LSU defense ‘looked pretty good’ in scrimmage, Les Miles says (Video)

So says Les Miles, who credits strong play of first-team unit in final scrimmage

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU defensive tackles Ego Ferguson, left, and Anthony Johnson take a water break during a preseason practice earlier this month. Coach Les Miles highlighted the play of Ferguson and Johnson among defensive players who flourished in Tuesday's scrimmage.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU defensive tackles Ego Ferguson, left, and Anthony Johnson take a water break during a preseason practice earlier this month. Coach Les Miles highlighted the play of Ferguson and Johnson among defensive players who flourished in Tuesday's scrimmage.

The implementation and execution of LSU’s new offense has been a focal point during preseason camp, including the first two scrimmages.

But the Tigers’ defense, which returns just three starters from last year’s team, has also been evolving — and coach Les Miles said it performed well in the third and final preseason scrimmage Tuesday afternoon.

“That defense looked pretty good,” Miles said. “It didn’t give us very many yards.”

Miles said the offense rushed for 200 yards and passed for 250 during the indoor scrimmage, which was closed to the public and media. The Tigers ran approximately 120 offensive plays and 30 special teams plays.

All three areas of the defense received varying degrees of praise. The defensive line has four new starters this season; the linebackers features two seniors and a logjam of others; and the secondary has a blend of youth and experience.

“That defensive front really has always been good and it continues to get better,” Miles said. “Our defensive line — although they are newcomers in many ways, I’m really looking forward to seeing them play.”

Miles said end Jermauria Rasco participated Tuesday after being withheld from contact in practice and the first two scrimmages. When asked if he expected Rasco to start in the opener against TCU on Aug. 31, Miles said, “absolutely.”

Fellow ends Jordan Allen and Danielle Hunter and top tackles Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson and freshman Christian LaCouture all have stood out, Miles said.

“I think our linebacking corps is fast to the ball and hard-hitting,” Miles said. “It’s maybe as athletic as it has been in a while. The safeties and the secondary are improved.”

Miles added that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if D.J. Welter, who has been the first-team middle linebacker since the start of spring practice, holds off his challengers and starts against TCU.

He said freshman linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley “are both coming on and made some really strong plays.”

Miles said cornerback Tre’Davious White was another freshman who played a lot. Miles said he expects most if not all of the freshmen to make the trip to Arlington, Texas, for the opener.

Starting cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins “have been holding down our wide receivers,” Miles said.

“It has really benefited them trying to check us,” the coach added. “You could sell tickets to our one-on-one drills between the cornerbacks and the wide receivers.”

Miles said the Tigers still made mistakes and he was especially “frustrated” by pre-snap penalties, but “the film will be the style of film that an assistant coach will be able to correct from and improve our football team.”

As for the offense, Miles said senior Alfred Blue was the leading rusher, scoring two touchdowns.

“He looked good today, and really he has looked good all of camp,” Miles said.

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Travin Dural, who has been slowed by a sore knee, “made a nice down-the-field catch” for a touchdown, Miles said. Starting wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. and tight end Dillon Gordon also caught touchdown passes.

Miles said Zach Mettenberger threw three of the touchdown passes, and No. 2 quarterback Anthony Jennings threw the other.

Stephen Rivers and Rob Bolden also got snaps at quarterback, Miles said.

“They’re competing and trying to come of age and make a difference,” Miles said. “I think they’re doing the right things, but the other two are just a little better.”

Miles said the special teams “were much sharper than they have been.”

The scrimmage happened indoors, and afternoon rain and lightning prevented the team from punting outside as planned.

Miles said he likely won’t release a depth chart until next week.

“I’m probably more set on who I’m going to play than I am on who I’m going to start,” Miles said. “It’s very obvious that we’re a very talented team, but there are still things that are sloppy that we need to get right.”