Tag Archives: #Les Miles

Wednesdays With Les: Porter likely done; Vadal back; Miles on QB situation

(Angela Major)

(Angela Major)

LSU coach Les Miles, on Wednesdays during game weeks, speaks publicly three different times. Follow his comments here throughout the day.

Radio show

Les Miles says that true freshman quarterback Brandon Harris is closing the gap between he and starter Anthony Jennings.

“Right now the guy who gives us the chance to make the other 10 players best is still Anthony Jennings,” Miles said, “but the difference between the two (QBs) is becoming closer.”

  • Miles on LSU offense vs. Texas A&M: “I think you’ll find that there will be a number of small changes. A little wrinkle here and there.”
  • At one point during the show, Miles said this when a caller criticized Jennings: “Miles on Jennings struggles: “It’s a lot easier when you have veteran receivers who are always where they’re supposed to be.”
  • Miles said LSU had a “terrible day” on offense against Arkansas and mentioned, again, that the Razorbacks used their off week to come up with a good game plan against the Tigers’ offense.

Post-practice

LSU could be without center Elliott Porter for the game against Texas A&M and the bowl game, coach Les Miles said Wednesday. That would end the senior’s career.

Porter injuried his ankle in the loss at Arkansas when running back Terrence Magee rolled into the back of his leg.

“Elliott, not so certain about this game, not so certain about the bowl game,” Miles said on Porter.

Left guard Vadal Alexander, who injured his hand in the loss to Alabama, will return for the game against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Night.

With Porter likely out against the Aggies, Ethan Pocic will start at center, and Evan Washington will likely play right guard, Miles said.

  • Miles on Arkansas loading the box against LSU to stop the run: “We noticed that they had a nice little game plan. They really did. We needed not be as predictable – run and pass. We needed to hit. When we go to pass it, we need to complete it and throw better. Not throwing the ball like we can. We’ll throw the ball better in this game.”
  • Miles on Jennings’ performance against the Hogs: “He miss-threw two balls on the day. For the most part, played OK. And still needs to play better.”
  • Why does Jennings give LSU the best chance to win: “Takes care of the ball. Makes 10 other players better,” Miles said.
  • Miles said he’s “not ready to say” that Harris will play at Texas A&M, which is different from what the coach has said in the past. Miles has said for the last few weeks that Harris would play or have the opportunity to play. The freshman has not played significant time since his struggling start at Auburn.
  • So what’s Miles want to see from Harris? “The position takes some time. It’s motion, check, read the play. It’s an encompassing position. Certainly those are the things going to get him to the field. He has a natural arm, he can run and he’s competitive. We like him a lot. But is he … hopefully by the time we get to Saturday he’ll have taken some more steps and allows us to get him into the game.”
  • Jennings has taken criticism from fans for his play, specifically on Twitter. Said Miles: “He’s awfully motivated. Period. Nobody has to try to motivate him again. He understands what being the quarterback means. (The criticism is) not really the fan base. It’s the erratic and those guys whose opinions must be heard, which are not necessarily the fan base speaking out. Not necessarily with real information. They have the opportunity in social media and so they use it.”

SEC teleconference

LSU coach Les Miles said the Tigers have “assessed” things during their bye week, and the team is finding answers during the down time before the game against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Night.

“We’re putting our collective thoughts together and looking forward to approaching the open week with good, quality answers,” the coach said. “We’ve kind of assessed some of the things we’re doing right and wrong and direction for our team.”

LSU (7-4, 3-4) enters a season finale tied with its worst record in Miles’ 10 years. The Tigers have lost two straight after winning three in a row.

  • Miles and LSU players were not injured during Arkansas’ field rushing, the coach said. Arkansas fans stormed the field after beating LSU for the Hogs’ first SEC win in two years. “It was certainly a wild scene,” the coach said.

Twitter Mailbag: You asked about Brandon Harris, offensive play-calling and more

Cam Cameron and Les Miles - you asked about them and LSU's offense. (Bill Feig)

Cam Cameron and Les Miles – you asked about them and LSU’s offense. (Bill Feig)

Twitter Mailbag is a blog series running each Tuesday answering readers’ questions about the LSU football team. Readers submit their questions through Twitter each Tuesday, and the best are posted here with answers. Follow us on Twitter at @DellengerAdv to submit a question.

We haven’t seen Paris play any significant time at cornerback this season, which is, somewhat, of a surprise. Paris was a highly rated prospect from Texas, but coaches clearly don’t think he’s completely ready for substantial play. Another year in the system could make a big difference.

The issue with that: Who’s Paris gonna play ahead of? LSU will likely have two returning cornerbacks in Jalen Collins and Tre’Davious White (Rashard Robinson’s status is very much in doubt). LSU is really deep in the secondary. Safety Ronald Martin will depart, but the Tigers have Jalen Mills, Rickey Jefferson and Jamal Adams.

I’m not sure LSU runs the exact same play to start each game. I’ll have to go back and check that out, but I do know the Tigers love to run the football. That’s what the offense is based around. LSU runs the ball 69 percent of the time, which leads the SEC. So, odds are the first play of the game will be a run.

Thing about play-action is, you want the defense to bite on the run. You’ve got to run the ball first – successfully – for that to happen.

I don’t think they’re very high. Harris will have a chance in the off-season to win the starting job – as he did last off-season. I expect the job to be up for grabs during spring practice, through the summer and into fall camp.

Les Miles gets paid $4.5 million a year. He’s the head coach. He’s the No. 1 guy. He’s the boss. If he wants to get involved in the play-calling, he can. And, yes, I believe he does have a part in the play calling.

During key situations, you’ll see Miles carrying around a play sheet. I’m sure he has a somewhat significant role in calling plays and in directing LSU’s offense.

