Les Miles has a problem most coaches would love to have.
The coach said Tuesday that six guys, “and maybe more,” deserve to play on LSU’s offensive line. The newest addition to the mix: true freshman Toby Weathersby.
Listed as a tackle, the 6-foot-5 lineman entered the huddle at right guard in the second half of the No. 4 Tigers’ 48-20 win against Western Kentucky last week. He played about 15 snaps across three drives in place of Will Clapp, who moved over to left guard while Maea Teuhema sat out.
“He came in and knew what he was supposed to do,” junior left tackle Jerald Hawkins said. “He kept his composure in the game, didn’t get any penalties. ... He got over there quick and settled down.”
Miles indicated Weathersby is competing for a starting role more than halfway through the season.
“I think he deserves to play,” Miles said during his lone news conference of the Tigers’ open week. “I think he’s going to be a guy who in the future is gonna play a lot of football here. He’s bright as a whip, very physical. We wanna see him on the field.”
Competition at guard is nothing new for the team. Teuhema, a true freshman himself, wrestled away a starting job from junior Josh Boutte following his strong second-half performance in the Tigers’ rescheduled season opener at Mississippi State.
Now Teuhema’s role appears to be up for grabs. Clapp, only a redshirt freshman, is a mainstay in LSU’s offense as the preferred pulling guard who can play on either the right or left side.
Hawkins said Weathersby and Teuhema have been pushing each other since they began preseason camp together. Senior right tackle Vadal Alexander, who played next to Weathersby, praised the freshman’s physicality and ability to grasp the mental aspect of the game.
“Not only is he gifted physically, he’s a smart guy,” Alexander said. “He’s extremely physical. One of the strongest punches I’ve seen around.”
Got it covered
One facet of LSU’s much-maligned special teams is finally getting its act together.
The kickoff coverage unit has clamped down in the last two games after surrendering a 96-yard return touchdown against South Carolina on Oct. 10.
Its latest feat was limiting WKU’s Kylen Towner, the No. 8-ranked kick returner in FBS, to only 17.9 yards per return, which was well below his average of 30.6. The Tigers also forced Towner to fumble a kickoff return, setting up the offense for a crucial third-quarter touchdown to go up 27-13.
The week before, the Tigers allowed less than 12 yards per kickoff return in their 35-28 win against Florida.
LSU still committed several special-teams blunders, most of which were penalties on the punt units. The front line of the kick return team failed to cover an early-fourth-quarter onside kick that gave the Hilltoppers — who were down only two scores — possession near midfield.
“I thought we kicked off well, I thought we punted it well,” Miles said after the game. “Minus an onside kick that stunk, I thought we improved in special teams.”
Pile on the points
Miles’ run-heavy offense isn’t designed to light up the scoreboard. The Tigers are doing so anyway.
This year’s LSU squad has scored the fourth-most points through seven games in program history with 272. The 1908 team holds the top spot by a wide margin (352 points).
The 2013 Tigers, which featured a host of current NFL players like Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., are second with 290 points. This year’s team ranks just ahead of the 2011 and 2007 SEC championship clubs that scored 269 and 264, respectively, through seven games.