Danny Zardon is transferring to NAIA’s Nova Southeastern, where he can play immediately. (HILARY SCHEINUK)
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It’s pretty clear that Zardon left for playing time. Mainieri said he and Zardon had an “honest” conversation in which the coach couldn’t promise Zardon an everyday starting spot. At that point, Zardon decided to transfer.
Byrd’s decision surprised Mainieri, the coach said. Byrd seemed poised to compete for a starting position, though him getting one may have been tough. LSU has a host of position freshmen and junior college transfers coming in who are expected to compete for starting spots at the seven open jobs, including all four in the infield.
Byrd’s summer ball season was cut short because of arm soreness, Mainieri said.
“I still wanted him to come back,” the coach said. “I can’t say what chances he would have had on starting. I can’t say he would have had the inside track. He needed to prove he was worthy. He didn’t have that opportunity to do that this summer with 50-60 at-bats.”
The Tigers are favored in all but two games: at Alabama (+9) and at Ole Miss (PICK). With the uncertainty at QB, it’s tough to see LSU going 10-2, but it’s not out of the question.
The Tigers look solid at offensive line and are deep and talented at the receiver and running back spots. On defense, LB Kendell Beckwith and S Jamal Adams appear to be two of of the best in the conference – if not the nation.
Put it all together and LSU could contend for a championship – if it gets better play from the QB position. It can’t get much worse of play. Anthony Jennings had the lowest completion percentage (48.9) for an LSU starting QB last year since Marcus Randall in 2002, and he threw for just 123 yards a game last season.
Outside of Ole Miss and Alabama, LSU has a toughie with Arkansas, despite it being at home, and on the road in Week 2 at Mississippi State. Auburn comes into Tiger Stadium the very next week for a day game, too. Could LSU go 10-2? Sure. Could LSU go 7-5? Sure.
You’re not necessarily the only one in that group. Of players most would have expected to transfer this season, Kramer Robertson and Danny Zardon probably led the list. Zardon is gone. Robertson is staying, at least that’s how it appears.
And maybe that’s because he has a real shot to get a starting infield job. After all, LSU is losing all four infielders.
In an extensive postseason interview with Mainieri, the coach said that Robertson would compete for the starting shortstop job with incoming players O’Neal Lochridge and Trey Dawson. Robertson, who’s started several games at second base as a freshman in 2014, is an option at second as well. But he might have to hold off Delgado CC transfer Cole Freeman there.
Ah, the ole quarterback question. This is tough to answer, seeing as though LSU hasn’t started fall camp, but I will say this: Given Jennings’ suspension and Harris’ extra year with the program, Harris has more of a shot to play before Jennings than he did last season.
For the last six weeks – since Jennings’ suspension – Harris has taken over voluntary team workouts. Coaches and players have lauded his maturity, accuracy and leadership. Harris has every opportunity to take the gig from Jennings. It feels like things are moving in that direction, but who really knows?
A couple of returning players have a chance this fall to really reach out and grab a starting position: Kramer Robertson and Greg Deichmann. Robertson, as written above, will compete for the shortstop job and has shown in the past that he can play second base. Deichmann is a more difficult projection, but he needs to find that offensive production that he had in high school. Find it and Mainieri could find a place for him somewhere.
You get the feeling that these are make or break guys. They need to find spots with authority this fall or their LSU careers seem to be in limbo.
Mainieri suggested in our Q&A earlier this summer that he’d actually like to have Jared Poche as a No. 3 starter. The problem: finding a No. 2 starter. LSU couldn’t find anyone last season behind Alex Lange and Poche.
This fall is huge for three sophomores who eventually slipped from starting roles in 2015: Austin Bain, Jake Godfrey and Doug Norman. If there are any players to watch this fall, it’s those three, along with incoming Texas pitcher Cole McKay.
Not the best, but not impossible. The Tigers have to travel to Mississippi State in Week 2 and host Auburn in a day game in September (H-O-T) in Week 3. They’ll go to South Carolina, too. LSU is favored in all three of those games, but they obviously present problems.
It’s the back end of LSU’s schedule that’s the toughest, though, starting with Alabama. The last four games: at Bama, vs. Arkansas, at Ole Miss, vs. Texas A&M. Those are four toughies in a row.
Pretty well. The Tigers lost two of 16 signees – LHP Jacob Taylor and SS Mitch Piatnik. Coaches, at the time of his commitment, thought Piatnik would definitely show up. So it was a disappointment as it got closer to draft day when he began to slip away and ultimately signed a pro deal. He was expected to compete for the duties at shortstop.
They did keep highly touted Texas pitcher Cole McKay, an expected move that coaches knew about weeks out. McKay’s asking price was far too high for him ever to sign professionally. McKay was a top 100 player in the draft.
Trey Dawson, an infielder from West Virginia, turned down $600,000 to come to school. He’s expected to challenge for the job to replace Alex Bregman at shortstop. Meanwhile, RHP Riley Smith, a junior college signee, turned down $200,000 and appears to be an experienced arm who could see time early.