LSU’s Jalen Mills “preparing” to play vs. Wisconsin; Hoko Fanaika wins right guard job

No. 13 LSU is preparing to play safety Jalen Mills “early and late” against No. 14 Wisconsin, coach Les Miles said Monday.

Mills, arrested in June after allegedly punching a woman, had a summer-long suspension end on the first day of preseason camp, the same day in which he was charged with simple battery, a misdemeanor.

On Monday, Miles never said Mills would play but was preparing to play against Wisconsin in Houston, a game set for an 8:10 p.m. start on ESPN.

“He is healthy and preparing to play,” Miles said of Mills.

Asked more specifically about a possible suspension, Miles said, “Any of those thoughts would be something that I carry with me, and … we are preparing him to play early and late.”

Simple battery is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in prison.

Mills plans on pleading not guilty to the charge, his attorney, Brent Stockstill, confirmed Monday. An arraignment date has not been set, Stockstill said.

Mills’ situation is similar to that of running back Jeremy Hill last year. Hill, who punched a man in the parking lot of a bar, missed the first five quarters of the 2013 season in an unannounced suspension.

Mills’ arrest involved a woman. According to a warrant, the woman needed four stitches to close a gash on her lip after an alleged altercation with Mills after she knocked on Mills’ door looking for a friend.

A witness corroborated the victim’s story, and both picked Mills out of a photo lineup. The warrant did not identify the victim or the witness.

In his LSU career, Mills has started all 26 games; he ranked third on the roster last season with 67 tackles and three interceptions. He is on the watch list for the Lott Trophy, given to college football’s top defensive player, and is the secondary’s most experienced member.

Fanaika to start at RG

LSU’s battle at right guard between Hoko Fanaika and Evan Washington seems to be over: Fanaika, a 6-foot-6, 330-pound junior-college transfer, will start against Wisconsin, Miles said.

“I think Hoko has really improved, and I think the back end of camp, he has come on,” Miles said. “I would think that he would start.”

Washington is expected to see playing time, the coach said. It’s unclear exactly where. The offensive line seems set with La’el Collins at left tackle, Vadal Alexander at left guard, Ethan Pocic at center, Fanaika at right guard and Jerald Hawkins at right tackle.

Pocic dethroned senior Elliott Porter at center. Washington has worked at all of the guard and tackle positions.

“Say something — hopefully nothing happens — but say something happens, I need to be ready to play another position,” Washington said, referring to an injury to a starter.

“Our top seven (linemen) are going to play. We’re all ready to play,” he said. “Whatever happens at that position, Hoko and I are going to play a good amount of minutes. I’m doing just whatever. At practice, I’m not getting 100 percent reps at any position. Keeps me ready.”

Lagniappe

LSU has sold its allotment of 35,000 tickets to Saturday’s game at NRG Stadium. Fewer than 300 tickets remain unsold for the game, said Amy Palcic, a communications official for the game. … Former LSU defensive back Patrick Peterson and ex-Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt will be ceremonial captains Saturday. … As many as 12 true freshmen are expected to play for LSU on Saturday, Miles said. Six of those could play key roles, he said. Freshmen expected to contribute greatly include running back Leonard Fournette, receivers Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre, safety Jamal Adams and quarterback Brandon Harris.

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