Emily Spring Football Blog - Spring Wrap-up

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Emily Spring Football Blog - Spring Wrap-up

Spring Ball Entry #14: April 20, 2015

Well that’s a wrap, Tiger fans! The LSU football team’s spring practice concluded on Saturday with the annual National L Club Spring Game presented by Tony Chachere’s.

The White team defeated the Purple team 45-6 in front of a pretty good crowd given the weekend’s weather. While the game was going on, I had the opportunity to catch up with quite a few former players who came back to support the current squad. This is always one of my favorite things to see each year, because even though they all have busy schedules and other commitments, they make the time to come back and support each other.

Wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry were welcomed back to Tiger Stadium during halftime, and both talked to me about how LSU prepared them for very successful rookie years.

“I think this is the most, not biased, the most talented team year in and year out as in bringing athletes in and athletes out,” Beckham said. “I just think that we have the most productive people, especially going into the NFL.”

Landry added: “For me, it was everything. It was everything in the preparation and just being mentally strong. I think, for me, the SEC prepared me for the NFL. A lot of people say it’s the ‘Baby NFL’, and it is. Also, just going against the caliber of guys I went against in practice, like Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid and competing every day with Odell. Those things allow you to get better over time and those things translate to the NFL.

Beckham and Landry were two of the most productive wide receivers in school history, but both of them told me they feel this upcoming group will be ready to go this season.

“They got the talent,” Beckham said. “They have everything they need. It’s just going to be a matter of who wants it and if you’re going to go get it. I can’t wait to watch these guys. I’m looking forward to it.”

Added Landry: “I’ve been hearing great things about them, and I’m excited about them. I had the opportunity to meet [wide receivers coach Tony Ball] and talk to him a little bit, and just the expectations and the standard that he’s put in the room, I’m excited to see what these guys are gong to bring to the table this season.”

Also on the sidelines was future NFL player La’el Collins. Collins will be in Chicago for the NFL Draft on April 30, where he is expected to go in the first round. And while he’s gone from the left tackle position, Collins sees nothing but solid play in offensive line coach Jeff Grimes’ unit’s future.

“I think they definitely have the guys to do it,” Collins said. “It’s just a matter of who you want to put where. I think the talent is definitely there. The guys are definitely there, and to me, it’s going to be hard to choose a starting five, because there is definitely a lot of talented guys on the offensive line.”

Collins made the decision to play his senior year with the Tigers, putting the NFL Draft off for one more year, and he says that decision to stay paired with a year under Grimes is exactly what he needed.

“I think it made the biggest difference in my career,” Collins said. “It definitely made me understand and realize the type of player I can be and understand how much work and room there was for me to grow my game.

“I think the ability to understand how to work and to understand how to hold your end of the bargain. For me, coming up under a guy like (offensive coordinator Cam Cameron), this [training] process has been easy for me. I really took the initiative to thank Coach Cam for everything he has helped prepare me for.”

Glenn Dorsey, one of the most decorated football players in LSU history, was also at the spring game, and like the rookies, he told me his success here directly translated to his success in the NFL.

“I think it’s just the atmosphere and playing on a big stage, because LSU has a great crowd and a great following, and to be honest, the best fans,” Dorsey said. “Playing in a stadium like this, the size of the stadium and the level of competition. The whole staff does a great job with the kids and developing us and preparing us for the next level.

“I’m just thankful I got the opportunity to go here.”

Of course, it was “no contest” when I asked each one of the guys how Tiger Stadium compares to the NFL stage.

“There is no better feeling (than being in Tiger Stadium),” Beckham said. “Nothing really compares to the feeling. I get chills just thinking about it.

“I miss it,” Landry said. “I miss it. I’ll tell you, I think about it every time I take the field in Miami. I think about the heart of the fans that take the seats, and there is nothing like it. This place is second to none.”

“Ain’t too many things in life that compare to Tiger Stadium,” Dorsey said. “You just enjoy it and the atmosphere is like no other. The fans are like no other, and every time I hear that fight song I still get chills. There’s nothing like it.”

Even though spring ball is technically over, I will have one more former player interview for you. I sat down with current SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears before the Spring Game, and he talked to me about all kinds of good stuff that I will post later this week.

 

Spring Ball Entry #13: April 17, 2015

The Tigers have 14 practices down and only the annual L-Club Spring Game to go. I caught up with head coach Les Miles after Thursday’s practice to find out what he thinks are the biggest accomplishments this team has made throughout spring ball.

“I think they reinstitute physicality everytime they go out on the field,” Miles said. “I think there are some guys that are pursuing a job, pursuing a position, really affirming the fact that they are looking for some big plays coming their way. That’s what spring is about.”

It’s always a hot topic of conversation, so there’s no shortage of quarterback questions for Miles. He told me that both junior Anthony Jennings and sophomore Brandon Harris have played well, and – at times – he’s seen separation coming from both sides.

“It’s interesting,” Miles said. “In other words, both guys in different times in spring look like they were closing in on the job, and then the other guy makes a move. Most recently, Brandon Harris has looked pretty good, and I think Anthony Jennings has had a great spring. (Thursday) was a good day for both of them.”

After talking to multiple defensive players throughout the spring, I can feel the excitement and positive energy that surrounds new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. Miles expressed that same feeling, adding his two cents on how much they bring to this team.

“I think you’ll find that there will be some similarities to the old defense, the defense we have run here for quite some time,” Miles said. “I think there’s kind of a different approach to the teaching. I think Kevin Steele has certainly done a great job instituting some real change, but yet making it look and feel very much like we’ve always had our defense.

Ed Orgeron has great enthusiasm. He’s just a great coach to have as a position coach. If you aren’t excited to go to practice, you’re not being coached by Ed.”

When it comes to splitting up the team for the Spring Game, Miles wouldn’t give me specifics about the players, but did let me on some other key information.

“We are going to have 11 guys playing defense and 11 guys playing offense on every snap,” Miles joked. “We will both be wearing LSU gear, one team wearing purple and one team wearing white.”

Watch my full interview below to get caught up on the team before watching Saturday’s Spring Game.

Thursday was also the annual Student Appreciation Practice, where Coach Miles invites all LSU students to come out and watch practice, then have a meet-and-greet with the players and coaches.

