LSU coach Les Miles echoed his belief that running back Leonard Fournette will be ready to play Saturday against Mississippi State.
“We expect Leonard to be back and ready to go in this game,” Miles said at his weekly press luncheon Monday.
Due to a re-aggrevated ankle injury, Fournette did not play nor did he dress out for the Tigers' 34-13 win against Jacksonville State. Fournette initially sprained his ankle during preseason practices and then suffered a “contusion, a nice bruise,” Miles said, on his final carry of the season-opening loss to Wisconsin.
Miles did not reveal whether Fournette practiced at all leading up to the game against the Gamecocks but said today that he would practice, “if not everyday, four of those days or three of those days.”
With Fournette out, sophomore Derrius Guice stepped into the starting role and provided a 19-carry, 155-yard effort, including a touchdown. While he’s glad that Fournette is expected to return to the lineup, Miles is pleased with his stable of running backs and will continue to monitor his star tailback’s health.
“We’re going to be very cognizant of how Leonard feels and what’s going on with his health,” Miles said. “But we’re fortunate to use a running back by committee with Leonard missing. I think it kept Derrius fresh and Darrel (Williams) fresh, and we got some other guys in. I think we’re fortunate to have real quality backs to turn to when you have a guy like Leonard Fournette out. We are looking forward, though, to seeing him return.”
Here a few other nuggets from Miles’ meeting with the media:
Integrating Boutte: After serving his one-game suspension, offensive guard Josh Boutte will be available for the Tigers in their Southeastern Conference opener against the Bulldogs. However, Miles was not clear about what Boutte’s role will be. “We’ll get Boutte back after he served his one-game suspension,” the coach said. “See if we can infuse him into the line some.” Maea Teuhema replaced Boutte, and Miles was pleased with Teuhema’s performance. Teuhema was a starter all last year at guard before moving to tackle in the offseason. An ankle injury impeded his transition to tackle, and he was not in the starting lineup against Wisconsin. “I thought Maea played well,” Miles said. “I think you move (Teuhema) around. I think you integrate (Boutte) into that line pretty quickly.”
Improving offensive line: Miles was also pleased with the offensive line’s overall improvement after struggling against the Badgers. “I thought the offensive line played better,” Miles said. “I think they will play better again. Whether it’s a rotation or a spot for Josh Boutte, I think the five-some will play well. I think there’s six or seven guys who can really play, and we look forward to them mixing and matching.”
Dupre’s struggles: Malachi Dupre emerged as LSU’s leading receiver last season, posting team highs in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. But the junior has staggered out of the gate in 2016. Through two games, he’s dropped four of his 15 targets with only three receptions. He dropped two passes from Danny Etling on Saturday. Miles is aware of Dupre’s struggles but feels it is not uncommon of other standout receivers he’s had. “I’ve had some really good receivers, some guys who have played in the NFL – and I probably should not use their name – who had some troubles,” Miles said. “What they do is they go back to the basics. They fix it. They tie their mind to their hands, and they go make plays. It’s as fundamental as something we’ll do today. ‘I’m going to put myself in this position today.’ We’ll certainly encourage him along those lines.”
Defensive breakdowns: The LSU defense has allowed only 29 points through two games under defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, but a few defensive lapses have led to big plays, especially against Jacksonville State. The lapses were highlighted by a 76-yard Gamecocks touchdown, where LSU cornerback Donte Jackson and safety Jamal Adams miscommunicated on a short reception. “We think we can be a lot better in simple awareness there. These were not big gafs. These were poor steps.”