Tag Archives: #Les Miles

Wednesday With Les: Failed QB sneak; Fan in heaven; Bye week comes at idea time; Quarterback play improving

IMG_2124LSU coach Les Miles, on Wednesdays during game weeks, speaks publicly three different times. Follow his comments here throughout the day. (It’s a bye week so Miles only speaks twice today)

Radio show

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace failed on a quick quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 from near midfield late in the loss to LSU. Ole Miss got to the line so quick that the Tigers couldn’t get in a defensive call.

It didn’t matter, though.

“The hurry-up sneak: we hurried up; there was no sneak,” Miles said.

More from the coach about that play: “Our two defensive tackles go right to the line of scrimmage. They didn’t get a call. When that ball was snapped, they hit it. That was as quality a play as I’ve seen.”

  • Several radio callers gave condolences to Miles for the loss of his mother, Martha. She died on Friday, a day before the game against the Rebels. Said Miles about the win over Ole Miss: “I think we had one more fan in heaven operating on our behalf.”
  • Miles on Logan Stokes, who caught his first career pass at LSU for that game-winning touchdown against Ole Miss: “Our tight end is a pretty talented guy and he’s not really had a lo tof receptions. I think he’ll remember it for a life time. He’s very deserving. It was just the right call.
  • Miles says he’s seen the now viral YouTube video of an Ole Miss fan shouting obscenities while her boyfriend, an LSU fan, video tapes the sequence. “It was a divided house,” the coach said. “My hope is it wasn’t real,” Miles added.
  • Miles to fans about the Alabama game: “Plan to stay late.”

SEC teleconference

The bye week is “exactly what (LSU) needed” after playing nine straight weeks and its timing is “ideal” for LSU coach Les Miles, the coach said Wednesday.

Miles lost his mother, Martha, on Friday. She was 91. He also learned Friday that his son Ben broke his leg during a football game.

No. 16 LSU meets No. 3 Alabama on Nov. 8.

“I think nine straight weekends and an opportunity to get fresh, really look at our offense, our defense and special teams in terms of moderate adjustment,” Miles said. “It’s exactly what we needed. The timing for me personally is ideal.”

  • Asked about improvements and changes in his team since that 41-7 loss at Auburn, Miles first mentioned the quarterback position. Anthony Jennings has started the last three games. Freshman Brandon Harris started the game at Auburn and hasn’t seen significant playing time since. “I think we’re improving some of the situations the quarterbacks are handling,” Miles said. “I think our defensive and offensive line have improved. We’re really kind of ironing out some issues with our team – offense, defense and special teams. I think personnel is improving.”
  • Miles said his team continue to improve as a whole, but that it’s not playing its best football just yet. “They’re a group of men committed to working hard, and they understand they’re not their best team just yet and they need to be,” the coach said. “They come to work every day with a real quality attitude. They look forward to finishing this year as a very strong capable team.”

Twitter Mailbag: The improving O-line; Jennings’ target-locking ways; and LSU’s finish

LSU's O-line has improved greatly since the game at Auburn. (Travis Spradling)

LSU’s O-line has improved greatly since the game at Auburn. (Travis Spradling)

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.

If a player isn’t seeing a lot of playing time and is healthy, it usually means one thing: Other players are better. That’s just the truth of it.

And, you’re right, LSU doesn’t pass the ball much so receivers – especially depth at receiver – aren’t a major concern. The Tigers have a handful of guys who they can rely on and that’s good enough. Those guys: Trey Quinn, Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural and John Diarse.

You’re noticing that the O-line is improving and thus want to see more passing? Think the opposite.

The O-line’s improvement will likely mean more running from LSU and its deep running back position. The Tigers linemen – for whatever reason – have started opening up holes like never before. That lends itself to more running. Les Miles isn’t going to stray from that scheme, especially if his O-line is playing well – which it is.

Jennings has struggled in several spots, and this is one. He hones in on a certain target (namely Travin Dural), but, just like several areas in Jennings’ game, that’s getting better.

We saw him, for instance, target Trey Quinn just as much Saturday as he did Dural. But on many of those throws, Quinn was the primary. Plain and simple: coaches are giving Jennings easy, high-percentage throws. They don’t want him thinking too much. Don’t expect that to change too much.

