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Morn’n Rumblings: More Miles on Michigan; LSU paid 12th-most per win; Tigers big favorite vs. ND

Les Miles says he's not considering the Michigan job. (Travis Spradling)

Les Miles says he’s not considering the Michigan job. (Travis Spradling)

  • Remember when LSU coach Les Miles told reporters Monday that he wasn’t considering the Michigan job? Well, he talked more about that on Sirius/XM Radio on Thursday, according to Mlive.com:

What happened there was, it became such a constant question, there was not a … I couldn’t put it behind us. Our football team’s preparing to play a significant game against Notre Dame, and I certainly didn’t want a distraction in any way.

The only thing I can tell you is that I’m so for Michigan. They have a process, they’re going to go through it. They’re going to get a great coach. I wish them the very best.

  • LSU paid $1.2 million per win in 2015. That ranks 12th nationally, according to this list compiled by USA Today. LSU has the highest paid salary in the nation and Miles makes a top-10 salary among head coach, so, naturally, LSU would land toward the top of this list. Here’s the top 20 schools, listed in descending order from 20 to 1 (the first number is total staff pay, which includes head coach and assistants; the second number is wins; the third is money spent for each win):

wins

  • LSU is the trendy pick to beat Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl. USA Today and CBS Sports released their bowl pick’ems Thursday, and the Tigers were picked to defeat the Irish in 12 of 13 picks. CBS Sports’ Chip Patterson was the only one to pick Notre Dame, which is a 7.5-point underdog to LSU.
  • Five scholarship seniors graduated Friday: DE Jermauria Rasco, RB Kenny Hilliard, LB D.J. Welter, DB Trey Sullivan and TE Travis Dickson. Seniors Connor Neighbors, Justin Maclin and Evan Washington graduated in previous semesters.

Report: LSU CB Jalen Collins likely to enter NFL Draft; DE Danielle Hunter leaning to stay

LSU junior cornerback Jalen Collins is likely to enter the NFL Draft, and defensive end Danielle Hunter is leaning toward remaining in school, according to Yahoo Sports.

Rand Getlin cited anonymous sources in his story on Collins and his tweet about Hunter.

Two sources close to the team told The Advocate that no definitive decisions have been made.

Collins, when asked about the draft Wednesday, said he had not made a decision. He said that he had requested a grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.

Hunter declined to answer a question about his possible impending decision to go pro.

“I’m not here to talk about that right now. I just want to talk about Notre Dame at the moment please,” he said Wednesday.

Danielle Hunter is leaning toward staying at LSU, one report says. (Bill Feig)

Danielle Hunter is leaning toward staying at LSU, one report says. (Bill Feig)

Hunter, a junior from Texas, is projected by many as a second round NFL Draft pick. Rob Rang, a draft analyst for CBSSports.com, said Hunter could be a top-50 pick and “potentially much higher than that.”

Collins has been listed as high as a third round selection on some mock drafts. Rang, earlier this year, called junior safety Jalen Mills and Collins “interesting players” who make “flashy plays.”

Pick 6: A Q and A with a Notre Dame beat reporter

Eric Hansen, of the South Bend Tribune, has covering Notre Dame since the days of Knute Rockne.

Knute Rockne is a Notre Dame legend. (ABC,com)

Knute Rockne is a Notre Dame legend. (ABC,com)

Well, maybe not that long. But it’s been a while. Hansen  joins us on Pick 6 to answer some questions about the Fighting Irish, LSU’s opponent in the Music City Bowl.

You can follow Hansen at @EHansenNDI and read his work here.

1. Brian Kelly said both quarterbacks Everett Golson and Malik Zaire will play in the bowl game. What different qualities does each of these QBs bring?

One caveat here, Kelly has been known to change his mind, and sometimes in the middle of a game about these things.

If they do both play, Golson brings one of the strongest arms in the country to the equation, big-game experience, a better overall knowledge of the offense and coverages, and the ability to extend plays with his feet. His problem has been turnovers, 22 of them in 2014. That’s as many or more than 85 FBS teams have this season.

