Miles recaps opening scrimmage

The first scrimmage of fall camp in Baton Rouge is in the books.

With the 2011 season opener sending the LSU football team back to the covered stadium at Cowboys Stadium, Tigers coach Les Miles moved his team indoors for the first scrimmage of pre-season camp.

“The environment we had inside was most like where we are going to play, so we decided to forgo the heat,” Miles said.

Miles pitted the first-team offense against first-team defense for most of the scrimmage, and he allowed both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee the chance to take snaps as the first-team quarterback.

“Jefferson threw it for 150 (yards) and was probably 10-for-15,” Miles said. “Lee was probably 160 (yards) and 15-for-20, or thereabouts. (Zach) Mettenberger had a decent day throwing the ball as well.”

Miles said Jefferson’s lone touchdown pass went to junior Russell Shepard, who scored on a deep strike. Miles also complimented the play of freshman Odell Beckham, who made enough strides over the summer to practice with the varsity during the first week of camp.

“Odell Beckham made a couple of nice catches,” Miles said. “Russell Shepard had a long touchdown pass and is really catching the ball well. He had a number of catches for big yardage.”

--- The offensive line was without starting right guard Will Blackwell, but the unit welcomed back starting left guard Josh Dworaczyk, who had been in and out of camp workouts as a result of a knee injury suffered at the end of last season.

“Dworaczyk played the entire day,” Miles said.

Miles said offensive lineman La’el Collins and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu were also back after missing practices this past week.

--- Despite the inexperienced bodies that Miles was forced to shuffle into the offensive line, the running backs combined for over 200 yards on the ground.

“(Spencer) Ware, (Terrance) Magee, (Alfred) Blue, and (Jakhari) Gore were the ones that looked pretty good today,” Miles said. “It is kind of who has the hot hand. Right now it would be those four.”

Miles also mentioned freshman Kenny Hilliard, who shared snaps with walk-on Connor Neighbors at fullback.

“Kenny Hilliard has the potential to be a very good fullback and big back,” Miles said. “Jacob Hester started that way. He came in here and played a lot of fullback and got comfortable with contact and the things we do in the backfield. When we moved him to tailback it showed. His maturity had improved and he was ready to play.”

While Hilliard’s weight was an issue in the spring, Miles said that he is on pace physically to be right where the staff wants him.

“I think he’s a big man,” Miles said. “He’s going to naturally carry weight. Over time I think he will be a 232-235 pound very fast, very athletic, big back.”

--- On the defensive side, Miles singled out Craig Loston as the star of the secondary.

“I like Loston,” Miles said. “He seemed to show up a little bit at safety.

“He made a play on the ball coming over the middle that, had it not been thud, it would have been a serious collision.”

--- Karnell Hatcher, a safety-turned-linebacker, also stood out. Hatcher split first-team snaps with Kevin Minter, his main competition for the starting middle linebacker spot.

“Hatcher made some tackles and flew around,” Miles said. “It’s a little early. I am a guy who always likes to look at the film with those inside guys, but what I saw from him was good.”

--- With the return of Sam Montgomery from injury and the emergence of freshman Anthony Johnson, the picture on the defensive line is beginning to gain clarity.

“Right now with that defensive line, guys like Anthony Johnson would certainly be first-team in rotation,” Miles said.

He also noted strong showings from defensive tackle Michael Brockers and defensive ends Lavar Edwards and Barkervious Mingo.

“Mingo definitely has outside linebacker and probably safety speed,” Miles said. “They played him a little bit in the secondary in high school. If he caught the ball better it might have stuck. He can really run for a big man.”

Opposite of Hilliard’s case, Miles is focused on adding weight to Mingo, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 237 pounds.

“I think (Mingo) will eventually mature into 10 or 15 more pounds,” Miles said. “I don’t think he will lose speed. He will just be a lean guy who got a little stronger.”

--- Saturday’s scrimmage marked the first time that former offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe and current offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa sat in the booth together and called plays, and Miles said the rehearsal went off without a hitch.

“This scrimmage was one where (Studrawa) got upstairs and knew the plays we wanted to run, and he put the call on the proper hash and he and Kragthorpe were up there together handling it,” Miles said. “I think it went smooth.”

The Tigers will take the day off Sunday before returning to the practice fields on Monday morning. Stick with the team for all the latest.


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