On Thursday the LSU football team took to the practice field for the first time since winning the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 3.
After nearly two weeks apart, the consensus among the players who spoke to the media on the first day back was the team picked up where it left off.
"It feels good," junior cornerback Morris Claiborne said. "We got back in and got some work done. Guys were flying around.
"I think we are in pretty good shape. We were running around and were up to speed. It was just about getting back into that rhythm."
In season openers and bowl games, the Tigers have been nearly perfect under Coach Les Miles, compiling an 11-1 record in Miles' six seasons with the program. The lone loss came against Penn State on a rain-drenched field in the 2010 Capital One Bowl in Orlando.
"We are used to bowl preparation around here," senior offensive lineman Will Blackwell said. "We have been to a bowl every season, and Coach Miles and his staff do a good job of preparing us. We will be ready to go on Jan. 9."
What makes Miles and Co. so good with extra time to prepare?
"I can't put a finger on the exact thing we do to help us win games," Blackwell said. "It's a combination of things. There is more time to watch film and more time to practice and more time to walk through."
The team will practice again on Friday and Saturday before taking off on Sunday. Practices will pick back up for three days next week, then the team will break for Christmas and return to Baton Rouge on Dec. 26.
Honors all around
The most recent All-American roster came from the Associated Press, and five Tigers selected in a single season was the most ever for the program.
Claiborne and sophomore Tyrann Mathieu also made history, making LSU the first school to have two cornerbacks on the first team.
"I kind of expected it," sophomore safety Eric Reid said. "I have been playing with these guys the whole year, so I knew they were pretty good. It didn't surprise me too much."
Apparently, the news didn't come as a surprise to Mathieu or Claiborne, either.
Claiborne said he could recall a sideline conversation with Mathieu during fall camp that included the pair winning All-American honors.
"Our personal goals were to make history," Claiborne said. "So far, it's going good.
Mathieu added: "Those were our plans. We just pushed each other every day in practice and challenged each other on game day."
The honor comes in the wake of Mathieu's trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, where he was honored as one of five finalists.
"It was a good experience," Mathieu said. "It was definitely an eye-opener. I was telling my teammates about it. We have a lot of great guys on this team, and most of those guys could be traveling and taking those trips, too. I am just trying to encourage those guys to play their best game so that they could be there one day.
"It's a tremendous honor. I am just glad to represent my teammates."
Redshirt freshman punter Brad Wing was also selected to the first-team, giving the curious title of All-American to the Australian-born transfer student.
"I am here as an exchange student, so I'm sort of American," Wing said jokingly. "I didn't know if that was against the rules or criteria, but apparently not.
"My visa lasts for another five years, so I have a bit of time to think about (becoming a U.S. citizen)."
Blackwell was named to the second team and sophomore Sam Montgomery to the third team.
"That's a direct reflection of my teammates," Blackwell said. "If it wasn't for them I wouldn't be in consideration for any of these awards. I thank them every day for that. I don't look at it as Will Blackwell the All-American, I look at it as the LSU offense with an All-American on there. It's a special team."
Reid almost ready
A second half interception against Alabama helped Reid secure his spot in LSU football lore – especially if the Tigers can pull off the perfect season with a second win over the Crimson Tide.
But an injury against Ole Miss kept Reid out of action Arkansas and hobbled against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
On Thursday, Reid said his recovery was still on pace.
"I am getting better," he said. "I have been in treatment every day. I am at about 90%. I still have about a month, so I think I will be at (100%) for the game.
"It doesn't hurt as bad. I still can't sprint at full speed, but by the time January gets here I will be all right."
Game of the Century … again
With time away from the field came time for the Tigers to think about a rematch with Alabama, and talk of the Tide dominated the discussion on Thursday.
Here are thoughts on Alabama from five of LSU's starters:
--- "They are tough and they are physical. They have a good running game and a stout defense, much like us. I don't want to say they are a mirror image, but they are a very similar team in a lot of ways. Maybe this will be Part II. We will see. We kind of hit each other in the mouth, and fortunately for us it came down to field goals." – Blackwell
--- "They are very physical, strong and fast. It's everything you want in a team. That's why they are playing in the National Championship, and we have to go through them to get that trophy." – Reid
--- "I think a lot of schools out there deserve to play in the national title game, and it's a tremendous honor for us to play Alabama again, and hopefully leave no doubt on who is the best team in the country." – Mathieu
--- "When you come to LSU you sign up to play those big-time games. Whoever it is, you have to go out and compete. I believe the Tigers will be ready." – Claiborne
--- "Special teams going into every game is huge, and we try to have the advantage. It will probably be on the special teams again. We expect our name to be called a lot." - Wing