Tag Archives: #Les Miles

Game Day: LSU vs. Kentucky

Kendell Beckwith and LSU's defense could have their hands full with Kentucky's offense. (Bill Feig)

Kendell Beckwith and LSU’s defense could have their hands full with Kentucky’s offense. (Bill Feig)

UPDATES

6:15: Follow out in-game live chat.

6:10: Lewis Neal, moved from defensive end to defensive tackle during fall camp, was at defensive end during pregame warmups. Neal prefers to play defensive end but was moved to tackle during the first week of fall camp because of depth issues at the position. He appears to have moved back to end.

6:08: Beckwith was spotted during full squad 1 vs. 1 warmups with the first string at middle linebacker.

6:04: D.J. Welter ran with the first string at middle linebacker during warmups. Kendell Beckwith got his first career start last week at middle linebacker. They’re listed as co-starters in the game day depth chart.

6:02: Kentucky is wearing gray tops with blue bottoms.

5:58: Quentin Thomas and Maquedius Bain were the No. 2 defensive tackles during warmups.

5:44: Representatives from the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (formerly Capital One) are the only bowl reps at Saturday’s game. They were at last week’s win at Florida.

5:37: Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris normally each take snaps from the starting center, Elliott Porter, during warmups, but during warmups today, No. 3 Brad Kragthorpe also joined the rotation in taking snaps from Porter. This might be nothing new, but it’s the first time we’ve noticed it.

5:27: DT Maquedius Bain appears to be playing with an injured middle finger on his left hand. He had the finger taped heavily during warmups. Bain seems to have evolved into LSU’s first defensive tackle sub.

5:18: LSU DT Quentin Thomas was on the field for warmups. He played just three to five snaps in the win at Florida last week for what coach Les Miles called “productivity” issues. Thomas is playing with a torn biceps in his right arm and injured his left arm against Mississippi State.

5:13: Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and Les Miles spent several minutes talking while on the field. Stoops entered the stadium and gave a long look at Tiger Stadium’s new south end zone addition.

4:57: LSU starting fullback Connor Neighbors is warming up with the rest of the backs. Neighbors sprained his ankle against Auburn and did not make the trip to Florida last week. Coach Les Miles and Neighbors said this week that the fullback would return to action against Kentucky.

4:40: Looks like LSU’s live bengal tiger, Mike VI, won’t be entering Tiger Stadium for his pregame tour around the field. He has not come out of his cage yet this season. This is the fifth home game.

4:08: No major changes on LSU’s depth chart, a shot of which is below. At tight end, Travis Dickson moves from the No. 4 slot to the No. 3, swapping with DeSean Smith but they’re listed as co-players at the position.

4:03: Our live shot from Tiger Stadium:

The Info

  • Match: LSU (5-2, 1-2) vs. Kentucky (5-1, 2-1)
  • TDP: 6:39 p.m., Saturday, Tiger Stadium
  • TV: SEC Network (Brent Musberger, Jesse Palmer, Maria Taylor)
  • Series Record: LSU leads 39-16-1

Players To Watch (LSU)

  • RB Leonard Fournette: LSU rode Fournette for for 140 yards on 27 carries in the win over Florida last week, but will the Tigers keep handing it to the former No. 1 recruit in the nation? Les Miles likes his running back rotation.
  • QB Anthony Jennings: Remember the last time Jennings played in Tiger Stadium? It wasn’t pretty. Jennings was booed, threw two interceptions and LSU’s offense was stuck in a rut. He was yanked from the game for true freshman Brandon Harris.

    Leonard Fournette had 140 yards at Florida. (Travis Spradling)

    Leonard Fournette had 140 yards at Florida. (Travis Spradling)

  • LB Kendell Beckwith: Against Kentucky’s (kinda) Air Raid offense LSU’s linebackers are key, specifically the guy in the middle. Beckwith has assumed the role of LSU’s starting middle linebacker. Kentucky likes to spread it around on offense, create mismatches with linebackers and runs a bevy of crossing routes.

Players To Watch (Kentucky)

  • QB Patrick Towles: Towles has been solid (62.5 completion, 1,541 yards), and he’s got better feet than at first glance. He’s not the dual-threat of Dak Prescott and Nick Marshall, but he’s a mobile guy. The sophomore was one of the top 10 pro-style QBs out of high school and was the No. 1 recruit in Kentucky.
  • S A.J. Stamps: A junior college transfer, Stamps has made an immediate impact for the Wildcats. He has a team-leading three interceptions and is sixth on the team with 27 tackles.
  • RB Boom Williams: Stanley “Boom” Williams is a true freshman and former four star recruit who’s averaging 8.8 yards a carry. The guy has just 23 carries, 203 yards and two touchdowns.

Key Matchup

  • LSU’s DBs vs. UK’s passing: We mentioned the Air Raid above. The Wildcats spread the ball around (five receivers have 12 catches or more) and they throw 33 times a game. LSU’s strongest unit might be a group of defensive backs who have eight interceptions through seven games. The DBs, however, have had tight coverage over the last couple of games, but have failed to make plays at the ball.

