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Hold on to the Rock

In today's Times-Picayune, Jim Kleinpeter told an interesting tale about how Les Miles is preaching ball. 

When defensive tackle senior Al Woods came out for media interviews Monday, he was carrying a football given to him by Miles at the 8:30 p.m. team meeting Saturday. Miles randomly picks a player at each meeting who has to maintain the proper grip on the ball and bring it back to him at the next meeting.

The point is for the player to get used to carrying the ball and protecting it.

"It's the first time he's given it to a defensive lineman," Woods said. "He's trying to emphasize if you ever pick up a fumble, keep it high and tight, and if you get into traffic, cover it up with both hands."

Sounds easy, right? But no sooner had Woods finished his interview than teammate Trindon Holliday, a senior, sneaked up behind him, poked the ball out, grabbed it and ran. Woods, who goes about 324 pounds, had no chance of catching the 164-pound Holliday, who is the reigning NCAA 100-meter champion.

When asked if he was going to give the ball back, Holliday said: "I don't know. We've got to talk about that. He's got to bring the ball back to the team at the meeting, and he doesn't have it right now. Coach Miles is going to be talking to him."

Woods was last seen waiting patiently by the door for Holliday.

It must be nice to be one of the fastest people in the world, just so you can do things like that. However, that's besides the point, which is that Miles is a hawk when it comes to ball security. And, it's showed.  I don't know when he started this policy of making a player carry around a ball all day, but the last two seasons, LSU has been amazing in its fumble stats after going through six straight seasons of a negative fumbling margin.

In 2007, the Tigers fumbled only 18 times, its fewest amount of the decade. More incredulously, they only lost three. The SEC doesn't keep total fumble stats, but in terms of fumbles lost only one other team had fewer than seven lost fumbles that year, Tennessee with six (twice LSU's total). Arkansas lost 15!

Last year, despite the dismal record (8-5 as dismal, I love it) and frequent tossing of pick-sixes, Miles team was even better at holding onto the football. In 13 games, LSU fumbled just 16 times total. They lost just two. I imagine the ratio of fumbles lost to fumbles is cyclical and all averages out in the end, but FIVE lost in two years?!?! That's fewer than any other SEC team had in either single year.

At some point, you have to be fumbling less to lose fewer. For instance, over the last two seasons, LSU has fumbled 34 total times. In 2002 alone, the Tigers put it on the ground 35 times, losing 18. Yeah, 2002 was an 8-5 season. Hmmm, wonder if losing the ball almost 1.5 times per game had anything to do with it.

Les, keep it up! Make 2, 3, 4 players carry a football around all day, just don't let Trindon Holliday anywhere near the guys!