The SEC West is a hodgepodge for now. It’s crazy to think about, but LSU could finish in a five-way tie for the SEC West leave. It’s improbable, yes, but possible.

It’s tough to see LSU winning its final three games (that would mean its final six after a 4-2 start). The best scenario would be to split the two remaining road games against Arkansas and Texas A&M and hope the Tigers get some special teams help and assistance from the 102,000 to stun Alabama.

That would put the Tigers finishing at 9-3, which is where many fans had them projected before the season.

Oh, I think there will be a competition. This year’s quarterback battle stretched into the sixth game of the season (Brandon Harris started at Auburn). There’s no reason to think Harris won’t again challenge Jennings.

I’m gonna take a stab at it and say that a very similar competition will unfold over the off-season that unraveled this past spring and summer. And LSU may enter next season as it did this one – with Jennings as an unsteady starter and Harris as a talented backup who’s poised to take over mid-season.

Les Miles: Magee is “fine”; Valentine likely to redshirt

Running back Terrence Magee is “fine,” and freshman defensive tackle Travonte Valentine is likely to redshirt this season, coach Les Miles said after practice Tuesday.

Terrence Magee suffered an inadvertent poke to the eye against Ole Miss, Les Miles said. (Bill Feig)

Terrence Magee suffered an inadvertent poke to the eye against Ole Miss, Les Miles said. (Bill Feig)

Magee was inadvertently “gouged” in the eye in the win over Ole Miss. Miles suggested that the senior did not practice Tuesday but that he would later in the week.

Valentine, meanwhile, is set to be redshirted, the coach hinted. The Southeastern Conference has not ruled Valentine eligible, despite him being cleared by the NCAA. The four-star defensive tackle prospect from Florida is allowed to practice with the team but not play.

Asked if Valentine will be redshirted, Miles said, “I don’t imagine he’d see any action any time soon unless we get some unusual communicative information.”

Other notes from Miles’ address to reporters, the only time the coach will meet with the local media on this bye week:

  • Miles on having getting a bye before Alabama game (LSU has played nine straight games): “Nine straight games, correct? There’s some bumps and bruises there. Couple of extra days of non-practice really make a difference.”
  • DT Davon Godchaux has had a few personnel foul penalties this season. He picked up two against Ole Miss and was ejected late in the game after the second: “I think he enjoys the ability to communicate after the whistle. I think that that is generally a problem.”
  • LSU was given off Monday and practice Tuesday. The Tigers will practice Wednesday and Thursday and will have a “team run” Friday. Miles is allowing players off for the weekend.
  • LSU did not work out the Alabama game play at Tuesday’s practice, Miles said. Drills were conducted mostly focusing on special teams and the No. 1s vs. the No. 1s.
  • Miles on the death of LSU fan Brian Tingley in Tiger Stadium late during the win over Ole Miss (Tingley died of a heart attack in the north end zone stands: “What a tragedy to have a young man – 59-years old, Brian Tingley – pass away in our end zone, back end with three minutes left to go. Good news is the score was already established at that point, but, in some ways, may be the best place to be. Wish him well, wish his family well.”

Film Room: LSU 10, Ole Miss 7

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)

Touchdown to the … tight end: With 5 minutes, 59 seconds left in the game, quarterback Anthony Jennings hit tight end Logan Stokes for a game-winning 3-yard touchdown pass.StokesTD

  • LSU had run the ball on all 12 plays of the drive before offensive coordinator Cam Cameron called a play-action dive to Kenny Hilliard with a naked bootleg for Jennings. The Tigers sold it well. They had three tight ends in the gme with an I-formation. As would be expected, Ole Miss defenders bit on the dive play.
  • Stokes, lined up at right tight end, sold the run by acting as if he’s cut blocking CB Senquez Golson (two are circled in red). You can see in this shot that Stokes is on the ground after dropping to his knees faking the cut block – a block used to cut the legs from under a defender. Golson was fooled. He took one, critical step inside toward Hilliard’s fake dive as Stokes hits the ground.
  • The key to the play is the fake. Cameron and the Tigers fooled everyone. Just before the touchdown, ESPN color analyst Kirk Herbstreit mentions the Tigers had run on all 12 plays of the drive. Play-by-play man Chris Fowler responds: “The 13th is gonna be a run too.”

