All posts by Scott Rabalais

Scott Rabalais is a sports columnist and sports writer for The Advocate. A Baton Rouge native, he began working at the paper in 1991 and has covered LSU athletics since 1992.

SEC Rating Game: Preseason edition

1. Auburn (8-5, 4-4 in 2014)

The best Auburn seasons don’t always begin with such lofty expectations

2. Alabama (12-2, 7-1)

Nick Saban says his teams could have won four more national titles. Bama has already claimed them

3. Georgia (10-3, 6-2)

In Nick Chubb we trust. In Mark Richt we don’t. But in the SEC (L)East, Bully is the default choice.

4. LSU (8-5, 4-4)

The start of the Brandon Harris era inspires optimism in Tigertown – but he hasn’t thrown a pass yet.

5. Ole Miss (9-4, 5-3)

The Rebels have a lot of top-shelf talent, but the cupboard is a little thin depth-wise

6. Missouri (11-3, 7-1)

No one wants to believe Mizzou can win a third straight SEC East title, but don’t be shocked if it does

7. Arkansas (7-6, 2-6)

It’s hard to go whole hog on the Razorbacks after they lost RB Jonathan Williams, but improvement continues

8. Tennessee (7-6, 3-5)

Rocky Top is crowded with lofty expectations for the Volunteers. Got to tap the brakes a bit on those mountain roads

9. Texas A&M (8-5, 3-5)

LSU and A&M lawyers have set up John Chavis peace talks midway between Baton Rouge and College Station just outside Beaumont

10. Miss. State (10-3, 6-2)

In Starkville they say “In Dak Prescott we trust.” He’s great, but there really isn’t anyone else

11. South Carolina (7-6, 3-5)

By not picking the Gamecocks to win the SEC, Rating Game has just been added to Steve Spurrier’s enemies list

12. Florida (7-5, 4-4)

The Gators dream of returning to the big time under Jim McElwain. This year, though, a bowl trip may have to suffice

13. Kentucky (5-7, 2-6)

The Wildcats should be improved, but this is the SEC – will anyone be able to tell

14. Vanderbilt (3-9, 0-8)

Remember when Rodney Dangerfield’s anchor smashed through Ted Knight’s new boat in “Caddyshack”? It’s like that.

Game of the week

No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 20 Wisconsin * AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas * 7 p.m., ABC

Alabama’s preseason depth chart listed five quarterbacks all bracketed together as possibilities to start the season. There haven’t been this many contenders five wide in Alabama since the spring race at Talladega. It is into this uncertainty that the Crimson Tide charges into the season coming off an SEC championship and a Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The defense is expected to again be stout, but it was gashed through the air and on the ground by the Buckeyes and is without former Dutchtown safety Landon Collins (now with the New York Giants). Wisconsin, which blew a big lead to LSU in Houston to open the 2014 season, is starting its first season under Paul Chryst, its third head coach in four seasons, but will be without former Heisman contender Melvin Gordon at running back (now with the San Diego Chargers). Corey Clement takes over at tailback, hoping to lead the Badgers to the top of the Big Ten West Division.

This week’s SEC schedule

Thursday

South Carolina vs. North Carolina, 5 p.m., ESPN@

Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m., SEC Network

Saturday

McNeese State at No. 14 LSU, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network (alternate)

UL-Lafayette at Kentucky, 6 p.m., ESPNU

UL-Monroe at No. 9 Georgia, 11 a.m., SEC Network

UT-Martin at No. 17 Ole Miss, 11 a.m., SEC Network (alternate)

No. 6 Auburn vs. Louisville, 2:30 p.m., CBS#

UTEP at No. 18 Arkansas, 2:30 p.m., ESPNU

No. 25 Tennessee vs. Bowling Green, 3 p.m., SEC Network%

Southeast Missouri at No. 24 Missouri, 3 p.m., SEC Network (alternate)

Texas A&M vs. No. 15 Arizona State, 6 p.m., ESPN&

New Mexico State at Florida, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network

No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 20 Wisconsin, 7 p.m., ABC*

Miss. State at Southern Miss, 9 p.m., Fox Sports 1

All times Central

@-at Charlotte, N.C.; #-at Atlanta; %-at Nashville, Tenn.; &-at Houston; *-at Arlington, Texas

LSU bowl projections, preseason edition

When it comes to preseason bowl projections, most national experts are buying LSU this season.