If LSU is to put anyone in the Wildcat, it’s probably Terrence Magee. He’s also a former high school quarterback who has speed and a decent arm. Here’s the thing: LSU has a quarterback who can run. I’m not so sure the Wildcat would change things so much.

Center Elliott Porter is “doubtful” for the game at Texas A&M with an ankle injury suffered against Arkansas. Les Miles says LG Vadal Alexander is “likely” to play.

That leaves LSU’s offensive line with Ethan Pocic, the starter at right guard, at center, and Evan Washington or Hoko Fanaika at right guard. As you remember, Washington replaced Alexander at left guard against Arkansas and Fanaika at right guard for Pocic (after Porter was hurt), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Washington start in place of Fanaika at right guard.

The question everyone wants answered. Look, there is a reason. There has to be, right? We saw Brandon Harris excel in his playing time in, mostly, every game except his first career start at Auburn.

So why no Harris? He goes from starting in an SEC road game to not seeing significant playing time in the next five games? It makes no sense. There is a reason here of some sort. Remember, we don’t get to watch practice. We aren’t in the quarterback meetings. We aren’t in the film room. Something may be happening behind closed doors to keep Harris off of the field.

Film Room: Arkansas 17, LSU 0

Welcome to Film Room, our weekly analysis of LSU’s last football game. Have a seat. No talking. No tweeting. No texting. Pay attention.

(click photos to enlarge)

How They Happened (big-play analysis)

Oh-line: Arkansas’ defensive front put pressure on LSU QB Anthony Jennings throughout the game Saturday. The Hogs sacked him four times, including this one in the third quarter on a third down that stalled LSU’s drive and resulted in a missed field goal.

  • This is just one of many plays in which the Tigers’ offensive line faltered, and Jennings felt pressure. It was one of the biggest of the game, though. LSU trailed 10-0 with about 8 minutes left and faced a third-and-6 from the Arkansas 20-yard line. Colby Delahoussaye followed the sack with a missed 47-yard field goal.JenningsSack
  • On this particular play, Arkansas went after the new guy on LSU’s offensive line: left guard Hoko Fanaika (black arrow). Fanaika is in for Ethan Pocic, who moved from right guard to center when Elliott Porter went down with an ankle injury. Arkansas DE Trey Flowers (red circle) acted as if he’ll rush off the edge at LT La’el Collins, but instead swung around and fired between Fanaika and LT Jerald Hawkins.
  • The fault appears to fall with Fanaika. Arkansas brought five men against LSU’s five linemen. Pocic helped with Fanaika’s guy, and Fanaika didn’t switch off and engage Flowers soon enough.

Tight end ‘imagination': On third-and-5 from the Arkansas 35, Hogs QB Brandon Allen hit wide open TE Hunter Henry for a 29-yard gain.

  • LSU coach Les Miles referred to Arkansas’ passing attack Saturday as having “imagination.” This is a perfect example of what he was talking about. The Razorbacks used their tight ends in a variety of ways, and LSU never really caught on in coverage. Of Allen’s 16 completions, nine went to a tight end.ArkTE
  • On this particular play, Arkansas brought each of its tight ends on crossing routes. The black circle is Henry, and the red circle is A.J. Derby (two players, by the way, who combined for eight catches in this game). They crossed in front LSU linebackers Kwon Alexander (black arrow) and Kendell Beckwith (red arrow). This caused a bust in coverage by, presumably, Beckwith.
  • Beckwith, it appears, is supposed to cover Henry, but he madea step toward Derby. That’s all Henry needed to get open. Alexander is seen at the snap pointing toward Henry, as if to direct Beckwith to cover him. Arkansas did this all game. Even safety Ronald Martin admitted afterward that the Razorbacks used their tight ends to get LSU’s “linebackers out of the pocket.”
  • Here’s an example of what Martin called a “tight end delay” that Arkansas used:

Shutting down the run: On the first play of the second half, LSU RB Leonard Fournette carried the ball for the final time – a 1-yard gain on a rush to the right side against an Arkansas team that stacked the box.

  • Like the rest of our screen shots in this week’s Film Room, this shot is one example of a reoccurring theme throughout the Tigers’ loss to the Hogs: Arkansas loaded the box. LSU’s three running backs had 49 yards on 18 carries.FournetteRun
  • On this play, Arkansas has what appears to be seven defenders in the box – a normal amount. And then came safety Alan Turner (red circle), rushing at full speed from his deep position just before the snap. When Fournette was handed the ball, Turner was within 5 yards of him and helped make the tackle.
  • Turner gave Arkansas eight defenders in the box to LSU’s seven blockers. That’s one unblocked player and a crowded area for a running back. Fournette had just five carries in the game. The Hogs had eight men in the box on three of them and seven in the box on the other two. He gained nine total yards.

Knowing the play: On first and 10 from the Arkansas 9-yard line, Terrence Magee loses a yard on a run to the right side. Find out why:

  • You’ll notice in the below Vine that Arkansas LB Martrell Spaight points – with two hands – at the lane in which Magee will run. The Razorback, via a signal from QB Anthony Jennings (we’ll get to that later) knew where the play was going.

  • Here’s what Spaight saw: Jennings tap his rear end with a certain signal to the fullback, Connor Neighbors, who then, usually, would tap his rear end to signal the running direction to the running back.

