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September 3, 2013
The NFL draft certainly wreaked havoc on the LSU defense following the 2012 season.
Ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, tackle Bennie Logan, linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid were juniors who elected to bypass their senior seasons for professional football.
Therefore, the Tigers had just three returning full-time defensive starters - linebacker Lamin Barrow, cornerback Jalen Mills and safety Craig Loston - on the field for the season-opener against TCU last Saturday night in Arlington, Tex.
The newly-fashioned defense definitely performed like LSU units of the past. The Horned Frogs gained just 259 yards - 114 on the ground. The TCU offense scored only two touchdowns - one coming after a Alfred Blue fumble at the Tigers' 6 - in the Tigers' 37-27 victory.
"This is LSU," said Miles at his weekly media luncheon Tuesday. "We recruit quality players. We put them in a position that they can learn and learn quickly. If they are talented enough, we get them to the field.
"Then, there are those guys who are biding their time. They are not necessarily waiting, but developing. It ends up being a delayed approach to the field for those guys. When they get to the field, they're ready to play. They're good players."
TigerBait report card: Position grades vs TCU.
The new starters distinguished themselves against TCU. End Jermauria Rasco had five tackles, including a combined sack with Danielle Hunter. Tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson had four stops, including one for a loss. Safety Ronald Martin made four tackles and broke up a pass.
The Tigers linebackers were not that much of a factor against the Horned Frogs. Kwon Alexander, who replaced an injured Tahj Jones in the lineup at strongside linebacker, had three tackles. Lamin Barrow and D.J. Welter each made two tackles. Miles wasn't concerned about the linebackers' work.
"I felt like our linebacking play was good," Miles said. "I think it will be better with Tahj back. That's a very talented group that plays for us. They'll do nothing but get better."
The offense is more experienced than the defense. In addition, new coordinator Cam Cameron definitely had an influence on quarterback Zach Mettenberger, in particular, and the whole offense, in general. Mettenberger threw for 251 yards, while Terrence Magee and Blue combined for 184 rushing yards.
"There are some similarities to what we have done in the past on offense," Miles said. "But, the view of the call, the strategic timing of the call and the confidence of the offense to execute were all much improved. Cam has done a great job to start.
"Zach appears to have a greater tempo. He understands what he's responsible to do in terms of coordinating the style of play. He really is getting to play faster. His contribution is much improved. Again, it's just one game and we've got some work to do. We'd like to think that we can get better."
Miles refused to say if running back Jeremy Hill will play this week against UAB. Hill was in uniform against TCU, but didn't get into the game.
"Whether or not Jeremy Hill figures in the game plan depends upon how the week unfolds," Miles said. "We look forward to playing him just as soon as we think he's ready."
Magee had a career-high 95 yards on 13 carries. He had two touchdown runs, including one of 52 yards. Blue picked up a hard-earned 89 yards on 19 carries. Kenny Hilliard gained eight yards on his four attempts.
"We really were pleased by all three backs who played in the game," Miles said. "We're fortunate to have guys who can play at a high level. It's important that you are fresh. It's important that guys can get yards after contact.
Analysis: Impressive LSU first-game victory.
"We're not making any determination of who starts and who doesn't at this point. Alfred Blue would be deserving (to start) again. The opportunity to play the best back in the best situation for us to have victory is what we're going to do."
Miles acknowledged that there were some problems in the opener - allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown, a roughing-the-passer penalty on Ferguson, a lost fumble by Blue, red-zone problems on offense and a few missed tackles.
"If we improve our tackling, minimize some of the penalties and not turn the ball over, it could have been a much different game," Miles said. "That's our push. The need to improve is the key to this football team. That is really the key to any team that is ambitious."
Miles indicated that both Jones and Travis Dickson would play this week against UAB. Jones didn't make the trip to Arlington, while Dickson dressed, but didn't play. Jones has an undisclosed injury, while Dickson has been out with an injured knee.
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