Some students also had the opportunity to play like the Tigers for the afternoon, going through a variety of events and drills. The current Tigers demonstrated how to run the drills, but when it came down to it, running back Leonard Fournette couldn’t keep up with one participant…

Check out the highlights below!

Spring Ball Entry #12: April 14, 2015

The Tigers were back at it on Tuesday afternoon, which kicked off what will become a very busy week, which includes two practices, on-site film days from the SEC Network’s crew, the annual L-Club Spring Game and a handful of other events. Tuesday’s practice was very spirited and competitive, and you could definitely tell the players were ready to get back on the field after spring break.

If you need some things to do this weekend, LSU Football can help you out with that! Here are some of the events open to the public.

Thursday’s practice is open to all LSU students. Coach Miles is inviting all current LSU students to watch football practice from 3-6 p.m., followed by a meet-and-greet with the players and coaches. Students must bring their LSU ID to be admitted to practice.

Also, before the Spring Game on Saturday, LSU will host a block party with a variety of events. The second annual Rock n’ Roar Block Party on North Stadium Drive will kick-off at 11 a.m. This free event will feature popular local music artist David St. Romain along with carnival activities for the kids, and will also feature giveaways from LSU Athletic Department corporate partners.

The Spring Game starts at 1 p.m. in Tiger Stadium and admission is free for everyone.

With only one practice to go before the Spring Game, I caught up with defensive back Jalen Mills. The last time I interviewed Mills he had just made the decision to stay at LSU for his senior season. After going through spring ball, he is very comfortable with that call.

“It’s an experience that I have enjoyed since I’ve been here,” Mills said. “I am just trying to enjoy every day one practice at a time with my teammates and these coaches. I just felt the love here at LSU, the culture, the passion of the fans, all the coaches and the players. It’s just been a great experience.”

As a veteran who has started every game since he arrived at LSU, Mills is soaking it all in for his last spring as a Tiger.

“Just enjoying the experience and enjoying the guys and the whole tradition that I have learned around here since I was younger,” Mills said.

Mills has been fortunate to have the same defensive backs coach, Corey Raymond, his entire career at LSU, but this year he makes a transition to a new defensive coordinator in Kevin Steele.

“He brings a lot of energy to the defense,” Mills said. “He is just a great guy. He has an answer for every question that I have or anybody else and that helps a lot trying to come in and learn a new defense.”

My full interview with Mills is below, where he also talks with me about the defensive backs group, what fans should be looking for with this “new” defense and more.

 

Spring Ball Entry #11: April 3, 2015

The LSU football team headed to Tiger Stadium for Thursday afternoon’s practice, which was the final day of workouts before the spring break holiday began. The Tigers have now gone through 12 practices and a handful of scrimmages, and I wanted to ask Les Miles how the intensity has increased throughout spring ball. He also talked to me about shaking things up on the offensive line, who has impressed him on the defense and even a glimpse into his “Do’s and Don’ts” of Spring Break.

“Everything in moderation,” Miles said. “Make sure that wherever you’re at that you are aware of the people in your surroundings. We want them to return safe.

“We gave them a couple of videos of people that ran afoul of a bad place at the wrong time, so we’ve warned them. They’re good guys, good young men.”

Check out the full interview for more, and I will be back in a week after spring break!

Spring Ball Entry #10: April 1, 2015

On Tuesday afternoon, I stuck with the defensive side of the ball and caught up with rising sophomore safety Jamal Adams – who is quickly becoming a fan favorite around LSU households.

Eleven practices in, Adams said the defense is continuing to get better and better under the tutelage of a new defensive coordinator in Kevin Steele, who replaced John Chavis this offseason.

“As a whole, we are learning a new defense,” Adams said. “It’s the same as last year’s, but just the different terminology and different checks. Once we get that, we are going to be unstoppable.”

Adams said his confidence goes beyond the talent the Tigers will be able to field next fall, calling them “unstoppable” thanks to the addition of some fresh thoughts on the defensive scheme from Steele.

“We love him,” Adams said. “He’s definitely an aggressive-style coach. We like that. That’s what LSU does as a defense. We’re going to bring pressure, so in the back end we like that so we can get our hands on a couple balls.”

Adams has plenty of practice and game experience under his belt, but this is still Adams’ first spring practice with the team – meaning it’s his final football experience to take in before he’s been on campus for a full year.

“It’s awesome just going out there with those guys and getting the number one reps with those men out there and just getting better each and every day,” Adams said. “Once I learned everything from last year and caught on to what we’re learning this year, everything is going to go above and beyond, really.”

Of course, even as a freshman, Adams took the field with a high level of confidence that became apparent through his play – and, yes, his swagger.

“Really, that’s just me,” Adams said. “Like I tell everybody, if they don’t know me, that’s just how I am. I go out there with confidence. I try to lead the defense as a whole and get better.”

When asked who to look out for in this defensive back unit this year, the answer came quickly for Adams.

“Everybody,” Adams said. “D-B-U.”

Watch the full video below where Adams talks more about getting through spring ball, new faces and what he takes away from a successful freshman year.

March 30, 2015: Spring Ball Entry #9

During the annual LSU Coaches Clinic, I was able to catch up with Cincinnati Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander (video below), who has coached former LSU offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth for nearly a decade.

And Alexander had great things to say about not just Whitworth, but also future NFL offensive lineman La’el Collins.

Whitworth made an appearance at the football operations building on campus this past week, and while in town, he attended LSU’s Pro Day – as a bystander, of course.

I talked with him about how LSU prepared him for his long and successful career in the NFL, what he thinks about Collins and more.

Here are some tidibts from my interview with the NFL OT:

On this LSU draft class: “I think it’s the same things that makes Tigers proud. This class is just like the ones before, a lot of guys with hard work and integrity, guys that are willing to step up in tough times. These are guys that all resemble that. They are all a good class. They are all good guys. They are all guys that you can plug in and play because you know football and they know how to play hard, and that’s tradition here. Teams come here for a reason. They respect the kind of guys that come out of this place.”

