Secondary shakeup

With three games left on the regular-season schedule and a bowl game to take aim at, the LSU football team should have plenty of motivation. That's what their coach is hanging his hat on, anyway.

Tiger coach Les Miles spoke to the media Wednesday for the final time this week before No. 19 LSU (6-3) battles Sun Belt Conference power Troy (6-3) at 7 o’clock Saturday night.


As was the case most of the week, Miles was asked about how he thinks his team will respond this week after a heartbreaking 27-21 overtime loss to top-ranked Alabama last week.


“We kind of pointed on what we needed to do to get better,” Miles said after putting LSU through an indoor practice at the football operations complex. “I think our guys have responded very well. They understand there are a number of ways for us to improve and they came to practice in that frame of mind.”


The loss to the Crimson Tide ended LSU’s hopes of winning the West Division for the third time in four years.


The Tigers have lost three regular-season games for the firs time since 2002.


Still, Miles expects his players to battle the rest of the way, starting with the Troy game.


“It always tests your resolve and who you are as a person,” Miles said. “It’s a very personal reaction.”


Receivers share blame


Although LSU redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee has been the target of most fans’ blame for the Alabama loss after a four-interception outing, Miles said there is plenty of blame to go around.


Lee has tossed 14 interceptions this season, six that have been returned for touchdowns.


There have been times, however, when it looked like LSU receivers were out of position or have run routes incorrectly. Lee has gone to the sideline and spoken to his veteran receivers on several occasions.


“We’ve talked to the receivers about everything that’s gone on through the game, including correction of routes and (hot routes),” Miles said. “Those guys misplayed balls that were thrown, absolutely.”


Jefferson ready to go


Miles also addressed the topic that has dominated the fan base all week: Will true freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson finally get a chance to play some meaningful snaps against the Trojans?


“He’s getting better with each day’s practice and with each period,” Miles said. “I’d like to have him play a series or two in the first half.”


If and when that happens, Lee’s playing time will diminish.


“Certainly he would like to take every snap, but I think he understands that a little change in the lineup, a little break if you will, might benefit him,” Miles said.


Secondary shakeup


Injuries and mistakes have caused some flux in the LSU secondary, but there may be some stability now.


Junior Danny McCray has taken over at free safety for senior Curtis Taylor, who played sparingly last week after missing most of the Tulane game with a shoulder injury.


Miles said Taylor would be available this week, but McCray will start.


“I think Danny is doing some good things back there and we’re not certain Curtis is all the way healed,” he said.


Meanwhile, freshman cornerback Patrick Peterson has emerged as a future star. He snagged his first career interception against the Crimson Tide and matched up with Alabama star Julio Jones several times.


Two other youngsters – Brandon Taylor and Phelon Jones – could see more time at cornerback and in the nickel and dime packages this week and the rest of the season, according to Miles.


The Return of Ricky?


An important fact has been lost in the wake of LSU’s overtime loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide last Saturday.


Tied at 21 in a hopeless late-game situation, junior defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois took the field to block a chip shot field goal that Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin was almost certain to make for a 24-21 Crimson Tide win. Instead, Jean-Francois drove the Alabama line back, getting his hands in the air and doing just enough to block the kick.


“When we were on the sideline in the huddle when they called it we knew we had to put Ricky at the nose,” said senior defensive end Kirston Pittman. “He had to be the guy to lead the charge just like he did in the BCS Championship game. Actually as a whole we were able to stand their guys up and Ricky was able to get some great push along with Tremaine [Johnson] and Tyson [Jackson] and those guys.”


The play sparked one of the loudest and most joyous celebrations in the storied history of Tiger Stadium, bringing the Miami native to the forefront of Tiger Nation for the first time since almost a year ago.


“That was the best moment,” Pittman said. “That was my best moment in Tiger Stadium hands down, when they blocked that kick.”


Despite the loss, Tiger fans will be hoping Jean-Francois’ heroics can lift the defensive line to the heights it was expected to reach in August. Pittman and sophomore defensive tackle Drake Nevis said the impact of Jean-Francois on the defensive line cannot be underestimated.


Nevis said the block, combined with the Tigers’ strong play along the defensive line, could serve as a boost in the season’s final weeks. Providing they stay focused.


With just three weeks left in the season, it will be interesting to see how much Jean-Francois can contribute. He had just two tackles against Alabama before the momentous block, but his presence along the defensive front could count volumes against offensive lines as good as Troy, which have allowed just seven sacks through nine games, and lines as bad as Arkansas, which ranks dead-last in the nation in sacks allowed with 38.


“[The block] was big for Ricky,” Pittman said. “Being that he’s been through some things this season. But he’s got his confidence back and he’s making plays. Not necessarily the big ones that people would have liked to see, but we watch the film as a defensive line and we see what he’s doing. He’s often tacking two blocks at a time and he’s really shrinking his gaps and playing his part. That was really big for him as a whole.


Injury updates


Center Brett Helms returned to practice Wednesday after missing the first two days of the week. Helms suffered an apparent concussion against Alabama and missed the whole second half vs. the Crimson Tide.


Miles said Helms is expected to play this week.


Defensive tackle Al Woods has been hobbled by an ankle injury and may not be available against Troy.

Tiger Blitz Top Stories