In terms of physical stature, the 2012 LSU Tigers are probably bigger than ever.
In terms of actual numbers, though, the Tigers have gotten much thinner.
LSU coach Les Miles confirmed Wednesday that linebacker Tahj Jones and three other reserve players — tight end Tyler Edwards, linebacker D.J. Welter and offensive tackle Evan Washington — will miss the season.
Miles also confirmed that backup defensive end Jordan Allen is out for the remainder of the season. Allen suffered a knee injury on kickoff coverage Saturday against Washington.
Miles declined to specify why Jones, Edwards, Welter and Washington will miss the season. The four are academically ineligible, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of student academic privacy issues.
The loss of these five players brings to seven the number of returning players No. 3-ranked LSU (2-0) has lost for the season.
That list also includes All-America cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who was dismissed from team in August for what reportedly was a failure of the school’s drug policy, and starting left tackle Chris Faulk, who suffered a knee injury in practice before last week’s Washington game.
Three LSU recruits — wide receiver Avery Johnson (younger brother of former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson), quarterback Jeremy Liggins and junior college transfer Fehoko Fanaika, an offensive lineman — were ruled academically ineligible before the season began.
Incoming freshman wide receiver Travin Dural also suffered a knee injury in August practice, bringing to 11 the number of players LSU is missing compared to what it figured to have going into the season.
Miles said the attrition his team has experienced is an issue, but not one that has given him an undue amount of concern.
“Anytime you have a guy that has been a starter and has a lot of experience and ability, and he was that guy, certainly from that point forward you make an adjustment and you hope to get better in some way,” Miles said after practice Wednesday. “I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, but to what extent, I’m not certain.
“I’ve always looked at the things we can do and not the things we can’t. I think we’ve got plenty (of players).”
Asked if LSU’s game plan is affected by the players the Tigers have lost, Miles said: “Nothing so drastically that we can’t do this or that, no.”
Jones, a junior from Sulphur, expected to take over at strongside linebacker for departed senior Stefoin Francois. Before the season, Miles said Jones was being held out pending an appeal on his academic eligibility, along with running back Michael Ford.
Ford was eventually cleared to play, but Jones was not.
Jones has since been replaced by junior Luke Muncie, who has started the Tigers’ first two games and is seventh on the team with six tackles.
Edwards, a senior from Ouachita High in Monroe, had one reception for 10 yards in his three previous seasons at LSU. He redshirted in 2009, meaning his college career is likely over.
Back on Aug. 30, Edwards tweeted: “My motivation has been weakened by the consequences of my failure...But this is a new beginning for me.”
On Sept. 7, Edwards tweeted, “Everything happens for a reason.”
Washington, a sophomore from DeSoto, Texas, was injured early in his redshirt campaign in 2011 and didn’t letter. Welter, a sophomore from Notre Dame High in Crowley and roommate of LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, played in seven games last season, recording five tackles.
Johnson is playing this season at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. His father, Patrick Peterson Sr., said Johnson still plans to enroll at LSU in January.
Dural is on track to redshirt and play for LSU in 2013. Liggins originally enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, but left there shortly before the football season began. His plans are unknown, though he could return to his hometown of Oxford, Miss., to play for Ole Miss.
Fanaika’s plans are unknown.
The Tigers continued their preparations Wednesday for Saturday’s game with Idaho.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. in Tiger Stadium. The game will be shown on TigerVision, LSU’s in-house pay-per-view network.
“We’re not perfect in any way,” Miles said. “It was not a tremendously sharp practice. It was a good, Wednesday practice. The for this team is to count these practices and improve is tremendously important.”
The Vandals were without 6-foot-5, 254-pound junior quarterback Dominique Blackman in their 20-3 season opening loss to Eastern Washington because of a disciplinary issue.
But Blackman returned for Idaho’s 21-13 loss last Saturday at Bowling Green, completing 30 of 37 passes for 352 yards with a touchdown and an interception, a performance that definitely caught Miles’ eye.
“He’s an extremely accurate, big, strong, tall throwing Jessie,” Miles said. “He’s a talented guy.”
Idaho’s running game, by comparison, has not been so stout.
The Vandals are averaging a mere 47.0 net yards per game, led by senior running back Ryan Bass (23 carries, 76 yards).
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