Former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was only able to bench press 225 pounds four times at the NFL Scouting Combine, and that number has Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer concerned.
Zimmer questioned on the NFL Network today whether Mathieu had been working hard lifting weights.
Obviously, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was the main attraction for reporters at the NFL Combine this weekend.
Yet, former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is also on an antonement tour at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis.
First, Mathieu sat down with ESPN’s Joe Schad for his perfunctory mea cupla interview in early January. Next, he made a visit to Mobile, Ala., and the Senior Bowl to try and improve his standing with NFL scouts. Finally, he’s enduring a grilling from league execs about whether he’s truly matured after being booted from the Tigers in early August for a reported third failed drug test and was later arrested in October at his off-campus apartment where for four former and current LSU players were found with 10 bags of marijuana and scales.
Here’s an exerpt from his media session with reporters on Sunday, as reported by The Washington Post:
“I’m not totally asking them to trust me right now. But what I am asking is for them to give me an opportunity to play the game again. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on it, especially without football. So, really, it’s given me a new outlook on life and just about being the right kind of person.”
Mathieu, though, doesn’t go through a battery of tests until the DB’s group takes the field on Tuesday.
Twenty-four hours removed from the Tiger’s 97-94 victory against Bama, there’s still some tidbits to process after the PMAC’s first ever triple-overtime affair.
First, it’s hard to believe the 42-year old arena hasn’t hosted one, but the Deaf Dome now owns that distinction.
Second, ice baths are the chore of the day for six players from both rosters that logged 40-plus minutes:
- LSU guard Charles Carmouche: 54
- LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant: 51
- Alabama guard Trevor Releford: 50
- Alabama guard Trevor Lacey: 43
- Alabama guard Rodney Cooper: 42
- LSU guard Anthony Hickey: 42
Talk about extremes for Carmouche, who only logged 3 minutes at Tennessee after being sat town after an in-game tiff with Tigers assistants. Ironically, his average for the week lands at 28.5 — only five minutes above his figure for the season — but coming in a way that touched both ends of a Bell Curve.
It’s also likely Hickey would have topped the 50-minute plateau, but Jones sat him from the 11:32 mark until 2:11 left in the second half. Afterward, Jones clarified his wasn’t trying to send a message to Hickey, who at times was matched up with Releford as the Bama sophomore racked up 29 points in 34 minutes.
Here’s Jones’ response from a post-game presser:
“Absolutely not. It was just a decision I had to make because he was playing hesitant. He plays so hard, and I just wasn’t sure what it was going on with him. The aggressiveness wasn’t there at times. I had to get him out and allow him to look at the game a little bit. He hadn’t done anything wrong.”
Only reading between the lines there’s another hint: Jones wants Hickey, the Tigers’ quickest guard and fastest in the open floor, to get North-South to the rim more and create. It’s a desire Jones hinted at a couple weeks ago, and seems to be lingering.
Not to veer to far astray on a tangent, but an driving Hickey wouldn’t hurt, either. On the season, he averages 4.2 fouls drawn per 40 minutes, according to kenpom.com. By comparison, the SEC leaders average at least six per game. They’re listed below:
- Charles Mann, UGA, 6.8
- Jarnell Stokes, UT, 6.5
- Michael Carrera, USC, 6.1
- Trae Golden, UT, 6.1
- Archie Goodwin, UK, 6.1
Correlation doesn’t always mean causation, but if you look at SEC squads that shoot the most free throws in relation to field goal attempts the top three are Georgia (48.5 percent), Kentucky (47.3 percent) and Tennessee (44.0). Where is LSU? The Tigers rank No. 12 at 30.2 percent. Translation: If Hickey can find a way to get into the paint, it obviously forces a defense to collapse and raises the potential for a foul by a help-side defender. Or it leaves a chance for O’Bryant to receive a feed and draw contact when his primary defender tries to recover after the dish. Finally, if Hickey pitches out to a slasher such as Shavon Coleman (an undersized stretch four player), it can create a seam to drive against a slower on-ball defender and enhance the probability of a foul. This isn’t a revelation, but merely a statistically-backed observation.
On the bench, Hickey said he watched the ebb and flow of the game and wasn’t peeved at the move.
“Just staying engaged,” Hickey said. “Coach made his decision to sit me out for a little bit, catch my breath. And just watching them and cheering them on waiting for my turn to be called. I just kept pushing them while I was on the sideline. You gotta have faith in your team.”
