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May 24, 2011

LSU vs Oregon Football: The Texas Connection

(Reprinted  in total from "LSU vs. Oregon Football" blog site. Click on the link to see my site dedicated to the Tigers season opener against Oregon.)

Texas is arguably the best place in the country to find the very best college football prospects.  Californians and Floridians and possibly some from other states may want to take issue with that statement.  No matter who ultimately wins that argument, you have to admit that Texas produces some outstanding football players.  This year 14 of the Rivals Top 100 high school prospects are from Texas and this year is not unique on that count.  Last year and the year before Texas high schoolers occupied 13 spots in Rivals Top 100 each year.  Considering the success on the field of both Oregon and LSU, it is not surprising to find Texans playing key roles  for both the Ducks and the Tigers.

Ducks from Texas
The following Oregon Ducks are from Texas:  Wide Receiver Blake Cantu from Southlake Carrol H.S. in Southlake , Wide Receiver Josh Huff from Nimitz H.S. in the Houston area, Running Back LaMichael James from Liberty-Eylau H.S. in Texarkana, Running Back Lache Seastrunk from Temple H.S. in Temple, and Quarterback Darron Thomas from Aldine H.S. in north Houston.  While Texans playing for the Oregon Ducks only account for 5 of the roughly 100 players on the Oregon squad or basically 5%, it is fair to say that these players will be expected to account for nearly all of the Duck's offense.  I listed these guys in alphabetical order above which is a bit easier to figure out than what I am about to attempt to do - namely, discuss these guys in the order of importance to Oregon's offense. (As a side note, each player name above is a clickable link that will take you to data provided on each players page maintained by the University of Oregon.)

Darron Thomas stepped up to the quarterback position last year after the hasty and widely reported departure of Jeremiah Masoli who eventually found a home at Ole Miss, one of LSU's historic SEC rivals. Ole Miss finished 4-8 last year even with Masoli passing for 2039 yards and 14 touchdowns. Masoli also threw 13 interceptions and was sacked 11 times. Thomas on the other hand lead the Ducks to a nearly perfect season with the Duck's sole loss in the National Championship game.  Thomas threw for 2881 yards, 30 touchdowns, with only 9 interceptions.  Thomas also was Oregon's 3rd leading rusher, accounting for 486yards rushing and 5 rushing touchdowns.  Thomas appears to be right on track for a repeat performance this year if the Spring game is any indication. Thomas was 15-21 for 129 yards in the Spring game and these numbers are despite losing his top two receivers to graduation and one of the expected "go to" receivers sit out of the Spring game.

LaMichael James rushed for 1731yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.  James also accounted for 208yards receiving and 3 touchdown receptions.  Considering that Texarkana Texas has a population of just under 35,000 people, it is interesting to think that former Arkansas QB/3rd round New England Patriot draftee Ryan Mallett also played in the Texarkana area for Texas H.S. and is just one year older than James. What are the odds that a population of less than 35,000 would produce a Quarterback the caliber of Ryan Mallett one year and a Running Back the caliber of LaMichael James the next year?

Josh Huff is projected as a crucial starter at Wide Receiver this season.  As a back up last year, Huff had 19 receptions for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Huff also accounted for 12 carries for 214 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns.  Huff will also be a solid kick returner this year.  He has good size, 5'11" 207lbs, and upper body strength, reportedly bench pressing 305lbs.  So this Texan for Nimitz H.S. in Houston will be expected to shoulder a lot of responsibility for the Ducks this year.

Lache Seastrunk is currently the 3rd string Running Back behind LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner but it is only a matter of time before Seastrunk emerges as the next great Running Back for the Ducks.  Seastrunk was rated by Rivals as the #3 Running Back in 2009 and was offered scholarships by many other schools, including LSU and Auburn.  In their evaluation Rivals concluded that Seastrunk "has a chance to become the next Reggie Bush."  That is pretty good company.

While Blake Cantu is projected as a second string Wide Receiver behind Justin Hoffman, Cantu also has good upper body strength for a Wide Receiver - reportedly bench pressing 295lbs and he has some playing experience.  Cantu saw action last year against Tennessee, Portland State, and Washington.

These five Texas transplants have made a world of difference in Duck Offensive production and will be expected to produce Texas sized chunks of offense again this year. Oregon had the #1 scoring offense and the #4 rushing offense last year those are numbers the size of Texas.

