Yesterday, I reported that LSU was more than likely going to make Andrew Hatch its starter going into the season opener on August 30 against Appalachian State in Death Valley.

I think the move is pretty expected if you look at the history of position battles since Les Miles has been at LSU. When each player is at or near the same skill set, Miles always tends to go with the more experienced player and the results have worked. Where would LSU have been this past season if Miles didn’t name Jacob Hester the team’s starting running back?

But while Hatch is older and more experienced in the system, we still do not know a ton about him, because he only has been out on the field a couple of times in his career.

So what we will do today here at the Sports Palace is give you the report card on Hatch, so Tiger fans can know what they can expect from the LSU signal caller.

Andrew Hatch:

Arm Strength: C-

Hatch does not have a cannon and he sometimes struggles with distance on his long ball. But he is capable of hitting a man down the field if the receiver has a step. The receiver he has the most chemistry with is DeMetrius Byrd as we saw in spring when the two connected on several deep balls.

Arm Accuracy: B

This is Hatch’s money maker. If Hatch is indeed the starter, expect a lot of screens and quick slants as Hatch is best operating from a “three-step drop and throw” sequence. He is just as good as, if not better than Matt Flynn was throwing in the 5-12 yard range.

Game IQ: A

Hatch is a former Ivy League kid who only came to LSU to study a big-time program, so he could become a coach following his career, so needless to say, the kid knows the game. There is not a lot that he sees that will fool him. Just sometimes talent or lack thereof holds him back from doing what he wants to do after reading the defense.

Speed: C+

Hatch will not ever win an Olympic gold medal, but he can get out of his own way and scamper for 4-5 yards if its given to him and once he is in the open field, he is very tough, almost to a fault as he leaves himself exposed to vicious hits.

Overall: C+

Hatch will not win the Heisman Trophy. He will never be an All American. He may be the third most talented QB on LSU’s roster, but he is steady and understands his strengths and weaknesses. With him under center, I liken the situation to Trent Dilfer’s role with the Ravens’ Superbowl team: Just don’t lose the game for LSU and you are doing your job.
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Today is also football Thursday and I have spent the past few Thursday’s giving you break downs of the LSU quarterbacks, tailbacks and wide receivers. Continuing the trend, let’s take a look at LSU’s offensive line, which I might add in my eyes is the nation’s best.

Starting Tackles:
Left tackle: Ciron Black

6’5 315 junior

Black emerged as one of the nation’s best left tackles last season after protecting former high school teammate Matt Flynn and keeping Flynn’s jersey clean. Black has great footwork and is considered by many one of many LSU juniors who can test NFL waters after this year.


Right tackle:
Joe Barksdale

6’6 315 sophomore

From five-star DT prospect to right tackle, Barksdale played as a true freshman last year for LSU on the offensive line and exhibited tremendous run blocking. When Les Miles speaks of Barksdale, you see a sparkle in his eye and Miles know this kid will be a great one for LSU. Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton called him the most skilled freshman offensive tackle he had ever seen. Very high praise.

Others who will vie for time:

Robert Smith 6’6 262 junior
Jarvis Jones 6’6 265 sophomore
Josh Dworaczyk 6’6 270 freshman

Starting Guards:

Left guard: Herman Johnson

6’7 335 senior

Johnson had a solid junior season in Baton Rouge, serving as arguably LSU’s best run blocker this past year. Johnson has trimmed up a lot this offseason and with his new, muscle-cut frame, he expects to be a beast in the trenches for opposing defensive tackles.

Right guard: Lyle Hitt

6’2 284 junior

Hitt is not the biggest, strongest and most talented lineman the Tigers have, but he has the most heart. Teamed next to the big, bulky Barksdale, Hitt’s more slender frame compliments and makes the right side of the LSU line very balanced.

Others who will vie for time:
Earnest McCoy 6’5 335 freshman
Will Blackwell 6’4 295 freshman
Clay Spencer 6’6 285 freshman

Center:
Brett Helms

6’4 300 senior

The nation’s best center resides in Baton Rouge. Helms is the anchor and captain of the LSU offensive line and is one of the captains of the entire roster. Having such a great center will also be great medicine to the Tigers’ inexperienced quarterbacks. Pencil in Helms on the All American team if he stays healthy.

Others who will vie for time:
Ryan Miller 6’6 310 senior
T-Bob Hebert 6’3 260 freshman

Stockpiled with talent, the LSU offensive line is in good shape, not just this year, but for years to come.
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We began our newest list yesterday in Tallahassee with where the Noles call home. To continue this list today, let’s road trip to the left coast.

No. 9 most difficult stadium to play in: Autzen Stadium (Oregon)

Built in the last 1960s, Autzen Stadium has been a nuisance to opposing teams since its inception. Despite only holding 59,000 + fans, several games in the stadium’s history have recorded decibel levels in the mid 120s, which puts them among the highest in the country.

To me, what also makes Autzen Stadium special is how “TV friendly” it is. I love the multi-colored turf, which in my opinion looks great. But that is all lagniappe as this list is solely about intimidation and crowd noise.

Check back tomorrow to see the next place in our Top 10 list.
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Headlines:

Bucks agree to $72.5 M deal with Bogut – Wow. If Bogut got that much bling, I need to try out for the Hornets. I can sway at least $40-50 million under that paying scale. I may not be as skillful as the former college star, turned pro flop, but I can not be that much worse, either. Pathetic contracts like this are how teams become like the Knicks are currently.

Rodriguez agrees to pay WVU $4 million – LSU fans need to not exhale yet. I do not know why, but something just tells me Rodriguez will not last very long in Ann Arbor. I may be wrong, but I think the Michigan job will be open sooner, rather than later.

Stewart leaving Gibbs, wants own team – I do not know anything about NASCAR, but I’d think ole Tony deserves it. For many years, he has been the star of the show in the sport. But how difficult would it be for other drivers to work with the loose tongued, sometimes hard-headed Stewart? We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose.

That’s all for me today. Have a great Thursday.

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