn Guilbeau of The Shreveport Times reported late last night that an LSU plane was also tracked to Virginia where it’s believed Alleva is interested in Smart or Virginia’s Tony Bennett or both.

WFAB-TV  in Baton Rouge reported last night that LSU has already spoken with Murray State’s Steve Prohm, too.  Prohm just finished a 31-2 season with the Racers in his first year at the helm of the program.

Alleva made it clear upon Trent Johnson’s departure for TCU that he would rely on his own coaching contacts to find the best possible fit for the Tigers.  It appears he’s truly scouring the country for that person.  Heck, he’s already admitted to talking to Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, too, though, the ex-Duke player turned out to have no interest in the LSU gig.

On Tuesday we wrote that Alleva would likely reach out to a big name or two to satisfy his fanbase before finally turning to Jones.  We continue to believe that’s what will happen.  But the more candidates Alleva meets with, the more doubts about Jones’ eventual hiring creep into our cabezas.

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Johnson Officially Resigns At LSU; Where Do The Tigers Turn?

Trent Johnson’s days on the Bayou are officially over after four seasons.  The LSU basketball coach officially resigned yesterday and will be introduced as TCU’s new hoops coach today.

Johnson — who led the Tigers to one SEC regular-season title, one NCAA Tournament and one NIT — was never viewed as a good “fit” with the LSU fanbase.  So while the school is losing a coach with a proven track record, there will be few tears shed in Baton Rouge today.

Tiger AD Joe Alleva admitted as much yesterday:


“Sometimes coaching changes work out well for all parties involved, and we will take this opportunity to see out the best coach for the long-term future of LSU men’s basketball.

We will move quickly but deliberately to find a coach who will lead our program with integrity and discipline, someone who will recruit effectively in order to build championship teams while inspiring success in academics, and someone who will energize our fan base.  I wish Trent all the best in his new job.”


Key phrase: “Someone who will energize our fan base.”

Johnson had had success at Nevada and Stanford when he arrived at LSU.  He was the example of a proven, “name” coach who did not work out.  Will Alleva now chase another proven, “name” coach — as South Carolina did with Frank Martin — or will he go the assistant/up-and-comer route — as Mississippi State did with Rick Ray?

Already, several coaches with ties to the Pelican State have been mentioned as potential candidates:

Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew was born in Baton Rouge while his father Homer Drew served on Dale Brown’s Tigers staff in the 1970s.  Drew met with AD Scott Stricklin about Mississippi State’s job before deciding to remain at Valpo.  Drew’s brother, Scott, has turned Baylor into a national power, but news is out today that he and his staff — as well as BU’s women’s staff — have made more than 1,200 impermissible phone calls and text messages to recruits over the past two-and-a-half years.  That’s Scott, not Bryce, but still, it bears mentioning.

UTEP’s Tim Floyd played at Louisiana Tech and coached at New Orleans before moving on to Iowa State and the NBA.  Working against Floyd is the fact that after the NBA, he landed at Southern Cal.  There he resigned after a report claimed he paid money to a street agent in order to sign OJ Mayo.  The Trojan program got smacked around by the NCAA and Floyd landed in El Paso.

Marquette’s Buzz Williams was an assistant at Northwestern State before becoming the head coach at New Orleans for a season.

Whoever lands in Baton Rouge will inherit a program featuring only eight returning players at the moment.  Justin Hamilton announced last week that he would turn pro early.

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Report: TCU Targeting LSU’s Johnson For Hoops Opening

According to Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com, TCU is targeting LSU basketball coach Trent Johnson to fill its own coaching vacancy:


“Sources told CBSSports.com that TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte has, after failing to get Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon to return to his alma mater, has targeted Johnson — who has spent the past four years in Baton Rouge.”


Johnson is 58-59 at LSU with an NCAA Tournament appearance and an NIT appearance bookending a pair of 20-loss seasons.  In his first year on the Bayou — with John Brady’s roster — Johnson led the Tigers to a surprising regular-season SEC championship.

Despite a solid track record at Nevada and then Stanford, there have been rumors that Johnson is not a perfect “fit” personality-wise with the Baton Rouge establishment.  Also, remember that TCU is now moving to the 10-team Big 12.  The Horned Frogs will have more money to kick around.  And a 10-member league would figure to be easier to win than a 14-team SEC that’s adding Missouri and Texas A&M (from the Big 12).

We’re big believers in coaches restarting their coaching clocks every five or six years.  With seven-foot star Justin Hamilton announcing yesterday that he was heading to the NBA early, now might be a good time for Johnson to restart his clock.

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