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Les Miles. (Associated Press)

Les Miles. (Associated Press)

Miles counting on true freshmen to make impact

Last Modified: Thursday, August 29, 2013 10:08 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Les Miles is denying that LSU will use an unusual number of true freshmen when the season opens Saturday against TCU.

Not that there won’t be plenty.

“But we played 15 last year,” Miles said. “I don’t know that that number can get much bigger than that.”

A year ago it was a fairly veteran LSU team, one that afterward had 10 juniors leave early for the NFL draft, meaning the Tigers have to replace eight starters on defense and four on offense.

“I would think this is a year when we would get quality time from the newcomers to the organization,” Miles said.

Even before playing a game, six true freshmen have made an appearance on the depth chart, although none are listed as starters.

Miles said he isn’t sure how much any of them will play Saturday,

But, as the season progresses, history says one can count on seeing more and more contributions from the freshman class.

“It’s really become a part of our program that we expect that the guys that we recruit would have the ability physically and emotionally to step forward and play (immediately),” Miles said. “This year is no exception to that.

“I think there’s guys in this freshman class who, No. 1, are talented enough to play and, No. 2, really kind of wired as such that they’re going to go to the field.

“How many? It’s tough to tell right now.”

If you’re looking for a clue, it might be wise to keep an eye on special teams Saturday night in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

That’s where it usually starts, Miles said. That’s where the coaches first see if they’re ready for the bright lights of big-time college football.

“It’s interesting,” he explained. “The guys that will play special teams in the first game (if they play well) will end up playing very significantly by midseason. Some of them might even challenge to start late in the year. That’s kind of how it always goes.”

Newcomer Ethan Pocic is pushing junior Elliott Porter to start at center, even though traditionally offensive line has been the toughest spot for a true freshman to crack the starting lineup.

But the quarterback spot, as usual, might be the most interesting.

Like Pocic, Anthony Jennings enrolled early at LSU in January and was able to go through spring practice. By the end of one spring he had dislodged Stephen Rivers from the backup spot to Zach Mettenberger.

“I think Anthony Jennings … is probably further along than some of those other freshmen (quarterbacks) that had a chance to play,” Miles said. “I think you find that Jennings is suited to understand the offense pretty well, and we’d expect that if he goes into the game that he could execute anything that we asked him to do.”

There has been speculation that Jennings might be more than a emergency backup — the Tigers might have a plan to use the athletic, dual-threat star as a change-of-pace to the straight drop-back style of Mettenberger.

“I see him more so as a guy that would come in maybe if needed,” Miles said. “We like Zach. We kind of see Zach taking the majority of the snaps. I don’t think there’s any (certain number) of snaps that Anthony Jennings is going to get in the game.

“But it’s always nice to have a very quality quarterback in a position to go in.”

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