With fall semester in full swing, and coursework keeping most student-athletes bogged down, the majority of LSU players requested for interviews will have to wait until after Monday’s practice to get their first taste of the media hype that comes with Alabama week.
Here are tidbits from the players that were made available before practice.
Tackling in numbers
With a physical Alabama offense on tap in Tuscaloosa, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis will fill likely his defenders up with every bit of knowledge they are able to digest.
But, there is one point that the Chavis’ defense said stands above the rest: Getting to the ball in numbers.
“We have to pursue the ball and tackle in groups like we have been doing,” sophomore defensive tackle Bennie Logan said.
That begins with slowing down 5-foot-11, 225-pound junior running back Trent Richardson, who leads the conference in rushing with 17 touchdowns and an average of 123.6 yards per game.
“Trent Richardson is a powerful back,” Logan said. “You are definitely not going to bring him down with one guy.”
“He’s not a side-to-side guy, he is a north to south guy. Once he sees the hole, he’s going to hit it. It’s our job to meet him in that hole, not one guy but everybody pursuing the ball.”
Staying focused in the spotlight
Just how big is this week?
If the swell of media at Monday’s press luncheon and pre-practice player interviews were any indication, it’s the most anticipated game sophomore Barkevious Mingo has come across in his three years with the program.
“I have never seen this many people out here,” said Mingo of the reporters in attendance. “I guess the media is ready, fans are ready, the team is ready and coach is ready.”
Of course, LSU is used to performing under high expectations.
The Tigers are playing in a fifth straight game as the nation’s No. 1-ranked team – the longest streak for LSU since 1959.
Pitted against No. 2 Alabama on Saturday, how do they manage the media hype in a SEC West bout that many have tabbed as the game of the century?
“We just have to stay focused and humble and know the task at hand,” Logan said. “We still have to play the game. The hype will always be there. Every player comes to LSU to live in these big games. You just have to know your responsibility to keep calm.”
Hoping to settle nerves ahead of time, senior safety Brandon Taylor has already pulled aside younger players - like sophomore cornerback Tyrann Mathieu - to discuss what playing in Bryant-Denny Stadium is like.
“I told them this stadium is very loud,” Taylor said. “They have very passionate fans like we do. We are going to be playing against the whole state of Alabama.”
What question do the LSU players get most on a week like this?
“Everyone just wants to know how many tickets I can get them,” senior offensive lineman Will Blackwell said.
Last week, Les Miles joked that his wife, Kathy, handles all ticket requests these days, a change from the Mad Hatter’s early days in Baton Rouge.
But for the players, there is still the reality of telling friends and family that the well is dry.
“I have a cousin who lives (in Alabama), and I guess they think we get an unlimited amount of tickets,” Mingo said. “We only get four, and all four are taken.”
Taylor, who has had two brothers play at LSU, said his cell phone has barely been able to stay charged.
“I have been getting too many texts and phone calls,” he laughed.
“It just motivates me more. I know I have a job to do and a lot of people are going to be watching.”
Extra time with the tapes
The study of game tape is always paramount to success, but when given extra time to prepare – like a week off – there is an even bigger emphasis on getting into the film room, whether with the assistant coaches or alone.
“We have been getting in a lot of good film,” Taylor said. “We have spent more time in the film room than on the practice field. I think we are good on the physical aspect. We just have to know where we have to be at the right time.”
Mingo added on the extra preparation through film: “We have been there everyday before practice getting it in and trying to get a beat on this offense and how to slow it down.”
Aussie vs. Aussie
Not often do you find an Australian playing football in the United States.
It’s even less often that you find two Australians - one playing on the nation’s No. 1-ranked team and the second playing for the No. 2-ranked team.
Earlier this week, Wing got a call from a reporter at the New York Times to discuss the rare run-in with a fellow Aussie.
“I told mom the New York Times wanted an interview, and she said, ‘What!’ I couldn’t believe it either. It’s just crazy the turn my life has taken in the last two years. I never thought I would be where I am today.”
Wing has been on point for the Tigers, punting 31 times and downing the ball inside the 20-yard line 15 times, and 11 of his punts have gone beyond 50 yards.
For Williams, success has also come quickly.
The junior college transfer has played at defensive tackle in all eight games this season, recording 12 tackles, 3.5 for losses, and a pair of quarterback hurries.
“I think there might be another (Australian) in Hawaii, but it’s crazy the two of us are going to match up,” Wing said.
Is there a New York vs. Boston-type disdain between Melbourne and Brisbane natives?
“It’s nothing like that,” Wing laughed. “We all love each other.”
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