It should come as no surprise that LSU has landed one of the top defensive end prospects in the nation in Douglass High School of Oklahoma standout Deondre Clark.
The 6-3, 235 pound defensive end was regarded by many recruiting analysts as the best player in the state of Oklahoma and why he chose LSU is very obvious. LSU is known for their ability to develop defensive linemen and they are the only school in college football to be able to say that they have produced a defensive lineman that has been selected in each of the past 10 draft classes. That alone is staggering and something that doesn't go unnoticed by top high school defensive linemen.
You can say what you want about gaining an education, but the reality of big time college football is that for many it is the stepping-stone to reaching the pro ranks.
Even when top schools like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Georgia, Alabama, USC, Florida, Clemson, Notre Dame, Texas, Texas A&M and a host of others offered, the Tigers and defensive line coach Brick Haley were able to haul in another top recruit and arguably one of the top 5 defensive end prospects in the nation.
It is something that carries over from last year and that is the fact that LSU has the recruiting tentacles to reach out and grab top talent, especially defensive talent, from across Football USA. In the 2013 recruiting class LSU landed two defensive line prospects from Louisiana, 2 from North Carolina, and one from New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee and Nebraska respectively.
In watching film on Clark the first thing that came to mind was that he looked so much like former LSU Tiger defensive end Sam Montgomery when he came out of Greenwood High School in South Carolina. Both are about the same size and have the same body frame entering their senior year of high school football. Both have a long frame and long arms and get off the snap quickly. But what really looks the same is how they both played with good leverage skills, have the ability to close in on the quarterback quickly and have excellent acceleration skills in the backfield. And both were excellent high school basketball players.
Clark knows how to use his long arms and leverage skills very well for a prepster to get around would-be blockers and he gets excellent penetration from the outside. Like Montgomery, Clark knows how to extend out and gain room to work. On film you can also see that Deondre is rarely off his feet and he has very good football instincts in tracking down the ballcarrier.
His totals in 2012 of 99 tackles and 22 quarterback sacks are very impressive along with also rushing for 275 yards and 4 scores as a rusher and catching 9 passes for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns as a receiver.
One college assistant coach who was recruiting Clark told me that he thought that Clark would need to spend more time in the weightroom to physically get stronger and add some weight, but that he has the skills to play very early in his career.
"Playing in the SEC you are playing in the big boy league and it is just not about being fast and athletic, but also matching up physically to take on and defeat blockers size wise and quickness wise they have never seen before," said a college assistant who recruited Clark. "Deondre does a good job in run support at the high school level, but he will need to get stronger to take on and defeat those mammoth tackles you see each week in the SEC. He's a good kid, a smart football player, well versed in using his arms and hands and Deondre is coachable. LSU landed a real good prospect and with some added strength he has a chance to play and play quickly for them."
With his explosive tendencies, his ability to get off the snap fast and play with good body balance and leverage the Tigers may have just landed another Sam Montgomery in Deondre Clark.
D-Lineman University continues to add to the resume at LSU with the addition of Deondre Clark.
Nicholls State junior quarterback Beaux Hebert, the youngest son of former Northwestern State and New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert and the projected starter for the Colonels in 2013, on what is the most important piece of advice he has gotten from his dad on playing quarterback.
“My dad always preached to me that the most important element of playing quarterback was to take it as one play and move on. It’s hard because I know my dad had troubles at times keeping his emotions in check out on the field, but he was a focused person on the task given him and he reacted negatively at times if others didn’t have that same sort of focus. But he played a long time at the highest level of football because of his talent, his focus and his drive to be the best he could be.
You can’t get too high and too low because of what happens out on the field. Basically, you can get caught up in the moment and by being so emotional you hurt your team. Momentum in sports changes fast so you have to be well grounded and play under control, but not let one really bad play or one really good play affect the next one. When I watch Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco play they don’t get caught up in the moment too often.
Sometimes at that position you try and do too much and it ends up hurting your team as much as helping. It’s cliche, but it’s true, it is one play at a time.”