On what he thinks will make La’el successful in the NFL: “I think La’el is the kind of guy that plays first and foremost with a tenacity and toughness that o-line coaches around the league probably love and are excited about. He’s got a lot of skills and a lot of ability, and also a guy that plays with a heck of a motor and loves to finish people. And in the NFL, o-line coaches are going to jump all over that.”

On how LSU prepared him for his career: “Everything here is first class. These guys come out from here and resemble everything that you want in an NFL football player. You are not going to have to worry about them off the football field. They know they are going to outwork everybody in the building, and they know they can trust them on the football field to make good decisions, and that’s what LSU prepared me to do. From [Strength and Conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt] to the training room staff with [Jack Marucci] and his guys and to the coaching staff, every phase of how to take care of my body, how to prepare my body and mentally how to get in the game and in the playbook, you now what to do. I was prepared here and it laid the groundwork for being successful in the NFL. These guys, hopefully, respect the awesome opportunity to go to LSU and have all of those things blessed and given to them.”

On expecting Jeremy Hill’s success as a rookie: “Being a guy that was pretty adamant that I wanted him to be a part of our team, yes, I did. Watching him at LSU, I loved his style. I loved his ability, and also I knew that in the NFL you seem to see a lot of success from guys that are bigger backs that are also agile and have fast feet. I knew he was going to be a successful back in the league.”

Check out my full interview below where Whitworth talks more in depth about La’el Collins’ future in the NFL, why the Tigers are so successful in the league and how LSU prepared him for the career he has today.

March 30, 2015: Spring Ball Entry #8

It was another busy week for the Tigers with two regular practices on Tuesday and Thursday, a Saturday scrimmage and LSU Pro Day on Friday.

A total of 22 players took part in this year’s Pro Day, which included 19 members from the 2014 team and three players from the 2013 squad. There were more than 100 NFL personnel in attendance, including general managers, head coaches, assistant coaches and scouts.

Among the head coaches on hand to watch the Tigers go through workouts was Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tomlin has been consistent in making the annual trip down to Baton Rouge to see the new crop of NFL talent at LSU, and it’s a flight he expects to continue catching year after year.

“It’s easy for me,” Tomlin said. “I go where the players are. But besides from that, the food is pretty good to. I have a few restaurant spots on my annual routine.

“I have a long-standing relationship with a lot of people in place here – (Les Miles), (Jack Marucci) in the training room, (Tommy Moffitt). So, there is a great deal of comfort in that I know what they’ve been through and I know they are prepared for the next step.”

Most recently Tomlin had former LSU star punter Brad Wing on his team, but he’s also coached safety Ryan Clark in seven of his eight years with the Steelers. Clark recently retired after 13 years in the NFL.

“They have been big components of what we do,” Tomlin said. “Last year we had Brad Wing as our punter as a young guy, and I am excited about where his career is headed, and he is another example of a solid LSU man.”

Also in attendance were more than 100 members of the media, ranging from local news stations and writers to a setup with both the NFL Network and the SEC Network – which live streamed the entire event on the SEC Network.

“That is the excitement of the SEC Network,” Miles said. “We are a team that is covered nationally by all of the sports new agencies.

“If you are a young man that wants to make his mark, then certainly this is a place where that all happens.”

It isn’t anything new for the national media to grab onto the program’s Pro Day. LSU consistently puts players in position to play in the pros, having the most players on active NFL rosters out of any college this past season.

“Over time, we invest in our players and our players invest in our process and what we ask them to do,” Miles said. “And, they get better. They get bigger, faster and stronger. They get competent in technique.

“They know how to play the game. They play the game at the very highest level, and they end up in the NFL.”

Former players, including Denver Broncos linebacker Lamin Barrow, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson and Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, were also in attendance cheering on the Tigers.

“It’s very much a family,” Mile said. “I think the years are connected. I think if you are an LSU Tiger, you are for life. I think that everybody looks and works to get to know each other, and I think that’s the way it is supposed to be.”

Ferguson just went through his Pro Day a year ago, and he’s already made it through a successful rookie season, where he recorded 24 tackles and two sacks with the Bears.

And, his advice to the Tigers about to join him in the league was simple.

“LSU has produced a lot of great NFL players,” Ferguson said. “This is what you do. This is natural to us. So, just go out there and do what you have been doing.

“Anytime you play in a conference like the SEC night in and night out where everybody is gunning for us, we get everybody’s best shot. So anytime you play in a program like this with the way we run the ball and the way we play football, it’s an easy transition [to the NFL].”

Ferguson said when it comes to the talent still on the roster at LSU – especially at the defensive line position – he knows there will be no falloff in quality.

“LSU is not known for rebuilding but for reproducing [talent],” Ferguson said. We’ve got new faces but a lot of talent and a lot of athleticism, like Frank Herron, that I think will make a big splash this year.”

And while he is excited about the talent, he is equally as excited about the arrival of a new leader of the defensive line: Ed Orgeron.

“What I remember about Coach Orgeron during the recruiting process was that he was a great recruiter and passionate about the game,” Ferguson said. “His numbers speak for itself and the number of guys he has gotten to the (NFL) speaks for itself. (Orgeron) coming to a program like this, where d-line is a main focal point, will be huge for the school.”

March 25, 2015: Spring Ball Entry #7

With eight practices in the books, the Tigers have reached the halfway point of spring ball. I spoke with defensive tackle Christian LaCouture after Tuesday afternoon’s practice to see how the defensive line was coming along this spring.

“I feel like Coach Orgeron has brought a huge intensity level,” LaCouture said. “We are trying to go on the field with that. I feel like the defensive line, and the defense as a whole, is playing very well, especially with the things that were thrown at us. We are just taking it a day at a time and I feel like we are improving every day.”

We can see each day at practice how excited Ed Orgeron is to be at LSU, and he’s described this as a “dream job” for him more than once.

“I love them [the defensive line],” Orgeron said. “I love their work ethic and their want to be LSU Tigers.”

This is the third spring for LaCouture at LSU – but his first with Orgeron as his defensive line coach. Even though it’s a new – and different – approach, LaCouture said the transition to Orgeron has been a comfortable move.

