Varsity players report to LSU

The varsity members of the LSU football team reported to campus Friday and begin their preparations for the 2002 season tomorrow.<br><br>Three players from last year's squad were not part of that group, including a projected starter on the offensive line. Head coach Nick Saban announced that Kade Comeaux will miss this season in order to receive treatment for Crohn's disease.

Comeaux, who was the probable starter at right tackle, had been diagnosed with the inflammatory bowel disease several years ago. Doctors successfully treated him with medication that allowed him to continue his pursuit of athletics. But following a two-week bout with extreme fatigue this summer, he went back to his doctor and it was determined that a more aggressive treatment would be necessary. Because of the treatment he will have to take, Comeaux cannot play football.

More information on Crohn's disease

"He's going to go through four to six weeks of therapy that will include a lot of medication that will not allow him to participate in football for this season," said Saban.

Saban said everything will be done to ensure Comeaux has a future at LSU regardless of whether or not it includes football. A decision on whether to issue a medical redshirt to Comeaux, who has already had a redshirt season, won't be made until his future as a football player is determined.

"We're just going to wait until this treatment cycle runs its course and make a decision on what's in his best interest physically, so his quality of life can be what we'd all like it to be," said Saban.

Comeaux was enjoying a productive summer of strength and conditioning workouts before encountering the heighten symptoms. Saban said the staff is disappointed not to see Comeaux enjoy the "payoff" after putting in two years in the program. He had played as a reserve last season and would have been able to contribute signficantly in 2002.

Also not reporting Friday were linebacker Dave Peterson and offensive lineman Brad Smalling. Both were academic casualties, although Saban said Peterson could have remained on the team on scholarship, taken a redshirt for 2002 and still practiced with the team.

"He was on probation for conduct relative to team rules," said Saban. "He had the opportunity to do the right things in terms of being able to come back on the squad, and he did not do them. So he was suspended for violation of team rules, even though we would have supported him and helped him through this year. He had a redshirt year and could have come back next year, and he's welcomed to come back next year if he wants to do that."

Peterson, a junior college transfer from Coffeyville Community College, was listed as LSU's No. 2 player at Sam linebacker entering fall camp. He was used primarily on special teams in 2001 and saw action in all 12 games, recording one tackle.

Smalling, a senior from West Monroe who was placed on probation in late April, dropped out of school during the summer. He played as a reserve on offense in ten games last season and saw action on special teams. As a sophomore, he played in all 12 games with starts in five at right tackle. Smalling made his first start as a redshirt freshman in 1999 and played in a total of nine games. 

"(He) just kind of gave up on the academic part of it," said Saban. "Basically, he quit school and quit the team."

With Smalling and Comeaux no longer options at right tackle, Saban said junior left tackle Rodney Reed would be moved to the opposite end of the line and redshirt freshman Andrew Whitworth would be the starter in Reed's place. Redshirt freshman Rudy Niswanger would be a reserve at right tackle and right guard, and true freshman Terrell McGill would be looked at to back up Reed.

The transition should go smoothly for Reed, who Saban says is a right-handed player who trained himself to play on the left side. Whitworth and McGill are both left-handed, making them naturally suited to play at left tackle according to Saban.

"It's just going to make the development of Terrell McGill and some of the freshman players a little more accelerated for us in fall camp," he said. "Hopefully we can go in with three tackles ready to play in the first game."

To make up for Peterson's absence at linebacker, Saban said the staff has been very impressed with Cameron Vaughn as a Will linebacker. He added that Jason LeDoux could be used as a back up and Lionel Turner is capable of playing the Sam and Will positions.

Saban said he is glad to have the entire team together so they can rekindle the chemistry that lead to last season's success. He says he will look for his team to take a serious approach to fall practice right away since the Tigers start the 2002 season with nationally-ranked Virginia Tech.

"We haven't had a game like that since I've been here and maybe for a little while before that," Saban said. "...Everybody's got to have the attitude that we're going to get game-ready in fall camp. We don't have a team that we can just show up and not play great against in the first game and still have a chance to be successful."

The Tigers will hold three straight days of two-a-day practices starting Monday, going against Saban's usual pattern of alternating a two-a-days with a single practice day.

Since the Tigers start their season on a Sunday, the NCAA forced LSU to count the Friday before the game as a practice day. The NCAA allows 29 fall practice sessions, and teams can only hold one practice per day once classes begin.

Saban wanted to move that last Friday practice and allow his team to report a day early, but the NCAA would not allow it. In order to get enough practice session in to prepare for Virginia Tech, Saban was forced to schedule the three consecutive days of double practices.

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Before resuming practice on Monday, the Tigers will take part in conditioning tests and seminars covering public relations, peer intervention and NCAA compliance.

SUMMER WORKOUTS: Saban provided his assessment of the returning players regarding their participation in summer strength and conditioning training.

"There are a lot of guys you can tell who had an outstanding summer, worked very hard this summer and made physical improvements in the conditioning. Then you have a few guys, like you always do, you can be a little disappointed in. Maybe they came back a little overweight and it affected their conditioning. Our disposition is we need to take them all from where they are right now and whip them into shape as quickly as possible."

NUMBERS SHUFFLE: Wide receiver/running back Devery Henderson has swapped his No. 26 jersey for the No. 9. Quickly snatching up Henderson's vacated number was safety Travis Moses, who leaves behind No. 37.

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