In one of the most talent rich classes in the history of Louisiana prep football, LSU has landed commitments from top players from in-state, and from across the country.
In the 2013 recruiting class LSU signed 26 players, and the fruits of playing in big games helped nationwide as 12 highly-rated high school players from other states and two signees from junior college, that were not from Louisiana, signed on with the Tigers.
In 2013 the Tigers landed three players from Florida, two players each from Georgia and North Carolina and one each from New Jersey, Illinois, California, Tennessee, Nebraska and two junior college players in wide receiver Quantavious Leslie, who grew up in Georgia and tight end Logan Stokes, who grew up in Alabama.
In the 2014 recruiting class LSU has commitments from 12 high school athletes and seven of them are from out of state.
Already the Tigers have commitments from wide receiver Tony Upchurch from Dawson High School in Texas, cornerback Chris Hardeman from Alief Taylor High School in Texas and safety Ed Paris from Timberview High School in Texas. Along with the three prep commitments from Texas the Tigers also landed outside linebacker/defensive end Sharieff Rhaheed from Fort Prince Central High School in Florida and wide receiver/strong safety Devin Voorhies from Wilkinson County High School in Mississippi.
This past week the Tigers landed the top-rated overall player in Oklahoma in defensive end Deondre Clark. The 6-feet 3-inch, 235-pound pass rush specialist from Douglass High School in Oklahoma City selected the Tigers over Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Clemson and USC.
LSU also got a verbal commitment from one of the top cornerback/safety prospects in Florida in John Battle. The 6-2, 180 pound Battle had over 30 scholarship offers and the Hallandale High School product selected LSU over USC, South Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, South Carolina, Tennessee and North Carolina State.
There is a motto in the Southeastern Conference that holds true today, if you don’t land top prospects in recruiting you better be prepared to play against him.
For LSU, which has built its core unit mainly on Louisiana players, the ability to reach out for some of the top players from across the country is happening in a big way.
Last week we saw the ugly side of sports when New England Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder.
The sight of his arrest quickly brought to mind something I written about in the past and still holds true today. Athletic teams across every landscape of sports really dread the offseason in so many ways. That reminded me of a story former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi told me about a former NFL player who signed two huge contracts, but since leaving the game, has gone through a divorce, spent basically all of the money and was facing major legal issues since he retired from the game.
“I love the offseason in the fact that I can kind of rejuvenate my batteries from such a draining sport and being judged on just 16 events each year. I hate it in many ways because for the first time a lot of these players are not in a structured environment and they get into trouble,” Venturi said. “Some of these guys have way too much free time, they start to hang out with some people that don’t have their best interests in mind, both male and female, and they have a lot of money. They attract people that during the season they stay away from because they are either practicing, at meetings, traveling or playing, and they stay in shape in the months after the season. But after these mini-camp sessions, they are all by themselves in some cases and each and every year we see a larger number of them get into trouble for either alcohol or drug issues or because of them having a loaded gun on them. You have enough money to have someone drive you to where you want to go and get back. And if you need a gun to protect you in where you are going then you shouldn’t be there. It scares the daylights out of me to tell you the truth. This is not a civil service job and it is very short. Coaching or playing in this sport, or to be honest in any job today, for any length of time is rare. There are not a lot of gold watches and service time parties being given out there anymore. It is part of the world we live in.”
Besides the Hernandez issue there were two other NFL players in Indianapolis Colts safety Joe Lefeged and Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent were arrested last week. Lefeged was charged with carrying a firearm without a license, having an unregistered firearm, having unregistered ammunition and the presence of a firearm in a motor vehicle. Brent failed a second drug test while out on bond on an intoxicated manslaughter charge.
Since the Super Bowl was played in New Orleans, there have been 29 known arrests of NFL players.
We all know about the incident involving New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan after he was arrested in late May for driving under the influence and without a license. There is still about a month before NFL training camps start and it is sad, but also true that you will see more of these incidents arise from players in the NFL. While Lefeged and Brent were mainly role performers, Hernandez is a totally different issue.
