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)
Let's start with a couple of news items. ESPN 150 defensive tackle Keith Bryant said he has an LSU offer and may visit Feb. 1. He confirmed that just a little while ago. And Priest Willis has said he will make an announcement this week. LSU and UCLA are the leaders, though LSU may be a distance second.
Gary Laney (2:01 PM)
Look for some surprises in Willis' finalists...Erik McKinney just exchanged texts with the kid. But LSU is definitely in the mix. We'll keep you posted.
Robert (Denver, CO)
Gary: I watched Zach Mettenberger this pass season, I saw a qb, when protected an has a clean pocket to throw was "house money". I also, notice leadership skills when leading the offense down the football field to score. I think with an awesome season coming, Zach will be "NFL" ready.I'm excited about LSU QB in 2013. &Gary what are you thoughts regarding aZach?
Gary Laney (2:03 PM)
Robert, he is definitely on draft boards because he's big, strong and strong-armed. I don't think he necessarily polished though, although I do think a lot of the bashing he gets should be more aimed toward the passing game in general and not just heaped on him. As I said last week, passing game problems were systemic, not just the QB, and I think you saw a lot of progress across the board as the season went on.
James (Oceanside, CA)
Will Steven Rivers get his opportunity at LSU any time soon?
Gary Laney (2:06 PM)
James, bumped your question up since it was related. I think the competition for No. 2 QB will get tougher because Rob Bolden should be more familiar with the offense and ready to compete and the two true freshmen, Jennings and Rettig, are both very talented and are already on campus, meaning they'll be there for spring practice. But I do think the competition will help a No. 2 guy emerge more game-ready than Rivers, or any other backup, was this season
Darren (Shreveport, LA)
I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little tired of this whole "mass exodus" talk. Yes, LSU lost some key guys, but about half of them either didn't play this year (Mathieu, Faulk) or were down on the depth chart (Ware, Ford). LSU fixed their O'line problems down the stretch without Faulk, and with Ethan Pocic & Fehoko Fanaika already enrolled, I feel the O'line shouldn't be a worry. I know LSU lost some key guys on defense, but in 2011 those guys were relatively unknown sophomores. The 2013 defense will be filled will talented, experienced sophomores. Personally, I'm excited about the 2013 season...thoughts?
Gary Laney (2:08 PM)
Darren, the exit was record setting, so of course there is a lot of worry. I think LSU will be fine on offense -- they'll still have starters back at 8 positions -- but on defense, there is some concern on the offensive line and, to me, with safety depth. Let's see how Corey Thompson and Sandolph (notice how I avoided spelling his first name?) come around on the back end. I think they'll need to be factors.
Pzilla (Washington DC )
Between back to back years of not preparing well for bowls and multiple years of weak offenses, do you think LSU will look for another OC? This has gotten embarrassing that with all of the talent on both sides of the ball that it still seems like they are not clicking. The play calling in the 4th quarter against Clemson could go down as worst of the year and maybe that's Miles, but where does the blame really land?
Gary Laney (2:12 PM)
I get asked this all the time and give the same answer: If it were to happen, it probably would have happened already. The offense indeed had some issues that should be pointed to the OC booth, but also had problems with issues concerning continuity within its system, both in terms of coordinator -- it had a stretch of three coordinators in three years -- and style of QB. Next year will be year three with the current OC and a second year with an emphasis back on a pro-style passing game. If there isn't marked improvement, I think the housecleaning may happen next year. Am I expecting it? Not necessarily.
Will LSU keep Towson and North Texas on their schedule?
Gary Laney (2:16 PM)
Bill, I think those were one-time deals (though they may have another game with UNT in the future...I'm not 100 percent sure). I think you're picking on LSU over scheduling. To its credit, LSU usually tries to play at least one tough game a year. This year, the Tigers play TCU in Dallas (practically a TCU home game). Two years ago they played West Viriginia and Oregon. They usually play a tough opener, whether it's been at Washington, vs. North Carolina, vs. Oregon or vs. TCU. LSU need not apologize for its schedule even if its other non-conference games in 2013 are against UAB, Kent State and Furman.
Gary Laney (2:17 PM)
The business part people need to understand is when you keep expanding your stadium and you have 90k-plus seats at premium prices, you need to maximize home games to take full advantage. That means SEC schools will always fill the schedule with teams that won't expect a visit in return. Just makes business sense.
Joe Dirt (Denham Springs)
Is LSU a favorite for any remaining recruit? If it doesn't get any of them, will they stay where they are?