  • This seems to happen so often that ESPN color analyst Brock Huard says, after this play: “LSU will give you some tips sometimes, whether it’s line calls, whether fullback or guards tapping rear ends…”
  • More Huard: “This offense doesn’t care at times whether you know where and when it’s coming, they’re still going to run it right at you.”
  • Joe Tessitore, the play-by-play man then follows with this: “Watch that fullback for some of those tells here in the run game.”
  • Here’s Arkansas reading Jennings’ signal again on a play later in the game:

Big Ugly Blips and Booms (O-line analysis)

  • Before we get into who struggled and who excelled in blocking, let’s first look at LSU’s 22 designed runs against Arkansas. The Hogs – as we’ve noted in a few big-play breakdowns above – loaded the box. Here’s a breakdown:
  1. Designed runs: 22
  2. Yards: 68 (3.09 average per rush)
  3. Average Arkansas defenders in the box: 7.59
  4. Average LSU blockers: 7.45
  5. Times Arkansas had more men in box than LSU blockers: 6
  6. Times LSU had more blockers than Arkansas defenders: 3
  7. Times blockers and defenders were the same: 13
  • As you see, the Hogs really loaded the box. They had bodies everywhere, clogging running lanes. Should LSU have checked out of a few of those runs when the Hogs piled into the box? Probably.
  • That said, the offensive line had one of its worst games of the season, especially pass-blocking. Here’s that breakdown:
  1. Jennings dropbacks: 27
  2. Jennings pressures: 14
  • There were clear and obvious communication issues at times on the O-line, in part because the Tigers were playing much of the game without two starters (Vadal Alexander and Elliott Porter). Jerald Hawkins had four missed blocks during pass protection, and Porter had three. Evan Washington and Hoko Fanaika, the new guys, had two each.
  • Ethan Pocic may have played better than an linemen. He had three booms, more than anyone, and had just one blip (in pass protection).
  • Here’s a slow-motion replay of Porter’s bad snap on LSU’s second offensive play of the game:

  • And, now, for Porter’s injury in the second quarter. RB Terrence Magee accidentally took out the center’s leg, leading to what appears to be a fairly severe ankle injury. Remember, Miles said Porter is “doubtful” for LSU’s game at Texas A&M:

Monday Morning Quarterback (QB analysis)

  • Jennings was under duress a ton in this game, as we’ve mentioned quite a bit, but he made some poor passes and decisions. He misfired on about five to six throws (about his average per game), but he also made a few great plays while under intense pressure. Here’s an example of two of them on a drive in the second quarter:

  • Where there’s good, there’s bad. Here’s one example of a poor decision by Jennings. He misses what appears to be a touchdown to TE Dillon Gordon (red circle). Instead, Jennings throw to Travin Dural (black arrow), who’s covered. The pass fell incomplete.

IMG_2373

  • Jennings also struggled with the long ball. He had a couple of underthrows to Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre.

Backing It Up (RB/FB analysis)

  • LSU’s running backs struggled at times, too, in pass protection. Terrence Magee and Williams each had a mistake on pass blocking. The running backs didn’t have much room to run. Just one real large hole opened during this game – and Magee picked up 12 yards on the play.
  • Connor Neighbors didn’t have his best game in run blocking. He had two blips, and Melvin Jones didn’t play at all.

Five-yard Out (WR analysis)

  • First off, WR Trey Quinn wasn’t targeted at all, and he played in only one or two plays against Arkansas – likely punishment for two crucial drops late in the loss to Alabama.
  • In 22 attempts, Jennings targeted Travin Dural eight times. He targeted a running back or fullback seven times, including five to Terrence Magee.

Front Seven (D-line/LB analysis)

  • The front seven played well enough to win this game. Christian LaCouture continues to show his growth from the beginning of the season. He excelled. Here’s one example:

  • Here’s a good play from LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter, all of this showing that the defense had a solid game and did enough:

  • All of that said, the linebackers didn’t have their best game, especially in defending the pass. Arkansas took advantage of that, completing nine of 16 passes to tight ends. Many times, tight ends would act as if they were blocking and then spring out to the flats for a wide open pass. Presumably, the tight ends are the linebacker’s men to cover.

Break It Up (DB analysis)

  • Tre’Davious White committed pass interference that set up an Arkansas touchdown, and Jalen Mills had issues covering a receiver – a catch on second and long that eventually helped the Razorbacks extend a drive.  Other than that, the secondary was pretty quiet. As mentioned above, the Hogs went after LSU’s linebackers in the passing game, and it worked.
  • Mills and safety Ronald Martin had a shot to make what could have been a game-changing play. They couldn’t recover a fumble inside the Arknasas 30 with LSU trailing 10-0 in the third quarter:

Screen shots courtesy of ESPN.

Pick 6: Q and A with an Arkansas beat reporter

Robbie Neiswanger, while also joining us for this week’s Pick 6, is urging the Arkansas athletic department to move Saturday’s game to the Caribbean island of Aruba – and out of chilly northwest Arkansas (where 20-degree temps and snow await).

Aruba, the new site of LSU-Arkansas (not really).

Aruba, the new site of LSU-Arkansas (not really).

We’re hoping his plight his fruitful, but we are not confident. We are confident in his knowledge of the Hogs, and he shares that with us in this Q&A.

You can follow Robbie on Twitter at @NWARobbie and read his work here.

1. Arkansas has played a few teams down to the wire – Texas A&M, Alabama, Mississippi State – but the Hogs’ 17-game SEC losing streak continued. What’s the feeling up in Fayetteville about where the program is and where it’s headed in Year 2 under Brett Bielema?

The improvement in Year 2 is really clear. The Razorbacks have more talent, experience and depth. They’re much more physical on both sides of the ball. It’s easy to see what Bielema is trying to build.

They just haven’t experienced a breakthrough in SEC play. That’s why there’s plenty of frustration for everyone involved – players, coaches and fans. Arkansas knows it’s making progress, but it’s about time to see the rewards. No one around the state wants to see the skid extend to 2015.

2. Temperature at kickoff is expected to be around 30 degrees with possible snow. What’s Arkansas doing to prepare for playing in such conditions?

The Razorbacks are getting out in the cold. Bielema said Monday his team would “embrace the chill” and the Hogs have done so.

Arkansas has an indoor practice facility, but worked in the stadium while temperatures were in the 30s on Tuesday and Wednesday. Bielema’s belief is that the week-long acclimation will give his team an advantage on Saturday night. So Arkansas is trying to make the most of it.