The criticism in blaming the New England Patriots organization is ridicules. Hernandez came into the league as a talented player with off the field issues and bad temper, but teams are paying for production. This is a bottom line league, like it or not. Hernandez was a top-flight player playing a feature position at tight end. The smartest football mind over the past dozen or so seasons in the NFL is Bill Belichick.
Even the smart ones can make a mistake when it comes to overlooking character for production. Belichick changed what we have and will see in the future by having two very gifted tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, on the field at the same forcing opposing defenses to match up against these two tight ends. Just look at the results. Despite injuries in his three seasons in the league, Hernandez caught 175 passes for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns. Gronkowski also has fought off injuries and caught 187 passes for 2,663 yards and 38 touchdowns in three seasons.
Now Hernandez may end up with a life sentence and New England is hoping that Gronkowski can come back from forearm and back surgeries. How strange the football world has turned because these events may just have opened the door for newly signed Tim Tebow to learn a new position and switch from quarterback to tight end.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is will go down as one of the best ever, but he is a lot better player with Hernandez and Gronkowski in the lineup.
With a healthy Jimmy Graham and Ben Watson it would seem that the New Orleans Saints now have the best tight end tandem in the NFL and you will see the tight ends featured more this season. While it is a tragic and very disturbing story involving Hernandez and while nothing else of this magnitude will surface over the next few weeks, you will hear about other incidents involving players and this is why coaches, front office personnel and owners all cringe during the offseason.
It's been just a few months since the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers, but the excitement and memory of that event is still fresh in the mind of former Nicholls State standout and current Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb.
One year ago at the Lardarius Webb Football Camp in Thibodaux, the former Nicholls State All-American predicted that the Ravens would play in Super Bowl XLVII and win it, especially after a gut-wrenching loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game two seasons ago.
What Webb didn't know was just a few months after signing a new six-year, $53 million contract that he would not get a chance to play in pro football's biggest game.
Webb missed the Super Bowl because he injured his knee during the 2012 regular season game against the Dallas Cowboys in October, but it didn't dull the feeling of something he has dreamed about since he was a young kid — winning a Super Bowl championship.
"I have to admit it was bittersweet to a certain extent because I didn't get to play in the contest, but I knew that I had a part in their success and I played my role as tutor and mentor to the young players on defense," Webb said. "It still brings a chill to me to understand that we were the world champions and had so many adversities throughout the season. Ray (Lewis), Terrell (Suggs), Ed Reed and myself all had injuries that had us on the football shelf, but we overcame. You can't use injuries as an excuse. We were a mentally tough team. You can't win this and have all these injuries and not be a tough team on the field and off the field. But every year is different and this is a business so in 2013 it is a new team and some new players, but the attitude and the will to win is still in this locker room."
Just like most football fans who watched Super Bowl XLVII, Webb said he was shocked when a power outage took place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Webb said the Ravens did a good job of overcoming the distraction.
"I couldn't believe it," Webb said. "It was like this is really not happening and I know sports is a game of momentum and realizing that San Francisco was a very good team and this is giving them an opportunity to catch their breath. We showed a lot of composure, but I can assure you we were upset this happened and how could something like this occur. I know things happen, but for us, it really did change the flow of the game at a pace we wanted it. It was shocking then and it is still shocking to me today, but again it was another hurdle for us to overcome to bring home the championship. Nothing in life is easy."
For the Ravens, the business part of the game took place this offseason with the retirement of Ray Lewis and the loss of future NFL Hall of Fame free safety Ed Reed to the Houston Texans in free agency.
Webb said losing those two pieces were huge.
"Ray (Lewis) was the emotional leader on our team. He was our voice as a team," Webb said. "Ed Reed led by example. He didn't talk a lot, but when he did we all listened. He was my idol in high school and in college and it was the reason I wore No. 20 at Nicholls. No one individual can take their place on and off the field. I have a role to fill as a leader on and off the field, but I can't be Ed or Ray. I have to be Lardarius. I preach to the younger players that you will always have adversity in your life and it is not the fall, but it is how you get up that counts. That is what I am speaking to these young campers about and what I tell the young players entering the league."