The Opponent

  • Sagarin rating: No. 45
  • Best win: 45-38 vs. No. 30 South Carolina
  • Worst loss: 36-33 (3 OT) at No. 19 Florida
  • Sagarin strength of schedule: No. 136
  • Record vs. Sagarin Top 30: 1-1

The Series

Last 10

  • 2011: LSU 35-7 in Baton Rouge
  • 2007: UK 43-37 (3 OT) in Lexington
  • 2006: LSU 49-0 in Baton Rouge
  • 2002: 33-30 in Lexington
  • 2001: LSU 29-25 in Lexington
  • 2000: LSU 34-0 in Baton Rouge
  • 1999: UK 31-5 in Lexington
  • 1998: UK 39-36 in Baton Rouge
  • 1997: LSU 63-28 in Lexington
  • 1996: LSU 41-14 in Baton Rouge

Biggest series wins

  • LSU: 49-0 (49 points) in 2006
  • UK: 31-5 (26) in 1999

The Spread

LSU -10.5

Pick 6: Q and A with an opposing beat reporter

We were able to secure the precious time of the coolest guy in Lexington, a one Brett Dawson, for this week’s Pick 6.

Brett works for Cats Illustrated, the Rivals.com site, and covers Kentucky like a blanket would on Ross during those chilly October Lexington nights.

Kentucky, where Derby Day - and its outfits - rule like no other.

Kentucky, where Derby Day – and its outfits – rule like no other.

Follow Brett at @BDawsonRivals and read his work here. 

1. Kentucky won two games last season, and the Wildcats already have five wins in their first six games in 2014. What’s behind the turnaround?

First and foremost, talent. There are some veteran playmakers Mark Stoops inherited – quarterback Patrick Towles, for example, and defensive end Bud Dupree – but many of the players making the biggest impact are first- and second-year players recruited by Stoops.

Take running back, where Kentucky is deeper and more talented than it has been in years. Junior Braylon Heard (a Nebraska transfer), sophomore Jojo Kemp and freshman Stanley “Boom” Williams all are Stoops recruits. So are wide receivers Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons, defensive end Za’Darius Smith and safety A.J. Stamps (perhaps UK’s best player).

Beyond that, there’s been a considerable change in attitude. The schedule is backloaded, and Kentucky built some confidence with easy wins early and a strong performance at Florida.

2. How would you describe Kentucky’s offensive philosophy and scheme?

It’s one of many variations of the “Air Raid,” which Hal Mumme introduced to the SEC at Kentucky in the late 1990s. There are spread principles, but UK is fairly balanced and titled slightly more toward the run (105 passes, 119 runs).

Kentucky also can do some damage out of a wildcat formation, primarily with Kemp taking the direct snap (Heard has done it once, and scored a 38-yard touchdown). Kemp’s only pass this season was intercepted, but the Wildcats burned South Carolina with a trick play out of the formation that resulted in a 48-yard touchdown pass from Towles to Timmons.

3. Kentucky allows 342 yards a game. That ranks 32nd nationally. How hands-on is head coach Mark Stoops (a former highly touted defensive coordinator) in the defense?

Extremely. D.J. Eliot is in just his second season as a defensive coordinator, and Stoops largely runs the show. In all of Stoops’ stops as a position coach and coordinator, he’s overseen significant improvement in Year 2, and the same thing is underway at Kentucky.

The secondary – he’s particularly involved with the safeties – has improved dramatically. Kentucky has intercepted 11 passes this season after picking off three in 12 games a year ago.

4. When’s the last time there has been more excitement around Kentucky football and does it dare equal the annual preseason interest in the Cats’ legendary hoops program?

It’s been at least since 2007, the last time Kentucky got off to a start this fast. That season, of course, included a win over No. 1 and eventual BCS champion LSU. But UK’s ticket sales have been relatively tepid. The capacity at Commonwealth Stadium this season during a renovation is 62,093 and UK has sold out only once, against South Carolina.

So Stoops isn’t exactly overshadowing John Calipari yet. But there seems to be more buzz for this week’s trip to LSU than for Friday night’s Big Blue Madness, in part because Stoops’ team is playing so well and in part because Calipari’s already has had six exhibition games and a practice televised this offseason.

5. LSU is an old-fashioned team that uses a fullback and the I-formation quite often to run right at opponents. Is Kentucky’s defense equipped to handle this power game and how do you believe UK will perform?

Not particularly well. If there’s a consistent knock on Kentucky’s defense – including by Stoops and Eliot – it’s the lack of physical play by the linebackers, and that could be a significant factor against LSU’s power running game.

Steve Spurrier caught some heat from South Carolina fans for going away from a power running game and balancing out the offense when it appeared Kentucky could not stop the run.

6. What’s the one thing Kentucky must do well to win this game?

Slow the run. That’s not the only thing – limiting turnovers and creating some big plays also are essential – but if Kentucky can’t keep LSU from marching down the field on the ground, it has precious little chance of springing an upset.

The Wildcats are much better than a year ago, but they still have many of the same core pieces from back-to-back 2-10 teams, and the middle of the defense still is a work in progress. If LSU is able to control the line of scrimmage and run down Kentucky’s throat, the offense may not get the chances it needs to make the sort of big plays that can keep the game close.

