Preparing for the Mountaineers
No. 12 LSU is just days away from their first ever meeting with West Virginia, set for 8 p.m. in Tiger Stadium on Saturday.
After wins over North Carolina, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, Les Miles is confident that film studies and practice preparations have the Tigers ready for their best outing yet.
“I think our guys have got the gameplan well in hand,” Miles said. “I like the approach. They recognize that (WVU) could be a very, very capable team, and we have to be ready to play. I think our football team understands that. They recognize a challenge when they see one.”
West Virginia ranks 26th in total offense with 446 yards per game and 10th in yards allowed, averaging just over 255 a game.
LSU trails in both categories.
With just 323 yards per game, the Tigers rank 91st in total offense. The defense has given up an average of 279 yards a game, good for 25th-best in the country.
The Injury Report
Having he missed three games as a result of a leg injury suffered in fall camp, starting tight end Deangelo Peterson will dress out against West Virginia.
A one-time receiver for the Tigers, you won’t find many 6-foot-4, 245-pounders as athletic as Peterson, meaning Jordan Jefferson now has another big target to work across the middle of the field.
“(Peterson’s) certainly a faster threat,” said Miles in reference to Mitch Joseph, who stepped in for Peterson in his absence. “The good news is that he has blocked well this week. We’ll put him in and he will be a full-service Peterson.”
Though might not be on the starting card, expect to see plenty of No. 19 throughout the night.
“I would think that he would play significantly,” Miles said. “I don’t know if the first play is his, but he will have a starting role.”
The medical staff is also monitoring running backs Richard Murphy and Spencer Ware and wide receiver Chris Tolliver, and the group’s prognosis through a few days of practice wasn’t as positive as Peterson’s.
“(Murphy’s) practicing and he might be a little limited, but we’re hopeful,” Miles said. “Spencer Ware has improved, but he’s doubtful. I would say Chris Tolliver is doubtful as well.”
New Faces on Special Teams
The signing classes of 2009 and 2010 are proving to be home runs for LSU. From wide receiver Russell Shepard to cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, young names are making a difference – and in a hurry.
One better, Miles is playing young names on special teams more than ever.
Through three games the regulars from the 2009 class include the likes of Craig Loston, Morris Claiborne and KeKe Mingo. True freshmen having earned early playing time include Alfred Blue, Kadron Boone, Eric Reid, Tharold Simon, Ronnie Vinson, Spencer Ware, James Wright and Mathieu.
“I want our best players on special teams,” Miles said. “To me, any time you turn the ball into the air with a kick and you have the opportunity to change the field by 40 yards, the responsibility should be to our best players. Currently some of our best players are some of our younger players running down there.”
No Signs of Worry?
Patrick Peterson’s career night via the return game in Atlanta resulted in touchdowns and positive field position for LSU, but cramps left the nation’s most talented cornerback sidelined for the final plays of the game.
Peterson was slowed by cramps last fall, as well. Against Alabama, the Tide turned the game when Julio Jones scored on a passing route that Peterson wasn’t in the game for.
Two games removed from North Carolina, Miles said the cramps have not resurfaced.
“I think the cramp issue can be anxiety for a first game or the opportunity to be on the road in a first game,” he said. “Those things happen. I don’t know that we’ll expect him to have those from this point forward. I think we do a wonderful job preparing our guys to take the field. I would like to think we are done with his in and out of the game.”
Led By a Few
A veteran seems to have taken the reigns with each of the defense’s position groups.
While Peterson’s double-duty role has him king of the secondary, it has been a pair of senior names that have led the charge elsewhere.
Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and defensive tackle Drake Nevis lead the team in tackles with 27 and 18, respectively. The other three linemen all defer to Nevis, while Nevis said that all 10 starters on defense look to Sheppard for the final word.
“Certain guys are meant to lead, and leadership fits (Sheppard) well,” Miles said. “This is a young team that really relies on him. There is greater need for his leadership (than last season), and that brings it out of him. Our guys feed off of it.”
Stastically speaking, Nevis is having a faster start to his senior campaign than Glenn Dorsey had during his 2007 season with the Tigers. Given that Sheppard said that the 2010 front four are the best that the school has seen, the success shouldn’t come as a surprise.
It certainly hasn’t to Miles.
“We don’t like going against (Nevis) when we put our offense
in front of him,” he said. “I think he is playing stronger and quicker. I don’t
want to compare him to (Dorsey), but he’s everything that we would want.”