No matter how much Lewis Neal eats, he can’t gain weight.
Three servings of grits, sausage and eggs each morning don’t do the trick. That big lunch and dinner don’t seem to help. Those protein shakes between meals aren’t working, and that extra late-night supper isn’t enough.
“It’s been like that my whole life,” said the LSU defensive tackle. “It’s frustrating when they’re pushing you to gain weight. You’re trying, and it won’t happen.”
Neal has spent his entire career – including this past summer – playing and training to play defensive end. He was moved to tackle during the first week of fall camp this August.
Since then, the 255-pounder has been trying to add weight. After all, the average weight of the other defensive tackles on LSU’s roster is 305 pounds.
He eats throughout the day, but it doesn’t show.
“I eat up. Everybody knows on the team (that) I eat the most on the team,” said Neal, a sophomore from North Carolina.
When No. 15 LSU (4-1, 0-1 Southeastern) meets No. 5 Auburn (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday, Neal meets an interior of an AU offensive line that weighs 315, 295 and 315 pounds.
Neal has seen the most playing time of his career over the last few games. He’s been serving as the fourth defensive tackle behind Quentin Thomas, Christian LaCouture and freshman Davon Godchaux, rotating in occasionally.
But why was he moved from end? Depth issues at tackle, he said.
“We were short at the time at defensive tackle,” said Neal, who admits to favoring defensive end. “I’m doing this for the team.”
Neal immediately surpassed a trio of redshirt freshmen defensive tackles upon moving to his new position. Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron and Maquedius Bain have seen little significant playing time.
Defensive tackles coach Brick Haley must trust a player mentally to play him, Neal said. It’s all about technique, knowledge of the offense and attention to detail.
He might not have size, but he has those things.
“It’s all mental because we all have the physical capabilities,” Neal said.
Thomas, already playing with a torn right biceps, injured his left arm in the loss to Mississippi State and his status for the game at Auburn is uncertain.
That puts more importance on Neal and a rotation that needs to grow against one of the quickest offenses in football.
“When we play in these SEC games, the tempo is going to be faster,” Neal said. “Rotation will be a big must.”
The process of getting freshman defensive tackle Travonte Valentine eligible appears to be winding down, LSU coach Les Miles said on his radio show Wednesday night.
“His high school has submitted some pieces. As we go forward, I’d guess he may become eligible in the near future, definitely by next fall,” the coach said.
Valentine, a highly touted Florida product who signed with LSU this past year, has been cleared by LSU and the NCAA, but the Southeastern Conference has yet to make him eligible for game play. The freshman has been practicing. Miles said.
Valentine is “big, strong” and weighs 360 pounds, the coach said Wednesday.
Fullback Connor Neighbors and reserve defensive tackle Frank Herron practiced Wednesday and are expected to be ready to play Saturday at Auburn, Miles said.
Neighbors suffered a concussion during the first half of the win over New Mexico State, and Herron missed the game after injuring himself in an off-the-field incident.
Defensive tackle Quentin Thomas did not practice Wednesday, Miles said, and could be out another week. He injured his left arm against Mississippi State and missed last week’s game.
Miles would not confirm The Advocate’s report Monday that Dwayne Thomas is out for the season, but the coach said he’s at least out “indefinitely.”
Anthony Jennings is receiving some first-string snaps during practice, but Brandon Harris is getting the majority of them, Miles said Wednesday. Harris, a true freshman, is set to make his first career start at Auburn. … Miles said Trey Lealaimatafao could play in the game at Florida in less than two weeks. “He’s getting stronger. I’d not be surprised if we get him some action, maybe, at Florida,” the coach said. Lealaimatafao injured his arm while punching through a window during an argument with a teammate over the summer. … The Arizona Daily Star reported this week that former LSU defensive end Jordan Allen has left Arizona football team and is likely done with football. Allen, a West Monroe native who started three games at LSU in 2013, transferred to Arizona during the off-season. He started the first game this season and has seen limited time since.