LSU coach Les Miles sounded less than hopeful that junior running back Alfred Blue will return from injury anytime in the near future — or even this season.
“I’m not overly optimistic, to be honest with you,” Miles said after practice Wednesday. “I think he’s going to come back, and he’s going to be healthy. I just don’t know when.”
When asked if Blue could be out for the year, Miles maintained a grim expression.
“I think he could be,” Miles said.
After being named the starting running back in preseason camp, Blue seemed poised for a breakout season. Through the first three games of the season, Blue eclipsed the 100-yard mark twice, totaling 270 yards and two touchdowns.
Miles ruled out Blue for the Auburn game last week, but did not specify for what length of time Blue would be gone. Wednesday marked the first time Miles hinted Blue would not return from his injury this year.
Blue’s injury leaves LSU with four healthy tailbacks: juniors Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, sophomore Kenny Hilliard and freshman Jeremy Hill.
Ware re-emerged in Blue’s absence, totaling 90 yards on 16 carries after missing the North Texas and Idaho games with injuries of his own.
“He’s in a position where he’s put himself in great shape,” Miles said. “He’s looking forward to having a great year. I would read him as a guy that will compete like heck for the duration (of the season), health being a key piece to that.”
If he doesn’t return, Blue would be the fourth LSU starter lost for the season, following cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (dismissal), linebacker Tahj Boyd (academics) and left tackle Chris Faulk (knee).
For LSU, Saturday’s game against Towson marks a break from Southeastern Conference play.
LSU opened its SEC schedule last week against Auburn and returns to conference action next week against No. 11 Florida. Miles said he would actually prefer to stay in SEC play once his team starts it.
“An opponent is an opponent, but you get into the meaty feel of the SEC, the fact that victory is a must,” Miles said. “Then you step away from that momentarily ... and the need for victory against a SEC opponent is not there.”
As for next season’s schedule, Miles commented on LSU playing TCU in the season-opening Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas.
Much like he did when LSU accepted to play Oregon in 2011, Miles put it to a player vote, and the result was unanimous.
“They all wanted to play it,” Miles said. “I voted, too. I’m all in.”
With Auburn facing a third-and-8 from its own 22-yard line during last week’s game, defensive coordinator John Chavis sent out a formation that screamed blitz.
And Auburn couldn’t do anything to stop it.
LSU rushed three defensive linemen, two linebackers and two defensive backs, and Micah Eugene ended up with the sack of Kiehl Frazier.
“It’s similar to what Tyrann (Mathieu) did,” Lavar Edwards said of Eugene’s blitzing ability. “He comes off the edge and makes plays.”
As for Edwards, he lined up as the nose tackle, flanked by Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. Although Edwards said pass-rushing from the middle was more difficult, Mingo credited his ability.
“He does a great job,” Mingo said. “He comes off, attacks the line and plays physical when he’s in there. (Defensive line) coach Brick (Haley) said he looks better at nose than he does at end.”
Russell Shepard failed to record a reception against Auburn, marking the second game this season he went without a catch.
Although he still hasn’t shined in the passing game, Shepard has found a role in the offense. After getting three carries for 24 yards against Idaho, he ran the ball twice against Auburn for 7 yards.
Shepard said having the opportunity to make plays — anywhere, any way — has been positive.
“That’s the biggest thing,” he said. “That’s the thing I’ve been going by this year — just be a playmaker for this team and contribute when my name is called.”
Many have called the screen pass to Ware near the end of the Auburn game the play that sealed the victory.
But some fans might have noticed Jarvis Landry wide open, streaking down the field. Some have questioned why, if Landry had no one near him, he didn’t get the ball for what probably could have been six points.
“Yeah, I was open,” Landry said. “Unfortunately, I was just a decoy.”
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