Behind the new guy: Three plays before the touchdown to Stokes, Leonard Fournette runs behind right guard Evan Washington for a 22-yard gain to inside the Ole Miss 15-yard line.

  • First off, Washington played one snap on offense in this game – this one. Center Elliott Porter was injured on the play before, shifting around the offensive line and bringing Washington off of the bench. Starting right guard Ethan Pocic moved to center for Porter while Washington replaced Pocic. Where does LSU run? To the right, naturally.FournetteRun
  • The photo to the right is just before Fournette made his cut to the right (red lines). He wanted to go left toward the middle of the field but Ole Miss LB Keith Lewis (red circle) prevented that from happening. So Fournette displayed his growing patience, waiting for the hole to open. It does, as Washington (black arrow) and Pocic (red arrow) – the two guys in new positions for this one play – got the springing blocks.
  • Washington did the job against Ole Miss DT Issac Gross, shoving him to the outside in a dominating display in his one offensive snap. Pocic bullied OM LB Serderius Bryant.

Not-so sneaky: On fourth-and-1 from the LSU 47-yard line, Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace is stopped for no gain with 1:44 left in the game.WallaceSneak

  • Three players get credit: DE Jermauria Rasco, DT Christian LaCouture and LB Kendell Beckwith. They seem to know what’s coming: a QB sneak. Wallace tried to run behind his center and right guard, but LaCouture (red arrow) took on both players with a low push, and Beckwith (black arrow) drove through the same hole, leaping over the top to force Wallace to the outside.
  • Rasco (red circle) is completely unblocked on the play. He wheeled around the outside and smacked Wallace as the QB attempted to slip to the outside. Rasco immediately recognizes the play and is in the backfield within a second of the snap.
  • What’s lost here is the critical tackle made by Beckwith on third-and-2 the play before this fourth-down stop. OM RB I’Tavius Mathers appeared to have a clear shot at the first down until Beckwith, at first coming on a blitz, read the run and dropped Mathers a yard short of the line to gain.

The wheel route: Late in the first quarter, Bo Wallace hits Jaylen Walton for a 43-yard completion on a wheel route out of the backfield. IMG_2109

  • This is a well-designed but illegal play. LB Kwon Alexander is picked on the play (red circle), blocked clean out of it. That’s illegal, but it isn’t often called. Ole Miss took advantage, and Wallace threw a perfect pass to Walton.
  • Jalen Collins (yellow circle) bit on the slant early (the receiver who set the pick on Alexander), and that left him behind on the play. He didn’t make up enough ground and took a poor angle on Walton. Meanwhile, safety Rickey Jefferson is too late on the tackle down the field. He’s seen on replay not running at full speed around the time Walton catches the pass. Jefferson was pulled for the next few plays.

Big Ugly Blips and Booms (O-line analysis)

  • LSU set a record in Film Room “booms” (booms are blocks that result in successful run or pass plays at the point of the ball). How many did they have? A whopping 23.
  • Sophomore right guard Ethan Pocic had the best game of his career: He had nine booms and just one “blip” (blips are missed blocks that result in an unsuccessful run or pass block play at the point of the ball).
  • LT La’el Collins didn’t have his best outing with a 3 to 3 boom-to-blip ratio – much of that because of Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche. Elliott Porter struggled again at times, getting pushed, somewhat, into the backfield, but he had a couple of booms, too. IMG_2116
  • Overall, the offensive line created holes all night. Here’s a great look at a key play in the win in which the O-line had multiple blocks. Kenny Hilliard ran for 18 yards on a second down and 8 with LSU backed up to its own 7. It was the second play of what would be the 13-play, 95-yard game-winning drive capped by Logan Stokes’ touchdown pass. The blocks in that Hilliard run came from Dillon Gordon (red circle), Vadal Alexander (blue), Pocic (black) and Porter (yellow).

