Coach Les Miles said Thursday that running back Jeremy Hill, last year’s leading rusher, remains indefinitely suspended after being formally charged 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.
Mettenberger also isn’t sweating the possibility of playing without Hill for several games or even the 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.
“We’ve visited with Jeremy Hill on a routine basis,” Miles said. “It’s been very hard on him, I know.
“We recognize that there’s an ongoing process that’s going to be fulfilled. We’re going to sit on the perimeter and watch. We certainly are respectful of all that have responsibility there.”
Hill was already on probation after his January 2012 guilty plea to a misdemeanor stemming from his sexual relationship with a then-14-year-old girl at his high school. A state judge has put Hill under a daily curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
He ran for 755 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman. The Tigers won’t be short on talent in the backfield even without Hill. Alfred Blue had 270 yards in three games before going down with a season-ending knee injury, and Kenny Hilliard has 800 yards and 14 touchdowns in two seasons.
“What happened to Jeremy is terrible and we wish all the best for him,” Mettenberger said. “But if Alfred Blue didn’t get hurt last year, a lot of people wouldn’t know who Jeremy Hill was. He was put in a place where he had to play last year young, and he played very well.
“But having Alfred back and him being a senior, showing what he’s capable of doing, is something that I’m going to enjoy watching.”
Running back Spencer Ware was among the school-record nine draft picks — and 11 early departures — including first-rounders Barkevious Mingo and Eric Reid. Safety Craig Loston thinks all those highly ranked recruiting classes leave LSU in good shape.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Loston said. “We always lose a couple of players to the NFL. We just keep rebuilding, and that’s the thing about LSU. They recruit guys that can get the job done.”