Football newcomers report to LSU

The LSU 2001 football season officially began Monday as head coach Nick Saban welcomed 29 newcomers — 23 of whom are on athletic scholarships and six of whom are invited walk-ons — in the rookie class that reported to LSU and went through part of the football team's standard "PT" test, which amounts to an extended physical exam.

"We're obviously pleased to have our freshmen report today, and we're excited about the players in this class and their character," Saban said at a press conference Monday night.

Only two signees, former McKinley lineman Jonathan Banks and former Washington-Marion lineman Nate Livings, did not report Monday.

Banks was a double signee in February with Dodge City (Kan.) Community College and didn't come close to qualifying academically. As Tiger Rag reports in its football preview issue this week, he may be headed to Grambling State.

Livings is working on a class that may enable him to qualify.

Other players, whom Saban did not name, have not been officially approved by the NCAA clearinghouse, but have 14 days to practice with the team before the clearinghouse actually receives the necessary paperwork.

"We have the information and we know they qualified," Saban said. "It's just a matter of getting (the paperwork) to the clearinghouse."

Judging from the players' condition, Saban said his newest freshmen class was fairly typical, in that many of them weren't in tip-top shape.

"They probably didn't do everything we'd like them to do, or they part-timed it," said Saban of their off-season conditioning. But we're pleased with the attitude they had and the character they have."

Freshmen don't usually put forth the same amount of effort in the summer, he said, compared to the way varsity players usually train — particularly when they're not under the eye of strength coach Tommy Moffitt.

"But from what I've seen," Saban added, "it's not like we can't whip 'em into shape somehow over the next three weeks."

The newcomers will practice for the first time Tuesday, beginning with meetings at 7 a.m., where the coaches will go over terminology, fundamentals and intangibles. The freshmen will actually hit the field just after 12 noon, then run through a second session of drills at 7:30 p.m.

They'll repeat the process Wednesday before running through academic orientation Thursday, just as the veteran Tigers are reporting to camp.

"By the first game, you have to say, ‘We're gonna play this guy,' or, ‘We're not gonna play him," said Saban, adding that injuries might be a variable. "To me it's almost like the pros, where you have to determine whether a rookie is going to pass up a veteran during the season."

All players, Saban said, will be instructed to hydrate themselves as much as possible before physical exertion. He added that athletes have problems with heat more because of how they treat themselves before they reach the field than because of their on-the-field activity.

"Our people have done a phenomenal job with that," Saban said. "We've always been proactive relative to that situation."

On a semi-related front, Saban said he would not suspend Tim Pope, a freshman linebacker from Panama City, Fla., who had a recent run-in with local police.

"He hasn't been charged with anything," Saban said. "I'm not gonna suspend the guy from this team, because what he did happened before he got here."

Saban said he has talked with the local prosecutor, who said it would probably be best for Pope to report to camp as planned. If Pope is charged with something later, Saban said they'll address the issue then.

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