3. Arkansas is 12th nationally, averaging 5.7 yards a rush. Why are they so good at running the football?

Alex Collins is one of a two-part Arkansas rushing attack that averages 5.7 yards a carry. (AP)

Alex Collins is one of a two-part Arkansas rushing attack that averages 5.7 yards a carry. (AP)

To be honest, Arkansas has done a good job of mauling smaller defenses. The majority of their rushing production came against Nicholls State, Texas Tech, Northern Illinois and UAB.

The Razorbacks have only cracked 200 yards in SEC play once – and it came more than a month ago against Texas A&M. They’ve had other issues, too, getting stuffed in key short-yardage situations against the Aggies, Alabama and Mississippi State.

Statistically, Arkansas has been a solid rushing team. The Razorbacks have two talented backs and a big offensive line. But they know there’s a lot of room for improvement and get their next chance Saturday.

4. The Hogs need to win two of their last three games to reach bowl eligibility. Do you think this happens and how will the fan base take another bowl-less year if it doesn’t happen?

I’m not comfortable saying a team that hasn’t won an SEC game in more than two years can win two in three weeks. I just don’t know. It feels like Arkansas is going to break through and snap the skid before the season ends, but there’s no Vanderbilt on this schedule.

But I do believe Arkansas will be within reach during each of its final three games against LSU, Ole Miss and Missouri. This team just has to figure out how to make plays in the fourth quarter to win one. Then another.

There will be disappointment if there’s no bowl, but I think the biggest thing is finding a way to end this streak. Finishing 5-7 overall, 1-7 in the SEC doesn’t look great, but it’s so much better than dragging a 20-game losing streak through the offseason.

5. How far has Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen come since the start of last season?

QB Brandon Allen is a much different player than the one LSU saw last season. (AP)

QB Brandon Allen is a much different player than the one LSU saw last season. (AP)

Allen was a first-year starter who had a shoulder injury that limited his ability to practice over the final eight weeks of the season in 2013. Not exactly a recipe for success.

He has been healthy this year, is much more comfortable and it shows. Allen’s passing numbers are up and the mistakes are down. He has command of the offense and has earned the trust of his teammates.

It’s no surprise Arkansas is better because of it. That doesn’t mean Allen has become an elite quarterback. He’s 0-14 as a starter in SEC games after all. He has thrown interceptions at critical points in two games (Alabama and Mississippi State) and has looked erratic at other times. But there’s no doubt he’s better than the quarterback LSU saw last season.

6. Where can LSU exploit Arkansas’ defense?

That’s much more difficult to answer this year because Arkansas has tightened up under first-year coordinator Robb Smith. It’s not as easy to run on the Hogs, who have given up 200 or more rushing yards only twice (Auburn and Georgia).

There has been improvement on the back end, too, with the secondary playing with much more confidence. But Arkansas still isn’t rock-solid back there. Miscommunication left a receiver open for a 69-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter at Mississippi State. Texas A&M hit the Hogs for two big plays in the fourth quarter as well.

So LSU — which stung Arkansas with a big pass play last season — could have opportunities downfield if it can take advantage of them Saturday.

Times Of Interest: LSU vs. Arkansas

The Boot trophy will on display on the LSU sidelines Saturday. (Bill Feig)

The Boot trophy will on display on the LSU sidelines Saturday. (Bill Feig)

Friday
10 a.m.                                  The Boot arrives at Razorback Stadium 
1:55 p.m.                              Team departs campus
2:45 p.m.                              Charter flight departs Baton Rouge Airport
4 p.m.                                    Team arrives in Bentonville, Ark.   
4:40 p.m.                              Team arrives at Embassy Suites in Rogers, Ark.   
Saturday
3 p.m.                                   Boot unpacked and put on display on LSU sidelines
4:30 p.m.                              Team departs hotel for stadium 
5 p.m.                                    Team arrives at stadium
7:02 p.m.                              Arkansas takes the field
7:02:30 p.m.                         LSU takes the field
7:03 p.m.                              Coin toss at midfield                       
7:06 p.m.                              Kickoff: LSU at Arkansas on ESPN2  

Wednesdays With Les: Hilliard day-to-day, Talkin’ the cold, recovering from Bama

This is a doctored photo. (Getty images)

This is a doctored photo. (Getty images)

LSU coach Les Miles, on Wednesdays during game weeks, speaks publicly three different times. Follow his comments here throughout the day.

Radio show

Freshman linebacker Clifton Garrett will “probably” be redshirted this season, coach Les Miles said on his radio show Wednesday night.

Garrett played in two games this season – against New Mexico State and Louisiana-Monroe. Garrett was a five-star rated product from Illinois ranked as the No. 2 outside linebacker in the nation.

Miles also said linebacker Ronnie Feist would redshirt, but Feist redshirted last season. He’ll be a junior next season.

Said Miles on Garrett: “I think he’s a perfect Mike linebacker, and he’s progressing extremely well. Very talented guy. Has great size but runs extremely well. He’s going to be a very good linebacker.”

  • Miles on QB Brandon Harris playing: “He’ll have an opportunity in the next several games to show his wares and play some more.”
  • Miles asked against about Jennings being replaced with Harris: “If it looks lik it’s best for us to win the game to substitute another QB, we will absolutely do that. For me, it’s the best opportunity for victory, the guy who has the greatest chance to help us win the game. Frankly, Brandon Harris is getting closer and closer. We’d love to get him in the game.”
  • Sounds more and more like running back Kenny Hilliard won’t play in the Tigers’ game at Arkansas. “Kenny got a little practice time today. I’m not necessarily certain he’s slated for duty,” the coach said. Hilliard suffered a shoulder injury against Alabama.
  • With a win at Arkansas, LSU will have won eight games for the 15th straight season. That’s the most in college football and something Jim Hawthorne brought up to Miles. Said the coach: “The single motivating factor of winning the game is such a wonderful feeling, I don’t think we need much more.”

