--- The good news: there haven’t been any major injuries for LSU during fall camp.
The bad news: A number of players, most notably on the offensive line, are sidelined with minor injuries.
Starting left tackle Chris Faulk and right guard Will Blackwell missed last Saturday’s scrimmage, absences that shuffled the offensive line around and allowed a number of younger players to work themselves into the two-deep rotation.
Though he played left tackle at Redemptorist last fall, freshman La’el Collins took his first collegiate practice reps at left guard.
“He has played a lot of football at left guard right now,” Miles said. “He comes in as a pretty good learner and a guy that’s physically capable. He is still playing young and there are things he hasn’t quite gotten a grasp on, but when he does he’s going to be good.”
Given that the injury bug bit Blackwell on the first offensive play from scrimmage last season, Miles is focused on the silver lining of missing big men up front during the preseason.
“Right now we are moving some young guys in, and that’s really good for us,” Miles said. “What it does is gives us a depth at that position that we are going to need. We are going to get to the back end of this two-a-day schedule and have a pretty deep line.
“Some of these young guys will have taken a lot of snaps during the two-a-day schedule, and that allows them to play early.”
--- Miles said there is nothing new to report on inside receiver Russell Shepard – whose eligibility was called into question last month after word surfaced of an off-campus housing issue.
While the junior’s status for the Oregon game remains up in the air, Miles has yet to trim back Shepard’s touches in practice – which he did when running back Stevan Ridley’s eligibility was in question leading up to the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M.
“I think it’s premature at this point,” Miles said.
Shepard has not been made available to the media since his appearance with the team at Media Day a week ago.
--- While juniors Shepard and Rueben Randle and sophomores Kadron Boone and James Wright will give Jefferson four experienced targets at wide receiver, don’t count out the potential impact of a pair of freshmen: Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham.
“My impressions of (Landry) and Odell Beckham are guys who are going to play in games, really, right away,” Miles said. “I think they are competitive physically and are competitive mentally, and they have skills.
“I think we have a good freshmen class, but those two guys, by need, will step onto the field. And they won’t play like freshmen. Look for big plays out of them.”
--- After a breakout freshman campaign as a nickel back, sophomore Tyrann Mathieu’s stock continues to rise.
When asked which players – regardless of position – were having the best fall camp, Miles first singled out Mathieu.
“There is a mentality that certain guys possess. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s hot or if it’s cold, if the wind is blowing or if it wasn’t, I was going to come out here and I was going to win and I was going to play my butt off,” Miles said. “He has that.
“He really has his own barometer of what he expects himself to do.”
In an attempt to mirror Mathieu’s production from last season, Miles and defensive coordinator John Chavis elected to move sophomore Tharold Simon into the second cornerback spot, which allowed Mathieu to remain in the nickel back role he wreaked havoc from.
--- While he may shuffle in at cornerback behind starters Mo Claiborne and Simon, Mathieu won’t become a stranger to the field.
As a result of LSU’s shift to less 4-3 and more nickel and dime packages, Mathieu could find himself on the field as much as the team’s third linebacker.
“I think there is a faster group of football players on the field more than not,” Miles said. “I think the opportunity to convert safeties to linebackers and play corners at nickel are something you would consider, especially playing teams like (Oregon). Those spread offenses with great speed; you have to put great speed on the field.”
--- With 11 of 20 days of pre-season practice in the books, Miles said that his team is closing in on its preparation time for Oregon.
“We will have three Oregon practices before we get into game week, so we will practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday before we get into the actual game week,” Miles said. “We will be into Oregon with about eight practices (left).”
The Tigers and Ducks kick off the season in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 3.