“Coach Brick [Haley], you know, we are really happy for him getting a great job at Texas,” LaCouture said. “But, we feel like Coach Orgeron and Coach Steele bring a great defense. I really feel like that it fits us, and with that intensity level they bring, we are just trying to match that on the field, and I think so far it is going really well.”

Orgeron shared the same confidence in LaCouture, who has now started for the Tigers for two seasons.

“His ability to coach on the field and make adjustments and certain alignments and he helps [Davon] Godchaux a lot,” Orgeron said.

Of course, LaCouture also mentioned the impact made by new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele – who seems to have quickly won over the team during his short time on campus.

“Coach Steele is all about the team and that we have to play together and can’t be individuals; play the defense as one and stay in our gaps and give 110% for the guy next to you,” LaCouture said. “That’s what we talk about everyday. If we come here and work hard everyday, watch the film and if we make a mistake improve on that, we feel like we will be leaps and bounds from the beginning of spring ball to the spring game.”

Les Miles has mentioned that Maquedius Bain might play some defensive end when the Tigers have three linemen on the field, and others have said that Orgeron and Steele might shake things up a little on the defense this year.

LaCouture stressed to me the theme of the defense is now simple: intensity.

“Very, very intense,” LaCouture said. “We are trying to live up to the No. 1 defense in the SEC, and now we are trying to shoot for the No. 1 defense in the country. That is something we expect, and we come out here every day expecting to do that.

“And (Bain) is playing the 4-3 defensive end as well, so he has a very athletic body that can move in space. We are excited for him to do great things out there.

“That intensity level, I’ll tell you what, we go out to practice right before we do Big Cat and we are already sweating.”

As a junior, LaCouture has assumed a leadership role on not just the defensive line, but also over the entire defensive unit, telling me he’s learned from the guys that came and went before him.

“Guys before like Ego Ferguson and (Anthony Johnson) just shared that when I got to this point now that, like last year, I just had to be ready for it,” LaCouture said. “I’m just trying to lead those young guys like Kevin Toliver back there and make sure he knows the ropes, and the guys on my defensive line as well.”

Added Orgeron: “I see (his leadership) growing every day. The guys look up to him. He leads by example. Great character and great student, and I’m proud to have him.”

Even though he’s not in his position group, LaCouture and newcomer Kevin Toliver share the fact that they were both early-enrollees. For a player just a few months removed from high school, it’s nice to have a teammate help you figure out the ropes.

“Today, he had another interception at practice,” LaCouture said. “Our defensive backs are doing a great job. I was just talking to him about being an early-enrollee and the things you have to expect. You are going to be homesick in the beginning, but as things go on those extra 15 practices will be so great for you when it comes to fall ball and you know the pace and what’s going on. I think he’s really picking it up right now.”

This LSU defense is exciting to watch year after year, and LaCouture said this season will be no different – naming multiple guys for fans to look out for.

“There’s a lot of guys that are all working really hard,” LaCouture said. “I think Quay Bain is going to have a great year this year. When Quentin Thomas comes back, he’s been working really hard in rehab. Deondre Clark. Lewis Neal is doing really well and Tashawn Bower, too.

“We have so many guys on that defensive line that are ready to play and ready to go.”

The Tigers are back on the practice field on Thursday, and LSU’s annual Pro Timing Day is on Friday, so we will have a lot more to talk about over the next couple of days!

March 23, 2015: Spring Ball Entry #6

There is plenty to talk about this morning after LSU’s busy week! First, let’s start out with LSU’s scrimmage on Saturday.

The scrimmage began outside, but about halfway through it was moved to the indoor facility because of weather (once again). After the scrimmage ended, head coach Les Miles said the defense shined.

“I felt like the defense really started out fast and played hard for most of the day,” Miles said. “One thing that is obvious about that defense is that it’s fast to the ball. I thought they had a better day than the offense.

In the back-and-forth battle for the starting quarterback job, Miles said this weekend’s scrimmage saw Anthony Jennings edge out Brandon Harris.

“He was crisp with his passes,” Miles said of Jennings. “He threw a couple of touchdown passes. Brandon made some pretty big plays with both his feet and his arm. He wasn’t as productive.

“When you get to the film and rotate guys, you wonder was the route the exact way it was supposed to be, do we have a protection issues, and all of those pieces you put together once you get film study. I think Brandon is more capable than what he showed today.”

Get all the information from Saturday’s scrimmage here.

Last Thursday and Friday was LSU’s annual Coaching Clinic. The staff put together some very good speakers, including featured speaker and NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin.

I was able to interview Irvin after he spoke to both the high school coaches in attendance and then our current team. I wanted to find out what Irvin thought about the Tigers in the NFL and the LSU brand in the league.

Here are some tidbits on what he said:

Why LSU was his first visit in high school?
“You had a coach here I really wanted to play for in wide receiver Coach Sullivan at the time. I came here to visit and we walked into Tiger Stadium and I said, ‘Wow’, because think about it, there are not that many places that have their stadium on campus. I just thought ‘Wow, this would be off the chain to play right here.’ I took quite a few visits and I really wanted to come to LSU.”

What does the LSU brand mean in the NFL?
“Look at it. I’m going to tell you something. I was talking about this earlier when I was talking to coach [Miles]. Look at the two guys [Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry] that went off last year. When I was doing the combine last season, and I was watching Jarvis Landry at the combine, and he pulled his hamstring, and I said I’m going to go encourage him. I went to walk over and encourage him and say ‘hey man, just go as hard as you can’, and he didn’t want to hear it. All he was focused on was competing. Those are the kind of players that LSU is accustomed to sending to the league. That’s what I was telling the players today. You have to measure up to those guys. You’re going to come out of here and everybody is going to say ‘what did you do? You went to the same school as Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham? Why don’t we know who you are?’ So, it’s already set. You have to measure up to those guys and those guys have set a lofty, lofty bar.”

You really have to watch the full video to hear all the other positive things Irvin had to say about Coach Miles, our players and LSU in the NFL. He is also a great speaker – and very entertaining to watch.

Other speakers included former LSU defensive line coach Pete Jenkins and current Cincinnati offensive line coach Paul Alexander.

Jenkins was a great interview. He told me he ‘bleeds purple and gold’ and he and his wife continue to live in Baton Rouge, adopting the Capital City as their new hometown. Before I heard him speak, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele told me “this guy is a legend.” And, it didn’t take long for me to realize that.

