Last week, wide receiver Russell Shepard returned from three games of ineligibility to make his LSU debut in a 47-21 victory at West Virginia.
In the Tigers’ 35-7 victory against Kentucky on Saturday in Tiger Stadium, quarterback Jordan Jefferson returned from a five-week suspension after being arrested to make his season debut.
“Now, everybody is back,” defensive end Sam Montgomery said. “We feel whole again.”
Additionally, during LSU’s 5-0 start, one by one, potential redshirts have come off of defensive end Jermauria Rasco, punter James Hairston and running back Terrence Magee. They joined fellow true freshmen in wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and running back Kenny Hilliard, for whom redshirts weren’t as serious a consideration.
With 17th-ranked Florida coming to Tiger Stadium on Saturday and LSU entering the teeth of its Southeastern Conference schedule, it’s obvious the No. 1 team in The Associated Press poll is all in when it comes to trying to claim the top spot after the BCS Championship in January.
“We’re excited about this season right here,” Miles said, “and the opportunity to allow our team to improve and continue to play our best kids gives you the opportunity to envision what could be play that would be significant in games that could lead to a championship.”
Shepard, who was forced to the sideline after violating an NCAA guideline, caught one pass last week, then two for 35 yards Saturday and added a 13-yard run.
“Certainly, I enjoyed the return of Russell Shepard,” Miles said.
Jefferson’s first play after being reinstated in the wake of being indicted on a misdemeanor rather than a felony was a 1-yard sneak for a first-quarter touchdown. He played another series in the second half and finished with four rushes for 29 yards and did not throw a pass.
“I enjoyed the fact that Jordan Jefferson added his skills to our team in certain situations,” Miles said, adding that he plans to let Jefferson continue to add his skills throughout the season.
“We will use Jefferson in a variety of ways,” he said. “I can tell you this: Jarrett Lee is our starting quarterback. He continues to play well and he continues to do the things I ask him to do. He leads the team. That is the way we will go from this point forward. This is a long season.”
Miles also singled out Hairston for his “consistency.” One of the few warts on the Tigers’ first three victories was a lack of depth on kickoffs (an average of slightly less than 60 yards per kick), but Hairston has changed that the past two games, averaging 67 yards, including the first four touchbacks of the season.
When Rasco made his debut last week, Miles said it was time to begin his career. He said pretty much the same thing about Magee, whose entrance was expedited by a minor hamstring injury to starting running back Spencer Ware.
“We think Magee is going to be a heck of a player, and we wanted to get his career started,” Miles said. “We’ve been talking about it for the past couple of weeks. With Ware going down, it just seemed like the right time.”
It also seemed like the right time to Miles to insert Jefferson on LSU’s second possession when the Tigers faced fourth-and-goal from the 1. The biggest difference between Lee and Jefferson is Jefferson’s ability to run.
“It’s definitely a blessing to have two quarterbacks that have two different styles,” safety Eric Reid said. “We’re going to use them to our advantage. We want to win the national championship, and depending on the situation, coach Miles is going to put the players in the game that he needs to get things done.”
Defensive end Sam Montgomery said the team “went crazy” Wednesday night when it learned Jefferson, as well as reserve linebacker Josh Johns, had been reinstated.
“I almost threw a party,” Montgomery said. “We have our whole family back. Everybody is ready to roll. Jordan brings his enthusiasm back to the team, combined with Russell Shepard.
“It’s all a team thing. One of the most beautiful things I saw (Saturday) was when Jordan scored the touchdown, Jarrett Lee jumped up and yelled and screamed. I knew right then that we’re going to make a run for the big goal.”