LSU was focused on more than football on its second day of Chick-fil-A bowl preparations Friday.
Head coach Les Miles began the team meeting by addressing the mass murders at an elementary school in Connecticut that morning.
“I think we’re all connected in some way,” Miles said as he opened his post-practice news conference. “I think our team is shocked, like the rest of the country. There are young men in my team room that eventually will have family and can certainly sympathize with those fathers and mothers that are at that school waiting to see if their child is coming out.
“So our football team is also affected. It’s not something that goes unheard or unseen.”
A positive non-football happening Friday was the graduation of several Tigers. Miles said “11 or 12” players will have graduated by the time LSU plays Clemson on New Year’s Eve in the Georgia Dome.
As for football, Miles said the first two practices have been designed to get the players acclimated again to the speed of the game as “we ran them hard.” Thursday’s practice was the Tigers’ first significant football action since Nov. 23 when they defeated Arkansas 20-13 in the regular-season finale.
“Right now it’s easy to work them hard because they’re going to have breaks,” Miles said.
He added that he expects to have most of the game plan installed before the team takes its Christmas break Dec. 22, but LSU likely will “save a piece or two for our bowl site.”
The Tigers’ first practice in Atlanta will be Dec. 26.
Linebacker Kwon Alexander and guard Josh Williford have returned from injuries that had sidelined them since Oct. 6, and linebackers Tahj Jones and D.J. Welter and offensive lineman Evan Washington are back after having been ineligible all season.
“It’s nice to see some of those new guys that are now ready to play and healthy and eligible,” Miles said. “Kwon is playing just as happy as he can be out there. There’s a real enjoyment there. A lot of significant guys will return.”
Miles said he’s not concerned about the formerly ineligible players getting up to speed after being sidelined since late August.
“The good news is they’re pretty veteran guys and recognize where they’ve been and what to do,” Miles said. “I saw the reps they took and they looked pretty good.”
Miles said he likes “the enthusiasm” of the players even though they had expected to play in a more significant post-season game.
“Teams that come to finish in a season recognize the importance of the bowl,” he said, “and I don’t think that’s being overlooked here.”
Even though schools can’t visit recruits during the bowl season, Miles said the coaching staff is busy juggling bowl preps and recruiting.
“We’re seven days a week,” he said. “There’s not a day that goes by that we’re not either recruiting or coaching.”
Miles said LSU will have several recruits on campus this weekend and they will have a full itinerary.
Safety Eric Reid was named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, the fifth all-America team he has made. ... Miles said there was no update on TE Nic Jacobs, who was suspended last month. ... LSU will not practice over the weekend. The senior banquet will be held Sunday night and practice will resume Monday. … In the meantime LSU Tiger Spirit Day will take place from noon-1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Chick-fil-A restaurant at 3023 College Drive to celebrate the team’s bowl berth. Mike the Tiger, the LSU cheerleading team and the Chick-fil-A “Eat Mor Chikin” Cow will be on hand. There will be activities for kids and adults, including photo opportunities, as well as a live radio remote from Eagle 98.1 (WDGL-FM). … LSU fans can vote for the Tigers in EA Sports’ NCAA Football Cover Vote campaign. All 126 FBS schools are eligible and voting takes place on the official EA Sports NCAA Football Facebook page. Fans can also campaign for the Tigers by tweeting #NCAACoverVote LSU, uploading local campus landmarks to Instagram and creating highlight videos of Mike the Tiger on YouTube. They can also go to http://ncaafootballcovervote.newslinevine.com/ to download LSU assets that they can post on their social pages to show their support. Voting for the first round, from which 32 teams will advance, ends Dec. 31.