The LSU football team will practice Saturday morning for the final time before getting into its game-week routine Monday.
The Tigers, who are one week away from facing TCU in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas, will juggle the first day of classes and the start of their first game week Monday.
Normally LSU doesn’t play its first game until the end of the second week of school, allowing more time to phase in the academic schedule before getting into game-week mode.
Coach Les Miles said Friday night that “absolutely” he would have preferred the calendar to fall as it usually does, “but we’ll survive the distractions of class and we’ll be fine.”
The Tigers had to squeeze their two-a-day practices, which ended Monday, into a shorter period of time to save wear and tear on the players in the final days leading up to the opener.
“Instead of a spread-out format we had a much more compact schedule,” Miles said. “We had to get (the players) the information very quickly. We think we did a good job and we’re in pretty good shape, but we would have liked to have one-a-days for another week.
“(Preseason) moved quickly. It was a short camp, but we put in a lot of football. Overall we’re a healthy team. Now we’re just looking at the game plan and getting the specifics of it mastered.”
One player who will be minimally impacted by the start of classes is quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who is taking just one online course this semester to finish his degree in general studies. Miles said that’s helpful, especially compared to the 19 hours he took his last semester as a football player at Michigan.
“If you’re a quality student and you’re able to put yourself in a great position where your final semester you’ve done everything except the minimum you should enjoy that time,” Miles said.
“I think that’s a wonderful thing. He’ll be able to spend extra time here on his own at a position where studying the game plan is important.”
Mettenberger doesn’t even need to be in the Football Operations Building to do extra film study in his free time because the Tigers have been outfitted with iPads on which they can access film and game plans.
Miles said Mettenberger is giving first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Cam Cameron everything he has asked for during practice.
“We need the tempo at practice to be faster, we need the quarterback to be more demonstrative and we need more communication,” Miles said. “Zach is really answering that call. I like how he’s responding to being a leader and to the position he plays. He’s taking it seriously. I enjoy his approach.”
Miles said Cameron, a long-time friend and former fellow assistant at Michigan, is “a very bright guy” whose enthusiasm “spills into his players,” leading an expectation for improvement on offense.
“We’re running the ball well, and we’re throwing the ball better than we have,” Miles said. “I still think improvement is needed and we have work to do, but I like where we’re at.
“I think the offense is really going to respond. My expectations are sound and solid, not lofty in any way, but we’re improved.”
Miles said the Tigers will use more sets with multiple tight ends and mentioned four players he expects to have an impact there — junior Travis Dickson, sophomore Dillon Gordon, junior-college transfer Logan Stokes and freshman DeSean Smith.
“We have a number of guys without much experience and a couple with a lot,” Miles said. “They’re all really capable. I think we’re developing there. I don’t think we’ve hit speed yet, but they’re improved.
“All of those guys can legitimately catch it and the good news is they can also block. We ought to have a nice group.”
Miles said running back Alfred Blue “has been really good with contact” on his surgically repaired knee.
“We haven’t noticed any difference in him,” Miles said. “He has the ability to make you miss and to run over you. He has not shied away from contact. He really is very much the same back as he was at beginning of last year.”