DeSean Smith grew up just five miles from the McNeese State campus. His grandparents have season tickets, and little DeSean attended games years ago.
He still works out at McNeese’s facility when he returns home, running on the Cowboys track and such. So, yeah, LSU’s season opener isn’t just any other Game 1 for the Tigers tight end.
“It’s my hometown coming,” he said.
Smith and receiver Trey Quinn are the lone LSU players from Lake Charles, home to McNeese. Quinn was not available for interviews this week. He suffered a head/neck injury during LSU’s first preseason camp scrimmage, but has returned to practice and will play, coach Les Miles said.
Smith, a 6-foot-5, 243-pound junior, is expected to be a bigger part of the passing offense than ever before. The last time LSU played – a loss to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl – Smith had four catches for 66 yards.
They were his only receptions of the season. He dropped a pass in the season opener against Wisconsin last year and didn’t get another shot until late in the season.
What happened then? He suffered a head-on collision in the game at Arkansas, and his only target in the regular season finale at Texas A&M ended in a pass interference penalty.
“It was always something,” he said.
He’s expected to get his shots this year, and it’ll start with a match against a familiar foe. Not only family members will be rooting for him and the Tigers, though. Uncle Scott, Smith said, “is a big McNeese fan.”
“Other than that,” he said, “I feel like everybody’s going to be pulling for LSU now that I’m over here.”
Dupre 100 percent
It wasn’t until Halloween time that Malachi Dupre felt fully healthy last season. A hamstring pull on the third day of preseason camp sent the then-highly touted freshman receiver into a downward spiral.
He went from practicing with the first string to trying to catch up to guys like John Diarse and Trey Quinn. He didn’t even travel for the Tigers season opener against Wisconsin.
“It affected me drastically,” Dupre said.
Days before LSU opens the year against McNeese State, Dupre is healthy. He’s no longer having to run gingerly on that hamstring like he did for the first six or seven games of 2014. He’s full speed.
“I might have been 100 percent Week 3 or 4, but at the back of your mind, especially like a soft tissue injury like that, you’re always timid,” Dupre said. “When you’re running with that in the back of your mind, you may not play as fast as you need to. Towards the latter half of the season is when I felt comfortable running full speed and playing as fast as I should have been. I have none of those worries now.”
Key in, Washington out
Freshman defensive ends Arden Key and Isaiah Washington impressed players and coaches throughout fall camp, but only one of them is likely to suit up for LSU’s season opener. Coach Les Miles said Wednesday that Washington will not play against McNeese State on Saturday night due to an arm injury he suffered “some time ago.”
The Tigers, however, expect him back sooner rather than later.
“I don’t know that he’ll be playing this weekend, but it will be shortly thereafter,” Miles said.
Both Washington and Key have been working with second unit and figure to push for consistent playing time, just as Miles predicted early in preseason camp. Junior defensive end Lewis Neal said the competition at the position has been great, though he didn’t disclose how the rotation between him, junior Tashawn Bower and the freshmen would look.
Miles, however, revealed those plans during his weekly radio show. He indicated Neal, Bower and Key will split the first-string reps into thirds. Though Key will play some snaps in place of Neal, the junior said that’s just what LSU needs.
“I’m looking forward for everyone to contribute because the more they contribute, the better off we’re going to be as a defense,” Neal said. “Everybody’s gonna make plays, and everybody is gonna hold each other accountable. We need everybody to play a big role.”
Like father, like son
NCAA guidelines restrict how frequently college coaches can contact recruits or discuss them with the media. But Miles can stay in touch with and talk about a certain Catholic High prospect all he wants.
LSU offered 2017 fullback Ben Miles a scholarship Monday, which the coach called “a wonderful thing.”
As Ben’s father, Miles is allowed unlimited contact with him under NCAA rules. Miles assured the media that the school handled Ben’s recruitment the same way it would manage any other prospect’s.
The news of the scholarship offer came a few months after Miles’ older son, 2015 University High quarterback Manny Miles, agreed to attend North Carolina as a preferred walk-on. Miles hasn’t had too much trouble convincing Ben’s parents LSU is the right fit for him.
“The dad is sold, I can tell you that,” he quipped. “There’s a coaching advantage. ...We have an established relationship over time. I was there when he was born, and really not had a lot of breaks between then.”
By the numbers
LSU enters its 122nd season of college football ranked 12th in all-time victories among FBS teams and 13th in winning percentage. The Tigers have an all-time record of 761-401-47, a winning percentage of .649.
LSU ranks between Georgia (777) and Auburn (734) in victories and between Florida State (.679) and Georgia Southern (.6485 to LSU’s .6488) in winning percentage. In the current decade, LSU ranks eighth with 52 victories and ninth in winning percentage at .788 (52-14).
LSU vs. the Southland
This will be just the second game ever between LSU and McNeese State in football. The Tigers toppled the Cowboys 32-10 on Oct. 16, 2010 in Tiger Stadium.
Overall, LSU is 13-0 against current members of the Southland Conference, most of those wins coming from an 11-0 record against Northwestern State. LSU beat preseason SLC favorite Sam Houston State 56-0 in last year’s home opener.