Times of Interest: LSU vs. Kentucky

AX119_34E8_9
8:30 a.m.                               LSU SportShop opens
Noon                                     Ticket office opens
1:30 p.m.                              Tiger One Village opens (front of PMAC)
2 p.m.                                    David St. Romain performs in Tiger One Village
3:30 p.m.                              Club level and Suites open at Tiger Stadium
3:45 p.m.                              LSU Student gates open at Tiger Stadium
4 p.m.                                   All remaining gates open at Tiger Stadium
4:25 p.m.                              LSU walks down “Victory Hill”
4:35 p.m.                              Mike VI comes down Victory Hill
4:40 p.m.                              Band comes down Victory Hill
6:04 p.m.                              Mike the Tiger and LSU Cheerleaders field parade
6:20 p.m.                              Captain Presentation – Fred Miller, Richard Granier 
6:22:30 p.m.                         Golden Band from Tigerland takes the field for pregame
6:27 p.m.                              Alma Mater and National Anthem
6:33:30 p.m.                         LSU intro video
6:35 p.m.                              LSU takes the field
6:36 p.m.                              Kentucky takes the field
6:36 p.m.                              Coin toss at midfield
6:39 p.m.                              Kickoff: LSU vs. Kentucky on SEC Network

Wednesdays With Les: Jennings and Fournette to start, the commish, UK QB

IMG_2013

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 has been injured recently and is expected to play more late this season, Miles said.

Garrett, a five-start linebacker from Illinois who has played in two games (Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State), is not scheduled for a redshirt, the coach said.

“Might have an opportunity some playing in the back end of the season,” Miles said of Garrett.

  • LSU coaches have “given thought” to removing RB Leonard Fournette from the kickoff return team. Fournette ranks 53rd nationally averaging 23 yards a return, but he’s moved into position as LSU’s starting running. Miles said coaches aren’t ready yet to pull Fournette from the kickoff return team because of the “big-play potential” he provides. Fournette’s longest return is 40 yards.
  • Miles said safety Corey Thompson, who has not played this season, is continuing to recover from a knee injury, but he could see playing time at some point this season. Thompson tore his ACL and had surgery late last year. “We think eventually he’ll get there. Knee is coming back. Taking more reps in practice,” Miles said.
  • Miles admits that LSU sometimes allows the grass to grow taller than normal ahead of a game to give the Tigers an advantage over an opponent, but usually the team likes the grass cut low to utilize its speed against the opponent.

Post-practice

LSU will start Anthony Jennings at quarterback and Leonard Fournette at running back against Kentucky, coach Les Miles confirmed in his post-practice

Jennings was expected to get the starting nod after true freshman Brandon Harris’ struggles at Auburn two weeks ago. Jennings started and took every snap in LSU’s 30-27 win at Florida last week.

Fournette ran for a career-high 140 yards on 27 carries in the win over the Gators.

“I think Leonard continues to improve and recognizes what he’s supposed to do,” Miles said. “Certainly he deserves a quality piece of playing time.”

  • Miles praised Mike Slive, but disagreed with at least one thing the commissioner didn’t do: “Only question I have is why he couldn’t have addressed the permanent opponent.” Miles then went on a rant about the permanent opponent (LSU’s is Florida) and how every SEC team should have two rotating opponents that way each team could play all 13 teams in a four-year span. This is old news that can be found here. 
  • Travonte Valentine, a four-star freshman DT from Miami, is getting closer to attaining eligibility through the Southeastern Conference, it appears. Miles said an “exchange of information” had taken place with the Southeastern Conference. “There was some administrative mail that took place today back and forth,” Miles said. “I don’t know how definitive.” Valentine has been cleared by the NCAA but not the SEC.
  • DT Quentin Thomas played just “three to five” plays against Florida, Miles said, and then was pulled.  ”There was some productivity issue,” the coach said. “He’s much better now.” Miles said Thomas practiced all week, as did FB Connor Neighbors.

SEC teleconference

Coach Les Miles praised SEC commissioner Mike Slive in his opening statements on the SEC teleconference on Wednesday, calling Slive’s leadership and direction “monumental.”

The league announced Tuesday that Slive will retire in July.

“His 13 years, much has been accomplished,” Miles said. “The positioning of this conference, a national strength that the conference has pushed into the national landscape has really been through his direction.

“Grown revenue, positioned ourselves for national games and bowl games, has led the Big Five self-autonomy to becoming reality. We’ve enjoyed … his direction and leadership.”

“I think it’s wonderful for him. We’ll miss him.”

  • Miles was asked twice about maintaining an elite offensive line every year and how difficult that is. At least three times, the coach mentioned that it’s made more difficult by players – like RG  Trai Turner last year – leaving early for the NFL draft (or just leaving period): “The greatest problem in developing a line is they don’t stay four or five years.” It’s good to keep in mind that LSU has played three players at right guard this season in search for a replacement for Turner.
  • Miles called Kentucky QB Patrick Towles a “very fine field general, gets them in the right plays, accurate guy, very capable QB.”
  • Kentucky enters 5-1 and 2-1 in the SEC, having beaten South Carolina at home and taken Kentucky to triple overtime. Said Miles: “We recognize it’s going to be a very competitive game, capable game. We encourage friends and fans to make a lot of noise.”

Twitter Mailbag: Playing time for Harris, lack of a pass rush and the SEC West race

Jermauria Rasco has played the best of anyone on LSU's D-line, but the Tigers are still struggling in getting pressure. (Bill Feig)

Jermauria Rasco has played the best of anyone on LSU’s D-line, but the Tigers are still struggling in getting pressure. (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.

I’m leaning toward no. Les Miles said two interesting things over the last few days to lead me to believe this.

