LSU Tigers: Luke Muncie

LSU roster adds eight, loses four

January, 16, 2013
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU has eight new scholarship football players on its spring roster, with two players who are expected to be on the Tigers' spring roster facing a delay.

Quarterback Hayden Rettig and wide receiver Avery Johnson both got a late green light from the NCAA clearinghouse Wednesday, allowing them to join six other new players who enrolled for the spring semester.

"It's just a formality they had to go through," LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said.

There were some nervous moments for LSU fans who recalled last January when highly-regarded quarterback recruit Gunner Kiel backed out of an LSU commitment in January and wound up signing with Notre Dame. Also, Johnson signed with LSU in 2012, but wound up not meeting academic requirements and he subsequently enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy for the fall semester. There were fears of more academic trouble for him.

Those fears now put to rest, LSU can look at an early enrollee class of eight.

They joined six other Tigers already on the roster: Tight end Logan Stokes and offensive guard Fehoko Fanaika (both junior college transfers) and high school recruits Anthony Jennings (quarterback), Ethan Pocic (offensive tackle), John Diarse (wide receiver) and Christian LaCouture (defensive tackle). All four graduated from their high schools early and were able to start a semester early.

Fanaika, like Johnson, initially signed with LSU last year, but had to return to junior college to complete his eligibility requirements.

While LSU brought in eight players, there were a handful of departures, most notably linebacker Luke Muncie, who started four games in 2012 before an illness forced him out of the lineup. He had 11 tackles and an interception.

Also no longer on the Tigers' roster are quarterback Jerrard Randall, wide receiver Paul Turner and offensive lineman Chris Davenport. Randall and Muncie will apparently transfer. Turner has reportedly transferred to Louisiana Tech and Davenport to Tulane.

Their departures leave LSU with unofficially 65 scholarship players on their roster, plenty enough to accommodate the 17 remaining committed players in the signing class plus three more. The NCAA limits teams to 85 scholarship players. If LSU were to add more than three players to its signing class, it would simply have whittle the scholarship counters to 85 by August.

Minter passes leadership baton to Barrow 

January, 3, 2013
BATON ROUGE, La. -- When Kevin Minter decided Thursday to pass on his senior season to leave LSU for the NFL -- a decision that came as no surprise given the fact the the team's MVP had a superb season and earned his degree at the end of the fall semester -- he didn't leave LSU without a 100-tackle linebacker.

[+] EnlargeLamin Barrow
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesLamin Barrow, who had more than 100 tackles as a junior, will be looked upon to pick up the slack at linebacker after Kevin Minter entered the NFL draft.
The all-SEC middle linebacker and Butkus Award finalist left the Tigers after putting together the most prolific tackling season of the Les Miles era (130). The middle linebacker spot will be up for competition, but the linebackers will remain a veteran group with the possibility of starting three upperclassmen in 2013.

Lamin Barrow, the weakside linebacker, will anchor the defense next season coming off a strong junior season where he had 104 tackles, a performance somewhat overshadowed by the often-dominant Minter.

Where LSU will need help: Defense 

January, 3, 2013
BATON ROUGE, La. -- The commitment of Maquedius Bain to LSU on Wednesday made perfect sense.

Bain, the No. 6 defensive tackle in the ESPN 150 and the highest-rated of the Tigers' 24 commitments, figures to play at LSU early. And he'll play a position where the Tigers have a tremendous recent track record for getting players to the NFL. Part of the reason there is a need for defensive tackles in this LSU class (Bain is one of four DT commitments in the class) is the presumed early departure of junior Bennie Logan to the NFL.

If Bain does play immediately, it will continue an LSU trend: Tiger freshmen should come ready to play because many of them will play. LSU used 15 true freshmen in the 2012 season, including four who started and a fifth who was a special-teams starter.

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True freshmen make impact at LSU 

December, 27, 2012
BATON ROUGE -- With a number of top prospects still considering the possibility of signing with LSU Feb. 6, they should remember one thing before they sign with the Tigers:

If you sign, you better come ready to play.

LSU brought in 21 true freshmen in the 2012 signing class, and 15 have played -- which is second in the country.

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LSU defense makes the grade 

October, 26, 2012
LSUDerick E. Hingle/US PresswireLSU's secondary has been on point this season, ranking fifth in the country and showing no ill-effects from the loss of Tyrann Mathieu.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Offensive grades came yesterday. With LSU taking the weekend off, we now have a chance to look at LSU's defense -- the most enjoyable part of the squad to watch. Despite massive losses from 2011, the Tigers' defense continues to chug along.


