Tigers practice in wet conditions

Though the skies were dark above the LSU practice fields Wednesday afternoon, a full moon almost showed up at the Ponderosa.

After the last individual period wrapped up and before the Tigers moved into team drills, offensive line coach George Yarno broke into an impromptu footrace with Dwayne Pierce, the 315-pound senior whom Nick Saban has called his most effective man in the trenches.

As Yarno neared the finish line ahead of Pierce, the right guard struggled to keep his purple shorts from dropping off of his backside.

It was the lightest moment in a decidedly lighter practice than was the Tigers' Tuesday edition. Whatever clouds had followed above the heads of the LSU coaching staff the day before had vanished. Even Saban gave the media a rare glimpse at his private persona during an early-evening press conference.

"I'm comfortable with you (media) guys," he joked. "You think I'm scared, or what?"

Saban had been asked whether it was true that his players often saw a different, lighter side of the 49-year-old head coach. He responded with a yes.

"You spend so much time with the players. I certainly have a liking for the guys on our team. … You spend time with them, you work with them, you teach them, you care about them. (If) they have problems, they come and see you," Saban said.

"So in a way — and I don't want to sound phony about this — you become a little bit of a family over time. That's how you have the teamwork that you need to keep guys together in critical situations.

"To have some fun with the players at times, I think it's a complement to my personality with them, because I'm so intense and so serious about things sometimes, that they need to see the side of me that's just a regular old guy."

Then again, there is the side that shows itself more often — the side of the focused, prepared technician who's hard at work.

"They understand that when it's business time," he said, "it's business."

On the business of practice, Saban had begun game-week preparations a day early, which moved everything ahead. Normally, Wednesday would be a more businesslike session. Instead, he kept his players in "shells" — helmets, shoulder pads and shorts — as the Tigers stayed outside despite a light drizzle and wet footing.

Saban said his team has already practiced more inside thus far than the Tigers did during all of last season. Since an early forecast calls for a 60-percent chance of scattered thunderstorms Saturday, his team practiced in what may be game-like conditions.

Saban did add, however, that he doubted the rain would hinder a pass-heavy offense like the one Tulane runs.

"A lot of people have the misnomer that I think it really affects throwing the ball when it's bad," Saban said. "I think it's got to be really, really bad for that to happen. Sometimes it's just as much of a disadvantage playing pass defense than it is to try and throw the ball."

Strongside linebacker Lionel Turner, who will likely miss this weekend's game with a knee injury, was back in action Wednesday, dressed out in a red no-contact jersey. Senior tight end Robert Royal, battling a twisted ankle, was the only other Tiger dressed in red. Royal will probably play Saturday, Saban said.

Meanwhile, across Nicholson Drive, crew members applied paint to the north end zone of Tiger Stadium. Workers also tested out the JumboTrons, making sure the video screens will be in working order for LSU's season opener with Tulane this Saturday night at 7 p.m.

"It seems like we've been practicing forever," said senior quarterback Rohan Davey. "Right now, it seems like Saturday will never get here."

By then, the players will probably be very serious — and so will Saban. Until then, he'll flash a smile and cut a joke every now and again.

"I'm a pretty serious person most of the time, but I think (I'm) very misunderstood. For what reason, I don't know," he said. "I don't perceive myself like you perceive me, but I don't blame you for that. I blame me for that."

MOORE THAN HE BARGAINED FOR: Asked about Tulane tailback Mewelde Moore, who ran for 176 yards against Brigham Young last week, Saban recalled his first few months at LSU and how his staff was late in recruiting Moore. The previous staff apparently didn't recruit Moore, and it wasn't until January 2000 that Saban began to build a relationship with the Belaire product.

Saban said since he was out of scholarships to offer, he indeed hoped that Moore would take a TOPS offer and play baseball at LSU (he was a fourth-round pick of the San Diego Padres and spent this summer in their minor-league organization).

"He's the one guy that I thought was an outstanding player, and he's proven to be that. … We liked him and we wanted him to come here," Saban said. "But we made a decision, because of numbers — we'd already recruited Derron Parquet and Devery Henderson as running backs — not to take him. There's no question that I wish we'd have done it differently."


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