Monday Morning Quarterback (QB analysis)

  • Anthony Jennings played one of his best first halves of the season, but he struggled at times late, including two poor throws on interceptions. On his three worst throws, he had an overthrow, an underthrow and then just made a poor decision.
  • Jennings, we believe, rolled out to pass on four of his 13 attempts. Expect to see more going forward. That’s where he’s most comfortable and that’s what he “likes,” OC Cam Cameron told color analyst Kirk Herbstreit, according to Herbsreit’s comments on air.
  • Jennings, like he did in the game at Florida, showed some flashes – plays that he might not have made just a month ago. Below is one to RB Terrence Magee. Jennings eludes pressure, steps up into a big hits and fires a pass to Magee on a key third down:

  • So here’s another thing we saw from Jennings and LSU’s offenseIMG_2111 that we haven’t seen a ton (if at all) this season: The read-option out of the Pistol formation. Check it out to the right. Jennings reads the defensive end well, and hands off to Fournette for a good gain to the left side. FB Connor Neighbors draws the linebackers to the right.

Backing It Up (RB/FB analysis)

  • Leonard Fournette continues to hit his stride on the ground, while occasionally missing an open hole. It’s not happening, though, as much as it did earlier this season. Fournette continues to make jaw-dropping plays for a guy weighing 230 pounds. For example, the run below. He kept himself up with his hand, but officials blew the play dead, and LSU had to replay the down.

  • During a 6-yard run inside the Ole Miss 10-yard line, Fournette IMG_2118had his facemask ripped off – like, completely ripped off. Check out the photo to the right. It was sitting on his head. Below is a replay of how it happened.

 

  • One more Vine of the kind of plays Fournette can make. Check out this move he makes on LB Denzel Nkemdiche and then his catch is a thing of beauty (Jennings threw  perfect ball).

  • Fournette had the most yards, but Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard ran just as hard and equally as well. Magee, it appears, suffered a cut on his eye and needed a knee brace late in the game, TE Logan Stokes said in interviews after the game. His status is uncertain.
  • Connor Neighbors appears to be fully – or close to fully – healthy for the first time in weeks. He had seven booms and zero blips. His shining moment came on a block up the gut on fourth down-and-1 on LSU’s game-winning drive. Check it out:

Five-yard Out (WR analysis)

  • Jennings seems to be beginning to spread the ball around more than ever. He targeted Trey Quinn just as many times as he did Travin Dural (four times each). Play-by-play man Chris Fowler mentioned that Quinn has learned all three receiver positions.
  • There were no dropped passes, and Dural had at least one boom on a running play.

Front Seven (D-line/LB analysis)

  • The front seven had a whopping 14 pressures in 13 plays on Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, and they batted down four passes.
  • Let’s take this bullet to focus on MLB Kendell Beckwith, who likely played the best game of his college career. Beckwith was sent on a center blitz at lest seven times in the game. We charted him for a whopping five quarterback pressures. Check out a few of those well-timed blitzed from Beckwith at Ole Miss center  Robert Conyers, the reserve center who replaced injured starter Ben Still:

  • The D-line played one of its best if not its best game of the season. Danielle Hunter had two pressures and two attacks (an attack is a great defensive play made resulting in a poor offensive snap). Jermauria Rasco continues to swarm. He had four QB pressures, as LSU harassed Wallace from the start. Here’s Rasco pressuring Wallace on Ole Miss’ last offensive snap – when Ronald Martin made the win-securing interception on an underthrown ball:

  •  It appears that DT Quentin Thomas has returned to full, or relatively full, health. He played more in this game than he has in the last few weeks. And he had three attacks, including a deflected pass late in the game. LSU played without starting DT Davon Godchaux on Ole Miss’ final drive. Godchaux had to leave the game for receiving two unsportsmanlike flags. Thomas played a ton late. Christian LaCouture was charted for a pressure and an attack.