Webb said the team will feel the impact of trading away veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers following the Super Bowl win.
"I will be honest and say Anquan is the toughest guy I have ever had to cover in this league," Webb said. "There are guys bigger, faster and quicker, but no one can run a route, get separation, use his body to position himself between the ball and defender and catch the ball with ease like Boldin can. He's amazing. Just an amazing player and I am glad he is not in the AFC. I understand the money part of this game and things have to be done for a reason, but Anquan will be missed greatly for what he did on the field and off the field. He was a great leader and it is his mental toughness that will be missed greatly, along with his talent as a receiver."
Despite the heavy losses this offseason, Webb believes the Ravens will be contenders again in 2013, especially with the return of players such as quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones and tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson.
"Every year teams change and you have to adjust to the talents that are on the team," he said. "Coach (John) Harbaugh has a great feel for pushing the right buttons on players and getting the most out of us. It has a lot to do with preparation and I can't say enough about Coach Harbaugh and his staff. And the guy behind the football curtain, Ozzie Newsome. Our general manager is the best in the game. He has a great eye for talent, he knows what fits best on our squad and he has juggled the salary cap issue so well. Every year we lose people and Ozzie keeps finding people that step right in."
The Ravens have also added key additions in free agent linebacker Elvis Dumervil and first-round draft pick safety Matt Elam.
"We got a great pass rusher in Elvis Dumervil and we drafted a young man from Florida in safety Matt Elam, who has all the tools," Webb said. "We made some moves on defense and some guys decided to leave, but I assure you we will be back in the hunt for the title again."
Webb said the NFL is loaded with several good teams, but one NFC team Webb has great respect for is the New Orleans Saints and in particular quarterback Drew Brees.
"I tell everyone playing in the AFC that San Francisco is a very talented team and I got a feeling they will return to the Big Game this year, but the Saints were a tough team for us to go against," Webb said. "The veterans on the team really pounded it in our heads that playing Drew Brees and the Saints a couple of years ago was a ‘preparation' game. We studied them in the film room as hard as we have studied for any team. We knew Drew Brees was doing the same thing to us and we had to be fully prepared or we were going to get beat. We pulled it out late, but they are a hard team to go up against because of the talent level, Sean Payton is a really good coach and the weapons they have on offense, and especially Drew Brees. Drew is like a surgeon out on the field. Our guy, Joe Flacco, was kind of in his shoes. They both get overshadowed to an extent because of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but Brees and Joe are clutch players. I can say the same for Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers. He is so tough to play because he can beat you with his arm and yet he has the skills to make plays with his feet and buy extra time for his receivers to get open. I know the Saints will be better on defense under Rob Ryan. The Ryan brothers know defense very well. Playing in that Dome is tough. Whoa, they can make some noise and it gives them a great home field advantage."
Webb said he is almost completely back from another serious knee operation and is prepared for another challenge in the NFL this season.
"Really it was easier for me to rehab this time around than the first time," Webb added. "I have been blessed with the support of my teammates, my friends and family and the folks here on the bayou at Nicholls State. There are some great people and some great memories for me here and I hope to return every year to help teach and share my story with these young kids. It's important to them to see people give something back to their community and if we like it or not, we are role models to these young men and women. I am hungry to return to the field and prove that I am still one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL and yes, I want to get back to the Super Bowl and this time play in the game. That part of me, I can't hide."
The NFL Network is finishing up its list of the Top 100 players in the league and some of the selections and non-selections are head shaking. So I thought I would give you my list of the Top 20 players on the 2013 New Orleans Saints roster.
1. Drew Brees — The signing of Brees and the earlier selection of Sean Payton as head coach in early 2006 changed the course of this franchise. Brees is the best player to ever wear the black and gold, and he is the main reason this football team is looked at as a Super Bowl contender since that signature 2006 season.
