Two down, ready for more
Miles updates players back from injury, spirited practice
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Editor
After putting the Tigers through their paces for the second time this spring, Les Miles met with reporters Saturday afternoon to break down what he’s seen and shed light on who’s out there.
Overall, Miles was pleased with the effort and the opportunity to run the players through fundamental drills before tacking pads and full contact onto the agenda.
“The two practices in helmets followed closely Friday and Saturday give a chance for our coaches to teach really kinda one curriculum the same way for two days, and that’s what we did,” Miles said. “Like where we’re at. Thirteen practices to go. Lot of work to do.”
Several Tiger players putting in work this morning at the Charles McClendon Practice Facility came as a bit of surprise. Defensive backs Mo Claiborne (ankle) and Brandon Taylor (foot) were thought to be out during the beginning of spring practice, as was defensive end Sam Montgomery, coming back from a knee injury suffered against Tennessee last fall.
All three participated in drills today, with Montgomery and Taylor in green jerseys.
Miles spoke about the quick healing powers at hand with his three defenders, lauding each for coming back ahead of schedule, though obviously showing a hint of caution in bringing them all the way back.
On Montgomery’s rapid recovery - it was first thought Montgomery would be ready closer to the time Fall Camp rolled around - Miles said, “Certain guys are gifted in the fact that they heal quickly. There is a physiological issue with guys who heal quickly. That’s a good thing. But there are those guys who just bite onto something, an idea, and just do not let it go. And that’s what he was. He wants to advance, and he’s really way ahead. By the time next fall comes, there will not be a whisper of an issue.”
Moving onto his secondary duo, Miles continued, “(With) Brandon Taylor, there really appears to be very little issue there. So, two practices running to the ball and playing, it just doesn’t seem to be an issue.
“I’ll tell you, both he and (Mo) Claiborne in my opinion are ahead of schedule. That’s obviously very good. Mo was very competitive today. In other words, he was not only out there, but playing in a way we would recognize him to play.”
With the good news was a bit of negative, however. Safety Eric Reid tweaked an ankle in practice, causing him to sit out of most of the drills. It didn’t look terribly serious, but the extent of the injury is still unknown. Miles also confirmed today that left guard Josh Dworaczyk is going to be out for a bit, saying, “He’s not back. He got a knee scoped. We didn’t expect him to be back.”
Moving away from the injury front, Miles indicated there was also some feistiness in Saturday’s practice, evidenced by “a couple of defensive linemen” mixing it up and fighting after the whistle. When asked who was involved, Miles shied away from divulging names, but did say true freshman Anthony Johnson was not in the fray.
The LSU coach then addressed his offense, commenting on what it’s like to work with offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe and speaking to what he’s seen from transfer quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
On Kragthorpe, Miles replied, “I think he’s an attention-to-detail guy. I think he’s correcting the quarterbacks extremely well. He knows how the attack gets put together. It’s been fun working with him.”
When asked about Mettenberger, who’s been splitting equal reps with rising seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, Miles responded, “He can definitely throw it. He’s really a very smart quarterback in terms of reads and those things on the field. And we’re throwing a lot at him. It’s not like we go slow. So his (ability to) pick up is really very good.”
All three quarterbacks - who, for what it’s worth, ran in the order of Jefferson-Lee-Mettenberger - were put through the gamut Saturday in a way.
At times, at least during the brief session media attended, the QBs were rolling out on bootlegs, others they were throwing off a play-action fake under center, others still they threw from the shotgun, and they even ran the loaded option out of the I-formation.
Mettenberger proved serviceable in some of the plays requiring mobility, though he’s clearly nowhere near as quick or as good of a runner as Jefferson. Where Mettenberger excelled, in my opinion, was in showing accuracy and touch on long balls. He also can laser one in when throwing to an intermediate route.
On the topic of early enrollees like Mettenberger, Miles explained this current crop is adjusting well because they’ve come well prepared for the task at hand.
“You bring them along at their own place,” Miles said of early enrollees. “Some guys learn very quickly and you can pop them in there right away. Some guys, it takes them time. It doesn’t mean that they’re not really good players. It just means there’s a different pace for him to be used optimally.
“I think Mettenberger has come along fast because he’s had some experience throwing the football like we’re throwing it. And Kenny Hilliard is coming (along) because he knows how to run the football. And Anthony Johnson is probably going to play a lot of football this fall. I guess each guy’s different, but it’s all based on how they’re picking it up.”
Miles and the Tigers will be back in action Tuesday, the team’s first day in pads. The LSU coach said the team would take off the rest of today and Sunday before the players tended to school Monday then came out Tuesday afternoon for a “partially padded practice.”
“Not a tackle practice, but a nice gear-up, if you will.”
Editor Ben Love covers LSU football and men’s basketball for Tiger Rag. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.