Chat with Gary Laney
Welcome to GeauxTigerNation! On Tuesday, reporter Gary Laney stops by to chat about the state of LSU football.
Laney joined ESPN.com in 2012 after spending a year and a half as online sports editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate. Before that, he covered LSU sports for the Advocate. He has also been the sports editor at the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise and covered McNeese State athletics for the Lake Charles (La.) American Press. Laney currently lives in Baton Rouge, La.
Send your questions now and join Laney Tuesday at 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET!
Gary Laney (2:00 PM)
It's spring break, meaning there's no spring football practice this week. But there is always plenty to talk about. After all, recruiting never stops. So let's get started.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who will be the Starting Defense in College Football for LSU in 2013?
Gary Laney (2:02 PM)
Chris with his weekly starting lineup question. This week's answer (altered since it was last asked): DL -- Rasco, Johnson, Ferguson, Hunter. LB -- Barrow, Welter, Jones. DBs -- Mills, Collins, Loston, Martin. That's my guess based on where we are right now in spring ball. It's definitely a fluid situation.
Joe Dirt (Denham Springs)
LSU has a lot of good linebackers, yet D.J. Welter is going to start? How is LSU going to get all that talent on the field if they are going to start a less gifted player like him?
Gary Laney (2:05 PM)
My opinion is that LSU is a little overstocked at the LB positions, and maybe not so much in the middle. They need a physical player, who plays with a low pad level, can take on blocks in the hole and also has the knowledge to get his teammates lined up and anticipate what the offense is doing. All those young guys are still developing those abilities, both in terms of maturing and bulking up physically and gaining that understanding of the defense. Minter was a third-year player when he became a starter. Sheppard was a fourth-year player when he settled in. Given all that, Welter makes more sense. I wouldn't be shocked if Barrow is eventually moved there eventually, but doing so would mean LSU has new starters at both MLB (Barrow) and SLB (where Barrow was).
Chris (Tampa, FL)
How do you feel about this upcoming football season? Expectations?
Gary Laney (2:07 PM)
I've said this before and still feel this way: It's going to come down to how good they turn out to be on the defensive line. I think they are good on the offensive line, good enough at QB, very good at RB, good at WR, talented as heck at LB and solid in the seocndary. If the DL outperforms expectations, this can be a very good team. If it struggles, it might be a Chick-fil-A Bowl type team again.
Gary Laney (2:08 PM)
I'll add this too: the 2012 team was better than the Chick-fil-A bowl. The SEC had six really good teams -- 10 wins or more in the regular season -- so one of them had to end up at the CFA Bowl and it was LSU. In most years, 10-2 out of the SEC will get you in a much better bowl. The 7-5 2008 team that went to Atlanta is more typical.
Tiger Bait (Houston)
So far this spring, is Miles/Cameron using Mcgee or anyone else in a wildcat set on offense and are they looking to utilize Jennings mobility at QB as a change of pace option in the offense this year?
Gary Laney (2:12 PM)
Just to clarify, it's "Magee," not "McGee." That one gets a lot of people because it's pronounced the same. They have dabbled with Magee taking Wildcat snaps in front of the media. I asked Terrence about it and he said they've dabbled with it, but nothing more yet. Obviously, he's more than capable of that role given his experience as a HS QB. I wouldn't be surprised to see Jennings get snaps in situations where LSU wants a mobile QB. He strikes me less like a guy who would be a wildcat and more like a guy they might use when they want a true QB, but need to utilize an ability to get to the edge. Subtle difference there.
Henry (Montgomery, AL)
Has Kwon Alexander participated much in spring practice after coming off an injury?
Gary Laney (2:14 PM)
He's practicing and hasn't had to wear a non-contact jersey or anything like that. Best I can tell, he's performing just fine out there. He was actually available for the Chick-fil-A Bowl and recorded a tackle. He wasn't 100 percent and he told us he's still not 100 percent, but he's pretty close.
A few commits are coming out of no where. I trust the staff but with so much great in state talent that is thought to be targeted, when does the staff not take a commit from the woods to wait on the big in-state fish at certain positions? Who is the next to commit?