Closing out the talk of minutes and how they were apportioned, there’s the obvious concern about how much Jones turns the vise in practice over the next couple days. It’s also pressing because Arkansas (17-10, 8-6) arrives Wednesday. The Razorbacks are devotees of the renewed 40 Minutes of Hell installed by former UA assistant and current head coach Mike Anderson, and they live up to the imposing title. Arkansas averages 71.1 possessions per game, which is No. 14 among 347 NCAA Division I programs.
I can’t think of a worse gift than to have to draw a foe that wants to run more than LSU. Any concern, though, stems solely from the volume of minutes and not the pace on Saturday. What’s the difference? LSU had roughly 86 offensive possessions (based on traditional formulas), and here’s how those broke down:
- First Half: 34.8
- Second Half: 30.4
- First OT: 6.0
- Second OT: 5.8
- Third OT: 8.8
- Total: 85.8
Those 51 minutes take a toll on your body. I’m pretty beat down, but I’m just going to get into the cold tub.”
Trevor Releford, guard, Alabama: The sophomore scored 36 points on stunningly efficient 14 of 18 shooting. On its face, that’s easy to see as impressive. Yet look at what the rest of the Tide did: 21 of 58 shooting, including 4 of 17 behind the arc, and just 58 points. Guard Rodney Cooper scored 18 points, but it took a 7 of 22 shooting effort to get there. Yes, LSU won, but Releford controlled the flow of the game at times. In the first half, Releford tallied 14 of Bama’s 17 points over seven minutes in the first half to build a 33-31 lead. Meanwhile, he came back from a two minute rest on the bench at scored eight points three minutes to help Bama build a 64-54 lead. Or, put another way, he racked up 22 of his points in only 11 minutes. Stellar.
After Saturday, LSU sits alone in eighth place in the SEC, and the Hogs’ arrival at the PMAC couldn’t be more timely. The Tigers sit a game back in the standings, and a victory over Arkansas would create a tie for seventh in the league. Both teams would have identical overall win percentages of .629, but the Razorbacks would maintain the No. 7 seed, since they have a 1-1 record versus current top-seed Florida; LSU lost to the Gators by 12 points early January.
Still, it’s a critical week for the Tigers, who also trek to a flummoxing Missouri (19-8, 8-6), a team that is undefeated at home but putrid on the road. It remains a critical opportunity, though, to try and make headway in SEC tournament seedings. UT (16-10, 8-6), which has won five in a row, hosts Florida on Tuesday and travel to Georgia on Saturday. Let’s look at KenPom.com and its predictions for the week:
Tennessee: L vs. Florida, W at Georgia for a projected 17-11, 9-7 mark
Arkansas: W at LSU, L vs. Kentucky for a projected 17-11, 9-7 mark
LSU: L vs. Arkansas, L at Missouri for a projected 16-12, 7-9 mark
Arkansas has been awful on the road this season, going 1-6 in SEC games away from Bud Walton Arena. How bad? Anderson’s team is getting hammered in road games by an average margin of minus-13.5 points. It’s even worse when you consider UA is winning home games by 12.1 points. In effect, there’s a 25.6 point swing in scoring margin between home and road for the Razorbacks. As for LSU, their road scoring margin is minus-1.9, and their home scoring margin sits at a skinny plus-0.3. It adds up to a game where Arkansas isn’t facing a dominant home team, and LSU is drawing a group Auburn coach Tony Barbee said this season “plays less assertive” on the road. Put simply, it’s a toss-up, and the Tigers need it if they hope to realistically make a push out of the No. 8 seed and a potential second-round date with the SEC’s No. 1 seed.
On occasion, I’ll offer up a selected track as part of my Sunday post to send you away with a door prize for reading the blog.
This week, the selection is a new single from Scottish electropop group CHVRCHES called “Recover” and seems fitting given what went on yesterday at the Maravich Assembly Center.
I’ve settled into my seat in press row at the PMAC, and it’s time to roll out the pregame primer as LSU (15-9, 6-7 SEC) prepares to host Alabama (18-8, 10-3) at 12:30 p.m. today.
First, here’s our advance focusing on Johnny O’Bryant, a sophomore forward, addressing his potential NBA Draft prospects. In addition, here’s our weekly podcast focusing on this critical match-up for LSU.
LSU dropped the back-end of its stretch where the Tigers played three games in six days, falling to Tennessee 82-72 on Tuesday in Knoxville. All told, the Tigers were doomed by career shooting nights from guard Jordan McCrae, who popped off for 34 points and 6 of 6 behind the 3-point line, and another 20 from point guard Trae Golden.
