Friday, April 5, 2013
GTN Mailbag: UA's Louisiana flavor
By Gary Laney
BATON ROUGE, La. -- GTN writer Gary Laney took your questions on Twitter (@glaneyespn) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org):
From Ryan (Denver, Colo.): There are a lot of Louisiana kids in the Under Armour Game. Is this surprising?
Gary Laney: Not at all.
Speedy Noil is part of a large Louisiana contingent that made up the early Under Armour All-America Game roster.
We've known for quite a while that Louisiana has a lot of talent this year, so I wasn't at all surprised to see seven Louisiana players among the initial 45 to accept invitations to the UA Game.
New Orleans is particularly strong this year. Running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine), wide receivers Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Karr) and Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) and defensive lineman Gerald Willis (New Orleans/Karr) all accepted invitations.
All of these guys are on our ESPN Watch List and have been considered high-end prospects for a couple of years. It is eye opening to see Louisiana having such a great year in terms of prospect production, but hardly a surprise. We saw this coming.
By the way, don't expect it to be over. There are some other very good Louisiana prospects out there that don't have invites yet.
From Joseph (Pacific Northwest): I was watching Les Miles interview at LSU pro day and was taken back by his comment about the Tigers' upcoming schedule. Miles said that the only team missing from the Tiger’s schedule was the Green Bay Packers. Is that a backhanded comment about the weaker schedules of the Tiger’s SEC West opponents? After reviewing Bama’s schedule for 2013, as well as their 2012 and 2011 schedules, by comparison the Tide have had easy sledding. Can you have true parity if schedules don’t allow for it, or are schedules purposely designed to insure that one SEC team will rise to the top, specifically Bama?
GL: Some LSU fans might agree with the Alabama favoritism theory, but that really isn't the case.
SEC members have one permanent cross-division rival, with LSU's being Florida and Alabama's being Tennessee. Given that Florida has been better than Tennessee lately, that's an advantage for Alabama in scheduling.
The other SEC East opponent is rotated and, lately, LSU seems to be drawing the other top teams in the East -- South Carolina in 2012, Georgia in 2013 -- where Alabama is drawing weaker teams.
So, yes, Alabama has had favorable schedule, but no, it's not a sinister plot.
LSU has been vocally opposed to permanent cross-division opponents, but it's been far in the minority among conference members with that viewpoint.
From Scott (Los Angeles): Hey Gary, The game against Oregon in 2011 set the pace for the entire season. TCU is no Oregon, but does this game have the potential to be a similar type of catalyst? Do the players seem excited at all about it?
GL: I do think the Oregon game set the pace for that great 2011 run, but it wasn't just because LSU won the game, creating confidence, momentum, or whatever.
The main thing it did, in my mind, was put a carrot on a stick for the players to focus on during August camp. All August, that looming Oregon game created a reason for there to be an edge to the Tigers' August preparations. I'll bet that was LSU's best August since Les Miles has been the Tigers' coach.
And you're right, TCU isn't at quite the level Oregon was in 2011, but it will still be one of the premier games of college football's opening weekend. I think it's going to create that same sense of urgency to prepare in August that Oregon created. Of course, it's a completely different cast of characters taking the field this season, so it's hard to predict exactly how they'll react.
The more pressing short-term issues of the spring has kept me from bringing up the TCU game to players, but I would be surprised if they aren't, to a man, excited about the opponent, the national stage and the venue (Cowboys Stadium) the game will be played in. This is the kind of game these kids live to play.