Keehn averages 44.6 per punt; decisions coming

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLINGLSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo (49) is one of several defensive players on the Tigers roster who may leave for the NFL.
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLINGLSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo (49) is one of several defensive players on the Tigers roster who may leave for the NFL.

Punter averages 44.6 per kick; players have decisions to make

ATLANTA — He wears the same jersey number, comes from the same country and has a similar build.

Monday night at the Georgia Dome, backup LSU punter Jamie Keehn showed he can punt the football very much like Brad Wing as well.

Keehn punted nine times in LSU’s 25-24 loss to Clemson, averaging 44.6 yards per boot and twice placing the ball inside the 20 yard-line.

“You can just see in his future, he’s going to be a dynamic punter, just everything that we need,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “This was a great experience for him.”

Keehn, 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, got the chance to show off his powerful right leg because Wing was suspended for Monday’s game after violating an unspecified team rule.

If his countryman opts to leave LSU for the NFL instead of returning for his junior season, the performance by Keehn may have very well been a preview of things to come.

Keehn, who competed in rowing and track and field at his Australian high school, arrived on LSU’s campus in 2012 having very little experience as a punter.

Expected to spend his first season as a redshirt, Keehn instead served as LSU’s punter for two games.

The freshman punted three times for a 41-yard average in the opener versus North Texas with Wing sidelined by a hamstring injury. Then came Monday night and the nine-punt effort.

Keehn’s longest punt against Clemson was a 58-yarder in the second quarter.

“There were a couple I’d like to take back, but I think every punter has their ups and downs,” Keehn said of his performance. “I’ve only been doing this for 18 months, so I know I have a long spring ahead of me and a lot of work to do.”

Wing to wait a day

Wing tweeted Monday he’d decide his future with the LSU program on New Year’s Day, but another message on his Twitter account Tuesday indicated he’d make the call Wednesday instead.

“Apologies, announcement will definitely be tomorrow,” the Tuesday tweet read.

Wing just finished his sophomore season, but is eligible to enter the NFL draft because he has been in college for three years.

He averaged 44.8 yards on 59 punts in 2012 after earning All-America recognition as a freshman.

LSU vs. NFL

The deadline for college underclassmen to declare themselves eligible for the NFL draft is Jan. 15. A long list of LSU juniors likely to weigh their options includes defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, safety Eric Reid, linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Tharold Simon, defensive tackle Bennie Logan and running back Spencer Ware.

Miles said he and his coaching staff will do what they can to help the underclassmen with their decisions.

“We’re going to sit down with them this week and give them all the information we can,” Miles said. “It’s certainly their call. The only thing I don’t want to see happen is I want to make sure our guys are doing the right thing for them. I don’t want to give the NFL a deal in any way.”

Miles said returning to LSU would be a chance for the underclassmen to compete for a national title.

“Certain guys have a predisposed position there, some of which I’m certain will leave,” he said. “But I can tell you that this is a team that could well be playing for the very finest honor. An opportunity to improve to do so is certainly what we’re after.”

What’s the fuss about?

As the up-tempo Clemson offense gashed LSU in the final minutes of Monday’s game, players from the LSU defense were helped off the field on several occasions, forcing a stoppage in play each time.

Miles said the players were in fact suffering from leg cramps and that the injuries were in no way a ploy to stall the Clemson attack.

He pointed to Clemson’s 100-48 edge in plays run. He said being on the field so much took a toll on the LSU defense.

“There was no advantage to LSU to lay down on the ground there and allow them to gather their play and call their play with no duress,” Miles said. “It was certainly not a ploy in any way. They (the Clemson coaches and fans) can get upset all they want. The reality of it is, one team played a hundred plays on defense and one team played 50.”

Lagniappe

Former New Orleans Saints general manager Randy Mueller was on hand to scout Monday’s game for the San Diego Chargers. ... LSU’s opening touchdown with 14:05 left in the first quarter marked its quickest score to start a game since Oct. 2, 2010, when Jordan Jefferson scored on an 83-yard run with 14:43 on the clock. ... LSU fell to 39-3 since 2009 when scoring 20 or more points. The loss broke a streak of 21 straight wins by the Tigers win reaching 20 points. ... LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow matched his career high with 12 tackles Monday. He also had 12 stops against Arkansas and South Carolina.