By LES EAST
LSU coach Les Miles said Wednesday morning that he expects reserve guard Josh Williford to be able to play in the season opener against Oregon on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas.
Williford, who has been sidelined by an injured foot, returned to practice Tuesday, Miles said during the Southeastern Conference’s weekly coaches teleconference. The coach added that despite a series of preseason injuries, including guard Josh Dworaczyk being sidelined indefinitely while he awaits knee surgery, he expects the line to be healthy across the two-deep depth chart on the line.
When asked how he was able to stick to a daily routine for preparation amid a series of off-the-field developments during preseason practice, Miles said, “I don’t know if I did a very good job. We’ll have to see (Saturday night).”
Miles said the players did a “really good job” of putting behind them the police investigation into a bar fight that led to the arrest of quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns.
“Our preparation has been good,” he said. “We have not lost focus because of the distractions.”
Miles said it’s always a “great relief” to finish summer camp and get into the first game week, but probably more so this season because of the distractions.
Miles said “I expect a lot out of Jarrett Lee” as Lee takes over for Jefferson as the starting quarterback. The coach credited Lee for having a big hand in the Tigers’ 10-2 record as he played in 11 games in relief of Jefferson.
“He’s looking forward, and so are we, to seeing him play a full game from start to finish,” Miles said. “I expect him to operate the offense better than he ever has.”
Texas A&M made it official Wednesday morning, announcing the school’s notice to the Big 12 that it is leaving to seek membership in another conference.
Texas A&M’s target date for leaving the Big 12 is June 30, 2012.
There is no mention of the SEC in the news release on Texas A&M’s website, but there has also been no indication the Aggies have their eyes on joining any other conference.
If as assumed A&M joins the SEC, certainly the Aggies would be placed in the Western Division with LSU. Barring a major change in the way the SEC schedules in football, that means the Tigers and Aggies would play every year.
LSU beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl in January, the first football meeting between the two frequent rivals since 1995.
Once the SEC would extend an invitation to A&M, the attention will turn to which team will join the SEC to balance out the Aggies and give the conference an even 14 teams.
Speculation has included Oklahoma and Missouri from the Big 12 and North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Clemson from the ACC. It is widely believed that Florida would move to block FSU’s potential entry into the SEC and that South Carolina would do the same regarding Clemson.
There has also been some speculation that the Big 12 would possibly target Arkansas – which joined the SEC in 1992 – as a replacement for Texas A&M. Arkansas was in the old Southwest Conference with eight schools from Texas before joining the SEC.
Is there any surer sign in modern American culture of fame – or infamy – than to inspire a T-shirt design?
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson has apparently risen to that level of notoriety with this design, which while it doesn’t appear to be actually available for purchase, probably could be ready to ship with just a little silkscreeining effort.
The shirt, which features images of 49 shoes and a pair of handcuffs, takes its cue from the 49 pairs of shoes police took out of his apartment as evidence in the bar fight case that led to his arrest for second-degree battery last week.
In poor taste or darkly humurous? We leave it for you, dear reader, to decide.
Here are some Tuesday morning links from around the world of college football …
Aaron Fentress from The Oregonian (the daily paper in Portland) writes that Oregon QB Darron Thomas calls the LSU game bigger than the BCS title game. He also writes that UO players are taking about the possible distraction of playing in glittering Cowboys Stadium, sounding a lot like LSU players and coaches from the Cotton Bowl.
ESPN.com Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller chronicles how the Ducks have sunk in recent high-profile non-conference games vs. Boise State, Ohio State and Auburn, games in which the opponents (like LSU) have had extra time to prepare for their offense. You may have to scroll down a bit to find this item.
The second-biggest game of the weekend may be the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta between Georgia and Boise State. Rivals.com’s Tom Dienhart talks to Georgia coach Mark Richt about that game and his hot seat in this Q and A.
Back on what may become the new western front of the SEC, the subject of Texas A&M’s withdrawal from the Big 12 is back in the news. The New York Times’ Pete Thamel reports that Texas A&M Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin has sent a letter to the Big 12 stating the school’s intent to withdraw, possibly as early as Tuesday.