Zaire has attempted just 20 collegiate passes and zero of them before Thanksgiving weekend. His strength is running the read option, and he does it with more ease and efficiency than Golson. He also happens to be left-handed, which gives defenses a little different look in the passing game. Above all, he is supremely confident.

If Joe Montana at his peak were on the Notre Dame roster right now, Zaire would sincerely believe that he should be ahead of him on the depth chart.

2. Notre Dame allowed at least 188 yards rushing in six of its final seven games. What’s been the issue in stopping the run?

It’s not been one thing, but the confluence of several factors, beginning with injuries on a defense that couldn’t afford them.

Middle linebacker Joe Schmidt, the brains of the defense, has been out since Nov. 1. His value is underscored by the fact he won the team MVP award despite missing the last 4 ½ regular-season games.

Two other injuries left ND exposed in the run game, defensive tackle Sheldon Day (one of only three starters on ND’s team to garner an LSU scholarship offer out of high school) and nose guard Jarron Jones. Day (MCL sprain) is the only one of the three who has a chance to return for the bowl game, and that’s about 50-50 right now. ND was thin at those positions to begin with, and true freshmen have been a big part of Plan B.

Another big factor in the team’s erosion on run defense were teams successfully playing at a fast tempo on offense. ND’s defense was built on niche roles and sub packages. When teams went uptempo, beginning with North Carolina on Oct. 11, the Irish found themselves getting trapped with their pass-rush personnel on the field on running downs, and run personnel on passing downs. It’s a template Notre Dame has been unable to overcome.

3. Kelly has said that several positions are open for competition during bowl practice. At which spots could we expect a starter to be usurped?

Brian Kelly is 44-20 in five seasons at Notre Dame. (NBCSports.com)

Brian Kelly is 44-20 in five seasons at Notre Dame. (NBCSports.com)

This is maybe more bluster than reality, especially considering the cliff in talent/experience differential at many of the positions. But Kelly wanted to set a tone for bowl prep, and I think he’s done that.

Beyond a possible time share at quarterback, sophomore right tackle Mike McGlinchey has been pressing third-year starter Christian Lombard. And the safety spots are up for grabs, but there aren’t a lot of choices for Kelly there – just three scholarship players left at a depleted position group. One of those, Elijah Shumate, was demoted before the latest run of injuries at the position. One, Max Redfield, is nursing a broken rib but is expected to play. The third, Eilar Hardy, was suspended for the first eight games of the season and didn’t practice until late October.

4. How do Notre Dame players, coaches and fans feel about the bowl matchup with LSU?

The players and coaches are pretty fired up about the matchup. There’s a lot of respect among them in terms of what LSU has accomplished in recent years, and even this season with a young team. It gives them a shot a redemption that a lesser opponent would not provide.

The fan base’s feelings are more mixed. There’s a segment who feel the problems with this team are unfixable this year and that LSU will just provide more humiliation on the heels of a bad November. Some fans are just so disillusioned by ND’s finish that they’d be disinterested in the bowl game, no matter who the opponent was. But there are fans that appreciate the matchup as an opportunity for Notre Dame to try to start to get better for 2015, when the Irish are expected to be deeper and much less flawed. And then there are those who will tune in just to see if Les Miles eats grass.

5. What LSU player(s) is drawing the most interest with Notre Dame coaches and players?

I’m not sure it’s a player as much as it is the dynamic of playing against the nation’s No. 1 pass-efficiency defense and all that entails. There’s also a lot of respect for the running game, so that brings running back Leonard Fournette and left tackle La’el Collins into the conversation.

6. What’s the one thing Notre Dame must do well to win the game?

Trick question, right? There’s not just one thing. At the top of the list, it’s slowing LSU’s run game – the only top 50 rush offense the Irish have faced this season other than No. 1, triple-option-heavy Navy.