There are a couple of picks that have the Tigers settling for a trip to the Dec. 29 Texas Bowl, but the most popular choice for LSU is to wind up New Year’s Day in Orlando in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. The only questionable choices there are the three picks that have LSU facing Wisconsin. Since the Tigers open the 2016 season against the Badgers in Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, back-to-back games doesn’t look like an appealing prospect.

The strongest picks for LSU are by Phil Steele and the Orlando Sentinel’s Brant Parsons, who have the Tigers in a CFP Bowl on Dec. 31 in the Peach. Both have LSU meeting Florida State. As always, we like a pick like Bill Bender’s from The Sporting News. He has the Tigers in the Outback Bowl against Michigan, Les Miles’ alma mater, a school LSU has never met in football.

Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan (Jan. 1, Tampa)

CollegeFootballNews.com: Texas Bowl vs. Texas (Dec. 29, Houston)

CollegeSportsMadness.com: Outback Bowl vs. Nebraska (Jan. 1, Tampa)

Brad Crawford, SaturdayDownSouth.com: Citrus Bowl vs. Wisconsin (Jan. 1, Orlando)

Zac Ellis, SI.com: Citrus Bowl vs. Nebraska (Jan. 1, Orlando)

Dan Harralson, Football.com: Texas Bowl vs. Iowa State (Dec. 29, Houston)

Jason Kirk, SBNation.com: Liberty Bowl vs. Oklahoma State (Jan. 2, Memphis, Tenn.)

Steve Lassan, Athlon: Texas Bowl vs. Oklahoma State (Dec. 29, Houston)

Stewart Mandel, FoxSports.com: Taxslayer Bowl vs. Louisville (Jan. 2, Jacksonville, Fla.)

Brett McMurphy, ESPN.com: Citrus Bowl vs. Wisconsin (Jan. 1, Orlando)

Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan (Jan. 1, Tampa)

Brant Parsons, Orlando Sentinel: Peach Bowl vs. Florida State (Dec. 31, Atlanta)

Ralph Russo, The Associated Press: Citrus Bowl vs. Wisconsin (Jan. 1, Orlando)

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Citrus Bowl vs. Penn State (Jan. 1, Orlando)

Phil Steele, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview: Peach Bowl vs. Florida State (Dec. 31, Atlanta)

USA Today: Citrus Bowl vs. Wisconsin (Jan. 1, Orlando)

LSU announces key preseason dates

Here is a list of key dates for LSU’s preseason practice, leading up to the Tigers’ Sept. 5 season opener against McNeese State in Tiger Stadium:

Wednesday: Players report to campus 8 a.m.-noon

Thursday: Veterans practice at 9:35 a.m., freshman and selected veterans at 3:50 p.m.

Friday: Veterans practice at 9:20 a.m., freshman and selected veterans at 3:45 p.m.

Saturday: Veterans practice at 9:15 a.m., freshman and selected veterans at 3:45 p.m.

Sunday: Veterans practice at 9:15 a.m., freshman and selected veterans at 3:45 p.m.

Monday: First full-team practice (full pads) at 9:25 a.m.

Tuesday: Walk through practice, 3:45 p.m.

Aug. 12: Two-a-day practices, 8:35 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.

Aug. 13: Practice, 9:15 a.m.

Aug. 14: Practice, 9:05 a.m.

Aug. 15: Scrimmage in Tiger Stadium, 11:15 p.m.

Aug. 16: LSU Media Day and Fan Day (Media Day 3:30 p.m., Fan Day 5-6:30 p.m. at LSU basketball practice facility and Carl Maddox Field House)

Aug. 17: Two-a-day practices, 8:45 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.

Aug. 18: Practice, 4:15 p.m.

Aug. 19: Two-a-day practices, 8:45 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.

Aug. 21: Practice, 11:15 a.m.

Aug. 22: Scrimmage, 11:15 a.m.

Aug. 24: First day of LSU fall semester classes, practice at 4 p.m.

Aug. 25: Scrimmage, 4 p.m.

Aug. 26: First Les Miles Radio Show, 7 p.m., T.J. Ribs on Acadian Thruway

Aug. 31: First Les Miles weekly news conference, game week preparations begin, practice at 4 p.m.

Sept. 5: LSU vs. McNeese State, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network), Tiger Stadium

 

 

Anthony Jennings discovers Periscope, but offers few insights

Late Sunday night, LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings made his first foray onto Periscope, a popular live video streaming app.

In his brief appearance, Jennings offered few insights, other than to say he though the Tigers would have a great season.

“I think we will be tremendous – SEC champions,” Jennings said. “I believe that.”

