With two preparations day left before one of the Tigers’ biggest statement games of the season, LSU coach Les Miles said that his team, plagued by injuries in key spots across the offense, appear to be headed back to full strength.
Jordan Jefferson, who was sidelined against Louisiana Tech with an ankle sprain suffered the week prior against Alabama, took snaps the entire practice on Wednesday. Tight end Richard Dickson, who has been out of action since Tulane, was also back working with the team. Center T-Bob Hebert and strong safety Brandon Taylor, both of whom missed time against Louisiana Tech, were worked into the session at full-speed.
“The guys are returning to health,” Miles said. “It was a nice feel today.”
Barring any setback, Miles said that Jefferson “appears to be mobile” and that he expects him to be the starter on Saturday.
Matched against one of the Southeastern Conference’s biggest home-run threats, senior do-it-all Dexter McCluster, Miles has implemented his best scout team approach.
“Michael Ford is simulating McCluster,” Miles said. “I think it has been fun for him, and our defense is responding. They are looking forward to the challenge.”
The Rebels, who put together two scoring drives of over seven minutes against Tennessee last weekend, have gotten the best of their recent opponents by dominating the time of possession.
With the Tigers hit-or-miss approach to moving the chains on offense, and a defense that has trouble stopping anyone between the 20-yard lines, Miles stressed that winning the possession battle would go a long way in tipping the scale in favor of the visitors.
“I think we have to keep the ball, and our defense has to get themselves off the field,” he said. “It is going to be a possession game. If we can do the most with ours and limit theirs, then that is what we are looking to do.”
What has posed the bigger problem that demands the quickest corrections: the offense not moving the chains on third-down or not stopping defenses from marching down the field, regardless if they end up with points on the board or not?
“I think it’s absolutely both,” Miles said. “Generally, we are pretty efficient in short yards. We probably spend as much time on that part of our game as anything we do. I don’t know that we’ll coach it up much differently, I don’t know that the plan will be much different, but hopefully, the execution will catch up.
“And, it will be a great challenge to our defense to get them stopped.”
Rebel coach Houston Nutt has gotten the best of Miles during their last couple of run-ins, and typically behind a pretty strong rushing attack. The names come and go each season: Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Peyton Hillis, Cordera Eason and, of course, McCluster.
Where do those teams stack up against the best offensive attacks that LSU has faced in his recent years?
“The 2007 Arkansas team, with those two big running’s backs, that was special,” Miles said. “And, McCluster is pretty special. They would rank up there as two of the finest.
“They are always well prepared,” he added. “They have a nice scheme throwing the football. Combine that with the ability to run it, it is probably [Nutt’s] best offense since we have faced him.”