Tag Archives: #Les Miles

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.

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