Tigers put first day in the books

Rob Bolden's arrival and debut is the highlight of first day of work for LSU, which earns the No. 1 ranking in the coaches' pre-season poll.

With just over four weeks to go before the 2012 season gets rolling, LSU went to work Thursday with a pair of practices.

Entering his eighth season, Tigers coach Les Miles was pleased with the first day or work, which coincided with his team being tabbed No. 1 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' pre-season poll – the first time LSU will start a season on top of a major poll since 1959.

Miles, whose team was No. 1 the final 11 weeks the 2011 regular season before losing to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, said the Tigers are thankful but mindful that this ranking isn't nearly as meaningful as the one when the final game of the season is finished.

"They recognize that they have to earn their spot," he said. "There are lots of games to be played between now and being the actual No. 1."

Les Miles

The focal point of Thursday's two practices, which were mostly divided among veterans and freshmen/newcomers, was the debut of quarterback transfer Rob Bolden in the afternoon session.

LSU's freshmen and newcomers, with a few veterans sprinkled in, hit the field for the afternoon session indoors.

Bolden shared quarterback duties with redshirt freshman Jerrard Randall and another transfer, Brad Kragthorpe.

Although the periods that the media was allowed to watch were all skeleton drills, there was no question that Bolden has a live arm and plenty of zip on his delivery. Some of the younger receivers had trouble handling his passes at times – reminiscent of JaMarcus Russell working with the younger group in 2004.

LSU coach Les Miles said he liked what he saw from Bolden, who spent the last two seasons at Penn State before seeking a transfer to LSU in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

"I think finding cadence and finding how we do things is very difficult," Miles said. "I thought he did a good job. It's obvious that he's had some experience and knows how to handle the huddle and what to expect."

Thursday was the first time Bolden stepped on the field, but he got a chance to meet most of his new teammates Wednesday after the team reported.

Part of that introduction was a ceremony inside the practice facility when banners representing the 2011 SEC West regular-season and overall league championships were unveiled.

"I met him (Wednesday) night at the team meeting; he's a great guy," starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger said. "You can tell he's really smart. There's a reason he started his freshman year under (late Penn State coach Joe Paterno). I'm looking forward to working with him. This team has really embraced him with open arms. He's part of the family now. Hopefully he's willing to come in and work like the rest of us."

The two players who figure to be the most affected by Bolden's arrival are redshirt freshmen Stephen Rivers and Jerrard Randall, neither of whom has taken a college snap.

Mettenberger was in their shoes last season and said he expects the two younger QBs to be motivated.

"They don't want to lose their No. 2 and 3 spots," Mettenberger said. "It will make them work a whole lot harder."

Other notes, quotes and observations from the two practice sessions on opening day:

  • The linebackers were divided with three freshmen running with the veterans in the morning and juniors Luke Muncie and D.J Welter with the mostly younger group in the afternoon. Freshmen LBs Lamar Louis, Ronnie Feist and Deion Jones worked out early.

    Miles said the mixing and matching was by design to get a young and talented crew of linebackers comfortable with communication and where to line up.

    In the afternoon, Muncie and Welter looked the part of older players – much more bulked up and familiar with the drills. Defensive coordinator John Chavis wasn't holding back in the afternoon session and scolded the LB group several times.

    Morning session
  • Mettenberger and Rivers were the two QBs. Mettenberger showed why LSU fans are frothing at the mouth with one well-zipped throw after another.

  • The RB group was the usual crew: Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard and fullbacks J.C. Copeland and Connor Neighbors.

  • Same for the receivers, as Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Russell Shepard, Kadron Boone and James Wright. A surprise was Paul Turner running with the primary group, while Armand Williams and Jarrett Fobbs were not in the morning session. Shepard and Boone had a couple of drops in skeleton work, but the other receivers were showed good hands.

  • The five-man offensive line units working together were Chris Faulk-La'el Collins-P.J. Lonergan-Josh Williford-Alex Hurst and Alexander-Trai Turner-Elliott Porter-Josh Dworaczyk-Chris Davenport.

  • As usual, the defensive back group was a who's who of big-name recruits. Tyrann Mathieu, Tharold Simon, Eric Reid and Craig Loston operated together, with youngsters Ronald Martin, Jalen Collins, Micah Eugene and Jalen Mills grouped together.

  • Like the DBs, the LSU d-line group looks like an assembly of all-stars. Besides the proven trio of Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo (who was in a green no-contact jersey) and Bennie Logan, Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson drew the low-key praise of Brick Haley.

    Afternoon session
  • Among the wide receivers, nobody stood out and that's not great news for veterans Williams and Fobbs, who had their share of mishandles, along with the freshmen.

    Dillon Gordon

  • Freshman tight end Dillon Gordon was impressive. Although he resembles an offensive lineman at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, the former John Curtis star had soft hands and hauled in anything thrown his direction. As tempting as it might be for the LSU coaches to turn him into a blocking specialist, he appears to have the capability of being a unique weapon as a pass catcher.

  • Freshman tailback Jeremy Hill looks game-ready, checking in at 6-2 and 225 pounds. Reportedly one of the strongest players on the team, Hill was clearly the most imposing back in the afternoon group.

  • Former linebacker Justin Maclin, now a defensive end, was also in the afternoon practice. The player who stood out in the d-line group was 6-5, 235-pound Danielle Hunter, who seemed comfortable working against veteran teammates.

  • While the afternoon offensive line looked raw and out of sync at times, there is impressive size in that group, led by sophomore Evan Washington (6-5, 326), redshirt freshmen Trai Turner (6-2, 332) and Jonah Austin (6-6, 322) and true freshmen Jerald Hawkins (6-6, 290) and Derek Edinburgh Jr. (6-8, 325).

    Tigers on top in the coaches' poll

    Faulk ready to protect

    Reid believes secondary will improve

    Collins readies for a bigger role

    Ford confident in LSU backfield

    Blue expects offensive explosion

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