1) After the Florida game, he basically said that if Anthony Jennings continues to improve (and the team keeps winning), it’ll be tougher to rotate in Harris. His exact quote is below, referring to Harris:

“I think we know what we have there is a great future, guy who has the talent and ability. Maybe we’ll play him a lot in the next game. We just don’t know. It kind of depends on how things mature at the position. If Anthony Jennings continues to get better and better, certainly the transition there would be much different.”

2) On Monday, Miles said, basically, that Harris didn’t get into the game against Florida because it was too close of a game. How crazy is that? One week, Miles starts Harris, a true freshman, on the road against the SEC champions. The next week, Miles doesn’t insert Harris because a game is too close. I believe the LSU-Kentucky will be close, at least long enough into the fourth quarter that we’re not likely to see Harris.

On top of all of this is how Harris performed at Auburn: poorly. And he readily admitted it. He was 3 for 14 for 58 yards.

If I had to put them in order, from most winnable to least winnable, here it goes: Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Alabama.

That sounds crazy, especially with Ole Miss currently holding the No. 3 ranking in the AP poll, but that game is at home and LSU fans get rowdy when the Rebels come to town. If the Tigers can take care of Kentucky, they’ll be roaring into that game at 6-2 and full of life.

Meanwhile, A&M is on the road on Thanksgiving night. And, of course, Alabama is Alabama. This year, though, the Crimson Tide isn’t the team we’ve seen the last few years. Bama is down a bit.

This isn’t taking a big leap or going out on a limb, but I do believe LSU can win all three and lose all three.

Seems like I get this question each week. You’ll start seeing the tight ends when they can catch the ball and don’t fumble. LSU threw to the tight ends twice against Wisconsin. One dropped a pass and the other fumbled.

We’ve rarely seen them in the game plan since. Colin Jeter got a pass thrown his way against Auburn, and he dropped it.

Great question. Over the last two games, we charted LSU’s defense for one – one – pressure. That’s stunningly low. The Tigers are tied for ninth in the SEC with just 11 sacks, and they’ve played all of their cupcakes already.

But, now, to answer your question: Why? That’s a toughie. Jermauria Rasco has seemed to play the best of any defensive lineman this season, but he appears to be playing somewhat injured. I don’t know that for sure, and no coach or player will admit it, but that’s how I feel from rewatching games.

Everyone else has been playing … meh. We all know about the depth issues at the defensive tackle spot. That’s not helping. When you’re not fresh, you’re not gonna get a great pass rush. LSU normally likes to rotate about six defensive tackles into a game. They’ve been rotating about three.

Think about it, offensive linemen don’t rotate in and out of games. It’s normally the same five throughout the game. On the defensive line, however, there is a rotation. That’s where D-linemen take advantage late in games, going against exhausted O-linemen. LSU’s DTs don’t have that luxury.

I don’t know why it has seemed disappointing because he hasn’t played terrible. Did he have a big bust in the game against Florida (Demarcus Robinson’s 73-yard reception)? Yes, he did. But he’s mostly been right on his men in LSU’s man-to-man coverage against good teams.

Take, for instance, Auburn. He guarded Sammie Coates well. He was physical with him, close by his side at nearly all times, but he didn’t make that one big play when the ball arrives. That’s been a theme with this secondary so far this year: They have good coverage but don’t turn around to disrupt the ball. Let’s see if that changes as the year goes on.

We’re probably not getting the whole story. And you know what? We probably never will know. I don’t know the whole story, but I do know what Travonte Valentine told me in August – that another SEC school is meddling into his case. Is that true? I don’t know. That’s just what he said.

Either way, coach Les Miles said last week that Valentine’s case is moving along and that the SEC – holding up the case – received new documents from Valentine’s high school. Keep in mind that Valentine transferred schools after his junior season. That often raises red flags. That said, the NCAA cleared him.

It’s probably time to cross “SEC West champs” off of you goal list for the Tigers. LSU already has two conference losses with five games to go, and the Tigers have lost to the wrong teams (Auburn and Mississippi State).

There’s a good chance that Auburn and State finish at the top of the SEC West standings, and LSU would lose the head-to-head tie-breaker with either. The Tigers’ best shot is to run the table (a three-loss team winning the division seems nearly impossible) and have everyone beat up on everyone else down the stretch, leading to multiple teams having 6-2 SEC records.

He tended to do that often during the first few games, but Jennings played his best game of the season against Florida. He, at least a few times, appeared to make multiple reads. The play below is a perfect example, and it’s a play he might not have made just a few weeks ago. He wants to throw short to FB Melvin Jones or run, but he holds on to the ball and fires a dart to Trey Quinn.

Now, Jennings hasn’t done this a lot, but he did do it at least two to three times against Florida. Also, it’s pretty clear OC Cam Cameron is creating easier throws for Jennings. He rolled out at least four or five times against Florida and threw to Jones four times.

Hmm. If LSU is gonna start using Leonard Fournette as its featured and starting running back, I’d give it some thought.

Wouldn’t you want Fournette completely fresh for that first down? Yes. And he hasn’t been real electric as the kick returner. I do believe that Fournette is better used as LSU’s lead running back. The Tigers have a handful of fast guys – Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural, Trey Quinn, Jamal Adams, Terrence Magee – who could serve as a kick returner.

Postgame: LSU 30, Florida 27

Leonard Fournette ran for 140 yards. (AP)

Leonard Fournette ran for 140 yards. (AP)

The Game Story

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Kicker Colby Delahoussaye and LSU chomped the Florida Gators.