Now in his retirement, and after two stints as the defensive line coach at LSU, Jenkins continues to train guys like Keke Mingo, Michael Brockers, Bennie Logan and more, preparing them for the NFL each offseason. He was actually on his way to work after we finished our interview.

Alexander is the longest tenured assistant coach in the NFL, staying with the Bengals for more than 20 years. He drafted left tackle Andrew Whitworth in 2006 and said he is currently the best player in his group. He also mentioned that Whitworth was the only tackle in the league last year not to give up a sack. Another LSU guy that is currently on his roster is running back Jeremy Hill, who lit it up last year as a rookie.

“We really liked him,” Alexander said. “We were kind of surprised when we got him in the second round. We felt he was the best running back in the draft, and I think this year kind of proved that. He is a talented kid. He runs hard and he’s got a good attitude.

“That’s it about LSU. We come down to LSU, and we’ve got a lot of them. I coached Nate Livings and Ben Wilkerson and we’ve had a lot of LSU kids over the years, because number one we know how tough they are, they know how important football is, and we know they’ve done it the right way. We know we are getting good people, tough people.”

Alexander also had very good things to say about offensive lineman La’el Collins, who is projected to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft on April 30.

“I think he is a terrific player and I think he can play left tackle,” Alexander said. “I know some people are thinking he’s a guard or right tackle. They didn’t think Whitworth could play left tackle. When he came out everyone thought he was a guard or right tackle, and I think Collins can play left tackle. He’s a great athlete. He’s got strong hands. He’s got long arms. He’s a tenacious competitor and I think he’s going to have a very successful pro career”

Also, you can hear from head coach Les Miles on what he thought of Irvin, Jenkins and Alexander below.

Spring Ball Entry #5: March 18, 2015

Every season, LSU’s football team is talked up as one of the most physical, well-conditioned teams in the country, able to compete at the same level in all four quarters – and doing so in the nation’s toughest conference from September through January.

So, what’s the secret? And more importantly, is this year’s roster as strong as season’s past?

For answers, I went to the man behind the curtain: LSU strength and conditioning coordinator Tommy Moffitt.

This will be Moffitt’s 16th season with the Tigers, and he’s earned the reputation of one of the best in the business – and his understudies have gone on to take jobs all across the country.

Here’s the full transcript from our sit-down, where you can catch up on a ton of great info on the LSU football team.

Enjoy!

Q: A lot of players talk about how important the 4th Quarter Drills become to really kickstart their conditioning into the offseason. How did the roster look during your morning workouts?

Moffitt: Anytime you lose your bowl game, there is always a little more enthusiasm for the off-season program. None of the guys on this team came here to lose. They are all very goal oriented. Our off-season prior to the fourth quarter was very good, so going into the fourth quarter program we had a little bit of a head start to the previous years, because they were all in a little bit better condition. So the fourth quarter program went very well. The guys worked really hard.
The very first workout was as good as some have been towards the end of the program. We keep track of the number of shirts, and the shirts signify that you did well, so if you have a white shirt on it means you did very well versus a gray shirt. Normally, we would start every fourth quarter program and in the second morning we would have somewhere in the teens, anywhere from 11 to 17, 18, 19 guys in a white shirt. This year we had 35 guys in a white shirt the first morning. So, that meant they gave great effort and performed all the drills exactly like they were supposed to do.

I feel like we have a lot of momentum coming out of the fourth quarter program into spring ball, and talking to the coaches and looking at our Catapult data, our GPS data that we look at, we are off to a very good spring. The guys are performing at a very high capacity. Our meters per second, the speed at which they practice, is a little above average. So, I feel real good about where we are right now. We’ve got to stay healthy in spring ball, and spring is a little later than normal this year. It is good on the front end but it’s not so good on the backend. We only have a couple of weeks to train them before they go home for the month of May. But, I feel good where we are heading into the summer.

Q: With each new signing class, and the early-enrollees you bring in, you see these freshmen – who are sometimes really just high school seniors – who look, physically, like they’ve been in a college program’s strength program. Are you starting to see more and more of those types with high schools focusing more and more on strength and conditioning programs?

Moffitt: With the internet and universities that have strength and conditioning as a degree field, strength and conditioning is much more prominent now than it used to be, especially in the state of Texas where high schools are now building facilities indoors and weight rooms that rival what you will see in the SEC. Kids are much more developed now, and usually the early-enrollees are some of your better guys, because those guys posses the wearwithall to understand that they have to get additional high school credits, so they are always better kids in that regard because they’ve done extra work, they haven’t failed any classes or they wouldn’t be put in that position, and because they are that type of individual they have a better base of fitness. This year is no different than a few of the past years where guys come in here and they are a lot further ahead of what we get this summer.

Q: People are always curious as to who is the “strongest” guy on the team, whether that means something like best bench press, clean or squat. Who are some guys on the team who are in that running?

Moffitt: I have a great one. Tashawn Bower is very strong. Looks can be deceiving, because as far as lineman standards go, he is not physically imposing, but Tashawn Bower is going to be up there. We haven’t tested yet, but Tashawn Bower is going to be up there.

Christian LaCouture is going to be up there. Leonard Fournette will do a good job. He still has to work on his power clean. That will affect his total a little bit, but he will be up there. Usually we have a couple of big lifters in the linebackers group. If he’s healthy, Lamar Louis will test out very well. Lewis Neal will test out really well. Ethan Pocic. Jerald Hawkins.

It depends on how we come out of spring ball. If somebody comes out with a bruised knee or a bruised elbow or a bruised rotator cuff, that could affect it. But I really feel like, overall team strength we are going to rival some of our better classes. I am excited about it. We had a big heavy clean and jerk day on Monday and guys hit some really good numbers. We squatted heavier once last week, so things are going very well. I feel really good about where we are as far as strength wise.

Q: We’ve talked before about Keke Mingo being one of those very big transformations body-wise once he got to LSU. Who recently stands out to as having a noticeable transformation?

