Despite a stellar four-field goal performance last week in LSU’s 19-6 triumph against Mississippi State, Alleman is playing hurt – nursing a right knee injury since the opening game of the season.
And that’s a big reason why kickoffs have been a problem for the Tigers, especially in Starkville, Miss., nine days ago.
Alleman said he tweaked the knee on the next-to-last kickoff against Oregon when he tried to get out of the way as special teams ace Alfred Blue was attempting to make a tackle.
Mississippi State’s average starting field position on six kickoffs – three apiece by Alleman and punter D.J. Howard – was just inside the 33-yard-line. Between the two, LSU’s average on kickoffs is 59.2 yards.
“I’m battling a little something and trying to get it healthy again so I can get all my power into kickoffs,” Alleman said.
“When I get my leg back 100 percent and healthy, the kickoffs will be there.”
A former All-State kicker at Acadiana High, Alleman said he’s capable of consistently sending the ball to the end zone on kickoffs.
He also said there’s sometimes strategy involved with high but shorter kickoffs.
“We talk about getting a lot of hang time to the 2- or 3- or the 1-yard-line or the goal line to get a lot of hang time to let our coverage guys to get down there and maybe make a play inside the 20,” Alleman said.
“Our goal is try to get them down inside the 20 or at the 20. Right now we’re not happy with the kicks. I’m not happy with the kicks. I’m going to get in there and get rehab and get this leg better.”
Howard has split time on kickoffs with Alleman and freshman James Hairston has also worked out in that area. Punter Brad Wing – who missed the State trip and is questionable for this week with a thigh injury – has not been involved in the competition.
As frustrating as the kickoffs have been, Alleman said the sore knee has had a small benefit in his other, and arguably most important, responsibilities.
Anchored by his 4-for-4 showing against the Bulldogs, Alleman is 6-for-7 on field goals this season with the only miss from 50 yards away. Three of those made kicks are from 40 yards or longer.
“It’s actually making me hone in and focus a little more on being consistent with my leg following through,” Alleman said. “So it’s actually helping me in the field-goal area.”
On Monday Alleman was named a “Star of the Week” by the Lou Groza Award. He was joined by Florida’s Caleb Sturgis and Connecticut’s Dave Teggart.
Ready for Russell
Junior receiver Russell Shepard is set to make his 2011 season debut his week after sitting out the first three games due to a suspension for violating NCAA protocol.
LSU coach Les Miles said the 6-foot-1 playmaker will be involved in the game plan, saying there “will be some immediate awareness and fondness for the offense.”
“I don’t think it will take time for Russell to get back in any way.”
In his first two seasons, the Houston-area native and former five-star recruit has generated 803 total yards and five touchdowns, most of the damage coming on the ground.
But with a young receiving corps and what has apparently been his strongest offseason, Shepard came into this season expected to be a major cog in the receiving corps.
More than what he can contribute, though, Shepard’s return seems to be an emotional boost as well.
“I can’t wait to have Russell back,” left guard T-Bob Hebert said. “He’s a great guy. He’s one of the hardest workers on this team and he’s a leader.
“With his work ethic, he improves every year. I expect him to have a big impact on this game.”
Ware-ing in his welcome
Sophomore tailback Spencer Ware leads the Tigers in rushing carries (54), rushing yards (226) and rushing yards per game (75.3) through three games.
It’s not a stretch to say he leads the team in respect gained for the way he runs as well.
The 5-11, 223-pound Ware took a beating against State, running 22 times for a career-best 107 yards. Most of that damage came as he ran right into the belly of the Bulldogs’ defense, and even when he bounced outside he absorbed one punishing hit after another.
“Spencer runs tough and o-linemen appreciate toughness,” Hebert said. “He gets low to the ground and drives hard and he never quits.”
Awards & honors
Sophomore defensive tackle Bennie Logan and freshman wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. were recognized Monday by the SEC as the league’s Defensive Lineman of the Week and Freshman of the Week, respectively.
Logan had five tackles, including 3½ for losses, to anchor a dominant night by the Tigers, who logged 15 tackles for the loss. That’s the most for LSU since 1999 when it had 17 in a 41-7 loss to Auburn.
Beckham Jr. caught everything thrown his way and finished with a career-best – and a season-high for an LSU receiver – eight catches for 61 yards. Four of Beckham’s catches resulted in a first down.
LSU announced Monday that its home game against Kentucky on Oct. 1 will be televised by the SEC Network and kick off at 11:21 a.m.
WAFB-TV (CBS) is the Baton Rouge affiliate that carries the SEC Network. Other in-state affiliates are KLAX (CBS) in Alexandria, KADN (Fox) in Lafayette, KVHP (Fox) in Lake Charles, WWL (CBS) in New Orleans and KMSS (Fox) in Shreveport.
Moving the chains
--- LSU is the only team in the country which will face three ranked teams in the first four weeks of the season.
The last time the Tigers faced such a rugged stretch was 1988 when three of their first four games were against No. 10 Texas A&M, at 18th-ranked Ohio State and back home vs. No. 17 Florida.
This is the fourth LSU has played three ranked teams in the first four games and the first time it has won two games or more.
--- The Tigers enter the week ranked third nationally in rushing defense (47.7 yards allowed per game), sixth in total defense (207.7 yards per game) and 15th in scoring defense (12 points per game). They haven’t allowed a touchdown in the last eight quarters.
--- Of the 21 LSU players listed on the two-deep defensive roster, 17 have recorded a tackle for loss this season.
--- The Tigers haven’t allowed a rushing play longer than 15 yards this season and have surrendered only eight that have gone for 10 yards or more.
LSU has given up only two offensive passing plays for 22 yards or more – both on Mississippi State’s last drive of the game. Northwestern State stung the Tigers with a 25-yard completion on a fake punt.
--- On 36 opponent possessions this season, LSU has forced a three-and-out or come up with a turnover 19 times.
--- In the victory against State, Jarrett Lee passed for 213 yards and Ware rushed for 107, marking the 11th time in Miles’ seven-year tenure a QB-RB tandem has delivered such a performance and the first time since 2008 when Lee passed for 287 yards against Georgia and Charles Scott ran for 144. LSU is 9-2 in those games.