LSU football: How things would’ve been different if Leonard Fournette and Cam Robinson united 3 years ago
Welcome to the Bayou Bengal Briefing, SEC Country’s daily morning column covering LSU football, with LSU beat writer Nick Suss. In this edition we play a game of revisionist history, thank the softball gods for caffeine, preview the SEC Tournament and much more. Enjoy!
Revisionist LSU football history
We’ve got a long summer ahead of us, LSU football fans. And there are only so many things we can look forward to. So, today, I want to try something new and look back. Introducing a new (hopefully recurring) segment to the Bayou Bengal Briefing: Revisionist LSU football history.
The premise is simple: What if something that happened, didn’t? Or what if something that didn’t happen did? That’s what we’re going to try to figure out. And, to kick off the inaugural edition, let’s revise a topic that’s in the news right now.
The Jacksonville Jaguars united the top two Louisiana prospects from the recruiting Class of 2014 in the NFL draft this year, drafting LSU’s Leonard Fournette in the first round and Alabama’s Cam Robinson in the second round. Out of West Monroe High School in Monroe, La., Robinson was the consensus top tackle in the Class of 2014, and quite a theft for Nick Saban and Alabama out from under Les Miles’ nose.
But what if the Mad Hatter had won out on the Robinson sweepstakes? Any time you gain a first-team All American on the offensive line, you’re going to be a better team. This would’ve been most evident in the passing game, though.
Robinson allowed 11 sacks in his three years in Tuscaloosa, including just 1 as a junior in 2016. Pro Football Focus graded Robinson among the top 10 tackles in the country this year in pass blocking efficiency, and he did that playing games against Arden Key, Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett, Carl Lawson and Cece Jefferson.
Beyond that, there’s the obvious advantage: If LSU had Robinson, Alabama wouldn’t have. Robinson never allowed a sack versus LSU, made 8 pancake blocks and, according to Alabama’s official athletics site, the big tackle was named Alabama’s Offensive Player of the Week versus LSU in both 2015 and 2016. That’s a lot of production for any player, let alone an offensive lineman going against a pass rusher like Key.
Over the three years Robinson was at Alabama, LSU allowed 1 sack per every 14 pass attempts. Alabama’s mark over the same time was 1 sack per every 19.1 pass attempts. Robinson was responsible for about 17 percent of the sacks Alabama allowed over that time, though that number could skew even smaller depending on which data you use.
Any way you slice it, though, a top-flight offensive tackle who allows less than 20 percent of a team’s sacks while consistently taking on his opponents’ best rusher is going to be worth a couple of wins. And in a game like last season’s matchup between LSU and Alabama, flipping 4 pancake blocks from one team to the other honestly could’ve been the difference between winning and losing.
Cam Robinson wouldn’t have fixed LSU’s passing game over the last three years. But he would’ve helped it. And, in the process, could’ve made LSU’s offense look like a contending one.
Your weekly LSU football poll question
Let’s keep our poll this week on topic. Robinson is one of the highest profile Louisiana prospects that LSU missed out on in the last five seasons. But is he the most notable one?
If you could’ve flipped one in-state miss from their chosen school to LSU this decade (2010-16), who would it have been? Let me know in the poll below and I’ll recap your answers in Bayou Bengal Briefing on Tuesday.
In baseball news
The LSU baseball team swept Mississippi State over the weekend to secure a share of the SEC regular-season championship. The Tigers will be the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament this week and face off against either Texas A&M or Missouri on Wednesday.
I’ll preview the week ahead further in my weekly LSU baseball column “Out of the Box” here on SEC Country at noon CT. But, for now, let’s look at what LSU’s likeliest path to a championship is, if it wins all its games.
Wednesday: No. 7 Texas A&M
Thursday: No. 3 Kentucky
Friday: No game
Saturday: No. 3 Kentucky
Sunday: No. 1 Florida
Obviously, this is subject to a lot of change. But, for now, that’s the most difficult path LSU can take to a crown, seeding wise, while still winning all its games.
In softball news
The LSU softball team had a crazy, rain-soaked last couple of days. Its games were delayed so long and ran so late that its final game versus Louisiana-Lafayette didn’t end until this morning.
But, rain aside, LSU won enough to force a win-or-go-home affair versus UL on Monday afternoon, scheduled for 1:04 p.m. CT. But don’t get too excited about a lunchtime softball game. As of publication, there’s a 70 percent chance of rain in Baton Rouge around game time, and that won’t drop below 30 percent until 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Brace yourselves, softball fans. This might take a while.
In softball fan news
Just because the game Sunday night ran late didn’t mean no one showed up. All things considered, LSU softball actually packed quite an impressive crowd into Tiger Park.
And the crowd included LSU’s most famous student, running back Derrius Guice.
— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) May 22, 2017
Give Guice all credit for being there to support his school. And also give him credit for the Metallica shirt he’s sporting. That shirt really puts the “sick” in DhaSickest.
I’m sorry. I won’t use that joke again. Promise.
Elsewhere on SEC Country
In case you missed it, SEC Country’s Alex Hickey wrote a fantastic profile on LSU football signee and No. 1 Louisiana recruit Tyler Shelvin on Sunday.
Shelvin is an interesting kid with an even more interesting story, one that any LSU football fan should enjoy reading. And, if that’s not enough Shelvin for you, I’ll have a short write-up on his recruiting process later on Monday based on the conversation Alex and I had with Shelvin a couple of weeks ago.
LSU in MLB
Former LSU pitcher and Philadelphia Phillies 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola made his return from the disabled list Sunday, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 2 walks in 7 innings in the Phillies’ 1-0 loss to the Pirates. He had missed a month with a lower back injury.
Nola looked more like the first rounder who pitched like an All-Star last April and May than the inaccurate, meat-thrower he was last June and July. Between Opening Day and June 5 in the 2016, Nola posted a 2.65 ERA. In 8 starts after that, Nola posted a 9.82 ERA as opponents hit .367 off him with an absurd .464 batting average on balls in play.
But Nola seemed like a pitcher who turned a corner Sunday. And if the stats don’t serve as enough of an indicator, check out this ridiculous pitch he threw.
I've missed you, Aaron Nola. pic.twitter.com/pLbyLHdsNV
— Pitcher List (@ThePitcherList) May 21, 2017
That sort of bend on a pitch shouldn’t be physically possible. The kid has talent. If he can stay off the DL, Phillies fans might get to see it.
Today in made-up holidays
Per the folks at NationalDayCalendar.com, today is “National Buy A Musical Instrument Day.” So, you know, do that.
Especially if you want to be like Tyler Shelvin. In case you missed it earlier in the month, we at SEC Country posted a video of Shelvin showing off his musical stylings on the guitar with covers of several songs by The Weeknd.
So, emulate Shelvin and buy an instrument, then learn how to play it. Or, if you already have an instrument, play it today. Or buy a new one.
And, while we’re talking about music, feel free to go back and listen to my last two songs I wrote for the Bayou Bengal Briefing. Here’s a link to “City of 5-stars,” the National Signing Day song. And here’s a link to “The 12 Days of LSU Christmas.”
Enjoy the trip down memory lane. And, you know, thumb them up for more Bayou Bengal Briefing music.
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