Will Blackwell doesn’t mind admitting it: when he goes out there for LSU’s first offensive snap in the Sept. 3 season opener against Oregon, the first play of last season’s opener against North Carolina will be on his mind.
“I’m sure I will think about it,” Blackwell said, “but after that first play, I won’t again.”
Surely no one could endure the trauma Blackwell suffered and not have it leave an indelible mark.
Blackwell was making his first career start, taking the field at right guard against North Carolina in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
On LSU’s first offensive play against North Carolina, Blackwell was trying to make a block for running back Stevan Ridley. As they play ended, Ridley fell on Blackwell’s right leg.
While the rest of the players got up, Blackwell stayed on the turf. He had three fractures in his right leg and torn ligaments, injuries that required surgery the following week to insert pins and a metal plate.
Months of rehab followed as Blackwell missed the next nine games, not returning until the Tigers played Ole Miss on Nov. 20. Blackwell also played in the regular-season finale against Arkansas and in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M, performing well enough to earn a spot on ESPN.com’s All-SEC Bowl Team.
Looking back on his injuries now, Blackwell finds the capacity to be philosophical.
“There was nothing that could have been done to prevent it,” said Blackwell, a 6-foot-4, 303-pound senior from West Monroe. “We’ve done a very good job rehabbing it and we’re almost there.”
While Blackwell is back, expected to take a leadership and starting role on LSU’s offensive line, there have been setbacks.
“It’s been a long process,” Blackwell said. “The injury has gotten worse at times and gotten better at times. I can’t wait to get back on the game field and test it again.”
Blackwell missed practice time late last week and Saturday’s scrimmage, LSU’s first of fall camp. He returned to practice Monday.
Neither LSU coach Les Miles nor Blackwell chose to divulge the type of injuries that kept the player out, though Blackwell said it had nothing to do with his leg injuries from last season.
“Just a little nicked,” Blackwell said, borrowing a Miles euphemism for injuries. “Just a few bumps and bruises. We’re taking precautions so things don’t get worse, but I’m fine.
“As far as pain and stability of the leg, everything’s good and ready to go.”
Miles has high expectations that Blackwell will be a force on LSU’s offensive line.
“He’s one of our more veteran guys,” Miles said. “He hasn’t played a lot of football, but he’s really good at center and really good at guard and really can play at a number of spots. I would expect that Will would have a very good fall.”
As a senior, Blackwell is prepared to be a leader - and an enforcer, if necessary.
He already tried that latter role in the Cotton Bowl - and caught some grief from his mother.
“I watched the replay of the Cotton Bowl the other night and my mom actually got on me for ?trash talking,’ she called it,” Blackwell said. “I told her sometimes I’ve got to be the enforcer out there. Somebody has to keep the other team in line, keep them from pushing our guys around. If I’ve got to do it, so be it.”
Just let him get that first play behind him.
SI ranks LSU No. 3
Sports Illustrated’s preseason college football issue hits newsstands Wednesday. On Tuesday, LSU announced SI will rank the Tigers No. 3 in their preseason issue behind Alabama and Oklahoma. Stanford is No. 4 and Oregon is No. 5.
In other preseason rankings, LSU is No. 1 according to The Sporting News, No. 4 according to the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and Lindy’s, No. 7 according to Phil Steele and No. 8 according to Athlon.
The Associated Press preseason top 25 will be released Saturday.
LSU-Oregon is top ticket
According to CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell, LSU-Oregon is the most expensive college football ticket on the market going into the season.
Rovell reports the average asking price for an LSU-Oregon ticket is $560.23.
Tickets for LSU’s Nov. 5 game at Alabama are going for $420.93, the 10th-highest average asking price.
Tigers work the red zone
Miles said the Tigers had their most extensive red zone work of camp on offense and defense during Tuesday’s practice. He said the work came in “a scrimmage format,” though there was no tackling. ... LSU will hold its second scrimmage of camp Thursday. ... Miles said he decided to close practice to reporters five days earlier than originally planned because he didn’t want any more reporting on injured players that were missing work. ... He added the Tigers will have three practices devoted to Oregon - Aug. 25, 26 and 27 - before beginning game-week preparations Aug. 29.
Advocate sportswriter Les East contributed to this report.