Post-practice

RB Kenny Hilliard is “day (to) day” heading into the game against Arkansas, coach Les Miles said Wednesday.

Hilliard injured his shoulder in the loss to Alabama on this play – the third play of the game. Hilliard collided with Bama safety Landon Collins, injuring the left shoulder. He did not return to the game, and CBS reported that he suffered a shoulder stinger.

Miles said he didn’t know if Hilliard had practiced on Wednesday.

  • In preparation for the cold weather at Arkansas, Miles said LSU’s staff has “done a lot of research.” Former LSU DT and current Buffalo Bills player Kyle Williams gave the staff some “pointers” on dealing with the cold weather. “Our gear has been properly outfitted for weather and we’re going to be a little bit more equipped in terms of the heaters on the sidelines,” he said. ” I think our team is looking forward to it. Think it’s going to be fun. I think our guys recognize the uniqueness of a real cold weather game.”
  • LB Kendell Beckwith, who strained his hamstring against Alabama, practiced Wednesday in full, the coach said. Beckwith said Monday that the hamstring felt “pretty sore” and that he had not received many reps in practice that day.
  • Meanwhile, at LSU football practice Wednesday, assistant athletics director Sam Nader showed up with no shirt on. Temperatures at practices were in the high 40s. Here’s a shot from Michael Bonnette:

SEC teleconference

(this was a joke by Les Miles on the dry ice)

LSU is using dry ice and giant fans to  simulate the impending cold weather the Tigers will face Saturday against Arkansas. Temperatures at kickoff are expected to be around 30 degrees with a 70 percent chance of snow.

The Tigers have surrounded their practice field in dry ice, and giant fans are blowing across the ice, pushing the cold onto the field.

Miles said “that hasn’t worked very well.”

LSU will practice outside Wednesday afternoon in what could be the coldest weather the Tigers have been in yet this season. It’s expected to be in the mid-to-low 50s this afternoon in Baton Rouge.

“Hopeful for as cold as it gets,” Miles said.

Miles says his team is ready for the cold temperatures in Fayetteville.

“I think we’ll be fine. I think our guys have a smile on their face thinking, ‘This is going to be cold,'” Miles said. “The weather is what it is. Make adjustments to things you’re willing to do. We’re both suited for game of bad weather.”

Miles said the coldest game he coached in was while at Michigan in a game at Minnesota. He said he can’t remember playing in any bitter cold games, but he has memories of playing football in the snow in his neighborhood as a child.

“Thanskgiving Day game in the neighborhood and having socks on my hands and playing in snow and having a blast,” he said.

  • The loss is still somewhat lingering for LSU and its players. Even Miles admits that. “There’s residue from a game like that. Proud of how you play. Reward in the finish didn’t get,” he said. That said, the coach said LSU will “be ready for Arkansas.”
  • LSU will be facing one of the best rushing offenses in the nation. In fact, these two teams run the ball more than most, and Miles said there’s a chance to be 50 rushing attempts on each side. Miles on facing Arkansas’ run: “We’re a team that’s run against it in the spring and two-a-days. Strap it on and go play.”

On The Record: Anthony Jennings

Anthony Jennings says he needs to improve on the physical aspect of the game. (Travis Spradling)

Anthony Jennings says he needs to improve on the physical aspect of the game. (Travis Spradling)

On The Record is an occasional Q&A with an LSU sports figure.

LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings spoke to reporters for the first time during the middle of the week this season. He discussed his struggles this year with the physical aspect of the game, talked about where he’s improved and how he’s grown over the season.

Q: Has this season gone the way you thought?

I think that we had potential to go undefeated this year. If I would have played better in a couple of those games, I think we would have won those games. I think that if we continue to get better, we’ll be a great team.

Q: You sound like a guy who puts the blame on yourself. Would you say that?

Don’t want to say “blame.” But I know that if I play better, other guys around me play better and this team plays better. I don’t know if it’s “blame.” I know I can play better, knowing my abilities to play football.

Just have to go out on the practice field and continue to get better and then game day comes. Got to continue to execute.

Q: When you rewatch film, what’s the thing you’re most angry about when you watch yourself?

Coaches say I make great decisions with the football, just have to … physical aspect of putting it right where it needs to be. It may be a little low here, a little high there, but decisions … continue to make better decisions each and every week going from the first week not being so good in decision-making up to this last week making better decisions with the football.

Anthony Jennings says he's more comfortable rolling out and passing. (AP)

Anthony Jennings says he’s more comfortable rolling out and passing. (AP)

Q: You can improve mentally by studying, but how do you improve with the physical stuff?

Just going in practice and working and being aware of the things I need to work on. Focusing on those things each day in practice.

Q: Ten games in, sum up your first season as a starting quarterback.

I think there’s many things I’ve learned throughout the season. The season’s still not over so I’m going to continue to get better. Go out there and win these last two games of the regular season and on to the bowl game.

Q: What are some things you need to improve?

Me and coach Cam (Cameron) talked today about completion percentage. Big thing I have to improve on. Decision making, getting everybody on the same page. That comes down to me. Completion percentage, like he said, is an offensive stat. I take that upon myself to complete a ball at a higher rate.

Q: What have you improved most on from the start of this season?

My feel for the game is improved. The game’s slowing down for me. I’m just getting more comfortable around the guys and what they’re going to do and reading the defenses and what they’re trying to give me.

I’m a young quarterback so they try to give me (inaudible) looks sometimes. I watch film and try to dissect their disguises and exploit their weaknesses.

Q: What did you think and do in that two-week period from being benched during the New Mexico State game, not starting at Auburn and then starting at Florida?

I just wanted to come in and continue to get better, look at myself and what I was doing and talk to coaches and see what I can improve on to make me a better person, a better player. I went back and looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘What things can I improve on?’ and I went back to work.

