LSU finally got some good injury news.
Junior left tackle Jerald Hawkins will likely start against Texas A&M on Saturday, coach Les Miles said Wednesday during his post-practice news conference. Hawkins suited up but sat out the Tigers’ 38-17 loss at Ole Miss last week with an ankle injury.
“He practiced the whole week,” Miles said of Hawkins. “We expect him to start and play.”
The Aggies (8-3, 4-3) will clash with LSU (7-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium, bringing with them one of the nation’s most effective pass rushers: sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett.
Hawkins will likely be the primary blocker against Garrett, who aligns over left tackle. The defensive end broke the SEC freshman sack record last season and is currently tied for fifth in the country with 10.5 sacks.
When Hawkins originally injured his ankle in a 31-14 loss to Arkansas on Nov. 14, sophomore KJ Malone filled in for him. But the Tigers’ offensive line sported a different look against the Rebels.
Senior right tackle Vadal Alexander moved over to the left side, and true freshman Toby Weathersby took his place. Weathersby committed two false starts in the game as part of an offensive line featuring three first-year players.
Hawkins may be healthy, but LSU recently lost its third offensive starter for the remainder of the year. Junior receiver Travin Dural, who injured his hamstring against Ole Miss, joins senior tight end Dillon Gordon and sophomore fullback JD Moore with season-ending injuries.
Ex-LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis isn’t the only coach with ties to his opponent involved in Saturday’s clash.
Three current LSU coaches spent time as members of Texas A&M coaching staffs under former head coach R.C. Slocum: offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, tight ends coach Steve Ensminger and special assistant to the head coach/chief of staff Steve Kragthorpe.
Grimes served as a graduate assistant coach for the Aggies from 1996-97, and he eventually obtained his master’s degree from Texas A&M.
Ensminger was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in College Station from 1994-96. The Aggies were 25-9-1 during his tenure, and he helped guide them to a 10-0-1 record in his first season on staff.
Kragthorpe replaced Ensminger as Texas A&M’s quarterbacks coach in 1997 before taking over as offensive coordinator from 1998-2000. The Aggies captured the Big 12 title in 1998, and Kragthorpe returned as their wide receivers coach in 2010 before joining LSU’s staff the next season.
Chavis, the Tigers’ defensive coordinator for six years, accepted the same position at Texas A&M shortly after the Tigers’ Music City Bowl loss to close last season. He and LSU are still locked in a lawsuit, held in the 19th Judicial Court in East Baton Rouge Parish, over the buyout in his former contract.
LSU-Texas A&M series
Though the LSU-Texas A&M rivalry has been sporadic, the Tigers have the upper hand.
LSU leads the series 30-23-3, including a 3-0 mark since Texas A&M joined the SEC West in 2012. The Tigers have won four straight games dating back to the 2011 Cotton Bowl, and they took the latest meeting with a 23-17 victory in College Station last season.
The Aggies’ last win against the Tigers came in 1995, the teams’ last meeting prior to the 2011 Cotton Bowl. The home team has dominated the series with a 30-13-2 record.
Miles holds a 6-2 record against Texas A&M, claiming all four contests at LSU after splitting four games with the Aggies during his tenure at Oklahoma State.
With a victory Saturday, LSU will extend its school record to 16 straight seasons of at least eight wins. That streak is the second-longest nationally behind only Boise State, which has won eight or more games in 16 straight years and needs only one more victory in 2015 to further its streak. ... The Texas A&M game will mark only the sixth time in Miles’ 11 seasons in Baton Rouge that the Tigers will play a game unranked in both the coaches and Associated Press polls. Before this week, LSU had been a ranked team in 137 of its 142 games under Miles.