The Tigers junior took a few questions, none pertaining to his current legal situation or suspension from the LSU team. Jennings has been suspended since his arrest in late June with two other Tigers for unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.

The brief Periscope session, which lasted only a couple of minutes, was Jennings’ first public statement of any kind since his arrest and suspension, and perhaps a snapshot into his feelings about his future with the start of preseason camp late next week.

LSU coach Les Miles said on ESPN last week that he believed Jennings will eventually be able to return to the team and competition with sophomore Brandon Harris. It’s Harris who has done the work with LSU’s offense during summer seven-on-seven drills.

“This has been cool,” Jennings said just before signing off. “Peace out.” The next time Jennings is heard from is likely to be Aug. 16 at LSU’s media day.

Vadal Alexander on Outland watch list; Beckwith, Mills on Nagurski watch list

The announcement of two more college football award watch lists Friday brought more recognition for three LSU players.

Senior offensive guard Vadal Alexander was named to the Outland Trophy watch list, an award given annually to the nation’s best interior lineman on offense or defense.

Also Friday, junior linebacker Kendell Beckwith and senior safety Jalen Mills were named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list, an award for the defensive player of the year.

Beckwith and Mills were named earlier this week to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, which is also for the defensive player of the year.

LSU WATCH LIST TRACKER

  • Paul Hornung Award (best all-around athlete): Leonard Fournette, RB
  • Maxwell Award (player of the year): Leonard Fournette, RB
  • Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year): Kendell Beckwith, LB; Jalen Mills, S
  • Rimington Trophy (best center): Ethan Pocic
  • Ray Guy Award (best punter): Jamie Keehn
  • Outland Trophy (best interior lineman): Vadal Alexander, OG
  • Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defensive player of the year): Kendell Beckwith, LB; Jalen Mills, S

2015 WATCH LIST RELEASE SCHEDULE

  • Monday: Paul Hornung Award (best all-around athlete)
  • Tuesday: Maxwell Award (player of the year), Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year)
  • Wednesday: John Mackey Award (best tight end), Rimington Trophy (best center)
  • Thursday: Lou Groza Award (best place-kicker), Ray Guy Award (best punter)
  • Friday: Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defensive player of the year), Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
  • July 13: Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
  • July 14: Butkus Award (best linebacker), Rotary Lombardi Award (lineman of the year)
  • July 15: Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver), Wuerffel Trophy (community service, athletic and academic achievement)
  • July 16: Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback), Doak Walker Award (best running back)
  • July 17: Walter Camp Award (player of the year)

NOTE: There is no watch list for the Heisman Trophy

Punter Jamie Keehn named to Ray Guy Award watch list

Jamie Keehn will earn some hang time on the Ray Guy Award watch list this summer.

The LSU senior punter was one of 25 players named Thursday to the award’s watch list by the Augusta (Georgia) Sports Council.

A native of Queensland, Australia, Keehn ranked second in the Southeastern Conference last season with 44.9 yards per punt and earned second-team All-SEC honors. His season average was the third-highest in school history.

Keehn had 27 of his 71 punts (38 percent) downed inside the 20-yard line and had 17 punts of 50 yards or more. He had a career-high five punts downed inside the 20 against Wisconsin in the season opener.

His 43.4-yard career average is third in LSU history only behind fellow Aussie Brad Wing (44.6) and Patrick Fisher (44.1).

Keehn is the fifth LSU player this week to be named to a preseason award watch list. He joins Kendell Beckwith (Bednarik Award), Leonard Fournette (Hornung Award, Maxwell Award), Jalen Mills (Bednarik Award) and Ethan Pocic (Rimington Trophy).

This is the third time in the last 10 years an LSU punter has been named to the Ray Guy Award watch list. Chris Jackson made the list in 2006 and Wing made it in 2012. Wing was a Ray Guy semifinalist in 2011 and 2012.

The candidate list for the Ray Guy Award will grow to 30 once the season begins, then paired to a list of 10 semifinalists on Nov. 13. Three finalists will be announced Nov. 23, with the winner to be announced Dec. 10 on ESPN.

The watch list for the Lou Groza Award (best place-kicker) was also released Thursday, but no LSU or Louisiana college players were on it.

The watch list releases continue Friday with the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defensive player of the year) and the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman).

