LSU back uses versatility to play receiver, get into space
In the deepest position on the LSU football team, a running back has to figure out a way to make himself stand out.
Junior Alfred Blue may have found his way.
Blue was seen lining up in an inside slot position in some formations during practices this week, a potential new wrinkle for an LSU offense that will have the potential to go with four or five wide receivers this season.
“They’re trying to move me around,” Blue said, “trying to take better advantage of the linebackers and safeties.”
At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Blue has more of a receiver’s build than that of a running back, but he insisted he’s not switching positions.
“I’m still a running back,” he said. “But it’s enjoyable. I did it in high school (at Hahnville). We used five wides to create advantages.”
Two-a-days, Part II
Blue and fellow running backs Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Kenny Hilliard practiced with the veteran unit outdoors during Friday morning’s practice, while sophomore Terrence Magee and freshman Jeremy Hill practiced indoors in the afternoon with a mix of veterans and newcomers.
Among the newcomers, former Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden drew a lot of attention during the afternoon session, running through a progression of longer and longer pass plays while working alongside redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrard Randall.
Hill, who is listed at 6-2, 255 pounds, is also making a big impression.
“He’s a big back,” Blue said. “He runs really strong. He has great hands, great vision. In the future he can be a great guy here.”
The Tigers return to practice Saturday with morning and afternoon sessions.
Johnson smarter, lighter
Anthony Johnson arrived at LSU last season as the consensus No. 1 defensive tackle prospect in the country, and he had modest success, playing in all 14 games as a backup.
Now he’s expected to replace Michael Brockers, who has moved on to the NFL, in the starting lineup. Johnson said he has learned much since his arrival.
“The biggest difference (from last season) is my mindset,” Johnson said. “My big downfall last year was trying to play up to the hype instead of trying to get better. I’ve calmed down and (I’m) trying to fulfill what the coaches want and work on my technique and not listen to the hype.”
Johnson said he made a mistake last season by adding 30 pounds, most of which he has lost while getting ready for this season.
“In high school (at O. Perry Walker in New Orleans), I played between 289 and 295,” he said. “I tried to play bigger to compete in the SEC, but I learned it’s not all about the weight. It slowed me down a little bit.”
Sandwiched between LSU’s formidable defensive line and its talented secondary, the Tigers’ linebacker corps is often viewed as the weak link — if that can be said of a defense that finished No. 2 nationally last year.
But junior middle linebacker Kevin Minter said he expects big things from his fellow linebackers this year, thanks to an infusion of young talent.
“I feel this is a very special group,” Minter said. “I think they’re very talented and underrated. Deion (Jones) is one of our best cover guys right now, and Trey (Granier) is at middle linebacker and is definitely a lot smarter than I was coming in.
“And Ronnie (Feist) and Lamar (Louis) — I always forget they’re freshmen.”
Feist and Louis are working with LSU’s veteran group at practice after taking part in spring practice as early enrollees.
The return game
LSU senior Russell Shepard said that as expected, he and fellow wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will be working on kickoff returns this season, but Shepard also said redshirt freshman Paul Turner will be in the mix.
The Tigers are seeking a go-to kick return replacement for former specialist Morris Claiborne, who returned a team-high 22 kickoffs last year for a 25.1-yard average with a touchdown.
Beckham returned five kicks for a 24.0-yard average, same as Shepard though he returned only two kickoffs.
He’s got the look
Sophomore wide receiver Jarvis Landry showed up for interviews Thursday sporting a bushy beard and short-sided haircut, looking much like Oklahoma City Thunder and current U.S. Olympic basketball player James Harden.
“It’s a new thing,” Landry said. “A little bit of James Harden. ‘Landry Harden.’ That’s my camp name.”
Airing it out
Sirius/XM radio’s Gino Torretta, the 1992 Heisman Trophy winner, and Jack Arute were at LSU’s practices Thursday to kick off the satellite radio network’s college football preseason camp tour.
Sirius/XM radio shows will be going to 13 other campuses between now and Aug. 17, including Georgia on Friday, Texas, Notre Dame, Alabama and USC.
Advocate sportswriter Les East contributed to this report.