By Casey Gisclair
With the College World Series over and the NCAA Track & Field Championships in the past, the 2014-15 athletic year at LSU is officially over.
The Tigers will not take part in official athletic competition until August 14, when the soccer team scraps with Southern Miss in Orange Beach, Ala.
With 2014-15 behind us, this past week was spent studying and analyzing all of its ins and outs.
I’m ready to give this past chapter a title: LSU is now the new Freshman U.
Up and down the campus in the past year, freshman standouts have enjoyed big successes—positioning the Tigers to have a huge future.
Start with football and the wrecking ball that is Leonard Fournette. Believe it or not, some LSU fans think the five-star, blue chip recruit disappointed. How?
Fournette set an LSU freshman rushing record with 1,034 yards and rushed for 10 touchdowns, while splitting carries with Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard, and Darrel Williams. Any opinions other than success are wrong. With good health, he’ll be even better in 2015.
But Fournette’s freshman success just was a tone setter for a year filled with other dominant first-year seasons.
Stick with football and ask yourself where LSU would be without the contributions of first year wide receiversTrey Quinn and Malachi Dupre, quarterback Brandon Harris and safety Jamal Adams?
In volleyball, Gina Tillis was a frequent starter and a member of the 2014 SEC All-Freshman Team. The same can be said of LSU soccer freshman Jorian Baucom, who was named the 2014 College Sports Madness SEC Freshman of the Year after she poured in eight goals and four assists in 20 matches on the season.
And we still haven’t even touched the baseball and softball diamonds yet.
In baseball, LSU reaped the benefits from freshman hurler Alex Lange—the dominant, powerful righty who just may have been the best pitcher in the entire country in his first season as a Tiger. Lange won 12 games in 17 starts for LSU this spring, recording 131 strikeouts in 114 innings.
Lange was not even LSU’s Friday night starter most of the time, yielding to the more experienced sophomore Jared Poche’. But there is no questioning who LSU’s ace was throughout its College World Series push. It was Lange—a guy who just might be a Top 5 pick in the 2017 Major League Baseball draft.
In softball, LSU had a one-two punch of first-year pitching studs.
Both Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper won 10 or more games and had ERAs below two on the season. The pitching duo was one of the biggest reasons for the Lady Tigers’ trip to the Women’s College World Series and one of the reasons why LSU softball is a favorite to win it all in 2016.
OK, so now that we’ve gone on and on about what’s in the past, let’s flash forward to the future and the 2015-16 athletic year. Guess what? This Freshman U train will be continuing full steam ahead and into the future.
LSU’s recruiting is as successful as ever, and several of the school’s sports are about to get an influx of talent. Of course, the big fish is basketball superstar Ben Simmons, who has been compared to LeBron James.
Simmons will give instant credibility to the LSU men’s basketball program. He and fellow blue chipper Antonio Blakeney are two of the most anticipated basketball players in the history of the SEC, much less just at LSU.
The Tigers’ men’s golf squad also will be getting a taste of the madness when signee Sam Burns enrolls—the No. 1 junior golfer in the world. A hard-hitting golfer from Shreveport, Burns will help the Tigers compete for more national championships in the future.
Then there’s football, where the guys wearing No. 1, 2 and 3 have the potential to all be future stars. Donte Jackson, Kevin Toliver II and Tyron Johnson are the skill players who will secure the Tigers’ receiving corps and defensive backfield for years to come.
It’s madness. It’s pandemonium. It’s the new trend at LSU.
Recruit the best, play ‘em early and enjoy the successes.
It’s Freshman U, baby!
This incoming crop just might be better than the last, and that’s saying a lot, because after studying the tape this past week, I saw a lot of young people making plays for the Tigers.