The Irish have got to win the turnover battle. ND is 24-1 under Kelly when they do, and Kelly is 127-12 in his career when his teams emerge with fewer turnovers. But the Irish have only accomplished that three times this season and haven’t done so since September. Notre Dame’s own running game is going to have to be at its best. Kelly will want to play keep-away, so that he can minimize how many plays his defense is on the field.

Morn’n Rumblings: LSU hype video; Nashville weather; Big move at the NCAA

  • LSU has released its hype video ahead of the matchup with Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee. A link to it is in the below tweet. The video includes, arguably, the best two plays of the season: RB Leonard Fournette running over Texas A&M safety Howard Matthews and WR Travin Dural’s one-handed touchdowns catch against Florida. It also has locker room clips and locker room audio – with coach Les Miles screaming about victory, playing hard, etc. And one more thing: He has a clip of Miles holding up the Sugar Bowl trophy after LSU’s 41-14 victory over Notre Dame in that game following the 2006 season.

  • Did you catch one of Les Miles’ locker room messages to the team? Here it is:

This uniform, and your helmet, bring a passion and speed, and violence that many opponents don’t want to measure.

  • The extended forecast for the bowl week in Nashville is looking … cold. Sleet and snow are expected the day of the game, according to accuweather. The high isn’t projected to crack 40 degrees in any day in which the team is scheduled to be in Nashville. That’s quite the difference from last season – when LSU’s trip to the Outback Bowl came with 70 and 80-degree highs.

  • Pat Forde, noted Friend Of The Blog, picked LSU to beat Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl in his bowl column. He also referred to the game as “a compilation CD of sad country songs,” if it were a Christmas gift.
  • Colts QB Andrew Luck’s father, Oliver Luck, has been hired as the No. 2 at the NCAA. The move by the NCAA, a much-maligned body led by former LSU president Mark Emmert, is getting rave reviews from national reporters:

Les Miles on something other than Michigan: the LSU quarterbacks and a look to next year

LSU coach Les Miles is king of the bizarre press conference (remember this and this). He had another Monday night, refusing to be directly quoted but telling a large group of reporters of his non-interest in the Michigan job.

In non-Michigan discussion, Miles spoke about a variety of news-worthy things, which are all here for you in this notebook. What’s not in there are a couple of items the coach spoke on: his quarterbacks and next year’s team.

The quarterbacks

Anthony Jennings struggled at times this season as LSU's quarterback. (Travis Spradling)

Anthony Jennings struggled at times this season as LSU’s quarterback. (Travis Spradling)

The topic everyone wants to know about, right? LSU’s unsteady QB position is under evaluation, Miles said last week. Starter Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris are competing, as they have all season.

“Looking at competition at several spots, giving some other guys opportunities to step forward and see what they have. Brandon Harris is being groomed in a like fashion,” Miles said.

Miles suggested that LSU coaches this season have had plans to get Harris into the game with scripted plays to start games. Because of the momentum of the game, Miles said, he deviated from the script and left Jennings behind center.

“We’re so ready to go with Brandon Harris plays it’s not funny,” Miles said. “We just enjoyed where we’re at and what we were doing and how the game was going. I did not want to change the momentum at that point.”

Does Miles wish he had more competition at the QB spot? He paused and then answered.

“I think the guys that we have are pretty good players,” he said. “I think we’ll look forward to the guys that will be coming in. Again, the two that we have, (if) they continue to improve, we’ll like where they end up.”

The notion of LSU bringing in a junior college quarterback seemed to end with East Mississippi Community College QB Chad Kelly committing to Ole Miss, but Miles was asked Monday about the proposition of bringing in a midyear junior college QB.

It’s “more likely” that it won’t happen, the coach said.

CB Jalen Collins is one of a host of players who could leave early. (Travis Spradling)

CB Jalen Collins is one of a host of players who could leave early. (Travis Spradling)

A look to 2015

The 2015 season first starts with decisions from underclassmen. LSU has lost 18 redshirt sophomores or juniors to the NFL Draft the last two years.