Gary Laney (2:19 PM)
I don't think LSU is a favorite for any of the names its still after, but it's in the ballpark for all of them. I'd expect LSU to get at least one more at this point, though it's hard to say who.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Who steps up in the middle for the Tigers now that Minter has left for the NFL?
Gary Laney (2:22 PM)
One of the more interesting competitions for next year, I'd say. I hear LSU is pushing for Reuben Foster, but I seriously doubt that leads anywhere. If it were to happen, then there's your favorite. D.J. Welter became the No. 2 MLB in the bowl game. I don't expect him to win the starting job. Barrow can be moved, but I think he's a natural at his weakside spot. Kwon Alexander seems more like an outside LB too. There are some good young LBs in the 2012 class and it may come down to which one develops fastest. A Ronnie Feist maybe. But it wouldn't shock me if Barrow gets moved there either.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Who is more dominant in recruiting right now, Saban or Calipari?
Gary Laney (2:24 PM)
Saban, because his teams are built to win and Calipari's are built for rapid player development. Saban's teams will always be polished. Cal's teams will always win despite a lack of polish and through ingenious simplification that allows young talent to thrive despite the lack of experience.
Miles has a couple of more spots he can fill after the addition of spears. Nkem, Bryant, Willis, Goodman... you think any of these commit, if not, then who? Or will Miles let them go?
Gary Laney (2:26 PM)
I'd say less than 40 percent with Nkemdiche, I don't have a feel for Bryant yet, nearly 50-50 with Willis (I've upped the odds based on today) and very little chance with Goodman. Like I said earlier, I expect LSU to not come out empty handed from these guys.
Joe (Tampa Florida)
Do you think Nkemdiche will sign with the Tigers or are they just wishing
Gary Laney (2:28 PM)
Somewhere in between. I don't think he'll sign with LSU but LSU is not working him because it has no shot. LSU doesn't do that. LSU has a shot here, but it would be an upset.
James (Oceanside, CA)
Who do you see emerging at safety in 2013 with Brandon Taylor leaving last year and Eric Reid this year?
Gary Laney (2:30 PM)
I really like Ronald Martin. Fantastic athlete, good kid, good competitor. He's one of those small-town Louisiana kids who might have been overlooked a bit in the recruiting process because he was sort of a jack-of-all-trades in high school. But he's a competitor and winner and I thought he played well last year. I like him to emerge as the other starting safety next to Loston, but I say that without having seen enough of a couple of the young guys to write them off.
Gary, who are the final commits of this class to close it out for LSU in your opinion
Gary Laney (2:34 PM)
It's tough Stephen. LSU is in the mix for a lot of kids who are far from LSU locks. I can see LSU walking away with, say, Eddie Jackson and maybe one more surprise like a Priest Willis. I know LSU is hard after some names they aren't favorites for, like Foster, so a late surprise could happen.
Lawson ( Atlanta)
Why is LSU waisting thier time and money of the #1 DE from grayson georgia, knowing he is going to ole miss and he changes his mind every week?
Gary Laney (2:36 PM)
Have you seen the guy play? LSU has done a good job with him. They got on him early and built an early relationship with him. It's not like they are swooping in and trying to "steal" him. So I don't think they are necessarily wasting time here, even if they don't get him. They aren't randomly in the top 3.
Hunter (St. Cyr)
With the way the secondary performed at the end of the season, which was awful, and the fact that we lost Reid and Simon plus our front seven lost 4 big names, I personally think we are gonna have some serious issues on defense at least at the beginning of the season. Your thoughts? Also what is your way to early prediction look like for LSU this season, we have a nasty schedule in the SEC this year.
Gary Laney (2:39 PM)
I agree. If I'm LSU, I'd be more worried about the front four than the back 4. I think guys like the Jalens, Ronald Martin, Micah Eugene, these guys will progress back there, plus the likes of Tre'Davious White will make an early impact in the secondary. I think they'll be OK there. Up front, will they have a playmaker? That's the big question. Will they have players who are disruptive enough to keep them from having to blitz to generate pressure. They've had that with Montgomery and Mingo. Do they have that guy this year?
I've heard rumblings on the chat boards about Les Miles and his relationship with Cam Cameron from their days at Michigan. What are the chances Miles reaches out to Cameron to take over as OC now that the Jets have passed on him?
Gary Laney (2:41 PM)
Two question on that: Is the college level what Cameron wants? If not, he can be a very short timer. And I don't see Les as the type to leave a coach in a bind. Let's say he decides he wants to do it. He's not the kind of man who will kick Stud or Kragthorpe to the curb in January when the pickings for new jobs are rather slim. Remember how many of his other former coaches had safe landing spots before LSU made a move. Now, could something be happening behind the scenes in that regard? Again, I think we would have heard by now.