Break It Up (DB analysis)

  • There were three busted coverages (a busted coverage just means a guy got open, not necessarily communication breakdown): Jalen Mills, Jalen Collins and Rashard Robinson each had one.
  • Jamal Adams followed two strong games against Florida and Kentucky with a solid outing against Ole Miss. He added another flop, too. Check it out:

  • On the telecast, the broadcasters said that DC John Chavis told them that Adams remind him of Eric Berry, his former All-American safety at Tennessee.
  • Sure Tre’Davious White didn’t have his strongest game as a punt returner, but, man, he made the play of the game for the secondary. It might have saved a touchdown. In one-on-one coverage with no safety, White batted down Wallace’s pass intended for WR Vince Sanders:

Throw it to the tight end

  • Here are a few shots of Stokes’ 3-yard touchdown catch – the before and after:
Stokes in the huddle when Jennings yelled the play call.

Stokes in the huddle when Jennings yelled the play call.

After:

Photos and video courtesy of ESPN/SEC Network.

Postgame: LSU 10, Ole Miss 7

LSU TE Logan Stokes make his touchdown grab.

LSU TE Logan Stokes make his touchdown grab. (Angel Major)

The Game Story

The voice of public-address announcer Dan Borne boomed over Tiger Stadium’s speakers: “Please stay off of the field!”

Good luck, Dan.

No. 24 LSU beat No. 3 Ole Miss 10-7 on Saturday night in a heart-pounding, wild classic that returned this heated rivalry back to its golden years of the 1950s and ’60s.

How good was it?

LSU fans stormed the field for the first time in more than a decade. An estimated 15,000 — most from the student section — rushed onto the playing surface after a mad fourth-quarter comeback.

Read the rest here.

The Turning Point

LSU stopped Ole Miss on fourth-and-2 from the LSU 47-yard line. Bo Wallace’s quick sneak attempt failed as linebacker Kendell Beckwith, defensive end Danielle Hunter and safety Jamal Adams made the stop with 1:44 left in the game.

The Stars

  • LB Kendell Beckwith: Beckwith had a second straight game with at least 10 tackles. He made some solid plays, including that fourth-down stop. Beckwith usurped D.J. Welter as the Tigers’ starter a few weeks ago. Welter, at least from our observations, didn’t play at middle linebacker Saturday.
  • LSU’s offensive line: Maligned for not living up to expectations earlier this season, the Tigers’ front five moved around an Ole Miss front that’s talented but on the small size. The holes, at times, where massive.

    La'el Collins and Vadal Alexander celebrate with field-storming fans. (Travis Spradling)

    La’el Collins and Vadal Alexander celebrate with field-storming fans. (Travis Spradling)

  • RB Leonard Fournette: The former No. 1 recruit in the nation rolled up 113 yards, a 5-yard average. LSU rode him throughout the game, before he gave way late to a fresh Kenny Hilliard. Fournette has now run for more than 100 yards three times this season.

The Numbers

  • 762: Combined rushing yards for LSU over last three games.
  • 25: Anthony Jennings’ pass completions in the last three games.
  • 42: Bo Wallace’s completion percentage.

The Quote

“Miss you, mom.” – LSU coach Les Miles after the game. His mother passed away Friday night.

Pick 6: Q and A with an opposing beat reporter

We used to call Hugh Kellenberger a co-worker. Now, he’s THE ENEMY.

No, not really. Hugh covers Ole Miss for The Clarion-Ledger, and he’s been nice enough to join his old co-worker for our Pick 6 on the surging Rebels.

Ole Miss upset Alabama earlier this season and then proceeded to attack its goal posts. (Clarion-Ledger)

Ole Miss upset Alabama earlier this season and then proceeded to attack its goal posts. (Clarion-Ledger)

You can follow Hugh on Twitter at @HKellenbergerCL and read his work here.

1. Ole Miss enters this game 7-0 for the first time since 1962 and No. 3 nationally. What’s the feeling/environment like in Oxford these days?

It’s a tad difficult to explain, but I’ll give it my best shot.

People aren’t running through the streets with goal posts the way they were after Alabama, if that’s what you’re asking. That was three weeks ago, and time goes on and people settle back into their routine. But people are talking about Ole Miss more, it seems, and doing so in this very proud way.

