It had all the symptoms of a heavyweight bout.
Both sides traded punches for four quarters, and while LSU walked away the victor, 8-1 didn’t come without its price.
Three LSU starters went down against the Crimson Tide, and there’s a likelihood that only one of those names – cornerback Morris Claiborne – will be back with the team when they welcome Louisiana-Monroe this Saturday.
Claiborne, who suffered a mild concussion when fellow LSU defensive back Craig Loston’s knee slammed into the sophomore’s helmet in a friendly fire moment, practiced on Wednesday and is expected to be ready for the Warhawks.
If Claiborne is limited Miles will hand the majority of snaps to freshman Tyrann Mathieu, who leads all cornerbacks with 34 tackles. He also leads the team in fumbles forced (3) and fumbles recovered (2).
Yet, the devastating blow to the secondary came with the loss of Brandon Taylor, who went down with an injured right leg in the first quarter. Though Miles wasn’t clear on the specifics of the injury, he called it a long-term loss and said he didn’t expect Taylor – who had started all nine games at strong safety – to return to the field this season.
On Wednesday Miles said the weekend’s rotation at strong safety would be between Eric Reid and Craig Loston. The day prior, Reid said that all the safeties were rotating at both spots during practice to create more depth.
Hurst, who rolled his ankle in a pile, was replaced in the second half by Greg Shaw, a junior with limited experience who went the distance at right tackle for offensive line coach Greg Studrawa.
While Miles enjoyed the play from Shaw, he’s not ready to settle.
This week the staff moved backup left tackle Chris Faulk to the right side to rotate with Shaw. T-Bob Hebert and Josh Williford, who split the reps at right guard against Alabama, are also both getting looks with the first-team at practice.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a pretty aggressive rotation,” Miles said. “We’ll look at a couple of guys, just to see what might be the best starting group. I liked the way Greg Shaw played, so I may start with him.
“T-Bob or Williford, it kind of just depends.”
What makes matters more intriguing is that the Williford-Hebert battle could soon see a third body enter the mix.
Blackwell, who was injured in the season opener, practiced in pads last week and dressed out for the Alabama game. Back at practice again this week, Miles said that Blackwell’s return date has arrived sooner than ever expected.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “(Blackwell’s) really worked hard at rehabilitation, and his body has healed extremely well. I’m not ready to say he’s ready to take snaps in the game, but I think he will be soon.”
While Miles once weighed his injury-related decisions on how many days of gameweek practice the player had taken in, he has since changed his ways.
Today, it’s a case-by-case basis.
“I used to have a rule that was hard and fast,” he said. “Then finally that guy who was a real veteran and someone I trusted basically got back on a Thursday and I found it was best for the team that he play. Since that time, that hard and fast rule has become specific to each guy.
“Some of those young guys get injured, and when they get back they have not had the gameplan and they can’t do it. Some of those veterans have had so many gameplans that if they get back and are healthy then they will be ready to play. I’ve looked at each case individually.”
Miles confirmed that both Hebert and defensive tackle Pep Levingston, who nursed injuries during gameweek preparations for Alabama, are back to full strength and won’t be held back for health reasons this weekend.