In the wake of that loss, it’s probably best to blunt: LSU needs a victory in one of these two upcoming home games to stay in the outside mix for an NIT berth. Right now, the SEC is only projected to land three teams in the NCAA tournament field. On Joe Lundari’s cut line, there are three teams in the first eight squads out: Kentucky, Arkansas and Bama. So the question becomes whether the SEC would get up to five teams into the NIT field. The loss to the Vols hurts, because UT is in the three team cluster with LSU and Texas A&M for one of those potential bids.
Ideally, a 9-9 finish in the SEC would help bolster LSU’s chances, but now that will need to happen against a closing stretch where all five teams sit between Nos. 26 and 72 in the RPI. Translated, LSU needs to find three victories against Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas A&M and Ole Miss. A victory over the Crimson Tide, who have quietly crept into second place in the SEC, would help.
On Feb. 9, LSU rallied from a 12-point second half deficit and had loos to draw even late but fell to the Tide in a 60-57 loss at Tuscaloosa.
It was a game where the Alabama backcourt bullied and clamped down on LSU’s guards, limiting them to a combined 9 of 30 shooting from the floor and forced them into five of the Tigers 12 turnovers. O’Bryant scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but was turnover prone in the first half to finish with five, and was largely limited in the final seven minutes as the Tigers made their push.
For the Crimson Tide, Nick Jacobs came off the bench to score 15 points, while guard Trevor Releford added 12 points in a game where Bama shot just 35.2 percent from the floor.
The loss ended a three-game winning streak for LSU, who had used the streak to help pull out of a spiraling 1-5 SEC start.
Guard Play: In Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s trio of Trevor Lacey, Trevor Releford and Levi Randolph were effective in applying tough on-ball pressure and slowing Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer. Both got going late, but for the most part the Tigers offense was funneled through the interior to O’Bryant. The Tide’s trio has a combined steal percentage of 3.3 percentage, which is a respectable figure. But they also average 2.5 fouls per 40 minutes, a sign they aren’t afraid to be aggressive in generating pressure. How LSU handles that physicality and whether they can find a way to generate consistent offense will be key.
Pace: I wrote about this ahead of the first meeting, but both teams press at different speeds. Bama only averages 62.0 possessions per game, which ranks No. 315 out of 347 Division I teams. As for LSU, they run 69.6 per game, ranking 40th in the country. Grant’s team will press to disrupt, it will run a 1-3-1 zone trap in certain situations. Yet, the Tide aren’t exactly desperate to get out and run. Bama defends the 3-point line well, allowing only a 31.3 percent clip in conference play, and force turnovers on 24.2 percent of defensive possessions. In effect, they negate the equalizer in long jump shots and make you squander possessions. On Feb. 9, the Tigers only had 64 possessions, a sign they did little to force the tempo in their favor. That will need to change today.
Balance in the scoring column: First, it’s been a positive that O’Bryant has averaged 17.3 points and 10.4 rebounds in his past 10 games. Undoubtedly, LSU needs his production. But against Mississippi State there was a glimpse of what happens when there is relative balance. LSU doesn’t need Charles Carmouche to pour in 21 points, or Andrew Del Piero to add in 13 off the bench. However, it would be a positive to see the guard rotation outside of Hickey chip in more and Del Piero continue to proved stable scoring and rebounding.
The Big Stat
16.1 vs. 12.0: The first number is Bama’s steal percentage, and the second is LSU’s figure. Both teams are adept at stifling guards and forcing opponent’s to waste possessions. But, as I said earlier, this one may be a matter of which back court exerts control over the game. Anthony Hickey and Trevor Releford are two of the best in the country at pestering their assigned man, but it will be interesting to see which side is able to dictate terms and the flow.
Both LSU and Bama are accustom to tight games where end-game execution is vital, and I don’t see this one being any different. Bama is 4-5 on the road, showing they can handle entering another team’s building and set the tone. That’s what I see happening here, and the Tide have an X-Factor in senior guard Andrew Steele, who has a knack for coming up big in late game situations but is doubtful this week. Still, I like the Tide’s grit and road success to win out: Bama 66, LSU 63.
Over the past five weeks, LSU sophomore forward Johnny O’Bryant III has rounded into the best offensive threat for the somewhat resurgent Tigers.
O’Bryant, a 6-8, 256-pound product of Cleveland, Miss., is averaging 17.3 points and 10.4 rebounds during LSU’s past 10 games, including eight of his SEC-leading double-doubles.
It’s prompted some speculation about whether O’Bryant, a five-star recruit and former McDonald’s All-American, would be interested in testing the NBA Draft waters.
