Halfway Point

LSU's season opener is still 19 days away but Tuesday marked a milestone in the Tigers' 2009 fall camp. Head coach Les Miles met with the media following Tuesday's practice and shed some light on the injury bug that has bitten several players during fall camp along with discussing several other topics.

On Tuesday, LSU passed the halfway point in terms of the number of practices leading up to the Washington game.  


It was a long go but a little lighter as Les Miles described it and it was by design after two-a-days. Tomorrow, however, will be a different story as the plan is to be more of a “contact drill and tackle drill” day.


The Tigers still have 14 more practices before they face the Huskies on Sept. 5 and there’s still plenty of work to do before heading to Seattle.


“I think the improvement on all sides, in all three phases, has been constant,” Miles said. “The defense, in my opinion, has really come to life and that’s nice to see. I think the offense, the quarterbacks, are playing well but we’re ways away.”


According to the headman, there’s a gap from the team that they want to be and the team that they need to be in the opener and that’s the focus going forward. Closing that gap will depend on several players getting healthy and others stepping up into key roles this season on both sides of the ball.


Jarrett Lee was back at practice after missing Monday’s workout but a couple of players were nicked on Tuesday in Akiem Hicks – possibly an ankle or knee – and Pep Levingston, who was seen with a bandaged right arm following practice.


Several other projected starters have missed practice during camp with various injuries including Brandon LaFell, Perry Riley, Jacob Cutrera and Ciron Black, while others were limited at times.


Those are to be expected with two-a-days as the players get into football shape, but Miles says none of the injuries appear to be serious.


“At this point there’s nothing that would prevent the players from playing in the season opener,” he said.


Defensively, the Tigers will depend on Chad Jones at free safety, who Miles says is having a good fall camp, along with several others as they look to improve on last season’s numbers which ranked in the bottom third of the conference.


“I like the mobility of this team,” said Miles. “This defensive team was pretty aggressive today. We have a lot in and they’re getting a lot of reps and getting better every day.”


On the offensive side of the ball there is competition for the third and fourth wide receiver spot and true freshman Rueben Randle is making a strong push to get on the field in one of those roles.


“In my opinion he’s farther along than I would have predicted,” Miles said of Randle and the progress he’s made in camp. “I think there’s always a learning curve with any young freshman that comes in and has to get on board. But Rueben learns very quickly and understands his role…I like where’s he at. I think he learns very quickly and I think we’ll use him early in the season and late as well.”


Another area where there appears to be some strong competition is in special teams where Drew Alleman is battling Josh Jasper for the kicking job as well as Derek Helton for the punting chores.


“Drew has improved and I think he’s kicking and punting extremely well,” Miles said. “He has a strong leg and he spent some time this summer working hard at it. He’s earning some competition.”


“There’s a great legacy here on special teams and I think Josh Jasper wants to step in and compete there,” added Miles. “I think he’s watched Colt David do the things he’s done and really wants that opportunity. He’s getting better every day as well and he has a real strong leg.”


Miles and the coaches have had 15 practices to evaluate the players including four two-a-days but not taking into account the four practices where the squad was split up. With only practicing once a day now, the level of contact is down, but the mental preparation gets cranked up.


“When you go to one-a-days there’s greater meeting time and greater emphasis on styles of learning and it’s not as intense on the field where you’re rushing from one spot to the next because of the two-a-day schedule that you have to do so much,” said Miles. “I think it’s better.”


Miles said the Tigers will go about a half on Wednesday and then Saturday’s scrimmage will be a non-tackle (thud) scrimmage before next Tuesday’s final scrimmage leading up to the opener.

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