Notebook: Players eye SEC title game

With the SEC Championship game looming, hear from a handful of the LSU players as they begin practice for the Bulldogs.

Sitting at 12-0 and still ranked No. 1 in all the polls, it's becoming business as usual for the LSU players – especially every Monday when interviews with the local media take place.

On the practice fields, the day serves as a walk-through session on the week's game plan, and the night begins the start of film study on the opposition.

With No. 12-ranked Georgia on tap in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday in Atlanta, here are some of the topics touched on by the Tigers after the first practice of the week.

Birthday boy is headed home

LSU sophomore linebacker Kevin Minter grew up playing football in Suwanee, Ga., where he eventually earned Class 5A First-Team All-State honors at Peachtree Ridge his senior season.

In 2009, Minter signed with LSU over offers from a number of SEC schools – and heavy interest from Georgia.

"The atmosphere got me," Minter said. "I like Georgia and Athens is a great college town, but I couldn't pass this up. I had to come here. With the coaches and the fans, I didn't want to be playing against this team."

What would traveling back home and winning the SEC title in his third season with the program mean to the Peach State native?

"It's a big deal," Minter said. "The SEC is such a strong conference. If you can say you are SEC Champion, that's a big deal. The National Championship is a big deal, but that SEC Championship is one that you win and hold your head up high.

"It would be a great accomplishment, not only for me, but the whole team. 13-0, you can't beat that."

However, Minter has another reason to be happy.

On Saturday, he not only gets to play for the SEC title, but gets to do so on his 21st birthday.

"It doesn't get any better than this," he said.

As expected, calls from old friends and family have already begun pouring in.

"They can't wait for me to get there," Minter said. "A lot of them are trying to visit with me in the hotel. They are very happy for me.

"Some are still bitter at me, but it's cool."

Sophomore fullback J.C. Copeland, quarterback Zach Mettenberger and senior defensive back Derrick Bryant are also from the Peach State.

Baker sees new and improved Jefferson

Senior linebacker Ryan Baker signed up to play for the Tigers in 2008, the same year LSU picked up quarterback Jordan Jefferson.

The two grew close as freshman, which is why Baker said he could speak to how far Jefferson has come – on and off the field – in his quest to bring LSU to a national championship.

"Coming into the season you could see Jordan was a more mature guy," Baker said. "How he handled everything has shown how far he has come as a player.

"If this situation would have happened three years ago, I would have been surprised how he handled everything. But with the new and improved Jordan, I kind of expected him to handle it the way he did."

Jefferson entered the season with high-praise from the coaching staff, and the departure of offensive coordinator Gary Crowton and hire of quarterback coach Steve Kragthorpe was supposed to equal big change for the rising senior.

On Aug. 19, his final year was put on hold when Jefferson was involved in an altercation outside of Shady's Bar that led to charges of second-degree felony assault, which were eventually reduced to simple battery.

He was suspended from all official team activities for the first four games, and came back on Oct. 1 and contributed in four games before taking over as the starter for Jarrett Lee in the second half against Alabama and helping the Tigers get an 9-6 overtime win.

Jefferson has started the three games since, and Baker can sense a renewed sense of purpose in the starting quarterback's eyes.

"I could see the emotional part of Jordan coming out in the process," Baker said. "I couldn't imagine going through those things. But those setbacks propelled him to another height.

"Any time you have a setback, you always want to build on that. I think that was his motivating factor to get back where he was. He wanted to show he was still a capable guy."

Jones stirs it up, but LSU remains mum

Georgia star linebacker Jarvis Jones is trying to rally the Bulldogs by hitting the media – and Twitter – with talk of LSU.

The two quotes from Jones that made their way back to the locker room in Baton Rouge:

"I think our defense is just as good as theirs if not better."

"We just have to play the way we've been playing. If we don't give away points, there's no way they can beat us."

When the Tigers' defensive backs – the vocal group of the bunch – came out to meet with the media, the group remained unusually quiet on the issue.

"We aren't paying attention to all that," sophomore Eric Reid said. "We just have to stay focused and get this done."

Junior cornerback Morris Claiborne said he looked up the tweets to see them himself, then clicked to a new page and went along with his day.

It wasn't as easy for Tyrann Mathieu, whose jawing on and off the field has earned him a reputation for running his mouth to opponents.

"It was extremely tough," Mathieu said. "I have to keep my team first.

"I know those guys are going to go out there and play hard, and I know (Jones) is definitely going to go out there and play hard."

Quick hitters

--- Junior center P.J. Lonergan on knowing which running back is in the game…

"If I get run into the back of, then I assume it's Alfred Blue. I joke with him about it, but he really does run into my back all the time."

--- Minter on how familiar he is with the Bulldogs program through his recruitment process…

"I have been to one of their spring games and 7-on-7 and NIKE camps."

--- Mathieu on LSU coach Les Miles threatening to take away the Honey Badger's cell phone so he couldn't tweet…

"Coach Miles jokes around with me about it, but he never did it."

Lunch with Les

VIDEO: Lunch with Les

Monday chat transcript

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