Right now, he’s ranked as the No. 150 prospect by ESPN’s draftnik Chad Ford, and the No. 16 prospect in the SEC. O’Bryant possesses the necessary size, strength and ability on the glass to potentially be attractive to teams needing help on the front line. Granted, there are also questions about whether his low-post game is refined enough for the NBA, and if his motor runs sufficiently to be worth a pick.
Granted, any projection right now would place O’Bryant squarely in the second round, where contracts aren’t guaranteed. There’s an inherent risk in leaving without some notion (or assurance) of landing in the first round.
Case in point, former LSU center Justin Hamilton, who left after his junior season and was drafted in the second round (No. 45 overall) by Philadelphia, then swapped to Miami for fellow SEC alum in Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie. Yet Hamilton was cut loose, and then signed in August 2012 with Croatian-based KK Cibona. In January, though, he reached an agreement with VEF Riga.
So, in spite of his vast potential, O’Bryant potentially faces a dilemma this offseason. On Thursday, I chatted with him about what will likely happen. Granted, it was a media session where time is limited, and, in the midst of the season, O’Bryant remained coy.
Here’s the transcript, folks.
Obviously, your play the past couple weeks and past statements about wanting to reach the next level quickly have people speculating about what you might do after the season. How would you respond to that?
“Mostly, I’m just thinking about finishing the season. Just finishing the season strong and trying to get into some postseason play. Right now, that’s where my mind is at.”
Do you really even pay attention to speculation that you might leave? You came here and said the goal was to leave and make the jump as quickly as possible. How much thought, if any, do you have about that right now?
“I’m still developing as a player. Before I leave, I want to be the best possible player I can be before I make any decisions. I’m definitely still growing, still developing. My thought process is just on finishing the season.”
What did you do after last season in terms of evaluating whether returning was what you wanted to do?
“I definitely knew I was (coming back) after last season. I didn’t have the freshman year that I wanted to. I got hurt, and things didn’t really seem to go my way. I just calmed down and worked as heard as I possibly could and evaluate some things. This season, I’ll sit down with coach, sit down with my circle and we’ll talk.”
What’s going to go into those talks? And are you going to look at asking the NBA for an evaluation about your stock?
“Definitely. If I do make that decision, I need to see where I stand — if I can come back or can go higher (in the draft) — then it’s something I’ll focus on when I reach that point.”
What’s it going to take for you feel comfortable making the decision to stay or go?
“Just hearing the right news, pretty much.”
When do you anticipate you’ll sit down with coach Jones after this season is done?
“I don’t really know yet. The season is still going on, but until then I can’t really say.”
Obviously, there’s a lot of guys that were in your McDonald’s All-American group that are going to have to face the same decision. Do you pay attention or keep tabs on their prospects?
“A little bit. Some guys I was really good friends with, just through playing USA basketball with (them). Some guys I know through the AAU circuit, and we’re still good friends. I watch their games, see how their doing.”
Who are some of the guys you keep tabs on?
(Duke forward) Quinn Cook. Obviously, (former Florida guard) Brad Beal; he’s in the NBA (with the Washington Wizards); Adonis Thomas. Guys like that.
How much does your injury history impact your thinking? And how much does seeing a guy like (Kentucky forward) Nerlens Noel suffer a severe injury affect your thought process? Or is that part of the grind?
“It’s just part of the sport, and you’ve got to bounce back and work harder. I’m sorry that had to happen to Nerlens Noel.”
How much does it matter to have a good outing against a player like (Tennessee forward) Jarnell Stokes, a guy that might be in the same spot as you? What’s that do for you?
“I’ve known I can play with guys like that all along. There’s a reason why I’m where I’m at. Those guys are great players, and I can’t wait to face them again in the future.”
On Thursday, LSU coach Johnny Jones met with reporters ahead of the Tigers’ tilt against Alabama on Saturday.
Normally, the session runs between 15 and 20 mintues. Yet Jones was under the weather, nursing a lemon sports drink and slower in answering our queries than usual.
So after eight or so questions, the day was done. Here’s a transcript of some questions he fielded from the press corps.
“Despite the setback at Tennessee, I thought our guys played extremely hard. I thought we played against a team that’s probably playing as well as anyone in our conference right now. They’re playing extremely confident. They shot the ball well. You look at their numbers from the three point line. I think (Jordan) McRae was averaging about 28 or 29 percent from the three point line, and he wound up going six for six, which was a huge night and a big difference maker for them that evening. I think our guys are still encouraged and understand that there were some good moments, some good things that did happen for us that night. We just have to make sure that we continue to grow as we compete against a very tough Alabama team. They’re very good defensively and extremely sound on the defensive end. Offensively they just continue to make plays and win basketball games. We look forward to that challenge on Saturday.”