The starters: Tharold Simon, Eric Reid, Craig Loston, Jalen Mills

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Hurst taken off LSU depth chart 

October, 17, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- If LSU offensive tackle Alex Hurst is to return to LSU any time soon, you wouldn't know it from the depth chart.

Hurst no longer appears on the depth chart released Tuesday by LSU. Freshman Vadal Alexander is listed at the starter at right tackle, and sophomore Elliott Porter, also the backup center, is listed as the second-team right tackle.

Sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk, who started at left tackle last week after Hurst left the team for undisclosed personal reasons, is listed as the starter at left tackle, backed up by junior Chris Davenport.

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Alex Hurst John Korduner/Icon SMIThe status of Alex Hurst (pictured) and Josh Williford are still undetermined for Saturday, but the LSU offensive line is coming off its best performance of the season this past weekend.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- It's telling that it took until the last question of LSU coach Les' Miles Monday news conference before somebody finally asked about the starting right side of the offensive line that was absent in last week's 23-21 win over South Carolina.

Miles said he didn't know how either tackle Alex Hurst or guard Josh Williford were doing and "I don't have any update that would change status."

Williford missed the South Carolina game with a head injury while Hurst left the team last week for personal reasons, leaving the Tigers all an all-freshman right side of the line line with Vadal Alexander at tackle for a third straight game (Hurst had actually been playing left tackle because of an injury to Josh Dworaczyk) and Trai Turner, who made his starting debut at right guard.

If one wants to know why it took so long for questions about the veterans to come up, all you had to do is listen to Miles' opening statement.

"I have to give special mention to those two young guys," he said. "Trai Turner, in his first start, and Vadal Alexander, in his first appreciable playing time in his early career, both played very well."

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Tigers keep finding young stars 

October, 14, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- When LSU starting running back Spencer Ware was taken to the locker room during the second quarter of The Tigers' 23-21 win over South Carolina on Saturday night with what later proved to be a stomach ailment, it seemed the Tigers' injury issues had gone from bad to absurd.

Already, LSU was without three of its original starting five offensive linemen, including projected first-round NFL draft pick Chris Faulk. Already, the Tigers were without Alfred Blue, originally its starting running back, for the season and just this week the Tigers lost linebacker Kwon Alexander for the rest of the year.

No way LSU can keep having players go down. Right?

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Injuries continue to haunt LSU

October, 8, 2012
Josh DworaczykSteve Franz/Louisiana State University/Getty ImagesWith Josh Williford being perhaps the third LSU OL starter to be knocked out of action, Josh Dworaczyk might get another crack at the starting lineup this weekend against South Carolina.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU, a team that has become increasingly dependent on freshmen, lost arguably its best one Saturday against Florida and might call on another to make his first start this weekend against South Carolina.

Tigers coach Les Miles said Monday linebacker Kwon Alexander, who had started the last two games, is likely out for the season with a foot injury suffered in the 14-6 loss to the Gators. Also questionable for this weekend's game against No. 3 South Carolina at Tiger Stadium is right offensive guard Josh Williford, who Miles said was "nicked" after suffering an apparent head injury against the Gators.

They are the latest in what has been a rash of injuries and attrition for No. 9 LSU, which has lost five starters, likely for the season, since August camp.

"Our football team is going through some change," Miles acknowledged Monday. "We need to play better in a number of ways."

While Williford might play, his potential loss for the South Carolina game could have a huge impact. The junior has been one of the better players on an offensive line that has, in general, struggled in the Tigers' 5-1 start. The Tiger are going up against a Gamecocks defense that is third in the league in total defense (278 yards per game) and leads the SEC in sacks (25, eight more than the next team).

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU so physically dominated Florida last season in a 41-11 romp at Tiger Stadium, it might be hard to image this: Offensively, the 2012 Gators will be one of the more physical offenses the Tigers play all season.

Led by the SEC's second-best rusher in Mike Gillislee (402 yards on 69 carries), the 10th-ranked Gators run the ball more (44.5 times a game) and throw fewer passes (21.3 a game) than any other team in the SEC. And they do it well, as a 4-0 start and 30.5 points per game against a relatively competitive early schedule would attest.

The emergence of quarterback Jeff Driskel has indeed been a nice story for Florida. But make no mistake: The Gators are a running team.

