Academic issues could keep Ford, Jones out of opener
With clouds from Tropical Storm Isaac on the horizon Monday, academic issues are clouding the playing prospects for two of LSU’s top players.
LSU coach Les Miles said at his first weekly news conference that junior running back Michael Ford and junior linebacker Tahj Jones have both filed academic appeals to have a chance to play in the Tigers’ season opener Saturday against North Texas (6 p.m., ESPNU).
“There is an appeal process that’s being undertaken for those guys,” Miles said. “We’ll have to wait to see how that all turns out as we get closer to the game.”
Ford was LSU’s leading rusher last season with 127 carries for 756 yards and seven touchdowns. Jones, who played in all 14 of the Tigers’ games last season with one start, had 27 tackles including 31/2 for losses.
Miles said he was uncertain when the appeals process would be completed, but was certain that neither player would play against North Texas unless he received word.
Depth chart moves
With Ford in question, junior tailback Alfred Blue is now at the top of the depth chart at tailback.
Blue, who was LSU’s third-leading rusher last season with 78 carries for 539 yards and seven touchdowns, will have sophomore Kenny Hilliard (62 carries, 336 yards, 8 TDs) as his main backup. Both, at least for now, have leapfrogged junior Spencer Ware, a 10-game starter last season with 707 yards and eight TDs on 177 carries, who has been slowed this preseason with a thigh bruise.
Whether or not Ford’s academic issues had an impact on Blue’s rise is unknown. Blue told reporters Monday that LSU’s coaches told him he would be the starter at the start of preseason camp earlier this month.
Despite Ford’s situation, LSU’s depth chart Monday listed Terrence Magee as the third-string “Z” wide receiver behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Russell Shepard. Sophomore La’El Collins has officially gotten the nod to start at left guard ahead of sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk.
Senior Josh Downs is listed as the starting left defensive tackle, with sophomore Ego Ferguson as his backup and sophomore Anthony Johnson now listed as backup at right tackle to junior Bennie Logan. Junior Luke Muncie is listed as the starter at strongside linebacker ahead of Jones.
LSU’s depth chart also confirms true freshman Jalen Mills as the first-string left cornerback ahead of redshirt freshman Jalen Collins in Tyrann Mathieu ’s old slot. Beckham and Jarvis Landry are listed as LSU’s top two punt returners, while Landry and Shepard are listed ahead of Beckham as kick returners.
Mathieu still not enrolled
Mathieu did not attempt to enroll at LSU on Monday, senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent said. But Mathieu will have more time to do so because of Isaac.
Vincent said the university deadline for enrolling in fall semester classes has been extended by two days to Friday because the school will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mathieu, who was dismissed from the team earlier this for reportedly failing a drug test, is eligible to enroll as a regular student.
Rivers solid No. 2 QB
With Zach Mettenberger firmly entrenched as LSU’s new starting quarterback, Miles said redshirt freshman Stephen Rivers is just as solid in the backup role ahead of Penn State transfer Rob Bolden.
“Stephen Rivers is certainly No. 2,” Miles said, “and I think Rob Bolden is competing extremely well. I think he’s a guy that will get in the game and have an opportunity to play if needed.”
Coach K takes the field
Quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe will coach from the sideline instead of the press box this season.
“I think it’s good for the quarterbacks,” Miles said. “We’ll see how it goes. If it benefits us, then certainly we want to do that. I would anticipate that this is going to be a good change.”
The only assistants who will work from the press box will be offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa and defensive coordinator John Chavis.
Because of Isaac, Mettenberger said the team would likely incorporate some wet ball drills into their practice plans this week. ... Wednesday’s edition of Miles’ weekly radio show is among the potential casualties of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac. LSU spokesman Bill Martin said plans for the show, set for 7 p.m. at TJ Ribs on Acadian Thruway, are currently in limbo. ... About 500 tickets remain for the North Texas game.
Advocate sportswriter Les East contributed to this report.