Recent consistency has helped line improve
By Mark Clements
Special to The Advocate
November 04, 2012
Zach Mettenberger said he’s never felt safer — at least in the pocket.
After mixing and matching different blends of offensive linemen the past eight weeks, LSU may have finally found the winning recipe. The Tigers used the same offensive line combination in consecutive weeks for just the second time all year in their win at Texas A&M last weekend and with much success.
LSU allowed just three sacks in the past two games combined after previously giving up four sacks in consecutive contests. It appears the Tigers have found their formula despite having to play without the injured Chris Faulk, Alex Hurst and Josh Williford.
Now, LSU has reached a conundrum, albeit a good problem to have. LSU coach Les Miles said Williford, who suffered a concussion in the second quarter of LSU’s loss to Florida on Oct. 6, is expected to return to practice this week and very possibly play Saturday.
“I think Josh Williford will have the opportunity to play in this game,” Miles said. “We’re just kind of watching him do the things that he’s had to do up to this point.”
Redshirt freshman Trai Turner has filled in, playing alongside true freshman Vadal Alexander at right tackle.
Miles couldn’t confirm whether Williford was technically “cleared” to play just yet, but it seems the Tigers will have their 6-foot-7, 332-pound guard at their disposal by the weekend, leaving Miles and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa playing a game of roulette with their offensive line.
“We’ll have to get through a practice week with Josh to kind of figure that one out,” Miles said of the rotation line. “Certainly, we’re glad that (Williford) will return. I think our line is coming. “It’s interesting, because we’re so young. The improvement will be rapid.”
ESPN ‘inside’ LSU Tuesday
ESPN will go “Inside the Program” Tuesday with the LSU football team as the Tigers continue their preparations for Alabama.
ESPN sideline reporter Jenn Brown will conduct interviews with Miles, defensive coordinator John Chavis, Mettenberger, defensive end Barkevious Mingo and safety Eric Reid.
Tuesday’s schedule is just part of ESPN’s blanket coverage of the LSU-Alabama game.
ESPN’s “College GameDay” TV show will air live from LSU’s campus Saturday morning, while the “College GameDay” radio show will broadcast nearby.
ESPN the Magazine is also devoting an entire upcoming issue to the LSU-Alabama game.
The ESPN schedule Tuesday is as follows:
7 a.m.: Brown rides to work with Miles
8 a.m.: Brown live open for SportsCenter
9 a.m.: Miles interview (live)
10 a.m.: Chavis interview (live)
11 a.m.: Mettenberger interview (live)
Noon: Brown tour of LSU football operations building
1 p.m.: Mingo and Reid interview (live)
1:25 p.m.: Mingo and Reid (ESPNU)
2 p.m.: Brown on SportsCenter (live)
2:30 p.m.: Brown on College Football Live
Luke Muncie, fresh LBs
The bad news for LSU is, Alabama running backs T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy both rank in the top 10 in the Southeastern Conference in rushing, averaging 81.1 and 74.5 yards per game, respectively.
The good news is, the Tigers will be closer to full strength come Saturday. Junior linebacker Luke Muncie, who has been fighting a stomach illness all season that kept him limited in some games and completely out against Texas A&M, will return to action against Alabama.
Muncie started the first four games of the season, before the illness limited his playing time.
LSU is going to need contributions from a number of young linebackers who have been called upon already this season, including four freshmen backers — Ronnie Feist, Deion Jones, Lamar Louis and Lorenzo Phillips — who have all played in at least four games this year, but have only tallied one start combined.
“They ask a lot of questions, they learn fast and they’re right up to par with those veterans, so if anybody has to come out of the game, there’s not really a drop off,” said junior linebacker Lamin Barrow.
“This is one of those games where you go 100 percent every play. Everybody is getting ready and going to be on their toes.”
After a surplus of dropped passes from LSU’s wide receivers recently, the Tigers took the open week to try to fix the problem in the simplest way possible — catching more passes.
Sophomore wideout Jarvis Landry said the group of receivers have begun catching extra sets of passes from a machine after each workout and before every practice, hoping to put an end to the struggles LSU has faced through the air.
“Coach (Tommy) Moffitt (strength and conditioning) was stressing that the receivers actually catch 200 balls after every workout,” said sophomore wideout Jarvis Landry.
“It’s this little thing we just started, and we’re starting to get in touch with to get our hands right.”
CBS has exercised a six-day option on LSU’s game next Saturday against Mississippi State in Tiger Stadium.
The network will choose between that game and the Texas A&M-Alabama game in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
One game will air at 2:30 p.m. on CBS, and the other will be a night game on ESPN.
LSU couldn’t have picked a better weekend for the open week to fall.
The Tigers hold a 5-1 record in Miles’ tenure following an open date, with the lone loss coming against Florida in the 2008 season.
With the biggest test of the season coming to town, LSU had the luxury of an extra week of preparation, rest and healing before Saturday’s showdown with the Tide — one the players took full advantage of.
“I think the most thing that got us ready for this weekend is a lot rest, but a lot of film,” said junior defensive end Sam Montgomery.
“A lot of mental reps, not as much physical reps to get our bodies back up under us. But this week everything has been back to normal.”
Miles echoed Montgomery’s opinions but downplayed the perceived notion that having an open week is that big of an advantage.
“I have to be honest, I don’t know that it’s helped any differently. You don’t necessarily need a full week to gameplan,” said Miles, who went on to say he still appreciates the extra time off. “I think the open date certainly allows some fresh legs and some different energy.”