Mum's the word

Les Miles is like many of your high-profile college football coaches in that he doesn't like to divulge a lot of information. So, it isn't surprising that the headman remains tight-lipped on who will take the first snap under center on Saturday.

When Miles met the media for his Monday press conference he hinted that either Andrew Hatch or Jarrett Lee would get the majority of the snaps but he never tipped his hand as to who would trot out on the field for the first series.

 

The media got one last crack at Miles on Wednesday following the Tigers’ practice and he gave a little more insight on the quarterback position but it wasn’t the answer to the 64-million dollar question.

 

“Neither one of them (Hatch or Lee) know (who’s going to start), and the third one (Jordan Jefferson) knows he’s going to play,” Miles said.

 

There had been talk all throughout camp that Jefferson, who is a true freshman from Destrehan, would get playing time this season so if that holds true to form then opponents will have to prepare for three signal callers.

 

As for who will line up behind Brett Helms, though, that remains a mystery.

 

What isn’t a mystery, however, is the fact that whether it’s Hatch or Lee, the guy taking snaps will be making his first career start on the college level.

 

Hatch, a sophomore transfer from Harvard, got some action against Middle Tennessee State and then at Alabama last season.

 

He attempted two passes on the year, completing one for nine yards, and he ran four times for 27 yards.

 

Lee, a redshirt freshman from Brenham, Texas, spent his first year learning the playbook and working some as the opposing team’s quarterback in practice.

 

The last time LSU has had a first-time starter in a season opener was in 2002 when Matt Mauck took that first snap at Virginia Tech.

 

Tiger fans are hoping for better results this time around as the Tigers lost in Blacksburg 26-8. There is some concern among the Tiger faithful but the guy who sees and knows much more about the situation seems a bit more comfortable.

 

“I feel like our offense is coming along and our quarterbacks are more comfortable than they’ve been and looking forward to taking the field in our stadium,” Miles said. “I have great confidence in all three quarterbacks. I can’t tell you today who will be taking the field first. I can tell you that I’m comfortable with whoever that is, and we’ll see how it plays out from here.”

 

One thing that the rookie signal callers will have to work with is a supporting cast that has plenty of experience as the Tigers return eight players on that side of the ball who started at some point last season.

 

Led by a veteran offensive line and a running back corps that is as deep and talented as any in the conference, look for LSU to establish the run on Saturday to bring the quarterbacks along slowly.

 

That is at least the mindset that Appalachian State head coach Jerry Moore has going into the showdown, but he isn’t expecting all run and no pass.

 

“I think most good football teams do that and I would certainly be surprised if LSU didn’t,” said Moore. “You watch almost any of the Southeastern Conference games and we’ve watched them all, including the bowl game against Ohio State, and they all can run the football. The teams that win generally run it a little better but that doesn’t mean they don’t throw the football.”

 

The Tigers’ three-headed monster in the backfield of Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, and Richard Murphy have all showed that they can tote the rock, and do so at a high level. But can one of them be that feature back that Jacob Hester was last season?

 

“We’d like for a guy like Hester to emerge like last year and we think we have quality guys there,” Miles said. “I think it’d be important and we’d like to have a 1,000-yard back step forward and be that guy. I think there are a couple of quality candidates but I don’t know that I could put my name or my finger on that guy today.”

 

The defense LSU will have to deal with on Saturday returns six of its front seven from a group that gave up 26 points and 379 yards a game in 2007.

 

The Mountaineers return two FSC First team All-Americans in defensive tackle Anthony Williams (74 tackles, 11 TFL’s, 5 sacks in ’07) and Co-captain Pierre Banks, who finished fourth on the team with 108 tackles last season.

 

Banks had his best outing of the year in the upset win over the Wolverines with 12 tackles, including two for loss, and a sack.

 

Moore is counting on him to come up big again on Saturday.

 

“He’s a guy we look to for leadership and we need him to have a big game for us,” said Moore. “We’ll need him to bring that same type of energy and enthusiasm he brought last year because the others feed off of that.”

 

The others Moore is referring to include Jacque Roman and D.J. Smith, who finished first and second in tackles last season, with 127 and 121, respectively.

 

The linebackers will be key to the Mountaineers’ success at stopping the run because the defensive line will be giving up an average of 36 pounds to the Tigers in the trenches.

 

As experienced as the front seven is, though, the secondary is very green heading into the season as Moore must replace all of his starters from a year ago.

 

Defensively, the Mountaineers may be undersized and not as fast as the players they will be squaring off with but to steal a line from LSU’s headman, “they are a capable group.”

 

“They’re a zone-dog some and they blitz some,” Miles said. “They have a pretty conventional front. They don’t do a lot of different looks but what they do they do very, very well. They’re well coached and they stunt enough to make a mess out of play and they know how to call it. They’re a very capable group.”

 

It’s not often that teams play their best football of the year in the opener, and it’s doubtful that neither the Tigers nor the Mountaineers will either with the distraction lurking in the Caribbean and possibly heading Louisiana’s way over the weekend.

 

But it is the first game after a long off-season so it should still be exciting.

 

“I have a strong suspicion that we’ll be ready to play and be very competitive,” Miles said. “I think in every opener that I’ve been around you make mistakes, and I think there will be mistakes made. I don’t think anybody, even the veterans, will play perfect, but I think we’ll play well and I think it will be an exciting game.”


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