When the Tigers grinded through their 100-plus play scrimmages over the past few weekends, redshirt freshman running back Mike Ford has served as the second man in the chain of command.
Richard Murphy, who is set to be one of the chief ball carriers next fall, remains sidelined as he recovers from an ACL injury suffered early in the 2009 season.
Ford and Stevan Ridley - who took over the attack after Charles Scott and Keiland Williams were lost to injury last fall - remain the only two scholarship candidates to go full-speed this offseason.
Fortunately, Ford has stepped in and filled the void. In the team’s Saturday scrimmage two weekends ago, he carried the ball 16 times for 79 yards – five yards short of the mark set by Ridley. This past weekend he rushed for 76 yards on 16 carries, outperforming Ridley by 37 yards.
Riding a wave of confidence, the former Leesville High standout turned in another solid showing on Tuesday afternoon.
“[Ford] broke a nice run,” said head coach Les Miles. “What you don’t realize is how strong and fast he is. He makes really good cuts. When he gets into the secondary it is tough to catch him.”
Miles also praised fellow 2009 signees Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle for a strong afternoon, giving promise to a receiving corps that lost three seniors.
“[Terrance Toliver] is a veteran, and Chris Tolliver, Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard are really coming,” Miles said. “They are making some young receiver mistakes, but [Tuesday] they improved and made some big plays. They ran great routes and took a step towards being a good receiving crew.”
On the defensive side of the ball, good news came on Tuesday from the NCAA regarding Craig Loston, who was granted a medical redshirt for his freshman season last fall. The Houston native played in the Washington and Louisiana-Lafayette games before sitting for the rest of the season.
Defensive end Chancey Aghayere, who logged appearances in 11 games and made three starts in 2009, has been sidelined for most of the team’s spring workouts. Now, that stay on the sidelines has been extended until the fall.
“Chancey has been nursing a shoulder for some time, and he had surgery [Tuesday],” Miles said. “It is not significant at this point; it is an old injury that has been there for some time.”
With the Spring Game and a national television audience coming in four days, Miles said the team is becoming more anxious for the weekend with the passing practices.
“When they come to practice, they are saying, ‘there is Thursday, but then there is Saturday.’ They are all looking forward to playing big in this game,” he said. “I think you will see some talent … you will see the guys making plays.”