Kevin Steele is all too familiar with Alabama.
LSU’s first-year defensive coordinator had a pair of two-year stints with the Crimson Tide, both under Nick Saban. Steele’s last stop before coming to Baton Rouge: Alabama, where he was the director of player personnel in 2013 and linebackers coach in 2014.
His proximity to Saban’s system should give the No. 4 Tigers an advantage in scouting and preparation for the No. 7 Tide. The teams square off in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at 7 p.m. Saturday.
But LSU coach Les Miles said otherwise, claiming his staff relies on film when game-planning for opponents.
“We certainly enjoy Kevin Steele’s expertise on defense, but that would be in defending the opponent, not necessarily in translating,” Miles said Monday. “So I guess what I’m saying is I don’t know to what effect there has really been a Kevin Steele effect.”
LSU (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) has experienced no defensive dropoff under Steele, allowing 1 less yard per game than last year’s squad did under John Chavis. The Tigers’ front seven has been particularly impressive, surrendering 93.7 rushing yards per game while nearly surpassing last year’s sack total after only seven games.
The secondary, though, has struggled at times. Defensive backs have chalked that up to simple communication errors.
Players have said since preseason camp opened that Steele, who coached linebackers for the Carolina Panthers from 1995-98, brings an NFL approach to practice.
“He emphasizes technique and keys, a knowledge of concepts,” senior linebacker Deion Jones said.
Despite his close ties with the Tide (7-1, 4-1), Saturday’s game will be “nothing personal” to Steele, sophomore safety Jamal Adams said. Players echoed Miles’ statement that Steele’s familiarity with the foe doesn’t provide a strategic advantage, and Jones said it’s up the them to execute the game plan.
“Of course he knows those guys a little bit,” senior Jalen Mills said. “But our scheme is our scheme. Our defense is our defense.”
Junior cornerback Tre’Davious White looked “gimpy” at practice, Miles said Wednesday, but sophomore fullback JD Moore “will play what appears to be the entire game” against Alabama.
Those two injured players, along with junior defensive tackle Christian LaCouture, have practiced this week, Miles said on the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday. Earlier this week, Miles said he expected the three players — all of whom were starters and key contributors before their injuries — to be ready by gametime.
“Everybody came to the practice field and worked,” Miles said.
Moore injured his knee in the Tigers’ win against South Carolina on Oct. 10 and hasn’t played since. LaCouture (foot) and White (knee) got hurt during the week of practice leading up LSU’s win against Western Kentucky on Oct. 24, and neither played in the game.
Miles said Mills could slide from nickelback to cornerback should White be unable to play.
Trick or treat?
Sophomore running back Leonard Fournette took advantage of LSU’s open date to go home and take his young daughter trick-or-treating in the Uptown section of New Orleans.
That didn’t last long, he said, because of his sudden fame.
“It’s crazy, man,” a smiling Fournette said. “I took my daughter trick-or-treating and I had to leave. I took so many pictures because all the little kids were dressed up like me.
“They had permanent markers with beards, painted beards and stuff. It was crazy. Shoulder pads on. It just made me think about how many people look up to you. It makes you want to do the right thing each and every day, every time you wake up. Especially kids.”
One of the most memorable moments in the LSU-Alabama rivalry involved Miles and a bit of grass.
Footage of Miles chewing on a piece of Tiger Stadium’s turf during the 2010 game went viral, and LSU’s coach still can’t live the moment down. During the SEC coaches teleconference, he was asked if he thinks the grass tastes better in Baton Rouge or Tuscaloosa.
“I have to be honest: I have enjoyed the grass in Baton Rouge much more. It’s kind of a home feel,” Miles said. “They take great care of their grass in Tuscaloosa, too. I’ll certainly have to figure that one out once I get there.”
Advocate sportswriter Sheldon Mickles contributed to this report.