I don’t think it was discouraging. It made me look at myself differently to see what I can improve on.

Anthony Jennings returned as LSU's started against Florida and had, maybe, his best game of the season. (Travis Spradling)

Anthony Jennings returned as LSU’s started against Florida and had, maybe, his best game of the season. (Travis Spradling)

Q: Why did you get the start at Florida and how did you feel getting the starting job back?

I just continue to work in practice, continue to get better. I just want to do anything to help the team win. Putting me second-string, first-string, it didn’t really matter. I just wanted to help the team win.

Q: Did you feel like a different quarterback during that game at Florida?

I looked at myself. I wanted to see things I can improve on and worked even harder than I already was to improve my game. Also, to improve the guys around me and up lift them.

Q: Does it bother you that LSU runs the ball so much?

Being more effective with the football, maybe we’ll start to throw the ball more like Zach (Mettenberger) last season. He had 3,000 yards passing. We know how to throw the football here. Just the quarterbacks making better decisions with the football, wide receivers coming into their own.

Offensive line is doing a great job protecting. I think it’s on the quarterbacks to improve – completion percentage and getting those things fixed.

Q: When you break down games, how many passes do you blame yourself for?

I think my decision-making in all of those passes is pretty good. I just have to put the ball right in the receivers’ face to make it an easy catch for those guys. Some of the screen passes … sometimes they sniff that out. Got to throw it down. Don’t want to make something worse out of those situations. Maybe a receiver falls down. Got to improvise.

Q: It’s more physical than mental?

Definitely. Definitely.

Q: You ran the ball a few times against Alabama when the pass wasn’t there, right?

I saw they were in man coverage most of the night so when they have two over the top and man underneath, there’s nobody on the quarterback. If all of the (linebackers) leave out, there’s nobody on me to go pick up the first down.

I recognize that at the snap of the ball. Sometimes I see that and choose a lane.

Q: That felt good to make those plays?

Oh definitely. That made our third-down conversions even higher in this game. Third-down conversions are big in a game like that.

Q: Do you like to run?

I think I’ll do whatever to execute. If that’s a design run, a scramble, scramble and throw out of bounds, scramble and run for 10 yards and a first down… I can do all of those things.

Q: Seems like Cameron is rolling you out to throw more. You comfortable with that?

I’m definitely comfortable on the run. I think he ball whips out of my hand when I’m on the run. It’s effortless to me. It’s one of the things that’s a strength in my game.

Q: What do you say to receivers when they drop your passes?

That happens to everybody. NFL receivers do that. Watched the Saints game the other night. It happens. You’ve got to come back and say, ‘You’re gonna get them next time.’ Just focus and I’m going to put the ball where it needs to be.

Q: What surprised you this year?

The highs and lows. You just have to weather the storm. Don’t get too high. Don’t get too low. I think you’ve got to continue to improve each and every day. Our coaches put us in a great position to execute and be successful.

LSU's sophomore QB says the Tigers could be undefeated if he played better. (Travis Spradling)

LSU’s sophomore QB says the Tigers could be undefeated if he played better. (Travis Spradling)

Q: How’d you handle the week leading up to the Auburn game when you knew you wouldn’t start?

I just went in and wanted to help my teammates get better at practice. Wanted to talk to the coaches and see what I can do better to improve my game. Also, learn that game plan effortlessly so I can go into the game if Brandon got hurt to execute the offense.

Q: How and when do you rewatch a game?

I come in after the games Saturdays sometimes just to see and go through the plays and Sunday I come in and go through each play, rewind and see what my steps were, see what my reads were, see what they were right or wrong.

Q: So you watch film immediately after the game?

Yeah. After the game, like Saturday night or early Sunday morning. If we’re away, on the plane ride back.

Q: How do you need to improve?

Just becoming better deciphering defenses and just becoming more of a leader on this football team. Becoming all-around a better person to the guys around me.

Pick 6: Q and A with an Alabama beat reporter

Marc Torrence joins this week’s Pick 6 for a Q&A on Alabama.

You can follow Marc on Twitter at @marctorrence and read his coverage here.

1. What kind of feel does this LSU-Alabama week have in Tuscaloosa compared to the last few years?

It’s not quite as hyped up as it has been the last couple of years. That probably has to do with LSU’s two early losses kind of taking away half of the equation, where in the past this game has had SEC and national title implications.

Still, the last two weeks have pretty much blown the doors open in the SEC West, putting this game back in the spotlight. Alabama-LSU is always a game that people here look forward to, but it’s difficult for Alabama fans to not start looking ahead to Mississippi State and Auburn.

2. Louisiana native and Bama LT Cam Robinson suffered a high ankle sprain two weeks ago against Tennessee. What’s the feeling over there on his playing status for the LSU game?

Bama LT Cam Robinson suffered a high ankle sprain two weeks ago. (AP)

Bama LT Cam Robinson suffered a high ankle sprain two weeks ago. (AP)

At first, everybody thought he would be out of this game for sure. On Monday, though, he was running through drills at just about full speed in practice. He’s mostly worked with the second-team this week but got in some first-team reps Wednesday.

Saban has maintained that Robinson is “day-to-day.” Still, that’s better than where he was during the bye week. It’s not a stretch to say Robinson has been Alabama’s best offensive lineman this season, so losing him would be a huge loss up front.

3. Why is Alabama WR Amari Cooper so good and how has he been stopped in the past (had just two catches at Arkansas)?

Cooper pretty much has the full package at wide receiver: he has game-breaking speed, runs crisp routes, has great body control—everything you look for in a star receiver.

He’s at his best on quick screens or slants when he can get some grass around him and make people miss. When he’s been held in check it’s been either because teams have sold out to stop him with safety help on every play, or the offense just hasn’t been in rhythm.