It hurt.

Delahoussaye drilled a career-long 50-yard field with 3 seconds left to lift the Tigers to a wild 30-27 victory over Florida in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night in a game that included some wacky, frantic fourth-quarter scoring.

LSU got its first Southeastern Conference win of the season, won a 23rd game under coach Les Miles when trailing in the fourth quarter and now rolls into a home match against Kentucky feeling good.

The Tigers (5-2, 1-2) snapped a nasty skid against SEC teams and overcame a horrid night on special teams with Delahoussaye’s boot.

Read the full story here.

The Turning Point

Rickey Jefferson’s interception off of a deflected pass came with less than a minute left in set up Delahoussaye’s 50-yard, game-winning field goal. QB Jeff Driskel’s pass was meant for WR Latroy Pittman. LB Kwon Alexander smashed Pittman as the ball arrives, popping it into the air for Jefferson to grab.

The Stars

  • RB Leonard Fournette: The freshman ran for a career-high 140 yards on 27 carries for an average of 5.2 yards a pop. He had two touchdowns, including a 12-yard score and a two-yard dive in which he leaped over the entire pile. Fournette had his first breakout game against a power five conference team, showing flashes of why he was ranked the No. 1 recruit nationally.
  • WR Travin Dural: The receiver had two catches on LSU’s touchdown drive, including a one-handed scoring grab in the back of the end zone with a defender draped on him. He had a 41-yard catch on a third and 25 on that same drive.
  • LB Kwon Alexander: LSU’s junior linebacker forced two turnovers. He had that crushing hit against Pittman to knock out the ball, and he hit Driskel in the first quarter to force a fumble that LSU recovered.

The Numbers

  • 195: Rushing yards for LSU
  • 45: LSU’s third-down conversion rate (6 of 17)
  • 104: Receiving yards for Florida WR Demarcus Robinson

The Quote

“It’s an awesome feeling. Childhood dream.” LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye

Game Day: LSU vs. Florida

Melvin Jones could start Saturday with Connor Neighbors out. (Bill Feig)

Melvin Jones could start Saturday with Connor Neighbors out. (Bill Feig)

UPDATED

7:28: Follow our live chat during the game.

7:05: Defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao appears to have not made the trip to Gainesville. He was not spotted with others warming up. Lealaimatafao was cleared to play this week, and Miles suggested last week that he might see action in the game.

6:40: Quarterback Anthony Jennings took snaps from starting center Elliott Porter to begin warmups. Freshman Brandon Harris started by taking snaps from Ethan Pocic, the backup center and starting right guard. The two QBs swapped during warmups, though, with Harris taking some snaps from Porter.

6:26: True freshman Davon Godchaux is listed as a starter at defensive tackle along with Christian LaCouture. Junior Quentin Thomas is not listed on the depth chart, but he did travel with the team.

6:24: At middle linebacker, Kendell Beckwith and D.J. Welter are listed as co-starters with an “OR” between their names for the first time this season. Beckwith is expected to see the most snaps of at the position for the rest of the season, coach Les Miles said earlier this week. Miles declined to name Beckwith the starter.

6:20: Starting fullback Connor Neighbors did not make the trip to Gainesville, team spokesman Michael Bonnette confirmed. The Advocate reported Friday that Neighbors was still recovering from a sprained ankle and did not travel with the team.

6:15: Anthony Jennings is expected to start at quarterback in the game against Florida, according to comments from team spokesman Michael Bonnette on pregame radio. Here’s the tweet:

5:08: If you missed the news earlier, LSU starting fullback Connor Neighbors was left in Baton Rouge while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in the loss to Auburn. Defensive tackle Quentin Thomas, who’s missed the last two games with a left arm injury, made the trip to Gainesville. He did not travel with the team last week to Auburn.

5:05 p.m.: Live shot of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The Info

  • Match: LSU (4-2, 0-2) vs. Florida (3-1, 2-1)
  • TDP: 6:39 pm., Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
  • TV: SEC Network (Brent Musberger, Jesse Palmer, Maria Taylor)
  • Series Record: Florida 31-26-3

Players To Watch (LSU)

  • DT Quentin Thomas: Thomas is expected to see his first action since the loss to Mississippi State. He injured his left arm during that 34-29 home loss to the Bulldogs and has missed the last two games. Still, he’s playing with a torn biceps in his right arm. How much help will he give a young, inexperienced defensive tackles spot.
  • LB Kendell Beckwith: The sophomore might see his most playing time all season against Florida. He may even start. With each game, Beckwith’s playing – over starter D.J. Welter – has increased. Coach Les Miles said earlier this week that Beckwith will play more than Welter from this point on.

Players To Watch (Florida)

  • QB Jeff Driskel: Despite Treon Harris being reinstated to the team, Driskel is expected to get the start at quarterback for Florida. He threw three interceptions and UF trailed 9-0 against Tennessee last week before Harris helped lead the Gators to a 10-9 win.
  • WR Demarcus Robinson: Robinson has been Driskel’s primary target, collecting 26 receptions for 383 yards and three touchdowns and averaging 95.8 yards per game. He’ll likely be paired against Rashard Robinson and Tre’Davious White, key matchups to watch.
  • DB Vernon Hargreaves: A starter for 10 games as a true freshman last season, Hargreaves made third team All-American. He’s got an interception and recovered a fumble already this season.

