With kickoff only a week away, LSU head coach Les Miles stressed Friday that his team continues to prepare for a very tough North Carolina team, even amidst allegations and rumors that the Tar Heels will be without key players when the two sides meet on Sept. 4.
There were reports this week that cornerbacks Charles Brown and Kendrick Burney have been dismissed from the team, and there is speculation that more suspensions will follow. Miles said he has addressed the matter with the team but that it will not affect their preparation - or respect - for the Tar Heels.
“We watched the film, and there are a lot of good players over there,” Miles said. “I certainly believe that the guys that I see backing up in a routine fashion watched an entire season of football at North Carolina and are very talented guys, and we would expect them to be not much different than the guys that played in front of them.”
The Tigers open the season away from Tiger Stadium against a BCS team for the second consecutive season, something Miles sees as a positive.
“I like the early season games, especially when you play a quality opponent,” said Miles. “I think it gets the speed of the team up. I think we understand that (North Carolina) is a very talented team, and as the summer approached, I think our guys understood that they were preparing for a very quality football team.”
Miles called his team “much further ahead” of where he expected them to be, and he credited the rapid progress to their stern, early-season test.
Still, don’t mistake progress for readiness.
“I’m a week from being ready to play,” cautioned Miles. “We’re further along than we’ve been, but there are some things I want to get accomplished before I get to the game.”
Offensively Miles pointed to the improvement of quarterback Jordan Jefferson in reading the defense and getting rid of the football in a timely fashion. He also mentioned wide receiver Russell Shepard, calling him a “real threat” with the ball in his hands.
After the graduation of Keiland Williams and Charles Scott left a hole in the Tiger backfield, Miles feels that the remaining veteran names are first in line to fill the void.
“I think (Stevan) Ridley and (Richard) Murphy are the best at this point,” Miles said. “I think the young guys, including Michael Ford, are coming. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the young guys got some carries in the (North Carolina) game.”
As far as Tigers missing the season opener, Miles confirmed that sophomore wide receiver Chris Tolliver, junior safety Karnell Hatcher and junior linebacker Ryan Baker will not play in Atlanta. That door is still open for sophomore defensive tackle Josh Downs.
“I think Downs has an opportunity to play,” said Miles. “He’s improved daily. I think we’ll reassess him as we get closer to the game.”
The team will have a
light practice Saturday and a day off on Sunday. Preparations for the Tar Heels
will resume Monday afternoon.