LSU running back Jeremy Hill breaks past Auburn defensive backs Joshua Holsey and Ryan White on a touchdown run in the first half Saturday night in Baton Rouge. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 9:20 PM
BATON ROUGE — Georgia will have the SEC’s leading rusher when LSU visits for a top-10 showdown Saturday.
But LSU will have the SEC Offensive Player of the Week in its backfield for the big game.
The Bulldogs’ Todd Gurley leads the league with 125.7 yards per game. But the Tigers’ Jeremy Hill, who was suspended for LSU’s season opener and played sparingly in the second game, is closing fast — 117 per game — after his 184-yard three-touchdown performance in the 35-21 victory over Auburn.
It earned Hill, who leads the SEC with six touchdowns despite his late start, the weekly honor from the conference.
And head coach Les Miles, who downplayed Hill’s first two impressive games back, has declared his star in midseason form.
“Practice and conditioning,” Miles explained of the improvement after Hill missed all of the voluntary summer workouts while getting his well-documented legal issues resolved. “Really, what would be our normal practice regimen for him has allowed him to regain speed, understand the cuts, return to form, if you will. We’ll see if we can keep him there for quite some time.”
Hill had a 49-yard touchdown run and another run of 54 yards that set up J.C. Copeland’s 1-yard score.
Despite LSU’s deep stable of running backs — all four have the led the Tigers in rushing for at least one game in their careers — it’s also clear that Hill has established himself as the go-to back above the rest.
He got 25 carries Saturday, while the other three combined for only 11 (for 29 yards).
That figures to continue.
In the 10 career games in which Hill got 10 or more carries, he’s gone over 100 yards in six of them and scored at least one touchdown in nine of them.
“Lot of big plays in that game,” Miles said.
Although several players limped off the field at one point or another in last week’s game, Miles said the Tigers are as healthy as could be expected heading to Georgia.
The closest thing to questionable might be starting outside linebacker Tahj Jones of Sulphur, who left the game with an apparent hamstring problem.
Miles was as vague as ever when discussing injuries, at first saying “I think Tahj will be fine.”
But he added, “I think there’s some rehabilitation that’s going to need to take place there and some rest. I don’t think there’s any long-term issues with Tahj Jones.”
Most notable of the others were offensive guard Trai Turner and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson.
“Trai will practice today,” Miles said. “He was stepped on. (It) was initially diagnosed as an ankle (sprain), but it is really a contusion. It’s really great news.
“Anthony Johnson basically kind of (got) bruised. He’s going to be fine too. Both guys will play from the first snap on. Our overall health is very good.”
The Tigers will also get a key reserve back in defensive tackle Quentin Thomas. They were thin in the middle of the defensive front last week, especially given the quick tempo Auburn employed.
“I think Quentin Thomas will be back this week,” Miles said.
Georgia is more of a straight pro-style attack, similar to LSU.
It will be the first meeting between the two since the 2011 SEC championship, in which LSU withstood a quick Georgia start and eventually pounded the Bulldogs 42-10.
“I think it’s really two different teams (from 2011),” Miles said.