Key Matchup

  • LSU’s defensive front vs. Florida’s run game: The Tigers defense has been gashed up the gut (allowing more than 500 yards rushing between the tackles in two SEC games), but they’ve played two of the bests offenses in the nation in Mississippi State and Auburn. Is this D really that bad? Or did it just face some tough competitors? We find out against a Florida offense that’s struggled but likes to pound the ball with running back Matt Jones and another dual-threat QB in Jeff Driskel.

The Opponent

  • Sagarin rating: 20
  • Best win: 10-9 at No. 28 Tennessee
  • Worst loss: 42-21 at No. 4 Alabama
  • Sagarin strength of schedule: No. 7
  • Record vs. Sagarin Top 30: 1-1

The Series

Last 10

  • 2013: LSU 17-6 at Baton Rouge
  • 2012: Florida 14-6 at Gainesville
  • 2011: LSU 41-11 at Baton Rouge
  • 2010: LSU 33-29 at Gainesville
  • 2009: Florida 13-3 at Baton Rouge
  • 2008: Florida 51-21 at Gainesville
  • 2007: LSU 28-24 at Baton Rouge
  • 2006: Florida 23-10 at Gainesville
  • 2005: LSU 21-17 at Baton Rouge
  • 2004: LSU 24-21 at Gainesville

Biggest wins

  • Florida: 58-3 (55 points), 1993
  • LSU 48-7 (41 points), 1997

The Spread

Florida -1

Wednesdays With Les: State of the program, naming a starting QB, Trey L. cleared, Q. Thomas returns

Les Miles doesn't only enjoy eating grass. He plucks it from opponent's fields - as he did in Auburn. (Bill Feig)

Les Miles doesn’t only enjoy eating grass. He plucks it from opponent’s fields – as he did in Auburn. (Bill Feig)

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

Radio show

The direction of the LSU football program is “very good” and the Tigers are in a stage of “evolving,” coach Les Miles said.

“The improvement is not coming as fast as we’d like,” Miles said in responding to a caller about the program’s direction. “You look back you saw Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry in their sophomore years were great players. We’re looking for that next group of guys to sprout, grow wings and play.

“This is a great program, group of young men very, very quality. I agree with you. I wish there was something I could have done game day to not have them look as bad as they looked. We do have talent.”

More Miles on the program and this season.

“I never anticipate a rebuilding situation,” he said. “The idea that people would suggest this … I didn’t see that myself.”

  • LSU’s quarterback position is a “work in progress,” coach Les Miles said. Miles said other players see this in practice. ”They’re watching both quarterbacks compete and play in practice,” he said. “I think there’s a general consensus it’s a work in progress for both guys.”
  • Miles said who takes the first snap on Saturday night at Florida isn’t the most important thing, and he again declined to name a starter. ”We’re not through the week yet,” he said. “Thursday’s certainly a big practice.”
  • LSU true freshman quarterback Brandon Harris is “full go,” Miles said. He practiced “half of Monday” and all of Tuesday and Wednesday, Miles said. Harris sported a boot on his right foot earlier this week and after the loss at Auburn.
  • Miles said LSU is in “in position to make some strides. We had a nice practice today. A lot of guys are putting it in and working hard.”
  • Part of the lack of depth at the defensive tackle position is because of the early departures of Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson, Miles said. The coach said the DT position “needs some time.” He said Christian LaCouture and Quentin Thomas are LSU’s “best players” there.
  • LSU’s offensive line has taken criticism this season, but Miles, when asked about it, seems to point to other woes on the offense: “It’s very difficult when you end up and you’re running the ball relatively well and can’t pick up the first down based on a misfire. I think the offensive line is really playing pretty well,” he said. “It takes a complete team to show the production that an offensive line deserves. They’re playing well.”
  • Miles was asked why he doesn’t run the spread offense with spread quarterbacks in Jennings and Harris. “The quarterbacks were brought in to run our offense – spread or not,” he responded.
  • Miles, again, asked about not running the spread with spread quarterbacks who are mobile: “A spread quarterback just brings to the play of mobility. I want you to know we have a spread facet of our offense . I think our quarterbacks operate in that equally as the other styles of formations we have.”

Post-practice

Les Miles says it is “likely” that both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris will play at Florida on Saturday, but he’ll wait until game day to announce a starter.

The coach said the quarterbacks are splitting practice snaps with the first string “right down the middle.”

  • Junior defensive tackle Quentin Thomas has returned to practice and could play at Florida, Miles said. “We think he may be ready to play,” the coach said.
  • Receiver Trey Quinn has been cleared to play after taking a hard hit in the loss at Auburn, Miles said.
  • Freshman defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao has been cleared to play, but Miles is “uncertain how soon” he’ll play. Lealaimatafao has been recovering from a severe arm injury. He punched through a glass window after an argument with a teammate during the summer.

SEC teleconference

LSU coach Les Miles will wait until “the back end of the week” to decide on a starting quarterback, but both are receiving a lot of snaps at practice.

“The players know much more than you guys do, and so we’re good with that,” Miles said. “We’re really playing both guys, giving them a bunch of reps.”

Miles clarified his statement of his players, saying that they do not know who will start at quarterback, but they’re watching practice unfold.

“Our guys are seeing the development. They understand how we’re playing them,” Miles said. “When we make the decision, they’ll know.”