Mississippians get used to being told how we’re last in everything good (like education) and first in everything bad (like obesity). And then you have something come along like this, which was very much unexpected (the team was supposed to be this good, but few thought THIS good), and I think people who would not know Bo Wallace from Bo Derek normally can take a measure of pride in something happening that reflects well on this state and its people.

2. What does LSU need to do to turn Good Bo (Wallace) into Bad Bo?

Score. Score early. Ole Miss has settled into a nice routine over the last month or so: let the offense find its way into the game while the defense keeps the thing close by being its usual dominating self.

The A&M game was a bit different because Ole Miss got up 21-0 in the first quarter and then settled in to a conservative gameplan. Bo Wallace has said a couple of times that his mindset has changed: he doesn’t have to be the playmaker, because the defense is.

Can LSU force Bad Bo to emerge? (Clarion-Ledger)

Can LSU force Bad Bo to emerge? (Clarion-Ledger)

Getting up on Ole Miss in a significant way maybe forces Wallace to take some chances, and that’s when interceptions comes.

3. What’s the weak point – if there is one – in this Ole Miss defense?

For a while everyone considered it to be the run defense: Vanderbilt ran the ball a little bit on the Rebels, and ULL had nearly 200 yards rushing against Ole Miss. But short of one series against Alabama (which was entirely behind its left tackle, and in a hurry-up that did not allow for Ole Miss to change the way it was defending the run mid-series) the run defense has really stiffened up.

Tennessee had zero rushing yards last Saturday, and Texas A&M’s running game averaged less than two yards a carry. I would still say the weakness, if there is one, is downhill running. I’m just not as convinced of that as I was a month ago.

4. What’s the latest on former LSU QB signee Jeremy Liggins? What’s his role on the team and can we be expected to see him Saturday?

He’s doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Ole Miss created a heavy formation package for Liggins, which is really something: it’s six offensive linemen, a former defensive tackle playing tight end, a regular tight end, the heaviest running back and Liggins. I counted it up once and it was 3,100 pounds on the field.

Jeremy Liggins once committed to LSU from the Oxford Square. He never enrolled at LSU. (Clarion-Ledger)

Jeremy Liggins once committed to LSU from the Oxford Square. He never enrolled at LSU. (Clarion-Ledger)

Ole Miss has usually just run a QB power play out of it on third-and-short, but when it stopped working (teams loaded up against it) Ole Miss ran a sweep out of it to the back and got some yards.

The rest of the time Liggins is lining up as a tight end, where he hasn’t caught a pass yet but has stood out as the team’s best blocker. They’ll pull him through the gaps and the way he attacks guys you’d never think he was a high school quarterback.

5. Much is being made about the Ole Miss secondary. Why are they so good?

About half of it is talent: Tony Conner was the best player in the state of Mississippi in 2013 (and maybe one of the best ever to play in the Magnolia State), Cody Prewitt is an All-American and Trae Elston and Senquez Golson were both prep All-Americans.

The other half of it is just those guys really wanting it, and having strong football IQs. I didn’t mention Mike Hilton above, and that’s because he was a 5-foot-8 fringe prospect that Hugh Freeze held onto in his first recruiting class and has become defensive coordinator Dave Wommack’s favorite player.

He’s played four different positions in his career, and is starting at corner right now. Prewitt wasn’t that highly-thought of, but again it’s about football IQ and he’ll hit anything that moves.

Conner can play a lot of different roles against the run and pass during the course of a game, and Elston and Golson are both playing the best football of their careers. Going to a more attacking press man coverage has helped, but Ole Miss has not exclusively played that scheme. There’s no magic beans: just good football players who want to be great.

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

They need to force this game into Anthony Jennings’ hands. I think if you’re Ole Miss you figure you’re going to score enough points, because you have all season. The special teams, especially punting, have been good, so you probably think you’re fine there.

You want to load up against the run and get into third-and-long situations where you can rush four, drop seven and make Jennings beat you. That happens and Ole Miss would like its chances, I’d bet.

Wednesdays With Les: Guest picker; Corn dogs; OK State allegations; Fournette to start (?)

LesStinkEye

(Tiger TV)

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

Radio show

It appears that LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette will get his third straight start in Saturday’s game against Ole Miss, Les Miles suggested Wednesday night.

