Happy 4th of July, my friends!

I hope everyone had a wonderful and blessed Independence Day.

For me, the day was spent in paradise – on my couch.

I slept late, then proceeded to watch WWE Network all day long.

Now, that’s America!

But what’s also ‘Murica’ is sports, and you guys filled up my inbox with some awesome questions this week.

So let’s go.

Wait a minute. I did that wrong, didn’t I?

Imagine that the “go” is actually spelled “geaux.”

Q: I see Zack Hess is pitching as a starter in summer ball. Do you like? (Asked by Keith, Shreveport)
A: I do, but let me explain. I hope Hess is the closer in 2018. I think there’s such great value to having a guy who can absolutely dominate the back-end of a game. But in college baseball, that guy sometimes has to pitch three, four or sometimes even five innings – if necessary. So for that reason, I think it’s necessary to keep Hess stretched out and ready for next season – regardless of his future role. Now, with all of that having been said, I firmly believe Hess will be a starter in 2018 for LSU. I, myself, just think he should remain in the closer’s role.

Q: Your last troll was on Danny Etling. Give us some reasonable stats to expect in 2017. (Asked by Shannon, Lafayette)
A: Shannon, if I knew exactly those numbers, I would buy a lottery ticket tomorrow and this would be my last Troll. But if I’m putting a pause on being a smart Alec for a minute, I’ll play along and give some estimates. I think something like 2,900 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a completion percentage about 62 percent is par for the course. I don’t think Etling will be special, but I don’t think he will be a disaster, either. He will be a solid, stable SEC quarterback.

Q: Do you think Arden Key will be back for the season opener in 2017? (Asked by Louis, Denham Springs)
A: I have absolutely no idea, Louis. There have been so few details released about Key’s injury, so I honestly don’t think anyone outside of the LSU building can give a definite answer about that. I do read the tea leaves and see that Key is talking a lot on Twitter about his excitement for playing in 2017, so I definitely don’t think the surgery will keep him out for the season. That, of course, is a big-time plus for the Tigers, because Key just might be the best all-around player in the entire SEC.

Q: What grade would you give LSU athletics all-around for the 2016-17 athletic year? (Asked by Paul, Boutte)
A: What a great question! Football and basketball struggled, which hurts. But both got rid of their problems by firing inept head coaches and bringing new energy to the programs. It hurts me to say that about Les Miles, but the game has just passed him by. But back to the question, I think LSU closed the athletic year very strong, making the College World Series in both baseball and softball, while having a solid year in gymnastics. So I’ll give the department a C+. It would have been a B+ or maybe even an A if football had succeeded. They’re the Kings of the department. When they struggle, it’s hard to get a really, really good grade.

Q: What SEC team do you think will turn heads unexpectedly in 2017? (Asked by Tim, St. Rose)
A: South Carolina. Will Muschamp is a great coach and I think the Gamecocks will … OK, sorry, I can’t even continue with a straight face. I don’t think South Carolina is going to be worth a lick next year. I was just playing a joke on a friend of mine with that answer. To answer the question seriously, I think Georgia will be much better. Year one under Kirby Smart was a bit of a disaster – beginning bright and early when the team almost lost to Nicholls. But the Bulldogs do have quite a bit back and I see no reason to believe year two won’t be better.

Q: One carry. Fourth and two. Game on the line. You going to Fournette or Guice? (Asked by Jason, Gonzales)
A: Trick question. If I need just two yards, I am going to Fournette because he’s a better power back. But if I’m an NFL GM and I’m sculpting my backfield for the next 10 years, I’m going with Guice. Fournette is unbelievable, but I think he believes in his ability a little bit too much at times. What I mean by that is, he will often try and run over a defender to get an extra yard or two on a play. That’s all well and good, but running backs only have so much juice in their bodies. I’d rather a shiftier, quick back like Guice over the long haul, because I think he’s at less of a risk to get hurt than Fournette is. But if I need two yards on one play, I give Leonard the ball. Every time.

OK, now for a few non-LSU questions.

Q: Is competitive eating a sport? (Asked by Stu, Breaux Bridge)
A: No. Now, I know that by saying that, I’ll get a lot of hate mail and a lot of those people will then challenge me to a contest so that I can “see how much of a sport this actually is.” Give me a break. Eating hot dogs really fast isn’t a sport. It’s disgusting. I get that there’s training which goes into being able to stretch the stomach to allow this to take place, but a true sport is one which has a growth foundation, which reaches all the way down to the youth – like football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics or anything else which kids can do competitively at a young age. Eating hot dogs for profit in 10 minutes isn’t that. It’s a circus act. Which is OK. I like circus acts. I watch the contest every year. But I don’t consider Joey Chestnut an athlete – not in any sense of the word.

Q: Who will win Wimbledon? (Asked by Nancy, New Orleans)
A: I like Nadal in the men. I think since coming back from his latest batch of injuries, he looks refreshed, reenergized and, quite frankly, about five years younger. On the women’s side, it’s wide open. Without Serena Williams, literally anything can happen. Just throwing a dart at the wall, I’ll pick Simona Halep. I think she’s due.

Q: Do you follow MLB at all? Can the Astros keep it up? (Asked by Bobby, Thibodaux)
A: Do I watch much baseball? No. But I follow it, absolutely. Every, single day. The Astros are built to last. They have pitching, a bunch of bats and a swagger about them which makes them awfully tough to consistently beat. I don’t think they’re going to win the World Series this year, though. I don’t know why. I just have that feeling that this year will belong to someone we don’t expect. But do I think the Astros will be around for the long haul? Absolutely I do.

Q: From Minnesota. Looking for tips on boiling crawfish. Thanks! (Asked by Susan, Minneapolis native, but now Morgan City resident)
A: I would yield to my friend Damien St. Pierre, who is a MONSTER at the boiling pot. But DIG is paying me to answer questions, not him, so I will have to soak in some knowledge that I’ve learned from the master to answer the question. To me, the trick are the accessories and the seasoning. At Damien’s, the reason the boil is always a hit is because you can literally eat an entire meal’s worth of food without touching an actual crawfish. The dude boils everything – vegetables (corn, potatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower and whatever else), sausage, boudin – you name it, it’s in the pot. And it’s all seasoned beautifully. If you have all that, the crawfish themselves are pretty hard to mess up. So my advice would be to have no fear, put literally whatever you think tastes good in the pot and have some fun! That’s the Louisiana way. Crawfish boils aren’t supposed to be stressful. They’re supposed to be memory-making times with friends.

Photo: Zack Hess by Sean Gasser.

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