HOOVER, Ala. — The Louisiana State University Tigers don’t seem too concerned by the uncertainty of this off-season.
Coach Les Miles said Thursday that running back Jeremy Hill, last year’s leading rusher, remains indefinitely suspended after being formally charged on Monday with misdemeanor simple battery from a late April fight in a bar parking lot.
Meanwhile, the Tigers were picked to win the Southeastern Conference on only one of 243 media ballots released shortly before their SEC Media Days appearance. They’re forecast to finish behind Alabama and Texas A&M in the West.
“Everybody usually enjoys being an underdog,” quarterback Zach Mettenberger said. “I guess it gives them extra incentive to practice harder and play harder. But we are a team that could care less what the rankings are, especially in the preseason. It means absolutely nothing.”
The Tigers lost to the Crimson Tide on a last-minute touchdown and beat the Aggies 24-19 last season.
Miles said Hill has not been allowed in the football facility or to participate in team meetings or workouts this summer. He’s waiting for resolution of the case before deciding on Hill’s fate with the team.
Hill ran for 755 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman.
VANDERBILT: Coach James Franklin has had so much success in his first two seasons it is easy to wonder why the highly regarded 41-year-old hasn’t left Nashville for a bigger job.
Franklin’s reasoning: He is in a too good of a situation.
“I think more than anything you see a commitment at Vanderbilt right now,” Franklin said.
“Not only from the head coach and the players, but from the administration and the boosters and the fan base and everybody else, probably more so than it’s ever been at Vanderbilt. To me, that’s exciting.”
It’s hard to argue with the results.
The Commodores – historically an also-ran in the SEC – have been to two consecutive bowl games and are coming off a 9-4 season. It was Vanderbilt’s best record since 1915.
“As a freshman to be 2-10, bottom of the SEC to where we are now and to know that I’m going to have another year with these guys is crazy and is really exciting,” Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews said.
The respect Vanderbilt received in Thursday’s preseason media poll is another example of how far the program has come. The Commodores were ranked fourth out of seven teams in the Eastern Division. Matthews earned preseason first-team All-SEC honors after catching 94 passes for a team-record 1,343 yards last season.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior from Madison, Ala., will have to catch passes from a different quarterback this season after the departure of Jordan Rodgers.
Franklin said senior Austyn Carta-Samuels has “distanced himself from the pack” in the competition for the starting job.
The Commodores will have a tough test in their opening game when they face Mississippi in Nashville during a Thursday night game on Aug. 29. Franklin and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze are friendly and both have drastically improved their respective programs.
“It’s two programs that are on the rise,” Franklin said. “There’s a lot of excitement nationally about what’s going on. So I think it’s going to be a great opportunity.”
Not all the news surrounding Vanderbilt this summer has been positive.
Franklin said on Thursday he can’t discuss four players - Brandon Banks, Cory Batey, Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie and Brandon Vandenburg - who were recently dismissed from the team for an incident last month that is being investigated by police as a possible sex crime. None of the four played last season.