A Q&A With LSU Publisher Sonny Shipp

Scout.com LSU publisher Sonny Shipp of TIgerSportsDigest.com answered a few questions that GenesPage.com subscribers had pertaining to LSU football.

MSU Subscribers: Who is LSU's biggest rival? Is the fan base split on this question just like Mississippi State's and Ole Miss'?
LSU Publisher: If you talk to some of the older LSU fans then they will probably tell you that Tulane is LSU's biggest rival since the two teams are in-state and have met 97 times since the first game back in 1893. However, when one team has won 17 consecutive like LSU has then the rivalry kind of gets tossed to the wayside.

Ole Miss would probably get some votes as well, but even that has lost some of its luster in terms of a rivalry. They tried to make the Arkansas/LSU game a rivalry - by coming up with that ridiculous trophy in the form of a boot - but that never caught on.

As it currently stands, I'd say that Alabama is probably LSU's biggest rival and much of that is due to Nick Saban being there. That seems to be the game that LSU fans have circled on their calendar each year since he returned to the college game, and that has rekindled what used to be a pretty good rivalry in the minds of LSU fans.

Some may not agree but I don't think you can truly say that LSU has a rival because there isn't another in-state team to compete with like you have in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and many other areas of the country.

MSU Subscribers: How is freshman quarterback Chris Garrett progressing?
LSU Publisher: Chris looked good in the spring and threw the ball better in fall camp. Les Miles wanted to create some separation between he and Jordan Jefferson, and you have to think he wanted to create some separation between Garrett and Russell Shepard too.

If something happened to Jefferson and Jarrett Lee then Chris would be the next option at quarterback because Shepard isn't ready to be a full-time signal caller at the SEC level yet. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton likes what Garrett brings to the table as he is a big quarterback that made all of the throws in the limited time we got to watch practice. In fact, if you had all four quarterbacks line up and you judged simply by how they threw the ball then Chris would give Lee a run for his money.

MSU Subscribers: I know Les Miles inherited a lot of talent from Nick Saban and when he became head coach he continued to get great talent from around the country. Do most LSU fans believe that Les has gotten everything that he could out of the talent that he has brought into the football program? Follow-up, if LSU does not meet the expectations of Tiger fans this year and loses some games he is not suppose to lose, like he did last year, will it be time to start looking for a coach that can meet those expectations?
LSU Publisher: I'll address the second question first and that is in my opinion Les Miles would have to have a losing season for the higher-ups to consider a change. I do feel that another 8-5 finish will put him on the hot seat, though. But to say that he would lose his job for going 8-5, I can't see that happening.

The talent issue is one that is debated quite frequently on radio shows and message boards, but I don't think you can say yes or no across the board. With the defensive staff being overhauled, you really need to see how the players progress this year before rendering a decision on that side of the ball. I will say that the defensive players were not put in good positions last year and the talent wasn't properly used, but the jury is still out on this year.

In general, though, you'll probably get a 50-50 split as to whether or not the talent is being properly groomed and used. You're going to have some who never accepted Miles in the first place say that he isn't, and then you'll have some who hate Nick Saban so bad that they will say different.

One thing about it is LSU did not have 8-5 talent last year, and that is what sticks out to a large portion of the fan base. Let's talk about this in a few weeks after LSU plays MSU, Georgia and Florida, because by then you will know what LSU has this year and whether or not they are playing and coaching to their abilities.

MSU Subscribers: Why has LSU's offense gotten off to a slow start this season?
LSU Publisher: The big reason for the slow start is due to an offensive line that has two new starters (center T-Bob Hebert and left guard Josh Dworaczyk), but has underperformed beyond expectations even taking those new starters into account. LSU hasn't gotten a good push from its offensive line and that hasn't helped the running game one bit. Even the three returning starters (left tackle Ciron Black, right guard Lyle Hitt and right tackle Joe Barksdale) have not performed like you would expect.

The lack of a consistent rushing attack hasn't helped open anything up in the passing game which has also struggled at times. Jordan Jefferson has made good decisions and hasn't done anything to hurt LSU, but to win on the road in the SEC and to beat Florida and Auburn at home, you have to have some big plays and he has missed some opportunities there. That is something that this offense hasn't taken advantage of when the opportunities presented themselves.

Another reason for the slow start may be that the offense is still trying to figure out what it is. They have used so many different personnel packages and haven't really tried to establish one particular facet of the offense. They are still searching for what they do best and it's time to figure that out starting this weekend.

MSU Subscribers: Is the University of Washington's Jake Locker really the Tim Tebow of the West?
LSU Publisher: Jake Locker showed how good he can be against LSU and that was better than I ever envisioned. Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian has turned Locker into a big-time NFL prospect. Prior to this season, I would have said that if you take Locker's running ability out of the equation and make him more of a drop-back passer then you have an average quarterback at best. However, after watching what he's done so far this year, some will argue that he may be the best pro prospect for the 2010 NFL Draft. I'm not ready to say that, but he does look like first round material if he returns for his senior year.

MSU Subscribers: Does LSU still leave the seismograph on during football games?
LSU Publisher: The seismograph was registered at one of the labs on campus and you're probably referring to when they beat Auburn, 7-6, in 1988 on a late Tommy Hodson to Eddie Fuller touchdown.

That's the last case you've really heard of regarding any 'earthquakes' in Tiger Stadium… LOL

MSU Subscribers: What is the latest on Stevan Ridley as far as how he is recovering from his knee surgery?
LSU Publisher: Stevan Ridley has made a quicker than expected recovery and has looked good on special teams. When Richard Murphy went down with his season-ending injury against Vanderbilt that moved Ridley up the depth chart. LSU has struggled with getting some quality performances from the fullback position, and I know that Ridley is chomping at the bit to get on the field even in that role.

MSU Subscribers: Bad call or good call in the 1999 meeting with LSU and MSU on the goal line stance with fourth and goal with the game on the line. If they had replay or coaches challenge how do you think that call would have gone?
LSU Publisher: I remember that play but the exact specifics are escaping me. It seems that I can recall the announcers saying that they didn't think he got in, but to be honest with you I can't tell you if he did or didn't. Just to not sound like a Homer I'll say it was a good call, and that is probably a safe bet considering how porous LSU's defense was in 1999.

Who knows? A win by LSU may have spurred another couple of victories which may have kept Gerry Dinardo around a little bit longer, and that certainly wouldn't have been good for LSU football.

MSU Subscribers: Given the attendance of home games in Baton Rouge during the 2005-2006 season, did LSU fans realize that the Tigers were that much more popular than the Saints? Why such low turnout for a Saints game in Tiger Stadium - resentment toward the owner?
LSU Publisher: The low attendance when the Saints played in Tiger Stadium probably had to do with Tom Benson (Owner) to some degree. Obviously, Hurricane Katrina had much more to do with it, along with the fact that the Saints were not a very good team that year. LSU football will always be bigger than the Saints in Louisiana and you'll find very few who will say different and keep a straight face.

MSU Subscribers: Why does LSU not like wearing purple jerseys?
LSU Publisher: LSU and white jerseys at home dates way back and was brought back in 1995 when Gerry Dinardo petitioned the NCAA for the right to wear white at home in his first year at the helm. Since then, it's probably become more popular than before and even carries over to the road games. It's just one of those things with college football where fans don't want to mess with tradition such as with the goal posts that LSU still uses that has a leg on each side as opposed to the traditional goal post that has a leg only in the middle.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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