Les Miles is taking the good with the bad.
LSU’s special teams have given him a mix of both through three games, flashing big-play potential while also surrendering chunks of yards on returns.
“Certainly some things need to be fixed,” Miles said of the special teams during his weekly press luncheon Monday. “But a lot of positives as well.”
The No. 9 Tigers (3-0) have struggled to defend kick returners and are last in the Southeastern Conference in kickoff coverage, averaging only 37.8 net yards per kickoff. LSU defeated Syracuse, 34-24, last Saturday, but the Orange averaged more than 25 yards on seven kick returns and it rolled up 104 yards on four returns in the first half.
“That’s not like us,” said sophomore safety Jamal Adams.
Players said special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto emphasizes kick coverage every day. Adams suggested younger players aren’t staying in their lanes on kickoffs, which is crucial to preventing big returns.
“Coach Miles and Coach Peveto, they stress it enough: special teams is a key part to us,” Adams said. “We can’t expect to be in the playoffs with a performance like that in special teams.”
The Tigers are second-to-last in the SEC in kickoff returns and punting, even with 2014 All-SEC punter Jamie Keehn back.
“Jamie certainly started off with some really average punting for him considering how talented he is,” Miles said. “I think he’ll get comfortable and handle that better.”
But it hasn’t been all bad for the Tigers. Junior kicker Trent Domingue has made all three of his field goals and is 13-for-13 on extra points. LSU is also third in the conference with an average of 20 yards per punt return, but that number is bolstered by junior cornerback Tre’Davious White’s 69-yard return touchdown against Syracuse.
Malachi Dupre had no idea where he was, and being in a different time zone had nothing to do with it.
The sophomore receiver landed on the side of his head during the first quarter of last Saturday’s contest. On third-and-15, Dupre ran a seam route and went up for the ball, but a Syracuse defender hit him at his legs and sent him careening toward the Carrier Dome turf.
Following the landing, Dupre appeared dazed and tried to pick up the dropped ball as teammates checked on him.
“I really didn’t know where I was at for a minute, but I came to when I got to the sideline,” Dupre said. “I didn’t have a headache or anything afterward. ...I just know when I hit the ground, I didn’t remember anything at all.”
Trainers administered a concussion test to Dupre on the sideline, and he returned later in the first half. The sophomore finished with four receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown.
“I kinda knew I was good once the blurriness and the dizziness went away,” he said. “I felt like the team doctors and everybody didn’t trust it because of how bad it really looked. I guess they were impressed with how I answered all their questions and ran on the sideline for them.”
Dupre said he suffered a similar but less severe fall during his junior year at John Curtis High School when he hit the Superdome turf during the 2A state championship game. He held onto that pass, though, and it took him a while forgive himself for dropping the one against Syracuse.
“I was like ‘Man I should have caught the ball,’” Dupre said. “But when I watched the replay I was like ‘Yeah, you didn’t catch the ball because you lost consciousness for a second.’”
Faneca named SEC legend
Former LSU All-American guard Alan Faneca has been named to the 2015 SEC Legends class, the conference office announced Tuesday.
Faneca will be one of 14 players honored during the SEC Championship Game weekend, Dec. 4-5 in Atlanta. A New Orleans native who played his high school ball in Houston, Faneca was an All-American and Outland Trophy finalist in 1997 as a junior.
He earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy that season, presented annually to the SEC’s top blocker.
Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.