“I think you’ll look forward to seeing Leonard as the starter,” the coach said on his radio show.

Fournette started against Florida (and ran for 140 yards) and started against Kentucky (and ran for 40 yards). Miles said coaches have been looking to run Fournette often early in games, but that they choose the hot hand – LSU uses four different backs – as the game progresses.

  • Miles again (see in post-practice) touched on the Katy Perry-corn dog fiasco: “She has a difficult time smelling. I’ve been around here a long time … no corn dogs.”
  • A caller asked Miles if he’d “shake” the cage of Mike VI, LSU’s live bengal tiger, as to convince him to come out for the game against Ole Miss. Mike VI hasn’t emerged from his cage and onto a mobile unit for any of LSU’s first five home games. It’s tradition for Mike to be paraded around the field before each home game in his mobile cage. Said Miles: “I certainly have a way with him. He and I have connected several times.”
  • Miles sounds, somewhat, tired of being told how many rushing yards Tennessee had against Ole Miss last week (zero). His response to a caller that again brought it up: “We’re not Tennessee, first of all.”
  • Miles suggested that this hit on Kendell Beckwith – which LSU sent to the SEC  to review – would not or was not ruled targeting by the league. “We thought it was definitely a chargeable issue. I think there’s certain criteria this met and certain it didn’t,” the coach said.
  • Hugh Freeze, the Ole Miss coach, said at SEC media days this past summer that his daughter’s favorite coach was Les Miles. Miles son the Freezes: “Seems to be like a wonderful family unit.”
  • Miles retracted earlier comments made Monday telling fans to bring food into Tiger Stadium. “I guess you can’t bring food in. I didn’t know that.”

Post-practice

LSU coach Les Miles would like to see Shaquille O’Neal be the guest picker on ESPN College GameDay, and he’s never smelled corn dogs in Tiger Stadium.

We’ll explain all of this.

Miles, in his post-practice press conference, was asked who he’d suggest as a guest picker for GameDay. He responded with Shaq, the former LSU and NBA star. A team spokesman confirmed after the press conference that Shaq will not be the guest picker because he has a previous engagement scheduled.

“I’d pick Shaq in every way, in one on one and picking,” he said, referring to a basketball one-on-one contest.

As for the corn dogs: remember this? Miles was asked about that stunt from Katy Perry:

“She likes corn dogs?”

[More explanation is given to Miles]

“Oh no she didn’t.”

[More explanation, specifically about the smell of corn dogs in and around Tiger Stadium]

“I guess there’s thing to talk about that are important and things that are not. I’d have to say people would make observations about how other people smell based on the fact that their nose doesn’t work well. If that’s the issue ….

“I want you to know one thing. I have gone into Tiger Stadium and never smelled corn dogs.”

  • The NCAA found allegations surrounding the Oklahoma State football program while Les Miles was coach “fundamentally unfounded.” In a series last fall, Sports Illustrated reported multiple allegations of wrongdoings during Miles’ tenure at the school (2001-04). Miles was asked about it Wednesday. “It was never any part of my experience at Oklahoma State,” Miles said. “Glad it’s ended the way it has.”
  • Miles said LSU players have more “pep in their step” and “spirit” at practice this week and Wednesday.

SEC teleconference

Anthony Jennings has more understanding for the quarterback position after his benching in the game at Auburn, coach Les Miles said.

Miles was asked about Jennings being benched at Auburn, a 41-7 loss in which true freshman Brandon Harris started.

“Benched is not necessarily the word,” Miles said. “More or less, the evolution of the position, if you will. I think him understanding competition and understanding what all needed to be done at the quarterback spot certainly is improved. Not only his abilities but Brandon Harris as well.”

  • LSU players have been reminded this week of last season’s 27-24 loss in Oxford. “The most recent past is something we’ve reviewed. I’m certain our guys recognize that game.”
  • Ole Miss is a team that’s good in all three phases of the game, Miles said. He called the Rebels “very talented” and said they have a good concept on defense and physicality.
  • The win at Florida has seemed to spark this LSU team. Said Miles about that: “I think our football team was ready to go to The Swamp and win. I think there’s some maturity here that provides some quality leadership in some of those young guys. They understood what was expected. That’s an example of how we can play. Kentucky then is an example of how we can play at all.”

