BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- No more extra running for the LSU
Tigers, at least not as punishment for their roles in a recent bar
With the season opener against No. 3 Oregon looming this
Saturday night, coach Les Miles and the fourth-ranked Tigers are
turning their focus toward the Ducks.
"We don't want to just run them into the ground," Miles said
Monday afternoon. "There's a point in time where, OK, that's
enough. ... Let's go forward. Let's look forward to playing an
opponent. ... I'm not going to punish a team that really has been
punished many, many times."
The recent offseason has been a series of setbacks, distractions
and disappointments for LSU, a team that has most key players
returning from a squad that went 11-2 last season and counts itself
among the contenders for a national title.
Last week, projected starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson
turned himself in after police obtained warrants for his arrests
and reserve linebacker Josh Johns' arrests on felony second-degree
battery charges stemming from an Aug. 19 melee outside a bar. More
players have been implicated and police have said their
investigation is ongoing.
Also last week, LSU suspended starting receiver Russell Shepard
for an unrelated NCAA rules violation.
"There's a heartfelt loss, if you will, of missing two
players," Miles said. "That being said, it's just all about
(looking) forward and pulling together and going with a little
different cast of characters. There are some things we can control
and some things we can't, and right now there are two who aren't in
the huddle and we'll line up and play in their absence."
The loss of two key starters came only weeks after the team
learned at the opening of fall camp that they would have a new
offensive coordinator because Steve Kragthorpe, who was hired for
that job last winter, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Kragthorpe has remained as quarterbacks coach, while offensive line
coach Greg Studrawa has been promoted to offensive coordinator.
That turned out to be only the beginning of the upheaval LSU's
team would be dealing with before opening their season in a
nationally televised game in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
They've had a month to adjust to the coaching shuffle, but have
been forced to move on from last week's losses of Jefferson and
If there is any good news for LSU, it is that newly promoted
starting quarterback Jarrett Lee is a senior with nine previous
starts, not to mention his clutch play in relief of Jefferson last
season during victories over Tennessee, Florida and Alabama.
"It's an unfortunate situation, how it's all played out," Lee
said in reference to his promotion to starter late last week. "But
I feel like the best thing to do is fill in, because I know that's
what Jordan would do. So we're just excited about this week and I'm
just trying to do what I can for the team, whatever the coaches
"We're a strong, close group of guys," Lee continued. "We
know maybe the best medicine is just to prepare hard for Oregon."
Lee did not discount the loss of Shepard, who would have been
his No. 2 wide receiver and is a speedy, versatile big-play threat
in both the run and pass, but he hopes LSU has the depth to
"Russell, as we know, he's a great athlete," Lee said. "He
brings a lot to this team. He will be missed for sure, but we've
got some young guys who can come in and do a good job for us as
they've done all of fall camp."
Miles said emerging freshman receiver Odell Beckham would have
more playing time in Shepard's absence.
Lee also will be able to lean on a host of promising running
backs including Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue, and Michael Ford.
His offensive line is experienced and mostly healthy with the
exception of former starting guard Josh Dworaczyk, who Miles said
is expected to have knee surgery soon and could be out for "some
Dworaczyk, however, had not worked with the first team since
having arthroscopic surgery last winter, and the Tigers have other
experienced players at guard. Miles added that freshman La'El
Collins, one of LSU's top recruits of 2011, is showing the
potential to be ready to play sooner than later.
LSU's defense, with its exceptional depth at defensive back, and
with top defensive end Sam Montgomery back from injury, also might
be able to take some pressure off of the Tigers' offense.
And as far as senior linebacker Ryan Baker is concerned, the
game with Oregon is coming at just the right time.
"What better way to get out and get rid of the distractions
than to play a ballgame," Baker said. "Guys are just ready to get
this out of the way and just start our season.
"We have a job at hand," Baker continued. "We have high
expectations for this season and we don't want those expectations
to be (undermined) by any distractions at all."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)