LSU WATCH LIST TRACKER

  • Paul Hornung Award (best all-around athlete): Leonard Fournette, RB
  • Maxwell Award (player of the year): Leonard Fournette, RB
  • Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year): Kendell Beckwith, LB; Jalen Mills, S
  • Rimington Trophy (best center): Ethan Pocic
  • Ray Guy Award (best punter): Jamie Keehn

2015 WATCH LIST RELEASE SCHEDULE

  • Monday: Paul Hornung Award (best all-around athlete)
  • Tuesday: Maxwell Award (player of the year), Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year)
  • Wednesday: John Mackey Award (best tight end), Rimington Trophy (best center)
  • Thursday: Lou Groza Award (best place-kicker), Ray Guy Award (best punter)
  • Friday: Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defensive player of the year), Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
  • July 13: Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
  • July 14: Butkus Award (best linebacker), Rotary Lombardi Award (lineman of the year)
  • July 15: Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver), Wuerffel Trophy (community service, athletic and academic achievement)
  • July 16: Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback), Doak Walker Award (best running back)
  • July 17: Walter Camp Award (player of the year)

NOTE: There is no watch list for the Heisman Trophy

 

LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Kendell Beckwith, Vadal Alexander going to SEC Media Days

Running back Leonard Fournette, middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith and right tackle Vadal Alexander are scheduled to accompany LSU coach Les Miles to SEC Media Days next week in Hoover, Alabama.

LSU’s session at media days will be Thursday, the final day of this year’s activities.

Here’s a complete rundown of players scheduled to attend in Hoover this year:

Alabama
Reggie Ragland, Sr., LB
Kenyan Drake, Sr., RB
Ryan Kelly, Sr., OL

Arkansas
Jonathan Williams, Sr., RB
Brandon Allen, Sr., QB
Keon Hatcher, Sr., WR

Auburn
Jeremy Johnson, Jr., QB
Jonathan Jones, Sr., DB
Kris Frost, Sr., LB

Florida
Jonathan Bullard, Sr., DE
Brandon Powell, So., WR
Vernon Hargreaves III, Jr., DB

Georgia
Malcolm Mitchell, Sr., WR
John Theus, Sr., OT
Jordan Jenkins, Sr., OLB

Kentucky
Melvin Lewis, Sr., NG
Jordan Swindle, Sr., OT
A.J. Stamps, Sr., S

LSU
Leonard Fournette, So., RB
Vadal Alexander, Sr., OT
Kendell Beckwith, Jr., LB

Ole Miss
Evan Engram, Jr., TE
Mike Hilton, Sr., DB
C.J. Johnson, Sr., LB

Mississippi State
Dak Prescott, Sr., QB
Taveze Calhoun, Sr., DB
Ryan Brown, Sr., DE

Missouri
Kenya Dennis, Sr., DB
Maty Mauk, Jr., QB
Evan Boehm, Sr., C

South Carolina
Elliott Fry, Jr., PK
Pharoh Cooper, Jr., WR
Skai Moore, Jr., LB

Tennessee
Joshua Dobbs, Jr., QB
Curt Maggitt, Sr., LB/DL
Cameron Sutton, Jr., DB

Texas A&M
Mike Matthews, Sr., C
Germain Ifedi, Jr., OT
Julien Obioha, Sr., DL

Vanderbilt
Ralph Webb, So., RB
Nigel Bowden, So., LB
Spencer Pulley, Sr., C

 

LSU says he’s a guard, but Ethan Pocic still makes top center watch list

Ethan Pocic ended the spring penciled in as LSU’s starting left guard, but he made such an impression at center last season he’s regarded as one of the nation’s best at that position going into 2015.

Pocic was named Wednesday to the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s best center.

Among those also selected were Louisiana Tech senior Kirby Wixson and South Alabama junior Joseph Scelfo, son of former Tulane coach Chris Scelfo.

Pocic started 12 games last season (missing the UL-Monroe game due to injury), nine at right guard and three at center. He ended the year starting at center against Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl in place of the injured Elliott Porter.

In all, Pocic played 743 snaps in 2014, on the field for every offensive play in the Tigers’ final five games. He finished third on the team with 72.5 knockdown blocks.

Pocic could still play center, but he finished spring practice expected to start at left guard. Sophomore Andy Dodd was listed as the starter at center.

Pocic joins three LSU teammates named to watch lists earlier this week.

Sophomore tailback Leonard Fournette was named to the Maxwell Award (best player) and Paul Hornung Award (best all-around athlete) watch lists. Senior safety Jalen Mills and junior middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith were named to the Bednarik Award (best defensive player) watch list.

The watch list for the John Mackey Award (best tight end) was also released Wednesday, but no LSU or Louisiana players were selected.