As we reported in this notebook, five LSU players requested grades from the NFL College Advisory Committee. That’s the maximum number allowed for each team, a new limitation being imposed this year.

LSU is petitioning the committee to allow more than five, Miles said. The coach hinted that “eight or nine” players want a grade from the committee.

The five with grades already in likely come from this group: DE Danielle Hunter, OL Vadal Alexander, OL Jerald Hawkins, LB Kwon Alexander, CB Jalen Mills and CB Jalen Collins.

Miles and his coaches have started the annual process of speaking with underclassmen about their decisions.

“The conversations are informal until we get back the advice from the NFL,” Miles said. “When the NFL comes back and says when it is that’s likely they be drafted then things become … there’s more information to deal with, decisions can be made more effectively. I think there’s some telling points that can be made now. Those are quick, very brief conversations that allow us to broach the subject but not make any final decision.”

And, now, we turn to 2015. Miles suggested that his sales pitch in getting underclassmen to return involves LSU’s possibility of success next season in the SEC.

Here’s his quote about that:

“It’s basically revealing statistics and observations about conference opponents, guys going to have senior quarterbacks and teams going to lose this and lose that where we’re pretty much in good shape should we return our junior class,” Miles said.

Later in the press conference, the coach again hinted that LSU could be a championship-caliber team if juniors return for their senior seasons.

“I think that this team has the potential to play in championships,” he said. “Should the juniors recognize how close we are to being in the tournament that, frankly, this could be a great class for quite some time and a great team for quite some time.”

LSU FB Connor Neighbors accepts Senior Bowl invite

LSU fullback Connor Neighbors joined a list of LSU players who will play in postseason all-star games.

Connor Neighbors joins a lengthy list of LSU players who will compete in postseason all-star games.

Connor Neighbors joins a lengthy list of LSU players who will compete in postseason all-star games. (Travis Spradling)

Neighbors has accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, the school announced on Monday. Neighbors, a former walk-on from Alabama who earned a scholarship, started nine games this season as the lead blocker for a running game that rolled up 219 yards a game.

Neighbors may be the first player in Senior Bowl history to be a third generation to play in the game, according to an LSU spokesman. Neighbors grandfather and father both played in the Senior Bowl after their careers at Alabama.

Neighbors joins left tackle La’el Collins as Senior Bowl invitees and a host of other Tigers who will play in postseason all-star games:

Senior Bowl

  • LT La’el Collins
  • FB Connor Neighbors

East-West Shrine Game

  • S Ronald Martin
  • DE Jermauria Rasco
  • RB Terrence Magee
  • RB Kenny Hilliard

NFLPA Bowl

  • LB D.J. Welter

Also on Monday, LSU safety Jamal Adams made it on ESPN’s Freshman All-American team.

Morn’n Rumblings: New Orleans No. 2 in ESPN CFB ratings; DE sets commit date; Michigan’s coaching search drags on

New Orleans watches a lot of college football. (John McCusker)

New Orleans watches a lot of college football. (John McCusker)

  • New Orleans was ESPN’s No. 2 market for college football this year, according to an article on SI.com. The city trailed only Birmingham, who had the highest ESPN college football ratings for a 14th straight year. New Orleans was third-highest rated TV market for CBS’ college football coverage, trailing Birmingham and Memphis.
  • Kyle Phillips, a four star defensive end from Tennessee, announced on Twitter that he’ll be committing at the U.S. Army All-American Game on Jan. 3. LSU is one of three finalists:

LSU LT La’el Collins highlights team awards distributed at annual banquet

La'el Collins (left) is a first round projection. (Travis Spradling)

La’el Collins (left) is a first round projection. (Travis Spradling)

LSU left tackle La’el Collins earned the Charles McClendon Award as LSU’s most valuable player at the annual team football banquet Sunday night.