 

Twitter Mailbag: Growth of a QB; Running it on Ole Miss; The betting line

Leonard Fournette and LSU's run game is needed against Ole Miss. (Travis Spradling)

Leonard Fournette and LSU’s run game is needed against Ole Miss. (Travis Spradling)

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.

These two teams are drastically different – Ole Miss and Kentucky. The Rebels are No. 3 in the nation, and some folks believe they’re the best in the land. Kentucky had an impressive start to the season, but what kind of start would it have been had they not been named “Kentucky”?

LSU is on a bit of a hot spurt here. A dramatic SEC road win at Florida and a pounding home win over Kentucky has the Tigers feeling good heading into the duel against Ole Miss. Don’t expect another 38-point win, but LSU’s momentum might be enough to carry it to a victory as an underdog in Tiger Stadium – a rarity.

Not exactly sure what you mean by “classify,” but QB growth is something we haven’t quite seen – at least consistent growth. Anthony Jennings had, maybe, the best game against a power five conference team at Florida, but he followed it with a struggling performance against Kentucky.

Jennings had trouble with accuracy – even the short passes. Terrence Magee needed a one-handed catch to haul in a pass a yard behind him, and Jennings overthrew a would-be touchdown to FB Connor Neighbors.

So what needs to happen? I’m not sure. LSU has, as you mentioned, just four games remaining this season and all against SEC teams. The tinkering part of the schedule is over. Gotta play the hand you’re dealt. LSU coaches have lately given Jennings some easy, high-percentage passes to the running backs. Look for that to continue.

Bet your bottom dollar on that. No matter who the opponent and what the game, LSU will run the football. When they’re done running it, they’ll run it again. And guess what after that?

LSU runs the football more than any other team in the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers run 68 percent of the time. Just three other SEC teams run more than 60 percent of the time. If there’s anything LSU will do against an Ole Miss team leading the nation in interceptions, it’s run the ball.

Next question.

Tennessee had zero rushing yards in a 34-3 loss to the Rebels in Oxford last week. That’s disheartening for LSU fans. Ole Miss ranks sixth nationally in rushing defense, averaging less than 100 yards on the ground game, and LSU is 120th nationally in pass attempts a game.

This is a key matchup in the game: Can LSU’s ground-and-pound offense have success against an Ole Miss defense that does everything well, namely stopping the run? Les Miles and Co. will try to run it no matter what – no doubt about that.

Well, sure, but will LSU coaches allow it? As a betting man, I’d say no. LSU will try to control the clock, pound the ball and play good defense. The Tigers will hope to rattle Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace and force turnovers. LSU’s best defense might be the best offense in this one.

LSU isn’t gonna all of the sudden chunk the ball around just because an opponent’s front seven is good. Don’t expect that to happen. Jennings hasn’t thrown more than 26 passes this season – and that was in a game LSU trailed 17-0 early.

I’d expect most of them to stay, and I haven’t heard any rumblings of anyone leaving, though that always happens.

Here’s something you might not know: LSU is 45-4 in Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium under coach Les Miles. That explains part of the low spread for the Rebels.

Remember, too, that Ole Miss was an underdog at Texas A&M. Basically, Vegas isn’t sold on the Rebels just yet, despite their 7-0 record.

This is such a broad question, I don’t know where to start. I’ll say this though: I’d be surprised if Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris were both here in 2016.

Sione Teuhema. I know, crazy right? Teuhema is a true freshman defensive end who sees limited snaps, but they’re big ones. LSU has a new package featuring Teuhema at defensive tackle in the Mustang, the Tigers’ six DB unit with three defensive linemen.

LSU got QB pressure against Kentucky, in part because of Teuhema’s inside pressure. Watch out for him against Ole Miss.

It won’t be easy, but it’s been done before. Louisiana-Lafayette and Alabama both ran for more than 165 yards against Ole Miss. The Tigers might need to run for 200-plus against the Rebels to get the win. That’d be unprecedented this season.

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.