2. Jimmy Graham — If there is a superstar player on this team other than Drew Brees, it is Graham. Over the past two seasons Graham has caught 184 passes for 2,292 yards and 20 touchdowns. Only Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys) has caught more passes at the tight end spot over the past two years, but Graham has more yards receiving and more touchdown receptions than Witten. He is amongst the league's most feared pass-catching targets at tight end along with Witten, Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots), Vernon Davis (San Francisco 49ers) and Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta Falcons).
3. Jahri Evans — Evans is a devastating one-on-one run blocker and a superb pass protector inside. The four-time Pro Bowler from Bloomsburg State is considered one of the Top 3 offensive guards in the game along with former Saints player Carl Nicks (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Logan Mankins (New England Patriots).
4. Marques Colston — Colston is not in the same category as a Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White or Wes Welker, but he is just a notch below and his size, strong hands and ability to work the short to medium range areas of the field with precision gets noticed by everyone who has to play against him. In seven seasons Colston has 532 catches for 7,394 yards and 58 touchdowns.
5. Curtis Lofton — Lofton is the best player the Saints have on the defensive side of the ball. He is smart, instinctive, tough against the run, a sure open-field tackler and has really improved dropping back into pass coverage.
6. Thomas Morstead — You might think this is a bit high for a punter, but the former SMU player is arguably the best punter in the game today. His net average of 43.2 yards per punt tied him for the best net average in the league last season and his gross average of 50.1 yards per punt was second best in the NFL. His strong leg, excellent placement skills and his outstanding kickoff skills make him the most talented special teams performer the Saints have had since Morten Anderson.
7. Ben Grubbs — Grubbs had some big shoes to fill to replace Carl Nicks and is a very good starting offensive guard in this league. While he is not the huge roadgrader-type run blocker or as powerful, Grubbs is quick, very agile for a big man and is a very good pass protector.
8. Cam Jordan — He had an excellent sophomore season with the Saints. The former University of California standout was known for his stout run defense skills, but he showed a real improvement in getting off the snap quicker and has developed a good array of pass-rush moves. His eight sacks were impressive last season. He is not as talented a pass rusher as Justin Tuck is with the New York Giants, but there are some similar traits in their overall games.
9. Keenan Lewis — Many in Pittsburgh wondered when the football light would come on for Lewis, but over the past year and a half the former O. Perry Walker High School standout has really developed into a very good one-on-one cover cornerback. Lewis' size, long arms and quick recovery speed make him a perfect fit in Rob Ryan's defensive scheme. Lewis is not known for his great hands, but what was impressive last season was his 23 pass deflections.
10. Lance Moore — He certainly doesn't get the same recognition as Graham and Colston, but he is Brees' most trusted route runner and someone he regularly targets in critical spots during games. Moore's route-running skills and his expertise in quickly getting into and out of his cuts and breaks makes him a terrific slot receiver.
11. Pierre Thomas — The Saints keep throwing people at him to knock him off the team's top running back slot and he keeps throwing them back at them. There is no debate that he is the team's best pass protector in the backfield, the best receiver coming out of the backfield and he makes more yardage after first contact than any other back on the roster today. Thomas runs with great vision and while he's no speedster, he is a tremendous inside runner and rarely puts the ball on the ground.
12. Mark Ingram — He is the guy Payton wants to be his bell-cow runner in 2013. Ingram has flashed that ability at times and is a bit of a crank runner meaning he needs eight to 10 carries to get cranked up, but he has a good array of open-field moves, runs tough in traffic and has a deceptive burst to the edge. If he can stay healthy he has a chance to go over 1,100 yards rushing in 2013 when the Saints will place more of an emphasis on running the ball.
13. Darren Sproles — Sproles completes the trifecta of backs that Payton likes to use in his offensive schemes. Sproles fought off injuries and some inconsistent play in 2013, but he is lightning quick, has outstanding open-field moves he is a nightmare to cover one-on-one as a receiver.