  • Miles was asked about the woes of true freshman starting quarterback Brandon Harris. The coach said the word “relax” multiple times when answering the question. “Relax and play. Do the things we’ve asked you to do all week,” Miles said. “That’s all you need to do.”
  • LSU is “relatively healthy,” and the Tigers should “have everybody that played in the last game.” The list, of course, does not include DT Quentin Thomas, who remains sidelined with a left arm injury. It does include FB Connor Neighbors, seen Tuesday without a walking boot or a limp.
  • Miles on how LSU is taking two losses in the first six games, including the worst defeat last week in 15 years: “We’re all disappointed in the final score. I think there’s a team that showed up unhappy. The building as a whole is one that’s working hard and shining a light on things that can make us better. Energy is positive.”

Twitter Mailbag: A bowl game, the class of juniors and the QBs

vu-crowd-liberty-bowl-550-2011

Could LSU be going to the Liberty Bowl?

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.

Who would have thought we’d be asking questions like that, especially after LSU started the season 4-1. But here we are, wondering if we should make December plans to cover the Tigers.

It’s the way LSU has been beaten that’s most concerning – and it should be. Mississippi State was up 34-10 and Auburn won 41-7, the program’s worst loss in the last 15 years.

If I had to guess, I’d says, yes, LSU will be bowling, but don’t expect it to be as good as recent bowls that the Tigers have visited. What’s most likely? Here’s how the new bowl pecking order works this year:

[SEC teams selected for the College Football Playoff, Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl]

  • First selection: Capital One Bowl in Orlando (vs. Big Ten/ACC)
  • Second through seventh selections: Outback Bowl in Tampa (vs. Big Ten), Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville (vs. ACC/Big Ten), TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville (vs. ACC/Big Ten), AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis (vs. Big 12), Texas Bowl in Houston (vs. Big 12) and Belk Bowl in Charlotte (vs. ACC)

[The SEC slots teams into the above pool of six bowls]

  • Eighth selection: Birmingham Bowl (vs. The American)
  • Ninth selection: Advocare V100 Bowl in Shreveport (vs. ACC).

You couldn’t have hit the nail more on the head. There has been a serious lack of a pass rush. Jermauria Rasco seems to be the only Tiger to get constant pressure on the quarterback. That said, we charted LSU for one – ONE – pressure against Auburn. That came from Rasco.

There’s more to this issue, though. For instance, the secondary hasn’t been bad. They had tight coverage on several plays against Auburn, but Nick Marshall threw some good passes and, more so, receivers made great plays. Mississippi State found some open guys, and Jalen Mills had a couple of busted plays against Auburn. But the secondary hasn’t been the primary issue – the pass rush has.

To the next issue: It doesn’t help that LSU finds itself down early in games. Teams have been jumping on the Tigers quick (Wisconsin, Auburn and Mississippi State have outscored LSU 65-17 in the first half). That doesn’t bode well for the pass rush because there’s gonna be little passing. Teams are able to keep LSU off-balance.

The second part of your question is so much more important than the first. With each passing game, it appears that LSU’s quarterback – no matter who it is – slips more and more into irrelevancy. The Tigers are gonna run the ball and hope their defense improves.

That leads us to the second part of your question. The LSU defense is in the midst of its worst stretch in more than a decade, but – there’s a but! – it has faced two of the nation’s best offenses and best dual-threat quarterbacks (Mississippi State and Dak Prescott; Auburn and Nick Marshall).

The only  other Power Five team LSU has faced was Wisconsin, a game in which the Tigers defense game completely different performances in each half.

Anyway, Florida’s offense isn’t impressive. The Gators haven’t been too potent offensively since Will Muschamp took over in 2011. If LSU’s defense allows a host of points and yards to the Gators, the Tigers are in trouble and it’s time to panic in Baton Rouge.

First off, let’s get this formation stuff out of the way. It doesn’t matter what formation you’re in, if you can’t throw the ball accurately, if you can’t make the reads, if you can’t run the football constantly, you’re gonna struggle.

Also, it’s just plain wrong to say that Brandon Harris never took snaps from under center in high school. His high school coach says he took about 30 percent of snaps from underneath center.

The formation stuff is the mud on shoes that don’t fit. You can’t wear the dang shoes anyway, but the mud is distracting you from that fact.

So, who’s gonna start? If I had to guess, I’d guess Anthony Jennings. Les Miles threw Harris into the fire of an SEC road environment, and he struggled. This is a similar environment. The Swamp will likely be packed and loud. The Gators might not be ranked, but they’re in the hunt for the SEC East title.

Also, LSU’s game plan against Florida – a team with a struggling offense – will probably be to pound, pound, pound. This should be a low-scoring affair, and it’s one LSU can win 17-14. You couldn’t say that in the game at Auburn.

Yep. Great point. Six members of LSU’s 2012 signing class (those who would be true juniors) are gone. Most of them transferred and one of them, RB Jeremy Hill, jumped early for the draft.

Here’s something else: In LSU’s 2011 class (those would be true seniors or redshirt juniors), just 10 members remain. Ten. Eleven members of that class are no longer with the program: seven transfers and four early departures.

Those are some unsettling facts. In all, the team is missing a whopping 25 signees – an entire recruiting class – from the 2010, 2011 and 2012 classes. Those players would be redshirt seniors, true seniors and redshirt juniors.

