Tigers begin preparations for Tulane

Don't tell LSU head coach Nick Saban that today's Friday. In his mind, it's Monday, and that's why his Tigers started concentrating on their game plan for their season opener against Tulane during today's practice.

After a day off on Thursday, the Tigers worked for approximately two hours on Friday and concentrated on how they plan to attack and defend against the Green Wave on Sept. 1.

The Tigers enter the 2001 season with a largely healthy squad. The only two players not practicing on Friday were redshirt freshman linebacker Lionel Turner and senior tight end Robert Royal.

Turner underwent arthroscopic surgery for a knee injury he suffered in Wednesday's scrimmage. A surgeon repaired the damaged medial collateral ligament without needing to stitch the repair, according to Saban, and Turner will be able to return to action as soon as the ligament mends. The standard time for such recovery is one to two weeks.

Royal twisted an ankle in the scrimmage and is expected to return to practice early next week.

Saban said he and his staff are just about set on the personnel they will use in the season opener with only a couple of positions still up for grabs. A tight battle is taking place between punters Donnie Jones and Ryan Miles, but Saban noted that Jones had a better showing the scrimmage.

It also appears that the back-up quarterback position is far from decided, although Saban and offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher have repeatedly said there is no premium on officially naming either Matt Mauck or Marcus Randall a second-stringer.

"Matt is a little older and more mature and probably handles adversity better," said Saban. "He can run the huddle effectively. Marcus is extremely gifted athletically, and we're not giving up in terms of what he can do for the team.

"They're neck and neck, and there's not a hill of beans difference between them."

Part of the Tigers preparations for Tulane include working the defense against a no-huddle look, and that has been challenging for players and coaches. The scout squad is generally not deeply versed in the opponent's offense and must rely heavily on cards with the plays diagramed held up between plays. But since Saban wants to duplicate the tempo of a no-huddle offense, it is difficult for the cards to be used.

Saban says teams like Tulane that throw extensively and use multiple offenses give a coaching staff more to prepare for during the practice week.

"When you play a team like Kentucky or Purdue, you know they're going to throw the ball," he explained. "The thing you don't know is what multiple formation they're going to use, and you have to prepare for all of the formations they're going to use."

Tulane begins it season tomorrow in Provo, Utah, against Brigham Young in the annual Black Coaches' Association game. The Cougars are a 10-point favorite over the Green Wave.

As to whether playing a game before meeting LSU will help Tulane, Saban says he doesn't concern himself with such things. He and his staff have reviewed every game the Green Wave played last year and will watch tomorrow's game to see if they do anything differently.

"I don't know if it's an advantage for them," he said. "I'm sure it will help some players get better. I'm sure if they get somebody hurt, they'll wish they didn't play the game.

"It doesn't make a difference to us because it's not something we can control."

Asked to compare where the Tigers stand today to the status of last year's squad, Saban shied away from making specific evaluations. He did say the team is much further along in its grasp of the overall game plan.

"The players have a knowledge of what we're doing," Saban said. "I'm not saying the players are physically better. We're basically where we were at the end of last season in terms of how well they grasp things.

"Psychologically, we're ahead of where we were at this time last season… Whether those things equate to wins, I don't know."

The Tigers return to practice Saturday and plan review what took place in today's workout out in addition to covering short-yardage and goal-line situations. The team gets a day off Sunday and will pick back up again with practice on Monday – the first day of classes at LSU.

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