So it's a steady dose of Gillislee and the more physical run game for which LSU's defense must prepare when the Tigers visit the Gators on Saturday at The Swamp. Forget the spread and high-powered passing attacks of years past. This season, Florida comes right at you.

"They look more downhill this year," LSU linebacker Luke Muncie said. "I wouldn't say more physical, but more downhill-style running."

Downhill is how things went for Florida almost from the opening kickoff last season against LSU. A young Gators team was outgained by more than a 2-1 margin in Baton Rouge, en route to an un-Florida-like 7-6 season in Will Muschamp's first year as coach.

"We faced some good athletes," Florida center Jon Harrison said. "We didn't come out there completely locked in."

This season, Muschamp's second, a more mature Florida team has looked quite dialed in.

The Gators have averaged 224.5 yards rushing a game, third best in the SEC. What's deceptive about it is while some SEC teams -- LSU included -- have played the bulk of their nonconference "gimme" games early, Florida has played three of its first four games against SEC opponents. While Florida's rushing stats trail LSU's (229 yards per game), the Gators' numbers have been compiled against Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky while LSU has played a relatively light nonconference schedule.

"We know they are better [than last year]," LSU cornerback Tharold Simon said. "We see it on film."

Before the second half of last week's 38-22 win over Towson, facing a physical running game might not have seemed like a big concern for LSU. But Towson, led by one of the FCS's best running backs in Terrance West, gashed the LSU defense in two touchdown drives in which the Tigers missed tackles and gave up 69 rushing yards on 12 carries on Towson's last two possessions.

"That was uncharacteristic," LSU linebacker Kevin Minter said. "Usually, we finish games."

On paper, LSU's defense should be built to defend a team that runs like Florida or, for that matter, Towson's often straightforward attack. The fourth quarter of the Towson game aside, the Tigers have been outstanding against the run, third best in the SEC at 83 yards a game. One might think of the pass rush of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery when thinking of the Tigers' front four, but really, it's built just as well to handle the run.

In its first SEC game, a 12-10 win at Auburn, LSU saw Auburn choose to go with a misdirection running game toward the edges to avoid running right at the talented middle of LSU's defense, where tackles Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson have dominated the point of attack and where Minter has been emerging as a first-rate middle linebacker.

Even with its remarkable speed, Auburn's misdirection didn't work, for the most part. Montgomery had 3.5 tackles for loss, often the result of staying home on misdirection plays. It's a trend this season. While the 5-0 Tigers have a fair share of quarterback sacks (11), the 41 tackles for loss are more remarkable. Considering that opponents have attempted 155 rushes, 41 tackles for loss means LSU is dumping opponents for loss on more than a quarter of their rush attempts.

The good thing for LSU was that Florida uses some of the same misdirection elements Auburn used. And, when Auburn did have success, it was mostly with a Wildcat look with backup quarterback Jonathan Wallace, a look Florida also uses at times with Trey Burton.

After LSU stymied Auburn's rush attack, the Tigers' rushing defense looked almost impenetrable. It stayed that way until the fourth quarter of the Towson game until an FCS team ran roughshod over LSU on back-to-back possessions.

"Our defense is known for playing the run hard and having that killer instinct," Minter said after the Towson game. "We just didn't today."

Like Florida in Baton Rouge a season ago, LSU wasn't "locked in."

A year more mature and a year better, Florida's run game is focused this season. The question is, will LSU's defense find itself again after an off night against Towson?
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Les Miles has not been afraid to play true freshmen in his LSU tenure. Generally speaking, his LSU teams have not been in the business of redshirting incoming freshmen.

Even by his standards, however, starting three true freshmen in last week's 38-22 win over Towson was a lot.

Jalen Mills
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireCornerback Jalen Mills is one of several freshmen who have made significant contributions this season.
Of the 59 players who played against Towson, 13 were true freshmen, including starters Jalen Mills (cornerback), Vadal Alexander (right tackle) and Kwon Alexander (strongside linebacker). Also playing a key role was true freshman long snapper Reid Ferguson.

While Mills and Ferguson have played their roles all season, the two Alexanders made their starting debuts and impressed Miles.

Kwon Alexander replaced usual starter Luke Muncie, who was limited to special teams duties because of illness, and finished with four tackles, a forced fumble and a pass broken up.

