To the casual observer happening by the LSU football factory, Wednesday may have seemed like another sleepy if stifling summer day with the regular season a long way off.
To coach Les Miles, it was something else entirely.
Wednesday marked the demarcation point between all the offseason non-football business that has to be endured and the start of unfiltered, full-time football preparations. It was the day that the Tigers reported to campus and got ready to begin the practice Thursday.
“Today is a great day to be a coach and it’s a great day to be a player,” Miles said as he addressed the media in LSU’s team meeting room. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be away from all those things I’ve been doing the last six to eight weeks.
“I’m excited about it, and I know the team is.”
A total of 104 players checked in Wednesday, with a few notable absences.
Miles said freshman Alonzo Lewis, a wide receiver from St. James, will likely enroll in a junior college. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Mickey Johnson from St. Paul’s in Covington did not report as he waits for an OK from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Sophomore offensive guard Josh Williford also didn’t report because of two recent deaths in his family, but Miles said he expects the Dothan, Ala., native to be on campus in a few days.
Several LSU players spent the offseason recovering from injuries, and with the possible exception of starting left guard Josh Dworaczyk (knee) most are expected to be at full strength to start practice.
“His workouts have really been great the back end of the summer,” Miles said of Dworaczyk. “We might have to guide him through the schedule a bit, but we think he’ll be there for everything we need him for.”
Miles pronounced starting strong safety Brandon Taylor, who suffered a foot injury late last season, “ready to roll.” He also said defensive end Sam Montgomery, who missed the last eight games of 2010 and part of spring practice with a knee injury, could have done more in the spring if needed and is also at full strength.
Freshman wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who suffered a broken foot during voluntary summer drills, is on pace to return before the season opener, Miles said.
“I really think a couple of weeks,” Miles said of Landry, “at the outside maybe three.”
The Tigers will hold a pair of two-a-day practices Thursday and Friday without pads as they slowly ramp up the intensity, returning players in the morning and newcomers and some varsity players in the afternoon.
The team will have its first full-squad practice Saturday in helmets and shoulder pads and won’t don full gear until Monday.
To start, Miles said the team will focus on elements that don’t require contact.
“We’re working on those things dealing with space,” Miles said. “The curriculum of contact is not in the first two (days of) practices. We’re avoiding it as much as we can.
“We’ll start with the two-minute drill and run it religiously until we get it right. It’s what we can practice on best.”
Miles was asked for an update on junior wide receiver Russell Shepard, who was held out of Southeastern Conference Media Days two weeks ago reportedly because of an NCAA compliance issue related to his off-campus housing.
“The only thing I can tell you is he’s going like heck,” Miles said. “He’s in camp and we’re preparing him.”
Asked if Shepard will practice Thursday, Miles replied: “Absolutely.”
Taylor to wear No. 18
Taylor is the latest Tiger to wear No. 18, a number passed down to the person who best represents what it means to be an LSU Tiger on and off the field. The player is selected by Miles and former No. 18s that include quarterback Matt Mauck, running back Jacob Hester, tight end Richard Dickson and last year’s No. 18, running back Richard Murphy.
“It’s a name that’s respected here,” Miles said of Murphy. “He’s done everything he can do to put himself in that position. He comes off an injury and fights like heck to get back. I certainly think he’s deserving.”
Top QB picks Florida State
Jameis Winston, one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects, committed to Florida State on Wednesday, choosing the Seminoles over LSU and Alabama.
Winston (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), a native of Hueytown, Ala., is ranked as the nation’s top quarterback prospect by ESPN.com and the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback prospect by Rivals.com. He is also considered a strong baseball prospect, and there is much speculation that he may never see the football field in college.
LSU has 18 commitments for 2012.