Beat Writer Q-and-A

Special thanks to Scott Rabalais of The Baton Rouge Advocate …
Q: What is the general feel for the fan base for this series? Do older fans care about it more? Do younger fans wonder what the fuss is about?
I think the younger generation of LSU fans, the ones who have grown up with 13 straight years of unprecedented success, rightly or wrongly view the Ole Miss game as one the Tigers should always win. I think older fans – 40s and older – still think of this as a big game, but for those who grew up since 2000 in this unprecedented era of LSU success, it’s not what it used to be.
Q: Seems to me that LSU’s “rival” is a moving target depending on the hot team in the SEC West. Is that a fair assessment? Do you think LSU fans would enjoy the idea of a state rival?
The stakes have been ratcheted up so high on the Alabama series in recent years it drowns out virtually everything else. As defensive tackle Bennie Logan said recently, “I didn’t even know until a couple of years ago that Ole Miss was actually our rival school, because it’s always been Bama since I’ve been here.” I think Texas A&M, which may replace Arkansas as LSU’s season-ending opponent, will also become a rival that eclipses the Ole Miss series unless Ole Miss becomes a threat on par with the Crimson Tide and the Aggies. LSU and A&M are close geographically and share more similarities than most any other SEC school.

Q: Why did it take so long for Zach Mettenberger to begin playing well?

Looking back you can see slow and steady progression in Zach that wasn’t necessarily reflected in his numbers. He worked on his mechanics, particularly his footwork, with QB coach Steve Kragthorpe during the open date before Alabama and it’s showed. He has a steadier platform now from which to deliver the ball. He also has more trust in his OL, which has lost three preseason starters but has somehow found chemistry with its new parts. And he has more trust in his receivers, who frankly were dropping so many passes before the Alabama game they were the most disappointing group on this team. But now all three elements have come together. I think Zach will finish the season with confidence and has the potential to blossom even further into an exceptional senior QB.

Q: Can you give me a cliff notes version of Jeremy Hill’s legal problems and where all that stands? Are they completely behind him?

In January 2011, Hill was arrested along with another male student at Redemptorist High School here in Baton Rouge on a count of oral sexual battery on a female student. In January 2012, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of carnal knowledge of a juvenile, receiving a suspended six-month prison term along with two years supervised probation. As long as he stays out of trouble, the troubles stemming from that issue are behind him.
Q: How does the addition of Texas A&M to the SEC affect LSU’s recruiting in Texas?
East Texas – mainly the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metro areas and the Beaumont area – have been fertile recruiting territory for LSU for decades. Certainly Texas A&M’s ascendance will make that area more difficult to recruit in, but LSU will continue to have a presence. Even with Texas’ success in recent years, lots of schools have continued to recruit talented players in Texas. An added bonus for LSU is, primarily because of the petrochemical industry, metro Houston has the largest concentration of LSU alumni outside of Louisiana. Tiger fans are plentiful there, and that certainly will help LSU’s continued presence in the region. This year, the schools are crossing swords over Ricky Seals-Jones, who is from Sealy (west of Houston and about an hour south of College Station). He is the nation’s No. 1 WR or athlete prospect, depending which recruiting service you look at. He was committed to Texas, but now says he will pick between the Tigers and Aggies. I expect this one to go the Aggies’ way, but LSU will be in many more recruiting battles with A&M to come and will win its share.

Q: What can you tell us about planned expansion at Tiger Stadium?
Rebels fans sitting in the traditional visitors’ section in the south end zone will see the first phase of an expansion project that will add seats, suites and club seats around the existing top of Tiger Stadium’s south rim. It will connect the existing east and west upper decks. LSU isn’t saying exactly, but capacity will increase from 92,542 to somewhere just north or south of 100,000 seats. That will make Tiger Stadium the nation’s sixth- or seventh-largest college stadium, up from ninth, including the Rose Bowl and the L.A. Coliseum. The section, which will also include two large video scoreboards in the southwest and southeast corners of the stadium similar to the ones at Bryant-Denny Stadium (LSU says theirs will be larger, of course), will be completed for the start of the 2014 season.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to Kory Keys and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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