LSU gets in some rest ... but preparation for Alabama lies ahead

Instead of exiting the LSU practice facility at 8 p.m. Monday, running back Jeremy Hill squeezed in studying for a grueling exam in oceanography.

Safety Craig Loston ordered a new pair of ice skates for his 2-year-old daughter, while quarterback Zach Mettenberger — a senior with a lone three hours of course work — deviated little from a regimen of devouring film on the screen or his iPad.

“I’ll go home, hang out, sleep,” Mettenberger said, “and then be back here in the morning.”

Since checking into the West Campus Apartments on a balmy Sunday in early August, the No. 11 Tigers have slogged through 13 weeks of workouts, lifting sessions, film reviews, position meetings and nine games before an open week — the last of the Southeastern Conference teams, along with Alabama, to get a reprieve.

Run-down bodies and weary minds need a rest, but buzzing in the background of the lull is the dull roar starting ramping up ahead of a visit to No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0) on Saturday, Nov. 9.

The volume knob has barely been turned, but Tuesday saw the first volley of questions about a game that’s served as a de facto BCS quarterfinal the past two seasons.

And the Tigers don’t trot out the tired cliché of this one being the next game on the schedule, either.

“I’m not going to sit here and lie to you guys,” Hill said. “You just can’t let it overwhelm you. You can’t let it take you out of what you normally do. A lot of times you can get amped up and try to do too much.”

Over the first three days, LSU turns the mirror and scalpel on itself to remove flaws.

On Tuesday, there was the normal routine of film review from what can generously deemed a somewhat lethargic 48-16 rout of Furman, and a practice in helmets and shoulder pads.

In each meeting room, the to-do list of fixes varies.

For Loston, the session with defensive backs Corey Raymond hit on a long-running theme this season at the last level of LSU’s defense: shoring up communication.

“You want communication to always be a main topic,” Loston said. “If we’re communicating, nothing can go wrong. We need to stay on the same page. We just want that to be a focus, no matter who we’re playing.”

Then there’s clean-up and reminders. Case in-point: proper alignment and leverage on routes, an issue alluded to by Miles two weeks ago coming off a 27-24 loss at Ole Miss in which the Rebels passed for a season-high 349 yards.

Technique was the chief topic in the linebackers room with defensive coordinator John Chavis and his linebackers, who have been criticized in recent weeks for poor tackling.

Lamin Barrow, a senior outside linebacker, said whiffing in space is a product of the second level relying too often on speed to make a play, leading to overrunning, poor angles and weak leverage.

Still, Barrow said, Chavis underscored playing low.

“Pad leverage,” Barrow said. “Just getting our knees bending and getting down there and being physical with these O-linemen.”

As for Hill, he’s already parsing film of the Crimson Tide — the footage from last year.

Running backs coach Frank Wilson dispensed with tape of the Tigers gashing the Paladins — Hill and Terrence Magee combined for 251 yards — and showed cringe-worthy cutups from a night where Bama limited ballcarriers to less than 3 yards a crack.

Statistically, Hill could spare himself a critique after posting 107 yards in a 21-17 loss. Only he sees a back forcing the action, cutting back and changing direction trying to turn 4 yards into 50 and winding up with a 5-yard loss.

“It was horrible,” Hill said. “It was 50-50. I’d do a really great play, then a really bad play.”

The tally: 60 yards left out on the Tiger Stadium turf. And Hill thinks about carry No. 28, a 3-yard loss where he cut back on a power call going left. Take the 4-yard gain given, and it’s a manageable third-and-3 at the Bama 25. Four yards closer for kicker Drew Alleman, who missed from 45 yards out.

“You can’t do those things against Alabama,” Hill said. “They’re way too assignment sound, and it’s just getting what’s there.”

“These games stick out for a long time,” Barrow said. “If you can make your mark on a game like this, it’ll take you a long way.”