Moffitt: Small to big or big to small? Tashawn Bower has done really well. He is going to be a guy that has vastly improved. He possessed a lot of athletic ability but just didn’t have a strong background in some of the stuff that we do. And I think this freshman class coming in has some guys that are going to transform.

Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore, Andy Dodd – those guys are really making some transformations. If I could keep Duke Riley from catching the flu – because Duke had gained a bunch of weight and he got sick and dropped 10 pounds. We had him up to 225 and now he’s down to 215 again. Malachi Dupre. So, there’s a bunch in that category, but I’ll wait until the end of the summer before we put the X on that guy. Josh Boutte is looking really good. Josh has lost a lot of weight, and even Dillon Gordon has dropped 22 pounds since he got back from the bowl game.

There’s a lot of guys that are working really hard, and that’s one thing about this group of guys. People are motivated for different reasons. There’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and there is not a single guy on this team that when they signed at LSU said, “If we win 8 or 9 games a year, I’ll be happy.” There’s not a guy on this team that came here for that. This team is made up of guys that expect to win 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 games a year. I think there is a lot of motivation. They are embarrassed because there is not a single guy on this team that is happy with how the season went last year, and I am excited about it and I think we are going to have a great spring and a great summer.

Q: So, these guys are on the path that you want them at for this time of the year?

Moffitt: Yes. We are as far ahead as any team we have ever had as far as attitude goes. If you have the right attitude then good things will happen. I’m excited about their attitude. We aren’t ready to play a game by any stretch of the imagination. We have a long ways to go, but I feel good about where we are as far as our attitude and our work ethic. A lot of work going on.

Q: What are your goals and the things you want to accomplish with the players this spring?

Moffitt: First you have to find out who is going to step up and play. Who has matured physically, mentally and emotionally? Whether it is for their redshirt freshman year or their redshirt sophomore year. Guys like Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron, Andy Dodd, Josh Boutte – guys who have been here for a couple of years but haven’t played yet. DeSean Smith, Jacory Washington – those type of guys that are good players and hard workers but maybe haven’t matured mentally and emotionally yet. A guy could run 4.5 and vertical jump well and have all the speed and all the accolades, but if they can’t handle 90-100,000 people when the game is on the line, that’s different. That is something that we don’t take into account all the time as fans and as coaches and parents. There’s a lot to be said about being on the road at Auburn or Alabama or Florida with the game on the line and they call your number, how are you going to respond? And, that is something that has to happen between now and the end of spring ball for a lot of guys.

Q: What are the new and innovative products that LSU strength and conditioning is using?

Moffitt: The GPS is still new. There are still people that are not aware of it, and it is amazing how many strength coaches visit us that have never used it or been exposed to it. That right there alone is to strength and conditioning what the barbell was 30 or 40 years ago.

The players wear the device that is smaller than a flip-phone on their person either on a shirt that we wear under their gear or on top of their workout gear and it fits between their shoulder blades and there is a little pouch that fits in their shoulder pads in the same place. It triangulates with GPS satellites and it measures 100-plus variables all pertaining to distance, speed and time. You can quantitatively and qualitatively measure and compare everything that we do. We’ve been using it now for three years, so I can look back at our wide receivers or offensive guards or defensive tackles from three years ago and say on this date in the fourth practice of our spring practice they did X, Y and Z and compare it to this guy. We also use it to measure what we are doing, because our goal is to duplicate in our conditioning what takes place in the games.

You talk about getting sport-specific. Now, we are not only sport specific but we are position specific. You can look at exactly what a defensive back or wide receiver does in a practice or a game. In reality you want to condition people for the game, but practically what we have to do because we can’t wear equipment in the summer, our goal is to get them conditioned for training camp and then training camp conditions them for the game. The only way to get conditioned for the game is to wear equipment and hit people and we can’t do that, so we try as best we can to prepare them for the demands of training camp and then let training camp prepare them for the games.

Q: You are most closely associated with the current and former players, but members of your strength staff each year move on to bigger jobs within strength and conditioning. How proud are you to see your guys be successful like this?

Moffitt: It’s really neat. One of our present assistants put together a presentation for our new interns that we have now about some of our former interns that have gone on to be head strength coaches and assistant strength coaches at major universities. When you sit down and look at the list of guys that have come here and have gone on to achieve such great things, it’s really flattering.

The hard part now is competing against those guys, because you spend all this time training them and giving up all your secrets. I used to feel that we really had a an advantage with some of the things that we’ve done, but now you click on YouTube and you see people who aren’t associated with our program doing things that 10 years ago nobody in America was doing but us. That kind of makes it tough when you are competing against those guys, but it’s really flattering and good to know that we are on the right path.

I tell our recruits that we are not only coaching athletes but that we are developing young strength coaches too. There’s no way that I could train 99 players on my own or 120 when this year’s freshmen get here and do all of these other teams. It’s impossible, so one of my responsibilities is to recruit young coaches all the time. I spend a certain amount of time everyday recruiting young strength coaches. It is a major part of what we do, and it helps us carry on the tradition of what we’ve done here over the past years, and that’s something that I am maintaining as long as I am here and hopefully what someone else will do once I’m gone.

March 16, 2015: Spring Ball Entry #4

The weather in Baton Rouge finally cleared up, and the Tigers went through their first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium.

After practice, head coach Les Miles told the media that he shared the reps between both of his quarterbacks, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris, throughout the scrimmage.

“We split the reps up equally (between Harris and Jennings) and I think both guys have improved,” Miles said. “I think there are spots were they need improvement. Our tempo is a little faster. I think our guys enjoy faster tempo. Our quarterbacks are coming, and our offense is helping them come.”

Last week, I talked with Jennings about his offseason preparation and what he’s looking to accomplish this spring, and I wanted to find out the same from Harris.

This time last year, Harris was an early-enrollee fresh out of high school and looking to make a name for himself during his first spring practice as a college quarterback. 12 months and a full season later, the rising sophomore is ready to capitalize on all the learning moments that have come along the way.

“I got the opportunity to watch my film from spring practice, fall practice and the season and got to see how I was as a freshman, and looking back on that, I was like, dang, I can’t believe I made this mistake or that mistake, and you look to grow from it,” Harris said.

Harris told me the best decision he could have made was to come in early, and that has made spring practice this year even more comfortable for him.