Here’s a take on the same story from the Rivals site Orangebloods.com (Texas), where writer Chip Brown speculates that Arkansas may be the Big 12’s target in what would essentially be a swap between the two conferences.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen the uniform combination Oregon will wear for the LSU game, click here.
After all the offseason drama, just about everyone who follows LSU football can use a laugh.
Here’s something that’s at least sure to make you smile: A link to the commerical LSU coach Les Miles did for ESPN “College Game Day” earlier this summer. Here’s another link to a longer video segment of Miles instructing ESPN’s Erin Andrews on the finer points of grass chewing.
Just in case you’re wondering, Miles did the commercial long before August practice and the accompanying troubles began. He taped it on the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles.
Here’s something that might make you frown: former LSU and new Maryland offensive coordinator Gary Crowton tells the Baltimore Sun that it wasn’t his offense at LSU.
Stewart Mandel of si.com writes that to beat LSU, Oregon will have to win a matchup it lost against Auburn in the BCS championship game: its offensive line vs. LSU’s defensive front.
Miles’ response: he’s right. It was, and is, the LSU offense.
Ken Goe of The Oregonian, the daily newspaper in Portland, Ore., sounds a refrain that will be familiar to LSU fans: weary of all the offseason issues at Oregon, he’s ready for some football.
LSU coach Les Miles met with the media Monday for his first weekly news conference, a jam-packed scene that was televised live on ESPN.
Miles talked about how much he and his team are looking forward to the season after all their offseason troubles: “If they’re anything like their coach,” he said, “they feel penned up.”
Unfortunately, LSU’s troubles haven’t completely ended. Miles revealed that senior offensive guard Josh Dworaczyk will likely miss significant playing time with an unspecified leg injury that will require surgery in the next two weeks.
With Jordan Jefferson suspended, Dworaczyk is LSU’s most experienced returning starter with 26 starts. It’s yet another blow for a Tiger offense that will be without Jefferson and wide receiver Russell Shepard, who is also suspended.
Miles spoke extensively about senior quarterback Jarrett Lee, who will be making his 10th career start Saturday when the No. 4-ranked Tigers take on No. 3 Oregon in Arlington, Texas (7 p.m., ABC).
“He’s pretty excited,” Miles said. “He didn’t want this to happen, but if there’s a guy who’s been baptized under fire and had to learn on the run it’s Jarrett Lee.”
Naturally, Jordan Jefferson and Josh Johns’ arrest and subsequent suspension made big news Friday, not only in Louisiana but on sports web pages around the country.
Here’s a sampling:
The crew from ESPN “College GameDay” cast breaks down LSU’s problems in this video segment entitled “Crisis on the Bayou.”
ESPN SEC blogger Chris Low writes about LSU pressing forward with Jarrett Lee as its starting quarterback.
Pete Thamel of the New York times writes that LSU and Oregon’s many offseason issues has taken the luster off of one of this season’s biggest showdowns.
“Indefinitely suspended” should mean the end of Jefferson’s career at LSU, blogs Ron Higgins of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.
Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com blogs that LSU might actually be better off without Jefferson.
Les Miles shouldn’t take the blame for Jefferson’s transgressions, blogs Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com, but should take the blame if LSU’s remaining quarterbacks don’t get the job done.
Steve Greenberg of The Sporting News talks about Lee being thrust back into the meatgrinder that is the SEC.
And, finally, there’s this snarky tweet from someone named Wendy Aldridge:
“Good luck, Jarrett Lee! You have 49 pairs of shoes to fill.”
LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard has been suspended for “a number of games,” the university an nounced Thursday afternoon.
The suspension is a result of Shepard breaking an NCAA rule.
The university said it will seek reinstatement for Shepard but he is expected to miss a number of games until the reinstatement can be considered by the NCAA. He can continue to practice with the team.
Shepard’s eligibility had been in question since a compliance issue related to housing arose shortly before the start of fall camp.
LSU said Shepard has been found by the NCAA and the school to be in violation of Bylaw 32.1.4. It was determined that Shepard discussed an NCAA inquiry with a teammate who was scheduled to meet with an NCAA representative and his actions were deemed to have violated NCAA protocol.
No timeline has been determined for the reinstatement process.
Sophomore Kadron Boone is listed as Shepard’s primary backup on the team’s depth chart.