On playing against the physical guards of Alabama:
“I think you just have to continue to try to stay inside and make them play over top of you. We have to play with a sense of urgency and toughness. We’re hopeful that we do a better job of helping defensively in terms of our rotations. We’ve got to continue to rebound the basketball against them.”
On Charles Carmouche not playing against Tennessee:
“He was available. There were no issues, nothing wrong with him the other night. I’m just a firm believer and I think we do a tremendous job in terms of giving instructions. I think it’s important that when we have good constructive criticism that we respond in certain ways. If not, we address those issues and move on.”
On what it means when people say Alabama winning ugly:
“Just that they’re capable, or I guess they call it kind of ‘mucking’ the game up a little defensively. They play a different style defensively. They play extremely physical. They try and take you out of your offense in certain areas. You can break them down and maybe take them away from some things that they’re trying to do offensively, but they’re still capable of making some plays that are necessary at the end of ball games, and they’ve been able to do that.”
On LSU also being considered to “win ugly” as well:
“Well, we’ve been credited with being able to play that way as well. We understand that. Because of some of our numbers and how we play, things we do defensively, switching it up, changing from press to jumping into zone at times and some things we’ll do in man to man. We need to do that to give ourselves a chance, and we’ve been able to be successful sometimes doing that. If we weren’t successful in terms of being on the winning side, at least we’ve been able to really stay close, give ourselves a chance and stay in striking distance. You look at the Tennessee game and the war on the boards, I think they were plus 10 against teams coming into the game. We won the war on the boards and didn’t turn the ball over particularly too much, only I think 12 or 13 times. We shot a really decent percentage to be able to win on the road and just couldn’t get it done, but I thought because of some of the things that we did we were able to be right there.”
On Anthony Hickey passing him on the career steals list (Hickey now has 140, Jones 136):
“I didn’t see that. I would have taken him out earlier if I had known. I don’t think that was anything we had to worry about. He’s got a couple of more years left, too. As tenacious and ferocious as he is guarding the basketball, I think it says a lot about him. I think he’s going to pass a lot of guys up on that list, and I’m so excited and happy for him.
“I’ll see him today, and I’ll really congratulate him because I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s great. I think there were only two areas, steals and assists, that I was still kind of lingering around in, but I’m dropping pretty steadily because of the play of these guys.”
On whether length on the outside hurt the Tigers defensively vs. Tennessee:
“It wasn’t so much about the closeouts. I think you look at (Jordan) McRae, he’s got tremendous midrange game. He’s one of the leaders in SEC scoring. He’s excellent off the bounce playing confidently. What we were trying to do was make sure that we stay inside of them and make sure that they have to go over the top of us. They had some shots out there. You talk about going six for six, that’s an incredible night for you when you’re shooting about 29 percent, especially coming off the type of emotional game that they had just finished against Kentucky. So, I don’t think that had anything really to do with the outcome of the game. I thought our guys played extremely well and hard. They just wound up playing some extended minutes. Guys that came off the bench gave us some quality minutes, (Shane) Hammink and Corban (Collins). Those guys, I thought, gave us some quality minutes the other night.”
UPDATED: Here’s the feature done by ESPN.
By now, you know the story of LSU senior center Andrew Del Piero.
Arriving at LSU as a scholarship tuba player and member of the Golden Band from Tigerland, the native of Austin, Texas walked on to the Tigers basketball team his junior year in Baton Rouge.
Del Piero, who gave up his music scholarship to walk on, redshirted his junior season under former coach Trent Johnson and averaged only saw 12 minutes of action in four games.
Yet this season, on a roster than entered with only 11 scholarship players, Del Piero has started 17 games, and is averaging 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in roughly 13 minutes a game for the Tigers.
Now, a career that startd in LSU’s Student Recreation Complex will get spotlighted nationally on ESPN, which will run a segment on Del Piero during Saturday’s broadcast of GameDay from Lexington, Ky., where Missouri takes on Kentucky.
Per an LSU release, ESPN staff members interviewed Del Piero, who earned a scholarship ahead of this season, earlier this month in Baton Rouge. The staff also interviewed LSU coach Johnny Jones along with Roy King, director of the Golden Band from Tigerland.
The segment will air between 10:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on ESPN.
Del Piero, who tallied a career-high 13 points against Mississippi State a week ago, was also featured in the New York Times this season.