“Realizing this is not high school anymore, obviously nothing is going to be handed to me, so the way that you handle that is you improve on your own as well as utilizing the people that we have around here,” Harris said. “We have our coordinator who is an ex-NFL coach who has coached Hall of Fame quarterbacks. I want to be the best I can be for this program, so I am going to ask as many questions as I can.”

While the past year was a learning experience for Harris, filled with both ups and downs, the Bossier City native is happy he got a crack at playing time – even if it only equated to one start on the year.

“One thing is the opportunity to redshirt,” Harris said. “I’m glad I didn’t, because now I know what to expect. I know what the game speed is.

“I played, in my opinion, some big games and got to start one game on the road against Auburn. You have an opportunity to know what the feel is and get your feet wet and understand the type of work that goes into being a starting quarterback.”

For LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Harris’ brightest days are ahead, and work ethic isn’t something that should ever be questioned with LSU’s rising sophomore quarterback.

“He’s always put in the time,” Cameron said. “It’s just a matter for any young quarterback, whether it be Brandon or (Justin McMillan) or whoever it might be, there’s a learning curve, and it’s not only learning what we do.

“I think the thing that complicates it to some degree for young players is now I know what the LSU offensive system is, but the problem is there are a bunch of defenses that they have to tie the thought process together.”

A year under LSU strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt certainly helps with the physical part of the game, but Harris is also focused on how his role off the field can improve.

“Asking more questions and taking on a leadership role, understanding that quarterback is more than just throwing the football,” Harris said. “Leadership and physical toughness, as well as getting everybody on the same page. I think that’s the thing that Coach Cam has stressed to us throughout this entire process is improving in those categories, and everything else will take care of itself.”

Headed into a spring where the quarterback competition is open, Cameron is pleased with where Harris has taken his game after just one year on campus.

“Just knowing what we do offensively is one thing,” Cameron said. “But now the ability to tie that to the defenses you are seeing, and in this conference you see multiple defenses, then you create situational football whether that may be red zone, coming out, third down; all that is where young quarterbacks have to grow, and there’s just a process that he’s working through, and I am excited where he has been so far in all of those areas.

“(Harris needs to) Just improve fundamentals and really work on his foundation of footwork, timing, all of those things. Just like any other young quarterback, if you put a solid foundation underneath their feet, add good decision making and they are going to play well.”

When it comes to more playing time next season, Harris said his focus remains on improving each day – and not putting too much stock into the ups and downs that will come on his path to improvement this offseason.

“Stay the course,” Harris said. “Control what I can control. You have to lead. We believe in doing what you can do and showing your teammates that by your work you can be trusted and do everything that we are capable of doing.

“Again, take care of what we can control. If the defense makes a play we are on to the next play. You can’t hang your head. You can’t get too down on yourself.”

Watch my full interview with Brandon Harris below and also read up on Saturday’s scrimmage.

The Tigers will return to the practice field Tuesday afternoon, so check back for more updates!

March 13, 2015: Spring Ball Entry #3

With more rain in the Baton Rouge area, the LSU football team continued to practice indoors on Thursday afternoon, but were finally able to put on the pads for the first time this spring.

I caught up with rising junior quarterback Anthony Jennings after practice to see how things are moving for him in the opening stretch of his third spring as a Tiger – which serves as a time for him to convince the coaching staff that he’s the man for the starting job next season.

“Mentally, I went back through my whole tape from last season and saw the things that I can improve on and just wanted to mentally get my leadership back stronger,” Jennings said. “Physically, (Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Tommy Moffitt) does a great job, and (Strength Coach Earl Chevalier), getting me stronger and faster, and the offseason is for those things to get better.”

“The offseason” is a term used lightly around the football office. Technically, there is one; but the work really never stops for the coaches or the players. Once the season ended in Nashville, Jennings had two months between the Music City Bowl and the start of practice to get in extra work before spring ball began with the team.

LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has witnessed the effort Jennings has put in since the end of his sophomore year, highlighted recently by his performance in Moffitt’s “Fourth Quarter” conditioning drills.

“In our fourth quarter drills, his effort has been outstanding,” Cameron said. “He’s finished all the drills at an elite level, and that’s what we are challenging all of our guys to do.

“I think any guy going into his third spring, it’s about stepping up to lead.”

While the 2014 season didn’t go as planned for Jennings, the Georgia native viewed it as a learning experience, having ultimately started in 12 of LSU’s 13 games.

“I think you learn how to deal with different scenarios and different things,” Jennings said. “Experience was a big deal last year getting those games under my belt, and now I’m ready to go into the season running.”

Added Cameron: “What Anthony needs to do is build on all of the good things he’s done. He’s shown the ability to lead in critical situations. He’s thrown the ball well at times and he’s run the ball well at times.

“Now what he’s got to do is be more consistent. Be more consistent as a physical, hard-nosed, tough runner and then accurate as a quarterback. Take all the games and all the throws where he’s been accurate and then duplicate that on a consistent basis and he’s going to be a very good quarterback.”

There are only two quarterbacks on the roster that have seen playing time, but Cameron now has eight quarterbacks on the roster – with three of them on scholarship.

“This is a room where everyone wants to come together and help each other out,” Jennings said. “I want to help all of the younger guys in that room.

Brad Kragthorpe does a great job helping us out with his coaching mentality. It’s very exciting for those guys to get in and see their first spring practice, and I can help them since this is my third spring. It went by so fast.”

Added Cameron: “I think we’ve got a great quarterback room. I think that’s important. We’ve added some players like Justin McMillan and Caleb Lewis to go with Brad Kragthorpe, Jake Clise and Brandon Bergeron, who are all bright guys. They’ve won. They’re winners.

“I like our room. It’s a room full of winners. It’s a room full of guys who understand what it takes to win, and now it’s time for the guys to step up and go out there on Saturdays and do the same thing.”

With the fans focused on which quarterback will ultimately win the job next fall, Jennings said he’s shutting it all out and remaining focused on what he needs to do to improve on his sophomore campaign.

March 11, 2015: Spring Ball Entry #2

Two practices down. 13 to go.