Justus (Prairieville, LA)
Do you think our problem is or OC? Every year our defense is great, but what good is Defense when they cant get off the field, and we cant put up points. Who is the problem?
Gary Laney (2:45 PM)
I don't think their OC situation is your ideal scenario. At big-money programs like LSU, when you lose a coach, the tendency is to use your resources to get the best possible candidate as opposed to be promoting from within out of convenience. In this case, an illness led to a promotion from within, something that probably doesn't happen if Kragthorpe would have left for a more conventional reason (another job). But it's far from the only issue LSU had. I wonder if the quarterback disruption from Perrilloux's departure didn't happen, if LSU isn't a much smoother running offense now. Lots of negative came out of that departure.
Joe Dirt (Denham Springs)
You thinking La'el Collins at left tackles?
Gary Laney (2:47 PM)
Yeah, I think that makes sense. You can move him to left tackle and still have three OG candidates you feel good about in Williford, Turner and Fanaika. I think you have to feel better about any of those three at guard than you would about any tackle you could use at LT if you don't move Collins out there.
Hunter St. Cyr (Hammond, LA)
The only one I can think of one that can make an early impact would be Anthony Johnson at DT, maybe Kendall Beckwith can come in and help from OLB/DE. I'm lost on who can come in and be instant playmakers though. That means we will have to put more in the box and rely on young DB's to cover some pretty talented receivers in the SEC. Cooper and Montcrief being a couple of them.
Gary Laney (2:49 PM)
Johnson should have a big year. His ability to be disruptive is without question, he just needs to do a better job staying within himself. He has a tendency to get out of his gaps or too far upfield sometimes. You don't want to completely discourage that though because its born out of an aggressivess that comes from confidence. LSU will have to refine him, but not completely put the reins on him...
Gary Laney (2:51 PM)
It's not the 8 in the box that hurts LSU -- they've always done that under Chavis -- it's the HAVING to blitz thing that gets you killed. If you have to blitz to generate pressure, you become predictable and you leave yourself vulnerable. In recent years, LSU hasn't had to blitz so blitzing still came with an element of surprising, increasing the chance of success and decreasing the chance of the offense reading it and beating it.
Bradley (Memphis, TN)
Do you think with the signing of 2 4 star QB's, that Miles sees that he may need to shake up some things on the offense? Do you think Rettig and or Jennings can become what Mett was supposed to be?
Gary Laney (2:53 PM)
Bradley, I think it has more to do with the master plan and what LSU did not get last year. Remember, LSU brought in a QB last year in Jeremy Liggins who became a non-qualifier, so it had a need for two QBs in this class to get to the numbers they wanted at the position. I don't think it's necessarily the sign of a shake up. I expect Mettenberger to start next year.
Who do you think will be LSU's biggest challenger in the SEC next year, besides Bama?
Gary Laney (2:54 PM)
Georgia's awful good. Florida's going to be good. A&M has Manziel and a great offense. Plenty of good teams out there. I've seen LSU sort of projected as the No. 6 team in the SEC next year and that, to me, is not unrealistic. Having said that, sure LSU can outperform that expectation.
Bradley (Memphis, TN)
What do think of Spears, can he be that Boldin type we saw with the Ravens, where Mett can throw it up 20 yds out and he can go get it?
Gary Laney (2:56 PM)
Sure he can. He has work to do to get there, but the kid has some talent. Now, he's considered himself a SERIOUS football player for all of one year. So he has some work to do. It's not so much the concepts he'll struggle with -- he strikes me as a bright enough kid who shouldn't have trouble catching on to the offense -- it's getting proper technique to come to him by learned instinct. He's going to have to learn how to play his position in a much more intricate, detailed way and that doesn't happen overnight.
Joe Dirt (Denham Springs)
Who out of this class plays early?
Gary Laney (2:59 PM)
If you signed in this class as a defensive lineman, you aren't coming in to redshirt. LSU needs help up there. Gimore seems polished, so I would bet he sees the field. LaCouture came early, so if he has a good spring semester, I would bet he sees the field. Brazil is going to play ... somewhere. The key to him is where he gets used. White, I think, gets in their top three at CB and will either start or possibly be the nickel.
Gary Laney (3:00 PM)
2 p.m. is here. End of the chat for today. Another good one. We'll be back next week. Lots of news will be coming out, so stay with us to see what's happening.