14. Ben Watson — We haven't seen him in practice due to an injury, but the addition of Watson gives the Saints a one-two punch at tight end very few teams can match, other than New England. The veteran tight end from Georgia can stretch the seam like few tight ends can due to his speed, and he is a sure-handed target. Watson is also a very good in-line blocker. The duo of Graham and Watson will cause some real problems for opposing teams in 2013.
15. Jabari Greer — Greer is 31 years old and has had some injuries take him off the playing field, but if healthy, the former University of Tennessee speedster is still the Saints best one-on-one cover cornerback. Greer does not have the size Ryan normally likes in a cornerback, but he is quick to get out of transition in coverage situations and has excellent closing speed to the ball. Watch out for the development of Corey White at cornerback this season. I was impressed with White's foot work and break-to-the-ball skills in practice.
16. Akiem Hicks — This is a potential pick. Hicks has the size, athleticism, bulk strength and power to develop into a very good 3-4 defensive end. He is stout in run defense and has flashed some strong inside pass rush moves at times. He is still rough around the edges as a technician, but there is no one on the team defensively with as much raw talent to develop as Hicks.
17. Kenny Vaccaro — This is another potential selection. I was big on the Saints drafting former Georgia All-American outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in Round 1, but you can't argue with what Vaccaro will bring to the Saints. Vaccaro is no ball hawk like Ed Reed or Earl Thomas, but he is physical, will excel in run support and most importantly he will match up well in one-on-one coverage spots with tight ends down field. The one thing that is obvious in the OTA sessions is that Vaccaro is a quick-study athlete, very athletic and has the best ball reaction skills the Saints have at any of the safety positions. He reminds me so much of All Pro safety LaRon Landry when he came out of LSU.
18. Will Smith — With Victor Butler out for the season due to a torn ACL, Smith becomes part of a threesome of outside linebackers that will be counted on to muster a pass rush. Being moved to the outside linebacker slot in a 3-4 defense is not a huge adjustment for Smith, and while he is not an elite pass rusher, he is still flashes moments of being a pretty good one and is very solid against the run. With all the jargon of who was practicing at the "Jack" or the strongside spot in the OTA's Smith will have to ramp-up his game or the team may have to see if they can make an expensive call to a rent player in John Abraham to fill that pass rush role.
19. Brodrick Bunkley — The noseguard spot in a 3-4 alignment is the most critical piece of the puzzle to have and that spot right now falls in the lap of Bunkley. The 6-2, 310 pounder had an excellent 2011 season with the Denver Broncos playing most over center, but like most Saints defenders he had a very disappointing 2012 season. Bunkley's run defense skills and power make him a good prospect for the noseguard spot and he is also going to have to thwart off the challenge of a very athletic and strong John Jenkins, who is not the most technically sound player.
20. Junior Galette — No one could tell you just how good Butler was going to be on this team in 2013, but I have always thought the one player the move to the 3-4 defense would help most was the Saints best natural pass rusher — Galette. Galette has not been the most focused or the most technically sound player on defense, but he has a super quick initial burst off the edge that is impressive and excellent closing speed to the quarterback. This is the opportunity a more mature and focused Galette has long wanted.
Mike talks to the Niners Inside Blog about San Francisco's first-round pick of Eric Reed from LSU. Read the full story here.
Drew Brees — Brees is greatest player to ever wear the Black and Gold.
Willie Roaf — Roaf was the most dominant left tackle of his era.
Rickey Jackson — “City Champ” didn’t get the publicity that Lawrence Taylor did playing in New York, but he was a great football player and someone that kept offensive coordinators sleepless at night trying to contain.
Sean Payton — Payton totally changed the atmosphere of this football franchise. Jim Mora and Jim Finks put the Saints on the map, but Payton was able to breathe air in a franchise dead on its feet and he is the best offensive play-caller in the game today. Payton also blueprinted the proper plan to acquire the right “fit” players for New Orleans.
It’s never too early to look into next year’s NFL draft class and right now for LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins and defensive tackle Anthony “The Freak” Johnson, both juniors, are the two best football players at LSU.
Both have the potential to be first-round choices in 2014, but there are two other players to keep a close eye on in 2013.