The LSU football team was forced indoors for their second spring practice due to some pretty bad weather on Tuesday afternoon in Baton Rouge, but I was able to catch up with running back Leonard Fournette after practice.And after a couple months away from the football field, he was ready to strap on his helmet.

“It feels great just knowing the first day is over,” Fournette said. “All the young players are out there learning, so it feels great to be back out here with (Les Miles) and (Frank Wilson).”

Despite the down time for players between the bowl game and spring ball, Fournette challenged himself to get better in the weight room, adding muscle to his powerful frame, which Miles said is now over 230 pounds.

From the weight room, Fournette transitioned to the film room – making adjustments to an opening campaign that saw him finish as the freshman running back with the most rushing yards in team history.

“I’m just looking at the film with Coach Frank and knowing that I can be better than I was last season,” Fournette said.

However, it wasn’t his weight lifting routine or film study habits that I wanted to talk to Leonard most about. Instead, it was how he’s taking on his new role as the veteran within his position group given the departure of seniors Kenny Hilliard, Terrence Magee and Connor Neighbors – which makes Fournette and fellow freshman Darrel Williams the oldest running backs on the roster.

“Like (Kenny Hillard) and (Terrence Magee) did for us, we are teaching (the younger players) the stuff that they taught us,” Fournette said. “I’m always there if they need me to learn new stuff.”

Added LSU running backs coach Frank Wilson: “Certainly those aren’t small shoes to fill. It’s a tall order to ask of Leonard right now being in his spring semester of his freshman year.

“It’s very challenging for him. He’s embraced the challenge and we are pleased with the progress that he has made so far to lead the group, but we still have a long way to go. He’s developing and they are following his lead as he develops also.”

One player Fournette has an opportunity to help out: early-enrollee David Ducre, who left high school as the No. 1 fullback prospect in the country.

“He is very intelligent,” Fournette said. “He knows his stuff. He’s just catching on to the pace of the game. He’s learning and picking it up very well.”

Wilson added: “It’s been interesting. In the weight room he’s been off the charts, so to do it at a speed that was asked of him and demanded of him was different for him.

“We are in our second day of spring and it’s a lot that we’ve thrown on him. He’s learning two positions, both the tailback and the fullback position. He’s a bright young man. He’s eager and hardworking. It takes a little time, but he’ll be fine.”

While Ducre’s first touches are still ahead of him, Fournette finished the 2015 season with 187 carries for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns. During the Music City Bowl, he broke the school’s single-season freshman rushing record.

Could the Tigers see a freshman find that same success next season? Ducre is hoping so – and the same goes for four-star signees Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette, who both arrive to campus this summer.

“They are going to come in the same way as David did, and we are ready for them and waiting for them to be a Tiger and get better,” Fournette said.

Even with a wealth of talent, the running back group, which will be called upon often in LSU’s pro-style attack, is young, though that isn’t a cause for concern for Wilson.

“I think we’ll grow together, and it’s been that way at times before,” Wilson said. “I think with our guys that will be in their sophomore year, they will be able to share some of the things they learned from our veteran guys – Kenny and Terrence and Connor Neighbors.

“With those young guys coming in, we are going to take it step by step, the same way we did with the two we have now who will be sophomores. We are not going to ask them to carry this team on their shoulders. We are going to ask them to play their role, and as they grow we will involve them more and more into the offense.”

The Tigers have only been through two spring practices, so we still have a lot to see from not only the running backs group, but every position on the field.

“I like us,” Wilson said. “I like our group and where we are headed and I think we will be fine and at just the right time.”

The team’s next practice is Thursday afternoon, so be sure to check back for more updates!

March 7, 2015: Spring Ball Entry #1

It’s hard to imagine that we are already practicing football again.

After returning home from Nashville and the Music City Bowl, and finishing up the recruiting season with a great 2015 signing class, I can’t believe practice is back in full swing. Even though the last few months went by quickly, this really is one of the best times of the year. LSU basketball is going to take part in March Madness, SEC baseball is about to kick off, the No. 2-ranked gymnastics team in the country continues to wow everyone and the football team is improving on the practice fields.

Spring ball kicked off on Saturday with perfect football weather here in Baton Rouge. And as we got to see this weekend, this year’s practices feature some new faces on the LSU staff.

With the departure of Adam Henry to the San Francisco 49ers, the Tigers picked up wide receivers coach Tony Ball from the University of Georgia. Coach Ball has 30 years of experience coaching college athletes, and quite a few of his receivers have made it to the NFL.

Veteran defensive line coach Ed Orgeron replaces Brick Haley, who now holds the same position at Texas. “Coach O” might have been out of college coaching for a year, but his resume speaks for itself. Orgeron has been a head coach at Ole Miss and USC and is regarded as one of the best recruiters in the game. You could really see his enthusiasm at the opening practice with how he moved the players around throughout practice, and he even joined in on a few drills.

Another veteran coach also joins the staff on the defensive side. New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele takes over the SEC’s No. 1-ranked defense after John Chavis departed for Texas A&M. Steele comes to LSU from the University of Alabama, where he coached the linebackers.

With the addition of both Orgeron and Steele, this LSU staff now has three recruiters who have been named the national “Recruiter of the Year”. Both defensive coaches got right to work on recruiting after they landed in Baton Rouge in January, and the Tigers signed a top-five class for 2015 and expect a good group of athletes to arrive in June.

Part of that 2015 class includes four early-enrollees who arrived in January and have already gone through their first practice as Tigers – tight end Hanner Shipley, fullback David Ducre, who was the nation’s No. 1 fullback, cornerback Kevin Toliver, the top-ranked cornerback in the country, and quarterback Justin McMillan.

I caught up with Coach Miles after the Tigers’ first practice to see how the new coaches are settling in, what is expected at the quarterback position and his top priorities of the spring.

We also have all of your spring practice info on LSUsports.net, from Saturday’s practice – including a photo gallery – to Miles’ full press conference and video of today’s practice.

The LSU Spring Game is set for April 18, so until then, keep checking back here for player interviews, exclusive interviews with Les Miles, feature stories, practice recaps and much more. If there is anything you want to see or hear, drop me a line and I will see what I can do.

Until then, GEAUX TIGERS!