Saban: Tulane a "dangerous" team

Anticipation for LSU's season-opening game against Tulane was more evident than ever Monday afternoon at the school's athletic administration building, as students waited up to five hours to pick up their tickets for Saturday night's contest. While the co-eds formed a line that stretched from the ticket office to South Stadium Drive, second-year LSU head coach Nick Saban met with the media for the first of his weekly press conferences.

Outside, the students spoke of blowing away the Green Wave, citing Brigham Young's dominating 70-35 win Saturday afternoon over Tulane. Inside, Saban called the Wave a dangerous team that his players shouldn't take lightly.

"It's kind of a little bit like a Rocky-and-Apollo-Creed type of thing," Saban said. "Our players need to respect them. They need to prepare well and we need to focus well on what we need to do to win this football game.

"Anybody who thinks that this is not going to be a game, and thinks that (Tulane) should not be respected, don't ask me about it. That's not how I feel about it, and I don't care what's happened in the past years — how many times this team has won or that team has won. None of that matters."

What does matter, Saban said, is how the Tigers prepare for the Green Wave. The message hit home with junior middle linebacker Treverance Faulk, one of three team captains.

"It's just another big game to me," Faulk said. "We just have to have the win. Some of the New Orleans guys went to high school with (Tulane players). They've had some back-and-forth stuff, but I don't really know anybody.

"All this stuff is great for the state. It's great for the fans and it's great for you (media) guys. But we're just concerned about playing hard and executing and winning the game."

As Monday turned from sunny and pleasurable to cloudy and soggy, Saban led his team to a 3 p.m. practice, just a few hours after some of them took their first class in college.

"This is a great game to play for the beginning of the season," said weakside linebacker Bradie James, "because it prepares you for league play."

The defense planned to continue preparation for the Green Wave's offense, which operates with a no-huddle attack.

"We haven't played a team yet that went no-huddle, which for the defensive players (takes) significant preparation," Saban said. "A team that goes no-huddle takes a defensive player out of his normal sync."

During his tenure as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns from 1991-94, Saban said, his team often went against no-huddle schemes such as the Buffalo Bills' "K-gun" offense. Even the professionals, he stated, always seemed to make more errors when they had less time in between offensive plays and couldn't break for their own huddle.

Playing defense is a matter of routines, said Saban, who even used his early-morning habits of Little Debbie cookies and day-old coffee as an example.

"Everybody here has one of those routines. And a defensive player has one, too," Saban said. "He goes to the huddle, he gets the call, he looks at the offense coming out to its formation. … Now all of a sudden, you can't do that because the other team doesn't huddle. … I don't go through my normal process. It's difficult preparation. How our players respond to that is going to be a real key in this game."

Saban also said Tulane senior Patrick Ramsey, who went 20-of-43 with 263 yards passing and three touchdowns Saturday, was as good as any quarterback LSU has played against since he's been with the Tigers.

"They have several good skill players," Saban added. "(Terrell) Harris had nine catches in the game, Mewelde Moore had over 200 yards in all-purpose yards and 176 yards rushing. Their ability to run the football gave them more balance in this game."

FRESHMEN: Though he said he's never counted, Saban said he expects roughly a half-dozen first-year player to see action sometime this season, if not against Tulane. Saban named Michael Clayton, Marcus Spears, Marquise Hill, Brandon Williams and Ben Wilkerson among the freshmen.

Clayton, a 6-foot-4 receiver from Christian Life Academy, impressed many observers in fall camp with good range and sure hands. He is listed second behind junior Jerel Myers at split end.

Spears, a 280-pounder from Southern Lab, has moonlighted as a fullback in some situations during camp. He is listed as the co-No. 3 tight end.

Hill, a 6-foot-7 defensive end from De La Salle, is listed as a co-No. 2 defensive end.

Williams is a strong safety whom the NCAA has not yet cleared to play; his ACT test score is still in question.

Wilkerson, a native of Hemphill, Texas, was regarded as the best high school center in the nation last year.

"He's one heck of an athlete for a man his size," said center Rob Sale.

Saban said he is planning to use Wilkerson as the snapper for extra-point attempts, so his participation is virtually assured.

"He'll probably play. At least I hope he plays," Saban joked.

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