Gary Laney (2:17 PM)
I would not consider the players LSU is currently taking commitments from as reaches. I don't think LSU was desperate for another LB-DE hybrid when they took Rhaheed and they certainly had some very good receivers on the board when they took Upchurch. To me, that they took these commitments showed that they really liked them. It's interesting. They have not yet offered Godchaux or Sims, two in-state players who in the recruiting evaluation world, may be considered better prospects than Rhaheed and Sims. Both would also be LSU leans if they had offers. But LSU chose to offer these other guys. So do they look at these guys as not being "big fish?" I think they trust their own evaluations.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do you anticipate 2014 being a monster recruiting year for Les Miles given the fast start? Does it need to be to make up for last year's mediocre class, and to keep up with Saban who has top classes every year, as well as the potential rising giant in College Station?
Gary Laney (2:21 PM)
Yeah. I've talked about this before and it's still true: I think LSU has the inside track to a No. 1 class. There are so many high-end players in Louisiana this year -- Leonard Fournette, Cam Robinson, Gerald Willis, Speedy Noil -- plus so many good players at the doorstep of La., like Tony Brown in Beaumont, Texas (which hugs the La. state line) and Devin Voorhies in Mississippi (he lives so close to the state, his dad actually works in Louisiana and commutes home to Mississippi) that it just adds up for this to be a huge, huge recruiting year. LSU doesn't need to pull a Nkemdiche from Georgia or a Willis from Arizona to make a big recruiting splash this time around.
Joe Dirt (Denham Springs)
How do you see the offensive line coming together?
Gary Laney (2:23 PM)
From left to right, Collins, Williford, Porter, Turner and Alexander. I think Collins is going to be great at left tackle. Williford was playing well when he went down. We saw that right side of the line really come together last year. Porter's more of a question mark, but he did get a starter behind Lonergan last year. Behind them, there is some decent talent. I really like Pocic down the road. And Fanaika is going to factor in, but he needs to lose a little weight. They might be a little deeper this year than in the recent past.
Henry (Montgomery, AL)
I know that there are a lot of unknowns that need to be answered this year. Last year's team didn't seem to "clique" together as the past years. Does there seem to be a better comradery (sic)?
Gary Laney (2:26 PM)
Henry, I think last year there were a few things that hurt chemistry. On offense, offensive line injuries sort of forced them to dumb things down a little bit while the young line got up to speed. Plus, I thought the philosophical change from having a mobile, improvising type QB to a pure pocket passer causes some growing pains. On defense, I think it hurt them to lose Mathieu and Jones, two starters, in the middle of August camp. Mathieu was the emotional leader type of guy. I think it took a while for an adjustment there.
Do you think LSU will rotate multiple LB's in and out since there are so many talented LB's?
Gary Laney (2:29 PM)
Absolutely. Chavis has always liked to use numbers at all positions to keep fresh bodies on the field. It was a little out of character for Minter to play so many snaps last season, but I think it reflected the youth at the position. I'd think this year he'll have no problem finding six guys who are ready to give significant snaps at the three spots, plus a couple more who will play a lot when special teams are figured in.
Are there any recruits in this class that you could see impacting the secondary this year with significant playing time, Brazil for example?
Gary Laney (2:32 PM)
The guy I keep hearing will impact quickly will be Tre'Davious White, the cornerback from Shreveport. Good speed, good size, great hips. I think he might be related to Morris Claiborne -- I'm told he's a godbrother but there may be a blood relation too -- so he comes from a good background. As for Brazil, he sent out a tweet last week suggesting he might play RB in college. That would be interesting. He's the fastest guy in the 2013 class, the national champion at 60 meters in indoors. Imagine getting him the ball in space. He'll be dynamic on offense or great on defense.
Henry (Montgomery, AL)
Has leader emerged amongst the defense? Also on offense is Mettenberger the leader by default or has he taken this role by the horns?
Gary Laney (2:34 PM)
On defense, I really like Lamin Barrow. He's a senior, he's proven, he seems to carry himself like a leader. He's a guy they'll rally around. Anthony Johnson is such a strong personality and has such a football resume that I think he'll be looked at as a leader as well. It seems to come naturally to him. On offense, Mettenberger seems like a leadership kind of guy. Hill strikes me as a guy too. Maybe Beckham. But Mettenberger certainly seems like a guy who is commanding respect and carrying himself like a leader.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
LSU has a lot of solid backs, but which of them has the potential to emerge as the "MAN", and become a star in the SEC?