Here’s the full list of awards:

Newcomers Award

  • DT Davon Godchaux
  • DB Jamal Adams
  • RB Leonard Fournette

National L-Club Permanent Team Captains

  • Offense: OT La’el Collins, RB Terrence Magee
  • Defense: DE Jermauria Rasco, LB Kwon Alexander
  • Special Teams: P Jamie Keehn

Percy E. Roberts Outstanding Offensive Player Award

  • OT La’el Collins
  • FB Connor Neighbors

Percy E. Roberts Outstanding Defensive Player Award

  • DE Jermauria Rasco
  • LB Kwon Alexander

Wild Tiger Club (for special teams performance)

  • LB Duke Riley
  • DB Jamal Adams
  • LB Deion Jones
  • SNP Reid Ferguson
  • PK Colby Delahoussaye
  • CB Tre’Davious White
  • TE Dillon Gordon
  • P Jamie Keehn
  • LB Kendell Beckwith
  • TE Travis Dickson
  • RB Terrence Magee
  • CB Ed Paris
  • DB Rickey Jefferson
  • TE Logan Stokes
  • CB Jalen Collins
  • PK Trent Domingue

Special Teams Coaches Award

  • DB Jamal Adams
  • LB Deion Jones
  • CB Tre’Davious White
  • SNP Reid Ferguson
  • P Jamie Keehn
  • LB D. J. Welter

Wild Tiger Championship Trophy

  • LB Duke Riley

Jeff Boss Unsung Hero Award

  • TE Logan Stokes
  • TE Travis Dickson
  • TE Dillon Gordon
  • OG Evan Washington
  • CB Jalen Collins
  • WR Travin Dural
  • LB Lamar Louis

Dr. Charles E. Coates Academic Award

  • DB Chris LaBorde

Alvin Roy Strength and Conditioning Award

  • RB Terrence Magee
  • LB D. J. Welte
  • OT La’el Collins

Butch Duhe Award (players who personify the idea of unselfishness, dependability and commitment to the team)

  • RB Kenny Hilliard
  • OL Ethan Pocic
  • CB Jalen Mills
  • DT Quentin Thomas
  • C Elliott Porter
  • LB Kendell Beckwith
  • OT Jerald Hawkins

George M. Wallace Memorial Award (players who distinguished themselves by performance, leadership and commitment to the team)

  • S Ronald Martin
  • DE Danielle Hunter

Draft Watch: LSU OT La’el Collins, DE Danielle Hunter, CB Jalen Collins on mock drafts

La'el Collins (left) is a first round projection. (Travis Spradling)

La’el Collins (left) is a first round projection. (Travis Spradling)

The NFL Draft is nearly five months away. Underclassmen, at least those from LSU, haven’t yet declared their decisions, and there’s still the college all-star games and the NFL Combine to go.

And, yet, here we are with some NFL mock drafts to begin the buzz.

LSU left tackle La’el Collins and underclassmen Danielle Hunter and Jalen Collins are all listed in a few mock drafts. Some of the mock drafts only projected the first round. Others went through the third round.

CBS SPORTS

Rob Rang

  • LT La’el Collins: First round, 25th overall (Bengals)
  • DE Danielle Hunter: First round, 31st overall (Cardinals)

Dane Brugler

  • LT La’el Collins: First round, 23rd overall (Chargers)

YAHOO

  • LT La’el Collins: First round, 30th overall (Broncos)

MYNFLDRAFT.COM

  • LT La’el Collins: First round, 22nd overall (Chargers)
DE Danielle Hunter could make the jump early. (Bill Feig)

DE Danielle Hunter could make the jump early. (Bill Feig)

SBNATION

  • LT La’el Collins: First round, 12th overall
  • DE Danielle Hunter: Third round, 73rd overall
  • CB Jalen Collins: Third round, 88th overall

WALTER FOOTBALL

  • LT La’el Collins: First round, 12th overall (Rams)
  • CB Jalen Collins: Second round, 59th overall (Texans)
  • DE Danielle Hunter: Third round, 95th overall (Packers)