The mood seemed light Monday at Les Miles’ weekly news conference.
There were jokes about what would happen if LSU, like its opponent this week, West Virginia, allowed the sale of beer in its stadium. There was talk of open tryouts to find students who can kick the ball through the end zone.
But through it all, there was also worry about the explosive offense and exciting atmosphere LSU will face this weekend when it heads to Morgantown, W.Va.
“We are going to be challenged in a different way by the West Virginia offense,” Miles said of the No. 16 Mountaineers, who are scoring 42 points per game powered by the arm of quarterback Geno Smith, who has 1,068 passing yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception in three games.
Not only will LSU be challenged by a Top 25 team for the third time in four games this season, the Tigers will again by a team in the limelight, with ESPN’s GameDay crew in Morgantown for the ABC prime time game.
That aspect, Miles said, his team will be ready for.
“Our guys understand big games and loud crowds in big stadiums,” Miles said.
LSU, which moved to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll Monday, leapfrogging Alabama for the second time in three weeks after the defense left a strong impression in last Thursday’s 19-6 win over Mississippi State, will be away from home for the third time in four games. LSU won at Starkville last week after beating Oregon at Dallas in the season-opener.
“The good news is we’ve been on the road and understand it,” Miles said. “We’ve gotten to the point where our road character is kind of established.”
In other areas covered Monday:
• Miles said wide receiver Russell Shepard, whose three-game NCAA suspension ends this week, will have an immediate role in the offense.
“We’re enjoying the fact that Russell Shepard is back and working into the game plan,” Miles said.
Miles said his staff will find a way to keep both Shepard and true freshman Odell Beckham, Jr., involved in the offense. Beckham has been a pleasant early surprise, leading the team with 15 receptions. Miles said he also expects Shepard to play on special teams.
He said he did not see Shepard’s return causing any problem with what has been good offensive chemistry.
“I don’t think adding a guy like Russell Shepard upsets the chemistry in any way,” he said.
• Miles said punter Brad Wing and left tackle Chris Faulk both may return from injury.
Wing hasn’t punted since the Oregon game. Faulk left the Mississippi State game with an ankle injury and was replaced by Greg Shaw.
“This may be the healthiest we’ve been in a while,” Miles said.
• Miles said he’s been told that the atmosphere at 60,000-seat Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. is “very much like an SEC game,” and he’s looking forward to seeing it in person.
He joked when asked about selling beer in Tiger Stadium, something that is done in Morgantown.
“I’m afraid if we did that, our upper deck wouldn’t hold it,” he joked.
• Miles was asked about the lack of distance on kickoffs by LSU kickers this year and said it was an area that’s being addressed this week.
He joked that if any student with the ability to kick the ball through the end zone could hear him, they should come by his offense.
In reality, he’s hoping kicker Drew Alleman, who was 4-for-4 on field goals against Mississippi State, might regain some leg strength he displayed in August camp when he said Alleman’s kickoffs were consistently deeper than what he’s shown during the season.
Short of that, Miles said LSU will look at true freshman James Hairston and Wing as possible kickoff candidates.
• It was announced Monday morning that cornerback Morris Claiborne was named national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Claiborne intercepted two passes against Mississippi State.
Also, defensive tackle Bennie Logan was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after recording 3.5 tackles for loss against MSU and Beckham received SEC Freshman of the Week honors after catching eight passes for 61 yards against the Bulldogs.