Gary Laney (2:38 PM)
I think we saw Jeremy Hill doing just that in the last half of last season. He's big and physical, but has surprising speed to pull away when he gets past the second level. I can see him being a guy who can be a 20-plus carry guy. But, with Alfred Blue back, he's got his work cut out for him because Blue was on his way to having the same kind of season when he got hurt. I think Hill is the man from day one and it will stay that way unless he gets banged up, which, these days, seems almost inevitable. Last back to stay healthy all season was Ridley and he got starter-level carries all season.
Tony Brown ran the nation's fastest 100-meter hurdles at the Texas Relays. Can LSU close the deal on him?
Gary Laney (2:41 PM)
They'd love to, no doubt. Everybody thinks it's inevitable because of his ties to his sister, an LSU track commit, and to LSU commit Ed Paris, a good friend of Brown's. But Tony is doing what I think is smart and looking around. Don't have buyer's remorse. See what's out there. If he sees several high end schools, but still can't get LSU out of his mind, commit. Just don't get caught committing, then later in the process thinking "I should see what's out there." I think we're seeing a lot of prospects who are considered LSU leans doing this and I can't blame any of them.
Joe Dirt (Denham Springs)
Who's the biggest surprise of the spring?
Gary Laney (2:43 PM)
It's got to be Welter. If I polled my media colleagues about who they thought would be running first team middle linebacker heading into the spring, I'd doubt more than one or two would have said Welter. And I'd have to slap those one or two because they'd be lying. :-)
Is the baseball team going to win the national title?
Gary Laney (2:48 PM)
This is a 26-2 team so, yeah, they're right there with the elites. Look, I hate saying this every week about them, but it's true: They still haven't hit the meat of their schedule. Their non-conference schedule was "meh" and in the SEC, they've played three opponents who, I don't think, have won a single SEC series between them. So let's see in the next few weeks how this all shakes out. 8-1 in the SEC is awfully impressive. Their pitching has looked solid and offensively, they are profoundly more physical at the plate than a season ago, which I thought was their weakness. Last year, they would need three singles to plate a run. This year, it's single, walk and either a three-run homer or a two-run double. They can get 2-3 runs off of two hits where last year they got much less mileage out of their hits.
Scott (Los Angeles)
I'm starting to see talk of Jennings being used as a mobile QB, and it bothers me. Last time they tried that it got confusing, and other teams that tried it recently(UF, AUB) haven't had much success either. Shouldn't they just plan an offense with the starter they have?
Gary Laney (2:50 PM)
I don't have a problem with it because I don't think it's a situation where it's going to be dual QBs. I think it's more of preparing for a wrinkle. That's a big difference. Look at the scrimmage statistics. Mettenberger is getting the lion's share of the snaps. He'll throw 30 passes while the other three (Bolden is injured) combine to throw that many, if that. Mettenberger is the QB, period. Jennings is competing for the No. 2 spot and might be an option for some special packages that call for a mobile QB. You might go several games without ever seeing that package, IMO.
Joe Dirt (Denham Springs)
If this were 1999, how many home runs would Andy Katz have?
Gary Laney (2:53 PM)
Joe, I'm sure our basketball writer, Andy Katz, appreciates the shout-out, but I'm sure you mean Mason Katz, the LSU baseball player ...
Gary Laney (2:55 PM)
He's got 13 home runs and 49 RB and we're at the halfway point of the regular season. At that pace, he'll enter the SEC tournament with 26 homers and 98 RBIs, great stats even by the standards of the "nuclear bat" era. He's in that Furniss-Larson territory of power. That he's doing it with the current bats is incredible.
I was at the Oregon game and it was basically home field advantage for LSU. Whats your prediction on the fan split at the first game against TCU in Arlington?
Gary Laney (2:57 PM)
60-65 percent TCU. It's practically a home game for them, considering TCU is maybe 20 minutes away from Cowboys Stadium in the same metro. The "neutral" Dallas fan might pull for the Texas team over the Louisiana team as well, I would think.
Gary Laney (2:58 PM)
We're closing in on the top of the hour and things have slowed down, so I'm calling it a day. When we resume next week, LSU will be back at practice and we'll have plenty to talk about. I'll also have a mailbag on Friday so send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or @glaneyespn. See you guys next week!