From Les Miles’ perspective, the fact the Tigers were just scrimmaging Saturday instead of playing their first game was a good thing.
“We’re not ready to play a game,” Miles said. “We’re ways away from that.”
Not to say that Miles is pushing any panic buttons three weeks away from his No. 4-ranked Tigers’ Sept. 3 season opener against No. 3 Oregon in Arlington, Texas.
August is a process, and like the script his team followed through Saturday’s scrimmage, he said he’s confident the Tigers are on the right page.
“We improved and are on the right path,” he said.
After a brief warmup session, the Tigers went through a 100-play scrimmage in LSU’s indoor practice facility that included both live tackling and “thud” plays, which typically end after first contact. They also went through about 30 special teams plays on one of the adjacent outdoor practice fields.
LSU was originally scheduled to go into Tiger Stadium for Saturday’s scrimmage, but Miles decided the Tigers would be better served to work mostly indoors.
“We wanted to teach more than just evaluate what they did in the heat,” Miles said.
Overall statistics were not released from the scrimmage, which was closed except to a group of LSU boosters.
Miles gave a couple of numbers on the passing game while generally praising the efforts of his top three quarterbacks: seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee and sophomore Zach Mettenberger.
Miles said Jefferson was about 10 of 15 passing for about 150 yards, including the longest scoring play of the scrimmage on a pass to wide receiver Russell Shepard. He also said Lee was about 15 of 20 for 160 yards, including some time with the No. 1 offense.
Miles offered no stats on Mettenberger, only saying: “He had a decent day throwing the ball as well.”
Aside from Shepard, Miles had praise for freshman receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who he said “made a couple of nice catches.” Miles also continued a steady August drumbeat of favorable reviews for freshman tailback Terrence McGee.
LSU came out of the scrimmage without any major new injuries, Miles said, good news considering that a number of players have missed practices recently, some sitting out Saturday’s scrimmage.
Five offensive linemen - Josh Dworaczyk, Will Blackwell, Chris Faulk, La’El Collins and Evan Washington - missed practice Friday, though Miles said Dworaczyk and Collins returned for the scrimmage.
“We’re a little nicked on the offensive line right now, but the young guys stepped in there and really gave us what we needed for the practice,” said Miles, who also said the running backs were able to combine for just under 200 yards behind the youthful line. “We should get the older guys back Monday.”
Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu also scrimmaged the entire day after missing practice Friday, Miles said.
Defensive standouts included defensive end Lavar Edwards, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and outside linebacker Ryan Baker. Miles offered nothing definitive about the continuing battle at middle linebacker, saying Karnell Hatcher and Kevin Minter split time with the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses.
Miles made particular note of defensive end Barkevious Mingo’s speed - saying he possessed the quickness of an outside linebacker or a safety - and safety Craig Loston’s hitting ability.
“Way improved,” Miles said of Loston. “He made a play on a ball thrown over the middle today that if it hadn’t been thud would have been some serious collision.”
One area that continues to sound muddled is LSU’s punting game with no one in particular distinguishing themselves.
The Tigers worked on “pooch” punting Saturday with Drew Alleman, Brad Wing and D.J. Howard all handling the chores.
“Right now who the best guy there is the key,” Miles said.
LSU players and coaches then headed over to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and the Carl Maddox Field House to participate in Fan Day activities Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers will take the day off Sunday, then return in earnest Monday with a pair of two-a-day practices. LSU also has scrimmages scheduled for Thursday and Aug. 23.
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