"I think Kwon Alexander played extremely well for a young guy," Miles said. "I think he plays fast. He certainly wasn't perfect by any stretch. I think he's a guy that will come quickly."

Vadal Alexander started instead of left tackle Josh Dworaczyk as the usual right tackle, Alex Hurst, moved over to left tackle.

"I also agree that [Vadal] Alexander is a guy that has ability that will come. I don't know that his immediate play will be in the same position that Kwon's was."

Dworaczyk said he was working at both tackles spot this week and could play more. Muncie's back from his illness and could return to his linebacker spot.

Even if Dworaczyk, a sixth-year senior, and Muncie, a junior, return to their starting positions, Miles said it's important for the two true freshmen who started last week, and others, to be ready to contribute.

LSU has lost four starters, likely for the season, since August camp for various reasons. In three of the five four, a true freshman has started at least one game since the injury: Vadal Alexander at tackle because the loss of Chris Faulk (knee), Kwon Alexander at linebacker because of the loss of Tahj Jones (academically ineligible), Mills at cornerback because of the loss of Tyrann Mathieu (kicked off team).

"It's imperative that the freshman class contribute," Miles said. "It's a numbers thing for us."

Plenty of playbook left: Miles admitted Monday that there is still a lot of LSU's playbook that fans haven't seen yet. He said if the offense moves the ball consistently, you'll see more wrinkles.

"When you move the ball regularly, you can call a lot of things," he said. "When you aren't hitting on all cylinders, there's an opportunity for you to rein it in because you want to make sure the things that you do are successful."

Miles said that the areas where LSU has struggled to execute -- the passing game, for one, which has had multiple issues -- have had a more limited array of play calls. Another factor, he said, has been a schedule where LSU has had most games in hand early.

"That (additional play calls) is for the future anyway," Miles said. "It was never going to be for those games that you have in hand."

Top 10 tussle: When No. 4 LSU and No. 10 Florida meet Saturday, it'll mark the fourth time in the last seven years when the two teams meet with both ranked in the Top 10.

It happened in 2009 (Florida No. 1, LSU No. 4), 2007 (LSU No. 1, Florida No. 9) and 2006 (Florida No. 5, LSU at No. 9). It never happened in the first 52 games of the series.




Muncie shows coverage skills at LB 

September, 26, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- When Luke Muncie was in high school at suburban Houston power Klein Oak, he was a tall, rangy defensive back who was rated by many scouting services as a future college safety although he had a body type that might eventually allow him to become a linebacker.

"More people recruited me as a safety than as a linebacker," said Muncie, who knew which position would be best for his future. "I knew receivers were going to be faster [in college] and I'm not going to lie, I didn't feel like I had the best coverage skills in the world."

Now a starter for LSU at strongside linebacker, listed at a linebacker-looking 6-foot-2, 220 pounds (he has recently lost weight because of an illness), Muncie showed during the Tigers' 12-10 win Saturday over Auburn that he actually has some coverage skills.

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Miles respects Towson, Terrance West 

September, 26, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Say what you want about the name LSU is facing this week, but LSU coach Les Miles knows his team won't play a more accomplished running back this season than Towson's Terrance West.

He set an NCAA FCS freshman record with 29 rushing touchdowns last season for the Tigers and has continued that torrid pace with five more in the first three games for Towson (2-1), ranked No. 12 in the FCS's Sports Network poll.

"He's a talented player," Miles said. "He's elusive, has good ball skills."

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LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery said the Tigers' narrow victory against Auburn over the weekend was a "shock to our system."

And it should have been.

On and off paper, there was absolutely no doubt LSU was the much better team. Auburn played a heck of a game on defense, but LSU helped those Tigers out by making a handful of sloppy mistakes when it had the ball.

LSU's ugly 12-10 win has the college football world buzzing about how overrated the Tigers appear to be, but Montgomery doesn't see it that way. He understands the execution issues, penalties and turnovers are a concern, but he also knows all of that can be fixed. To him, it all goes back to practice and making sure time during the week is used wisely.

[+] EnlargeSam Montgomery, Kiehl Frazier
Shanna Lockwood/US PresswireSam Montgomery, one of LSU's' leaders on and off the field, takes down Auburn QB Kiehl Frazier.
“Games are one and lost during the week, I feel like," Montgomery said Saturday. "It’s just getting our priorties in check as a team -- the young guys, older guys -- and what’s really important.”

