LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham avoids a tackle on his way to a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown against North Texas on Sept. 1. Blocking for Beckham is LSU freshman Kwon Alexander, No. 25. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 12:53 AMIt was no surprise to LSU’s Les Miles that cornerback Jalen Mills was named the SEC freshman of the week for his play the Tigers’ 41-3 victory over Washington.
Only the names seem to change.
“It’s what we do,” Miles said of giving young players a shot when ready without regard to age, experience or number of recruiting stars.
Mills, who had his first interception and broke up another pass to go along with seven tackles against Washington, is just the latest.
And Mills, who this time last year was playing for DeSoto High School in Texas, has plenty of company.
Just two games into the season, the Tigers have already played 13 true freshmen, which doesn’t include Jalen Collins, who shares time with Mills at cornerback, but is actually a redshirt freshman.
Together they are playing in place of banished Heisman candidate Tyrann Mathieu — another who made a real impact as a freshman two years ago.
“We’ve always played freshmen,” Miles said. “I want to say that’s about the exact number (13) that played the last two years ... I think it’s a characteristic of us.
“It’s fortunate we recruit very talented people. When they come on campus, they expect to play, guys like (linebacker Deion) Jones, guys like Mills.
“Those guys are saying, frankly, ‘this is why I chose to come here.
“We expect young players to play and play big. I think we are on course and on track, but I don’t know if it’s any different than other years.”
Partly due to replacing the celebrity Honey Badger, Mills is in the highest profile role.
But few have made a more immediate impact than Jones, a linebacker who on his first play in college against North Texas broke through to nail a Mean Green runner for a 7-yard loss.
Ferguson is the starting deep snapper, Jones and Kwon Alexander have seen early-game playing time at linebacker and Vadal Alexander figures heavily in the reshuffling of the offensive line after last week’s injury to Chris Faulk.
Vadal Alexander is a real rarity in that offensive linemen historically almost automatically redshirt.
But gven the caliber of athlete LSU has been recruiting, there’s another reason Miles is less anxious to redshirt players.
You could almost call it the Michael Brokers rule.
Three years ago, the staff thought Brokers could contribute as a true freshman, but it was the middle of the year before he had progressed to that point, and there seemed to be little point in burning his redshirt year.
It turned out to be a wasted year. Brockers was ready for the NFL after three years in college anyway — his redshirt sophomore year — and was a first-round pick last spring.
So players are more likely to get their shot early if they show they can contribute, even if it’s only on special teams.
Some are ready, some not.
Mills wasn’t a surprise, Miles said, as he was appraised just like any other incoming freshman.
“You can see competitive nature on (high school) film,” he said. “The style of play, how he translates competition.
“You don’t know how it’s going to translate on our campus. Is he going to be dismaybe by our talent, is he going to be starry-eyed and looking to see where he fits? For him, when is it going to happen.
“For him (Mills), it happened right away. He came out, he (was) playing hard and aggressively. He (was) making mistakes, but improving every day. That was very visible, Everybody could see it.
“He’s not only competitive physically, but competitive defending the pass and tackling. You could just see it. He’s still young, but he has the want and desire to play every day.”
NOTES: DE Sam Montgomery was named the SEC defensive lineman of the week. ... The LSU-Auburn game on Sept. 22 will be start at 6 p.m. and televised by ESPN. .... This week’s Idaho game will be available only on Tigervision pay-per-view.
True freshmen who have played this season for LSU:
LB Kwon Alexander, OT Vadal Alexander, CB Jalen Mills, P Jamie Keehn, S Jerqwinick Sandolph, LB Deion Jones, SNP Reid Ferguson, DL Danielle Hunter, LB Ronnie Feist, LB Lorenzo Phillips, S Corey Thompson, TE Dillon Gordon, CB Dwayne Thomas.