PRACTICE REPORT: Monday, Aug. 14 - Morning

The LSU Tigers returned to the practice field early Monday morning for workouts at the Charles McClendon Practice Facility. Sunday, the players and caches entertained the media and fans on the last, truly laid back day before football season begins.

It is all business from here on out.


There was little to report actually. Injuries have been at a minimal so far through spring camp. Everyone knows about Kirston Pittman being lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Pittman injured his foot during workouts in June and will miss his second straight season with injury.


Luke Sanders continues to perform in a green, "limited contact" jersey as he continues on the road to being 100-percent.


The only other player with an injury to note is reserve offensive lineman Paris Hodges, who suffered a sprained knee last Wednesday. He has spent everyday since then in the training room and has been confined to wearing a knee brace.


Taking a quick peek at the linebackers, the Tigers' first three backers are very good, among the best in the SEC. Sanders anchors the group in the middle, flanked by preseason all-SEC pick Ali Highsmith and talented sophomore Darry Beckwith.


"We feel good about our linebacker position," said LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. "Luke Sanders has done a real good job of rehabbing. He's in good position. He's stepped out front and he's the lead guy to be our middle linebacker. We feel real good about Luke and with Ali Highsmith and Darry Beckwith on the flanks."


Pelini said, though, success hinges on the play of Highsmith.


"I think Ali, he plays WILL for us in nickel," Pelini said.. "He plays what we call the BUCK linebacker spot, but he's playing over the tight end in base personnel. He was a guy who was a big play guy for us last year, made some plays. He wasn't always the most consistent guy. I said to him yesterday that he's more comfortable, his technique is better. I feel like he's a five times better linebacker right now than he was at the end of last year. His knowledge is better."


Pelini credited Higsmith for working hard during the offseason, both in the weight and film rooms.


"He spent a lot of time in the off-season watching film," Pelini said. "And he's hungry. With the other guys leaving and some of the seniors graduating, he's stepped up to take on a leadership role. All of that combined is going to make him a better football player. We feel real good about him, and I think he's more confident than he ever has been."


"He's consistent," said Pelini on Sanders. "He understands the defense. He stands in front of the huddle and commands respect. He's done a good job. Our middle linebacker, our MIKE linebacker, he's kind of the quarterback of the front. He's done a nice job of getting us in and out of our checks, getting us lined up and taking charge. Combine that with he's just ahead of where he was last year. He did a nice job.


Pelini said Sanders did a good job of mentoring Cameron Vaughn for the last two seasons.


"He watched Cameron Vaughn last year, and he understands the system more and more every day," Pelini said. "Physically, he can run. He runs better than what people give him credit for, I think, what most people probably think he can do. He's taken the physical aspect of the game to another level. I feel real good about Luke, and I think he's going to be a tremendous asset to our defense."


Pelini has remarked about how excited he is about his linebacking corps, despite the lack of depth. Pelini said Sunday at LSU Media Day that converted fullback Jason Spadoni is the unit's fourth linebacker.


"Our fourth linebacker right now is Jason Spadoni and a number of freshmen that are working to provide us depth," Pelini said Sunday.


Jacob Cutrera, who is a physical specimen at 6-4, 227 pounds, will immediately. Perry Riley, Kelvin Sheppard and Derrick Odom will all get their chance as well.


"(Jacob) Cutrera and (Perry) Riley, those two are probably ahead of the rest of them just because of the nature of where they've been as far as getting reps," Pelini said. "We feel like Kelvin Sheppard is going to be a good football player for us. He's also a guy that has shown some good things in practice. Derrick Odom is a guy who is a little further behind because he was a defensive lineman in high school, but athletically he's everything you look for. We feel real good about what we have coming up at that position."


The Tigers will practice again this afternoon at 4:15 in preparation for a possible scrimmage Tuesday morning at 9:45. Check back to this evening for a full report from the afternoon workout.

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