Football Raises Intensity as Vandy Nears
BATON ROUGE – The focus on the practice field this week for LSU hasn’t been all about Vanderbilt. Instead, LSU has used practice time to focus on taking care of the football as well as understanding the importance of finishing off an opponent when given the opportunity.
LSU opens Southeastern Conference play on Saturday when the 16th-ranked Tigers travel to Nashville to face Vanderbilt at 6 p.m. The game will be televised nationally by ESPNU. LSU goes into the game with a 1-0 overall mark following the win over North Carolina. The Commodores are 0-1 after last week’s loss to Northwestern.
“We have continued to emphasize finishing and ball security this week in practice,” LSU coach Les Miles said following Wednesday’s workout. “We enjoyed how the defense finished the last drive (against North Carolina), but we certainly would like to have removed them from that responsibility.
“I think our guys understand that we have to take care of the football and to finish off games when we have that opportunity. We have upped the intensity in our ball security drills this week so we will see how that pays off when we get to Saturday.”
Last week in the season-opener against North Carolina, the Tigers led 30-10 at halftime, however two second half fumbles in the redzone allowed the Tar Heels to stay in the game. LSU’s defense batted down two North Carolina passes from the 6-yard line in the final 10 seconds to secure the 30-24 victory.
Miles said that while the Tigers worked against the scout squad on Wednesday, they also spent time with the offense and defense going, “good against good because it makes the tempo of practice go better.”
The Tigers welcomed back three players to the practice field this week as linebacker Ryan Baker (jaw), safety Karnell Hatcher (knee) and Chris Tolliver (head) have all practiced in hopes of playing against Vanderbilt. All three players missed last week’s season-opener against North Carolina.
“It’s good to get those guys back,” Miles said. “‘All three of them looked good and it will be interesting to see how they play. They may well get into the rotation this weekend.”
The Tigers have also used this week getting ready either Josh Williford or Matt Branch ready to play right guard on Saturday against Vanderbilt. The Tigers lost starting right guard Will Blackwell to a season-ending injury last week against North Carolina. Blackwell underwent surgery earlier this week.
“Josh Williford might get the first nod, but Matt Branch can certainly go from left (guard) to right (guard,” Miles said. “Will Blackwell was our third center so we need T-Bob Hebert to stay handy at that center spot. We have three guys we can move in there to play and if something further were to happen we would have to figure it out.”
LSU will practice again on Thursday followed by a walk-thru on Friday morning. The Tigers will depart for Nashville at 2 p.m. on Friday.