Tigers from Texas
The following are Tigers from Texas:  Chancey Aghayere from Garland H.S. in Garland, Robert Blackmon from Burkburnett H.S. in Burkburnett, Michael Brockers from Chavez H.S. in Houston, Ron Brooks from MacArthur H.S. in Irving, James Hairston from Jesuit H.S. in Dallas, Jarrett Lee from Brenham H.S. in Brenham, Craig Loston from Eisenhower H.S. in Houston, Seth Mannon from Episcopal H.S. in Houston, Luke Muncie from Oak H.S. in Klein,  Trevon Randle from Clear Springs H.S. in League City, Nick Rice from Coppell H.S. in Coppell, Alex Russian from Round Rock H.S. in Round Rock, Russell Shepard from Cypress Ridge H.S. in Houston, Robert Smith from Friendswood H.S. in Friendswood, Kendric Smith from Harker Heights H.S. in Harker Heights, Kellen Theriot from Episcopal H.S. in Houston, and Evan Washington from DeSoto H.S. in DeSoto.  (Note: underlined names have clickable links that will take you to the player's official LSU bio page.)        

I am not about to write something about each of these 17 players.  That would make this article a novella I believe.  Plus, it is 10:15 pm and I have to get up early, go to work, and perform well in my full time job.  I write these articles pretty much for fun, lol.  I will highlight Tigers from Texas that are stars or most likely to become stars for LSU.

Defensive End Chancey Aghayere (6'4", 268lbs) and Defensive Tackle Michael Brockers (6'6", 300lbs) are big, fast, strong and can have a nasty disposition on the field of play.  LSU Defensive Coordinator, John Chavis has been a defensive line coach and/or defensive coordinator in the SEC for 22years and he rarely gushes about a player who has not already performed miracles during games on the field.  Chavis has gushed about Michael Brockers.  Expect great things from Michael Brockers.  Aghayere is in the regular rotation at left defensive end.  Aghayere started in 2 games and saw some action in 12 games. He accounted for 21 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and one pass break up.

Ron Brooks will be a senior this year.  He is listed as a Corner Back but also saw playing action as a Strong Safety last year. Brooks did not start but played in all 12 games last year.  Last year Brooks accounted for 28 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and one interception that he returned for a touchdown.  Brooks is super fast and is expected be one of the two kickoff return men again this year.

Jarrett Lee is a very able backup QB.  Lee had moments of brilliance last year.  Lee passed LSU into a position to beat Tennessee last year and threw two perfect corner fade passes in the end zone to lead LSU past Florida in an away game.  On the first corner fade pass the receiver was ruled to be out-of-bounds but managed to keep both feet in for the second pass.

Craig Loston was Rivals #1 safety in the class of 2009.  Loston was redshirted his true freshman and has waited behind very capable upper classmen.  This should be Loston's year to prove all the hype right.  Loston is great at reading and breaking up passes and is a demon on run support.

Russell Shepard is a true leader on and off the field. He will be a starting wide receiver this year but if he has the ball in his hands and just a small amount of space to work with, he is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.  I just wrote a feature article on Shepard for my LSU Football blog that has a couple of highlight films that you will want to see. Click here to see my feature on Shepard. 

Kellen Theriot moved from Louisiana to Houston and then came back to play for LSU.  Oregon fans, Theriot's last name looks like you would pronounce it "The Riot" but it is a French name that is pronounce "Terry O". Theriot was rated as the #1 Full Back by Scout in the class of 2008 but he has been attempting to catch on as a linebacker until a switch back to Full Back this season.  Strangely enough Theriot played Quarterback for Episcopal in high school.  He threw for 1400 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 450 yards and 8 touchdowns his Senior year.  Theriot is a solid athlete he runs a 4.5sec 40yds, is 6'1" and 234lbs. He is currently the #2 Full Back for the Tigers.  But, he may turn out to be a real surprise when he gets on the field this year.

Evan Washington is a 6'5" 315lb Offensive Tackle that was redshirted last year as a freshman.  Since he did not play last year, Washington has four years of eligibility left at LSU.  Washington also was a fairly good basketball player in high school and reportedly has good quick feet.  He may have an opportunity to play this year and could very well work his way into the starting lineup.

In the September 3rd clash of the Titans between the Oregon Ducks and the LSU Tigers, Texans will play a key role in the outcome of the game. This should prove to be the most inexpensive opportunity that the families of Texas Ducks will have to see the Ducks play.  Tiger fans have already scooped up 37,000 tickets for the Ducks/Tigers game and I bet all of the Texas Tigers will be well represented by friends and family in Cowboys stadium.  This game is a perfect fit for Texas and the Texans that will be participating because everything is big in Texas.

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