A string of major award watch lists, an early harbinger of the coming football season, continues through July 17. Thursday’s watch lists put the focus on special teams with the Lou Groza (place-kicker) and Ray Guy (punter) watch lists.

LSU WATCH LIST TRACKER

  • Paul Hornung Award (best all-around athlete): Leonard Fournette, RB
  • Maxwell Award (player of the year): Leonard Fournette, RB
  • Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year): Kendell Beckwith, LB; Jalen Mills, S
  • Rimington Trophy (best center): Ethan Pocic

2015 WATCH LIST RELEASE SCHEDULE

  • Monday: Paul Hornung Award (best all-around athlete)
  • Tuesday: Maxwell Award (player of the year), Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year)
  • Wednesday: John Mackey Award (best tight end), Rimington Trophy (best center)
  • Thursday: Lou Groza Award (best place-kicker), Ray Guy Award (best punter)
  • Friday: Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defensive player of the year), Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
  • July 13: Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
  • July 14: Butkus Award (best linebacker), Rotary Lombardi Award (lineman of the year)
  • July 15: Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver), Wuerffel Trophy (community service, athletic and academic achievement)
  • July 16: Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback), Doak Walker Award (best running back)
  • July 17: Walter Camp Award (player of the year)

NOTE: There is no watch list for the Heisman Trophy

Kendell Beckwith, Jalen Mills join Leonard Fournette on award watch lists

The honors continued flowing Tuesday for LSU running back Leonard Fournette.

This time, he had company.

Fournette was named Tuesday to the Maxwell Award watch list, given annually to the nation’s best player. This came a day after Fournette was named to the Paul Hornung Award watch list for the best all-around athlete.

Two LSU players were named to the Bednarik Award watch list for defensive player of the year: linebacker Kendell Beckwith and safety Jalen Mills.

Three other players with Louisiana ties were named to the Maxwell Award watch list: UL-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire, Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon and Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott of Haughton.

Fournette rushed for an LSU freshman record 1,034 yards (and 10 touchdowns) last season and led the Southeastern Conference in all-purpose yards with 137.4 per game. He ranked fourth in the SEC with 26.0 yards per kickoff return, and his 1,786 all-purpose yards were the sixth-most in a season at LSU.

Beckwith was second on the team last year and is the Tigers’ top returning tackler with 77 stops, including two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. He also had an interception and two fumble recoveries.

Mills had 62 tackles with an interception and a fumble recovery.

LSU WATCH LIST TRACKER

  • Paul Hornung Award (best all-around athlete): Leonard Fournette, RB
  • Maxwell Award (player of the year): Leonard Fournette, RB
  • Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year): Kendell Beckwith, LB; Jalen Mills, S

2015 WATCH LIST RELEASE SCHEDULE

  • Monday: Paul Hornung Award (best all-around athlete)
  • Tuesday: Maxwell Award (player of the year), Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year)
  • Wednesday: John Mackey Award (best tight end), Rimington Trophy (best center)
  • Thursday: Lou Groza Award (best place-kicker), Ray Guy Award (best punter)
  • Friday: Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defensive player of the year), Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
  • July 13: Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
  • July 14: Butkus Award (best linebacker), Rotary Lombardi Award (lineman of the year)
  • July 15: Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver), Wuerffel Trophy (community service, athletic and academic achievement)
  • July 16: Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback), Doak Walker Award (best running back)
  • July 17: Walter Camp Award (player of the year)

NOTE: There is no watch list for the Heisman Trophy

In an upset, U-High and LSU prospect Dylan Moses No. 2 in Rivals 100 for 2017

They called him their “1A,” but Rivals.com declined to list University High star and LSU commitment Dylan Moses as its No. 1 prospect in its initial 2017 Rivals 100 released Monday.

That distinction instead went to defensive tackle Marvin Wilson of Houston Episcopal. Moses (6-2, 225) came in at No. 2, though with Rivals’ Mike Farrell saying it was a close call.

“It’s a strong stop five with Moses essentially 1A right now I believe,” Farrell said. “He’s a dynamic athlete and just dominates at either running back or linebacker, whatever position he chooses to play. If he grows into that edge rusher many predicted, watch out.”

Rivals lists nearly two dozen scholarship offers for Wilson (6-4, 320), including one from LSU.

Moses, who has been committed to LSU since September 2013, still has two seasons left to play at U-High. He is listed as the No. 1 prospect for 2017 by 24/7 Sports and according to Scout.com. ESPN does not yet have prospect rankings for 2017.