LSU’s depth chart was a work in progress practically up until kickoff of their season opener Saturday night.
After the Tigers’ 40-27 victory against Oregon in the Cowboys Classic, the depth chart still isn’t etched in stone, but some pencil marks are being covered over in ink.
Perhaps the biggest personnel issue that wasn’t completely resolved publicly before Saturday was the fallout from starting wide receiver Russell Shepard being declared indefinitely ineligible for violating an NCAA regulation. Sophomore Kadron Boone and true freshmen Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry all filled in.
Beckham caught two passes, the most by any wide receiver, for 10 yards; Landry caught one for 3 yards; and Boone didn’t have a reception. Beckham showed his athleticism when he laid out to make a diving catch for what would have been a 38-yard gain in the fourth quarter, though it was negated by a holding penalty.
“Odell Beckham is going to be a special player for us,” quarterback Jarrett Lee said. “He did a great job for us. On that one play, I overthrew him, but he made a great catch.”
The running back position has been a tight competition among three sophomores: Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Alfred Blue.
As expected, Ware got the first and most opportunities. He had 26 rushes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Ford was next in line and got a lot of work, especially spelling Ware for part of the second half, and finished with 14 rushes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Blue had just one carry for 2 yards. LSU finished with 175 yards rushing on 48 carries.
“We want to pound the ball every game,” guard Will Blackwell said. “I think we came out and that’s what worked.
“The running game was there for us. We knew we could keep pushing it and keep grinding it, and we did. Spencer Ware and Michael Ford really carried us.”
The only fullback to touch the ball was true freshman Kenny Hilliard (two carries, 3 yards) as veterans James Stampley and J.C. Copeland maintained their roles as primarily blockers.
On defense, widely heralded tackle Anthony Johnson didn’t start but did get into the game and got an assist on a half-yard loss on his first play.
Kevin Minter made his first career start at linebacker as the Tigers opened and stayed in a nickel package (five defensive backs) for the most part, not using their base three linebackers as they will against more conventional offenses. Minter was credited with four assists.
Tharold Simon made his first start at cornerback in Patrick Peterson’s old spot as Tyrann Mathieu opened at nickelback. Simon was a standout, making an interception, breaking up three passes, and finishing with eight tackles, including one for a loss.
Junior Drew Alleman made his debut as Josh Jasper’s replacement and made both of his field-goal attempts - from 44 and 32 yards - but he missed an extra point. His kickoffs were consistently short as he averaged 60.1 yards.
Punter Brad Wing was inconsistent in his debut but averaged 41.3 yards on six punts and had two downed inside the 20-yard line.
Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson and tight end Nic Jacobs also made their LSU debuts.
Two true freshmen who had stood out during preseason camp but didn’t play were offensive lineman La-El Collins and running back Terrence Magee.
Saturday’s game also marked the first since a restructuring of the offensive staff.
Offensive line coach/acting offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa called the plays for the first time at LSU. He worked from the press box alongside quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe, who relinquished the play-calling duties at the start of preseason camp after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger handled the face-to-face conversations with the offensive line on the sideline with Studrawa upstairs.
The Tigers didn’t appear to have any difficulty getting lined up and getting plays called before the play clock expired. Several such high-profile bouts of confusion had plagued the offense under former coordinator Gary Crowton in recent seasons.
Blackwell gave some of the credit for the offense’s focus to Lee, who was starting for the first time in nearly two years.
“He did a great job of keeping up the tempo,” Blackwell said. “He kept everyone focused, and you can’t ask for much more out of your quarterback.”
Mathieu was named Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday for his performance. He had a team-high 10 tackles, one forced fumble, two pass breakups and a tackle for a loss. Mathieu, a sophomore from New Orleans, also scored LSU’s first touchdown when he stripped Oregon punt returner Kenyon Barner of the ball, recovered the ball and ran 3 yards for the score. There are 800 tickets remaining for the Tigers’ home opener against Northwestern State on Saturday night, assistant athletic director for ticket operations Brian Broussard announced.
Northwestern State notes
About 240 tickets in the Northwestern State section went on sale Monday evening, Northwestern State announced. Tickets are for seat locations in the Northwestern State section in the upper deck of Tiger Stadium. Fans can go to the www.nsutickets.com website to purchase $40 tickets. Telephone ticket orders and walk-up purchases can be made at the Athletic Ticket Office (318) 357-4268 beginning Tuesday morning. ... Northwestern State coach Bradley Dale Peveto named captains for the LSU game: Senior center Zach Case, senior linebacker Yaser Elqutub and senior safety/holder Phil LeBlanc. Senior tight end Justin Aldredge was picked as the College Football Performance Awards’ FCS Tight End Performer of the Week after 97 yards on three catches, including a 32-yard touchdown.
Football on the web
Advocate sportswriter Les East will chat LSU football from 3-4 p.m. Tuesday. Go to http://theadvocate.com/sports.
TheAdvocate.com sports editor Gary Laney will provide an online recap of LSU coach Les Miles’ luncheon as well as the audio replay - both available Tuesday afternoon - at http://theadvocate.com/sports/lsu.
ON THE INTERNET:
To get coverage of Northwestern State football, visit http://www.shreveporttimes.com/section/sports for The Shreveport Times.
Go to http://blogs.theadvocate.com/
tigertracks/ for updates from Advocate sportswriters.
Follow Advocate sportswriters Les East at @LesEast and Scott Rabalais at @ScottRabalais.
Interact with us on Facebook. Search for The Advocate Sports.
LSWA PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Brad Henderson, QB, Northwestern State, Jr.
Henderson came off the bench in a 24-23 win over Delta State, with the Demons trailing 17-0 at halftime. He set a school record by completing his first 13 passes in his first FCS game. He was 13-of-14 passing for 210 yards and a touchdown.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU, So.
Mathieu scored a touchdown after forcing and then returning a fumble 3 yards on punt coverage and had a team-high 10 tackles in a 40-27 win over Oregon. He also had one forced fumble, two pass breakups and a tackle for loss. Also chosen as the Southeastern Conference’s defensive player of the week.
Robert Kelley, RS, Tulane, Fr.
Kelly set a Tulane single-game kickoff return yards record in his college debut in a 47-33 win over Southeastern Louisiana. He tallied 213 yards on seven returns, starting with 66 yards on the game’s opening kickoff. The former Tulane mark was 171, set in 1996.
Northwestern State at LSU
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Tiger Stadium.
RADIO: WDGL-FM, 98.1.