Against Arkansas, Alabama failed to get the run game going, which put the offense in some bad spots, and it wasn’t able to capitalize.

4. If Alabama’s defense has a weakness, what is it and how can LSU exploit it?

The secondary. Teams that have had offensive success against Alabama were able to hit big plays in the passing game. West Virginia had 365 yards through the air, working the tempo and throwing the ball downfield. Ole Miss had a 34-yard pass to tie the game, and Bo Wallace had two throws of at least 10 yards on the game-winning drive.

Landon Collins might be the best safety in the game, but the talent is fairly average by SEC standards around him. But when they play their best though, like against Texas A&M, they’re tough to move the ball against.

Bama QB Blake Sims can run. (AP)

Bama QB Blake Sims can run. (AP)

5. Bama QB Blake Sims seems to have more mobility than the last few Alabama quarterbacks. What have you seen from him and his growth this season?

Sims definitely brings that element to the Alabama passing game that it hasn’t had in a long time. He’s been dangerous on pass plays when he can buy an extra second or two with his legs to find a guy open downfield or scramble for the first down.

And while Alabama hasn’t really run that many designed quarterback runs for him, and he’s been reluctant to keep the ball on a lot of zone reads, when he does tuck it, he’s incredibly explosive in the open field. His 43-yard touchdown against Texas A&M and 28-yard score against Tennessee were evidence of that.

6. What must Alabama do to win the game?

If Alabama plays close to its potential, it can beat LSU. The Crimson Tide matches up really well against LSU’s offense and has been more explosive on offense when it has the ball. The problem for Alabama this year has been playing up to that level. It struggled with that in back-to-back road games against Ole Miss and Arkansas but then came back to put up an eye-popping performance against Texas A&M.

At this point, it’s all mental for Alabama, and Tiger Stadium isn’t exactly the most welcoming environment for that.

Wednesdays With Les: Bama best team; Magee practiced; Miles’ music choices; Beckwith grew faster than thought

(Heather McClelland)

(Heather McClelland)

LSU coach Les Miles, on Wednesdays during game weeks, speaks publicly three different times. Follow his comments here throughout the day.

Radio show

Alabama will be the best team “by far” that LSU has faced this season, Miles said.

The Tigers are playing a fourth game against a team that has been ranked or is currently ranked in the top 5. Mississippi State, Auburn and Ole Miss are the other three.

Said Miles about Bama: “Best opponent we’ve seen this year by far.”

  • Asked about punter Jamie Keehn’s “shanks,” Miles said coaches are “adjusting” Keehn’s drop on punts. “He’s always been a very talented, big leg,” Miles said of Keehn. “He wants to hit the big ball. Wants to knock it out of the park.”
  • Miles was asked about his music choices. His response: “I have a wide variety of tapes. I like Toby Keith. I like Little Wayne.” The coach said that LSU plays music at practice and the final song is Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
  • LSU’s team health is “excellent,” the coach said. “The same guys that played in the Ole Miss game will play at this one,” Miles said, noting Terrence Magee’s good status for Saturday (which you can read about below in the post practice section).
  • Miles on highly-rated in-state prospects who choose LSU over Bama: “I think that young guys that have a real attachment to the state, that want to represent more than just the school, pick that state close to their family and friends. I think there’s a definite difference in the choice. … The reality of it is they’re saying more about who they want to be than choosing the school.”
  • Miles on this week’s practice leading up to the Bama game: “There’s some violent collisions part of our practice even more so.”
  • Miles on Mike VI, who has not entered Tiger Stadium for his pregame ritual yet this season: “Looking for volunteers to shoo him into this travel carriage. Four to five slow-moving adults need to encourage him into the cage.”

Post practice

LSU running back Terrence Magee returned to practice this week and is “good to go” for the game against  Alabama, coach Les Miles said Wednesday.

Magee was inadvertently poked in the eye in the 10-7 win over Ole Miss. He did not practice on LSU’s off week last week.

“He’s probably … swelling’s out. Really looks good. Got fresh legs,” the coach said.

LSU appears to be fully healthy for the game against the Tide.

  • Quarterback Anthony Jennings’ has benefited from the off week, Miles said. “Couple of extra days in the game plan kind of makes a difference.”
  • Miles was asked about playing time for backup quarterback Brandon Harris. Miles said Harris is “improving” and that “there’s a potential of getting him n the game significantly. We’re gonna play it situationally.”

SEC teleconference

Middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith has improved quicker than coaches imagined, Les Miles said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference.

Beckwith replaced D.J. Welter as the Tigers’ starter at middle linebacker for the game at Florida, the first of three straight wins for the Tigers.

Kendell Beckwith has soared since taking over for D.J. Welter a month ago. (Bill Feig)

Kendell Beckwith has soared since taking over for D.J. Welter a month ago. (Bill Feig)

“We would have anticipated that both of those guys were playing extremely well and not necessarily did we see he’d grow as fast as he has,” Miles said when asked about having regrets for not inserting Beckwith earlier. “Sure, hindsight, you’d like to say, ‘Knew that all along.’ Knew that his natural ability would eventually, once he got the reps, would allow him to develop into the style of player he is. We were trying to make that happen as fast as we could.”

Beckwith has made 20 tackles over the last two games, including a couple of late-game stops in the 10-7 win over Ole Miss.

Miles said he’s seen this before – a player in a reserve role takes the starting job and flourishes.

“It’s always that way. There have been many times you get that guy going to play all in every game, was not necessarily getting all of the reps, not necessarily playing a full style of game. Segments of the defense were not quite on par,” the coach said. “As soon as he started getting the more reps and playing significantly as a starter, it just made a difference. He just has an instinct and a comfort with play. Has great speed and size. He’ll play a very physical style of game. We would expect he’d play very, very well in this one.”