On offense watch for wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. to emerge as one of the top wide receivers in the Southeastern Conference in 2013.
Last season, the speedy Beckham struggled to catch the ball cleanly early in the season and seemed to be looking to want to hit a home run every time he touched the ball instead of making the sure grab and move the chains. Last season Beckham caught 43 passes for 713 yards, averaged 16.6 yards per catch and scored two touchdowns. But, he will always be remembered for his 89-yard punt return for a score against a pesky and talented Ole Miss team that sparked a 41-35 victory. This spring Beckham was outstanding in spring drills and he practiced with great confidence. In the LSU’s spring game, Beckham caught six passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
In 2012, the story on defense was the breakout performance of middle linebacker Kevin Minter. Minter played at an All-American level throughout the entire season and was the best player on a talented Tiger defense.
Minter’s exploits didn’t mask the most improved player on LSU’s team in 2012 and that was outside linebacker Lamin Barrow. Barrow was second on the team in tackles with 104 and he also recorded 7½ tackles for losses, five pass break-ups, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
The 6-2, 230 pounder has worked at both middle linebacker and on the weak-side this spring, and he will be a key cog in helping a young Tiger defensive front mature and be productive in 2013.
If I were LSU coach Les Miles, he would be my middle linebacker this season.
The former John Ehret High School product is also a very good leader and he has something you can’t teach, great instincts to quickly diagnose what is front of him.
Right now, both Barrow and Beckham grade as second-round picks, but don’t be surprised to see both these young men emerge as first team all-SEC performers in 2013 and raise their draft stock.
When Charlie Stubbs was hired at Nicholls State in 2010, he told me he needed to add size and physicality to his football team and especially what I call the real skilled players, offensive and defensive linemen.
The process has taken a few years, but the Colonels have added some real beef and talent along their offensive line for 2013. This season the Colonels have converted former Central Lafourche High School defensive tackle Jared Breaux (6-2, 290) to offensive center and they will also have former South Lafourche High School standout offensive lineman Rafe Plaisance (6-3, 320) as a projected starter at offensive guard.
This year’s recruiting class brought them Assumption High School offensive lineman Hunter Alleman (6 -3, 285), St. Michael the Archangel in Baton Rouge offensive tackle Blake Hartman (6-5, 240), Dutchtown High School offensive center/guard Brian Hernandez (6-1, 285) and the Colonels recently landed Destrehan High School offensive tackle Noland Sharpe (6-2, 265) who is most likely to become an offensive guard.
But the big news last week was the Colonels landed two additional offensive linemen in former Destrehan and SMU offensive guard/center Ashton Duhe (6-3, 300) and former Desire Street Academy in New Orleans and University of Memphis offensive guard Nicholas Chartain (6-4, 325), and both are immediately eligible to play for the Colonels in 2013.
“This was an area of concern for us, especially numbers-wise,” Stubbs said. “The previous coaching staff recruited smaller offensive linemen that fit what they did ran offensively and it was a run-oriented attack, but for what we want to do here we needed bigger players and more physical players and we are getting those type offensive linemen now and we have a little depth.” Stubbs admits injuries have forced some offensive lineman into games before they are truly prepared for the physical play. “Ideally, I would have liked to get them a redshirt season and have them get bigger and stronger in the weight room, but that just wasn’t the case. We had to play some young men quicker than what we wanted and we struggled some,” Stubbs said. “I feel good about what we have been able to acquire through the high school ranks, junior college system and a few transfers. Duhe and Chastain have played Division I football and they are coming in immediately to compete for positions, starting or depth-wise on our team. I am very pleased with those pickups, along with Noland Sharpe from Destrehan. We know that the River Parish area is very blessed with great football talent, along with the New Orleans area and getting those three young men to help our offensive line is something that will help us progress quicker on offense.” Now for Stubbs, the key to producing a winning product on the field will be to find quality defensive linemen, like they have in offensive linemen and keeping quarterback Beaux Hebert healthy in 2013.