Game Day: LSU vs. Auburn

Both of these guys, Leonard Fournette and Brandon Harris, need to have big nights Saturday for LSU to win. (Bill Feig)

Both of these guys, Leonard Fournette and Brandon Harris, need to have big nights Saturday for LSU to win. (Bill Feig)

UPDATES

5:45: Follow our in-game live chat.

5:27: Defensive tackle Quentin Thomas did not dress out for the game against Auburn. Thomas injured his left arm during the loss to Mississippi State and was doubtful for the game. He did not travel with the team to Auburn.

5:26: Davon Godchaux will start at defensive tackle, and Ethan Pocic will start at right guard, the school announced before the game. Rashard Robinson will start at cornerbacks, his third straight start after being suspended for the first game of the season.

5:22: K.J. Malone, the backup left tackle, did not travel with the team to Auburn, a team spokesman confirmed.

4:57: Ethan Pocic continues to be the backup center for LSU. He took snaps with Anthony Jennings during warmups, and Elliott Porter took snaps from starter Elliott Porter.

4:32: LSU receiver Malachi Dupre appears to be running full speed during warmups. He tweaked a knee against New Mexico State last week.

4:30: LSU fullback Connor Neighbors was warming up with the rest of the backs during pregame drills. He suffered a concussion last week against New Mexico State.

4: LSU’s pregame depth chart shows no changes from the one reporters were given earlier this week. Though Les Miles announced that freshman Brandon Harris would start the game, Anthony Jennings and him are listed as co-starters. At right guard, Hoko Fanaika, Evan Washington and Ethan Pocic are listed as co-starters.

3:56 p.m.: Live shot from Jordan-Hare Stadium:

The Info

  • Match: No. 15 LSU (4-1, 0-1) vs. No. 5 Auburn (4-0, 1-0)
  • TDP: 6 p.m., Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Alabama
  • TV: ESPN (BradNessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
  • Series Record: LSU leads 27-20-1

Players To Watch (LSU)

  • QB Brandon Harris: The hotshot true freshman gets his first career start in a hostile environment and against the reigning SEC champion. Harris has impressed this season, winning the job over Anthony Jennings with his stellar play. But he’s not been tested like he will Saturday night.
  • LB Kendell Beckwith: LSU’s backup linebacker isn’t playing the snaps of a reserve. His playing time has increased since the season opener, and last week it soared. Starter D.J. Welter and him rotated each series. Beckwith appears to be on pace to eventually take the starting job. He’ll get a challenge Saturday against Auburn’s spread-option offense.

Players To Watch (Auburn)

  • WR Duke Williams: The 6-foot-2, 216-pound LaPlace native has 23 catches for 357 yards and three touchdowns. The next AU wideout: nine catches for 94 yards. Williams is a mismatch problem, and he’s a guy who de-committed from LSU as the No. 1 junior college receiver in the nation last season, landing at Auburn.
  • QB Nick Marshall: This one’s quite obvious. Marshall is passing more than he did last season, and his arm seems to be better. He’s a threat on the ground and through the air, and Auburn has multiple plays that give him three options: run it, hand it off or throw it. LSU must do a better job against this dual-threat QB than it did two weeks ago against Dak Prescott.
  • LB Cassanova McKinzy: The junior leads the team in tackles, is second in tackles for loss and has forced one fumble through four games. He’s a force, but he’s also injured. Coach Gus Malzahn has been guarded this week with McKinzy’s status. He suffered a concussion last week.

Key Matchup

Jermauria Rasco has a big role Saturday against Auburn's spread-option attack. (Travis Spradling)

Jermauria Rasco has a big role Saturday against Auburn’s spread-option attack. (Travis Spradling)

  • LSU’s front seven vs. Auburn’s option attack: Malzahn loves him some misdirection, and Auburn runs its well. Not only that, but Malzahn loves him some option. He’ll spread you out and run right at you with options for Marshall to throw it, hand off or run it himself. The Tigers struggled at stopping Mississippi State’s spread-option attack.

How They Win

  • LSU: The Tigers must slow Auburn’s offensive rushing attack, and get a great performance from a talented true freshman QB in Brandon Harris. It’ll be tough, but no impossible. Either way, LSU might have to outscore AU to win this one.
  • Auburn: Run right at’em. Auburn needs hold possession and gash LSU up the middle, like Mississippi State did in a win two weeks ago. It’d help, too, if the AU front can get pressure and fluster LSU’s true freshman QB.

The Opponent

  • Sagarin rating: No. 4
  • Best win: Won at No. 18 Kansas State 20-14
  • Worst loss: None
  • Sagarin strength of schedule: No. 35
  • Record vs. Sagarin Top 30: 1-0

The Series

Last 10

  • 2013: LSU 35-21 at Baton Rouge
  • 2012: LSU 12-10 at Auburn
  • 2011: LSU 45-10 at Baton Rouge
  • 2010: Auburn 24-17 at Auburn
  • 2009: LSU 31-10 at Baton Rouge
  • 2008: LSU 26-21 at Auburn
  • 2007: LSU 30-24 at Baton Rouge
  • 2006: Auburn 7-3 at Auburn
  • 2005: LSU 20-17 (OT) at Baton Rouge
  • 2004: Auburn 10-9 at Auburn

Biggest wins

  • LSU: 45-10 (35), 2011
  • Auburn: 41-7 (34), 1999

The Spread

Auburn -7.5