He admitted the Tigers' focus wasn't what it should have been during the week leading up to the Auburn game. While he couldn't exactly put his finger on the reason for it, he pledged to make sure it doesn't happen again. He's the closest thing LSU has to a player-coach, and he has vowed to have his team more prepared this week and so forth.

Montgomery's teammates agreed with his assessment and it sounds like squeaking past Auburn really got the attention of the Tigers.

"I feel like being in such a close game that we showed everyone that we can pull through at the end and come together as a team and work hard, but it also shows us that we need to be humble and continue to improve," junior linebacker Luke Muncie said. "We're not going to be good enough to the national championship until that time comes."

And that means tougher, better practices. Les Miles said as much Saturday night when he said his team will have the opportunity to learn from all of its mistakes in a "very aggressive manner." When you have nine silly penalties in a game like that, you better expect a few more sprints throughout the week and extra time working on the little things, like timing, technique and placement.

For the moment, LSU is almost being counted out in the national scene after Saturday. But people have to be reminded that games like these happen to good teams. LSU lost two games in 2007, but still won the national championship. Florida lost to Ole Miss at home in 2008. Alabama had its own 12-10 scare against Tennessee (at home) during its 2009 national championship run. Auburn had a more than a couple close calls in its title run in 2010. And Alabama lost to LSU last year.

These games happen, and there has been a gigantic overreaction to LSU's close call.

"I think a lot of guys know we haven't played our best football game yet," quarterback Zach Mettenberger said. "We just gotta work ... and really work out the penalties and kinks, and just really tune everything up for Towson and get ready to roll."
BATON ROUGE, La. -- The loss of five players to injuries and, presumably, academics won't have a major impact on LSU's football season.

Not yet, at least.

[+] EnlargeTahj Jones
Joe Murphy/Getty ImagesLB Tahj Jones (58) has been declared academically ineligible for the year.
LSU coach Les Miles said Wednesday in the SEC teleconference that four players -- linebackers Tahj Jones and D.J. Welter, tight end Tyler Edwards and offensive lineman Evan Washington -- won't play this season. Miles would not say why, but has earlier noted that Jones was going through an academic appeal.

He also announced that defensive end Jordan Allen was lost for the season because of ACL surgery.

While that may seem like a lot of attrition to be announced at once, the reality is, it's either been dealt with already or is only an issue for players deep on the depth chart.

Jones is the one player among the five who was a starter. But like Welter, Edwards and Washington, Jones has not dressed for a game this season and most have started working under the assumption that Luke Munice had taken his place as the starting strong-side linebacker for the season. Wednesday's announcement just confirmed that. The loss of Jones, a junior, and Welter, a sophomore, means all of LSU's backup linebackers now are true freshmen.

That would be more of the problem had the 2012 linebacker recruiting class, six players strong, not been considered by Miles to be the strongest linebacker class recruited by LSU in his tenure. So far, true freshmen Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones have played well in reserve roles. Where it could be a problem is if injuries hit the veteran starting trio of Kevin Minter, Lamin Barrow and Muncie, forcing the true freshmen to play bigger roles than they might be ready for.

It's a similar situation at tight end and defensive end. Edwards' role as a primarily blocking tight end behind starter Chase Clement has been replaced by sophomores Nic Jacobs and Travis Dickson and freshman Dillon Gordon. But Edwards is a senior, so his experience will be missed, especially if Clement, also a senior, goes down. Allen was far down the depth chart at defensive end, but his loss would be felt at the position only if the Tigers suffer attrition ahead of him at what is a deep position.

Allen was injured covering a kickoff, an area where the Tigers will have to find a replacement.

Washington, a reserve sophomore who has yet to play in a game, is the second offensive lineman lost for the season after Chris Faulk's knee injury sidelined him last week. With Josh Dworaczyk starting at left tackle, LSU is perhaps eight deep with game-ready offensive linemen. True freshman tackle Vadal Alexander was mentioned as a possible starter after Faulk's loss and coaches have been pleased with the progress of second-team center Elliott Porter.

In last week's win over Washington, Trai Turner got snaps at guard when starter La'el Collins went down with a minor injury.

The losses announced Wednesday pushed the total number of veterans from LSU's spring roster that have been lost for the season to 11. Previous to Wednesday's five, Faulk suffered his injury, Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the team, offensive lineman Corey White did not return to the team for August camp and defensive backs Ronnie Vinson, Sam Gibson and David Jenkins all transferred to other schools after the spring.



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