  • A reporter on the teleconference raised a point with Miles about the two quarterbacks in this game: Many thought Brandon Harris and Jacob Coker would have beaten out Anthony Jennings and Blake Sims. According to Miles’ reply, experience has a lot to do with Jennings and Sims holding on to their gigs: “It’s interesting. You don’t go by experience. You recognize what experience gives you not only makes the quarterback position better but the other 10 guys on offense better. Jennings and Sims give that to their teams.”
  • Miles said Jennings had a “bad game” early in the season (presumably the three-turnover outing against New Mexico State). Since then, the coach said Jennings has fixed mistakes: “He had a bad game early and really recognized some of the deficiencies he had and really stepped forward to correct them. Competition is the great equalizer. He recognized those issues and he worked hard to accomplish being a great quarterback.”
  • Asked about the Big Ten, Miles called the league “elite.” He was also asked about Big Ten coaches in the SEC (there are at least three in the SEC West: Brett Bielema, Miles and Nick Saban): “I think people gravitate towards the competitive level and they look forward to competing at the very highest. I think there’s an opportunity for that in this league. I certainly recognize the advantages those men have in this league.”
  • Miles is expecting another classic from an LSU and Alabama matchup. The coach expects the game to go down to the wire: “I’m kind of anticipating that myself. I look back on these games and they’ve all been that style of game, a last drive, last quarter the game’s decided. You plan on playing four quarters in this game for sure.”
  • Later in the SEC teleconference, Alabama coach Nick Saban said Tide starting LT Cam Robinson is “day to day” but could play against the Tigers. Robinson, a Louisiana native and the former No. 1 tackle in the nation last year, suffered a high ankle sprain against Tennessee on Oct. 25. “We’ll have to see how his ankle can handle the load in practice,” Saban said.

Twitter Mailbag: You asked about covering Amari, recruiting and Bama’s D

Bama WR Amari Cooper seems to be on everyone's mind. (AP)

Bama WR Amari Cooper seems to be on everyone’s mind. (AP)

Twitter Mailbag is a blog series running each Tuesday answering readers’ questions about the LSU football team. Readers submit their questions through Twitter each Tuesday, and the best are posted here with answers. Follow us on Twitter at @DellengerAdv to submit a question.

It’s unclear if one LSU defensive back will be assigned to cover the SEC’s best receiver, Amari Cooper. In fact, here’s CB Jalen Collins about that: “I don’t think we’ll put a specific guy on him the whole game. I’m pretty sure I’ll have my shot at him.”

That being said, Rashard Robinson is thought to be LSU’s most athletic and talented cornerback. If you’re betting on the person who will most cover Cooper, it’s probably him.

Hmm. A realistic stat goal. Cooper has been held under 100 yards receiving in just two of eight games and he’s twice gone over 200. If LSU can keep him under 100, that’s a pretty nice day.  His worst outing was at Arkansas in a 14-13 win (when the Hogs double covered him with a safety). He had just two catches for 22 yards. His next worst game: 9 for 91 at Ole Miss.

It can’t hurt to win, but a loss doesn’t completely dash the signing hopes for LSU with recruits. This matchup, though, pits two programs that recruit similar players for similar schemes. A handful of current LSU players chose between the Tigers and Bama during the recruiting process.

Here’s what coach Les Miles said about the game and the implications on recruiting:

“Well, I think there’s always some enjoyment in recruiting that you take when you win, and certainly there’s a piece of recruiting that is specific to winning. To what extent, I’m not certain. I can always tell you it’s a lot more fun to call (prospects) after you won one.”

If I’m choosing one, single player … I’d say middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith. He’ll have a big hand in defending Alabama’s two-headed monster in the backfield of 240-pound Derrick Henry and 220-pound T.J. Yeldon, both former five-star prospects.

If Beckwith and the front seven can do a good enough job stopping Yeldon and Henry then Alabama will be forced to pass against one of the nation’s stingiest secondaries.

It’ll be up to the defense to keep LSU in the game and, maybe, to win it (just like the Ole Miss game). The Tigers struggle passing the ball, and it’s gonna be tough to run against the Tide so don’t expect a ton of points.

This is a tough question. Statistically, Alabama is fourth nationally in total defense. Ole Miss is 19th, allowing 50 more yards a game.

Think of the Tide as a little bit more talented and a lot larger version of the Rebels defense. That doesn’t bode well for LSU, which relies so much on running the football. The Tigers’ offensive line will need to have its best game. Linemen will have to push around 260-pound linebackers and 300-pound defensive linemen.

We saw LSU do this against Ole Miss early in the game. The Tigers passed the ball more than normal, before focusing on the run and the run alone.

Expect some of that against Alabama. LSU may have scripted the first few plays against the Rebels. This helps young, inexperienced quarterbacks like Jennings. He gets to practice the exact plays in the exact sequence all week heading into the game. It makes life much easier.

Aside from more passes, maybe LSU mixes in some run plays that we haven’t seen. Maybe some new formations? How about a trick play or two? Expect any of that in a game that the Tigers are underdogs in.

Not likely. It’ll be so tough for a two-loss team to make the College Football Playoff.

LSU’s only shot is winning out, having a crazy multiple-team tie at 6-2 for the SEC West, winning the multi-team tiebreaker and then winning the SEC title game. That’s the only way I could see them, as a two-loss team, getting into the top four.

No matter what team LSU is playing, if the Tigers can’t run the ball successfully they’ll struggle to win the game.

So that’s one key: run the ball (for at least 175-200 yards). Thing is, Alabama has allowed two of its eight opponents to run the ball for more than 100 yards.

Another key: Stop or at least slow WR Amari Cooper. This guy is Alabama’s Travin Dural. He’s a go-to big-play receiver who LSU must suffocate in the secondary.

A final key: Stop or at least slow Alabama’s run game. Without the run, the Tide often struggles. Bama has run for at least 180 yards in all but two games. The two games: a loss at Ole Miss and a 14-13 win at Arkansas.