Miles open to ‘shuffling’ personnel to improve LSU pass game
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As much confidence as LSU coach Les Miles expresses in the abilities of his receivers, he has apparently decided to see if the threat of lost playing time sharpens their focus.
“We’re looking at shuffling the lineup. We’re looking at all those things,” Miles said Monday. “I like the effort of my wide receivers. It’s not as productive as it needs to be. It needs to be more in line with the coaching. ... We have to execute better. Period.”
In a victory over Eastern Michigan that had more tense moments than the seventh-ranked Tigers would have liked, LSU (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) was 4 of 15 for 80 yards and no touchdowns through the air.
At one point in the third quarter, EMU was as close as eight points before the Tigers pulled away with a pair of fourth-quarter TDs for a 44-22 triumph.
The Tigers had several drives end with field goals because of dropped passes, including passes that hit top receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre in the hands in or near the end zone.
Dupre graded the receiving corps at “F-minus” against EMU, adding that “we can’t let anything close to that happen again.”
So far this season, LSU is averaging 95.5 yards through the air per game. So far, low passing numbers haven’t mattered because of a power running game led by Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette, who already has rushed for 864 yards and 11 TDs (an average of 8.7 yards per carry and 216 yards per game).
Yet, LSU has six SEC games left, starting at South Carolina this Saturday, and followed by a home date against currently unbeaten and 11th-ranked Florida the weekend after.
So wide receiver John Diarse was not surprised to hear Miles was at least considering “shuffling” the lineup.
“If he does go along with that, apparently he has a plan and we have to trust that plan and be prepared for those changes,” Diarse said. “Any time you kind of have those hiccups on your team, your coach has to make some type of change, whether it’s a big change or whether it’s a small change.
“Now we’re about to go into the meat of our schedule with SEC opponents, so we’ve got to find something,” Diarse continued. “We’ve got to find a rhythm. We’ve got to find a flow of things.”
Miles recently has not allowed quarterback Brandon Harris to speak to media, but the coach does not sound too concerned about his quarterback’s recent form.
“Brandon Harris is really doing what we ask him to do,” Miles said. “The balls that he’s throwing, he’s really on target. We just need to catch it. I think that will happen. I think our wide receivers are poised to have a good year and this is not characteristic of them, dropping those balls.”
“We’re kind of in a position where we’d like to be a little bit more hitting on all cylinders but in reality we’re really close,” Miles added.
Quarterbacks and receivers at the pro and college levels often talk about the importance of establishing rhythm and tempo in the passing game, which can be hard to do at LSU, where 75 percent (186 of 248) of total offensive plays called this season have been running plays.
LSU’s receivers aren’t about to ask for more passes with Fournette’s success, but there’s an emphasis on improving the balance, as well as pitching in to help the ground game.
“If they were recruiting me and they told me they were going to give the ball to Leonard, or the running backs 75 percent of the time, it might be hard to get a recruit at the receiver position or quarterback position,” Dupre said. “But at the end of the day, we’re here ... we’ve got to live with it.
“We’re doing the best that we can do blocking, and then when we get an opportunity, we’ve got to make the best of it. Because there’s going to be times this year where we’re going to have to have it.”
Notes: Miles said linebacker Lamar Louis, who sat out the second half last Saturday, was not badly injured. “It’s not as serious as the missing of a half might seem,” Miles said. ... Miles said tight end Dillon Gordon was working out Monday, but that he did not have a specific return date for Gordon (heel) or safety Jalen Mills (knee). He classified both as “day-to-day.”
AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org
Follow Brett Martel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/brettmartel