BATON ROUGE --- This season likely won’t see Les Miles hold up his second crystal ball, despite the fact that LSU could finish 11-1 in the nation’s toughest conference.
After practice on Wednesday, wearing his token grin and white hat, Miles didn’t seem phased.
“All we are trying to do is take them one (game) at a time and not lose focus on that,” Miles said in response to the team’s postseason aspirations. “Ole Miss has certainly given us great reason to not do that.”
So far the approach has worked.
The Tigers have nine wins under their belt, the majority of which came down to nail-biting moments in the game’s final minute.
Some teams would buckle, unable to pull off final-minute stands in Atlanta against North Carolina or comeback wins with no time on the clock against Tennessee.
By the same token, some coaches would also buckle, unable to pull the trigger on fourth down plays like the over-the-shoulder toss from your punter to your kicker or a tight-end reverse against a Nick Saban-coached defense.
That kind of gusto comes once in a blue moon.
When it does, teams grow even closer.
“I have not been in a locker room celebrating as wildly as we have celebrated some of these victories,” said Miles, now in his sixth year with the program.
Running back Steven Ridley said of the coach that recruited him to LSU: “Coach Miles is one of a kind, because he’s the one guy who will always let the players determine the outcome. That’s the kind of guy you want to play for. That kind of coaching brings the whole team together.”
After the Tigers dropped five conference games after the National Championship season, Miles tried motivating the 2009 team with constant reminders of their missteps.
“I think I might have gotten to the leaders,” Miles said. “When people see Joe Barksdale work hard at practice and Sheppard work hard at practice and Rueben Randle and (Jordan) Jefferson, they see that it’s more important than them.
“We have had this Unity Council, and we want team ownership. This Council has really taken it to heart. This team wants to play together and they want to win.”
When asked why this team, despite an influx of youth, seems more unified than years past, Miles pointed back to the crazy nights in the locker rooms after games.
“I just think it’s a good group of men, and there’s a debt to the guys who made the plays and the want to say thanks,” he said.
Will Blackwell Set to Return
Starting right guard Will Blackwell, who has missed every game this year after going down with a leg injury on the first series of the season opener, is expected to be back in action when LSU takes the field against Ole Miss at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
He began practicing the week prior to Alabama, and on Monday he took reps with the first-team in a rotation with T-Bob Hebert. With just a day of practice remaining before the Rebels come to town, the junior is back to his normal routine.
“Blackwell is practicing every snap,” Miles said. “I would expect that he would play.”
Miles said that Blackwell wouldn’t start but rather would be worked into a rotation with Hebert.
The news isn’t as positive for right tackle Alex Hurst, who went down with a leg injury against Alabama and did not play against Louisiana-Monroe last week.