Academic eligibility issues may leave LSU without its leading rusher from last season and a prominent defender when it opens its season against North Texas on Saturday, according to a report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Tigers' coach Les Miles said on Monday tailback Michael Ford and outside linebacker Tahj Jones have to resolve some eligibility issues before they can play for No. 3-ranked LSU on Saturday.
"There is some appeal process that's being undertaken for those guys, and we'll kind of have to wait to see how that all turns out as we get closer to the game," Miles told the Times-Picayune.
The Tigers do not figure to receive a major challenge from North Texas and the loss of Ford may not be as crippling as it seems. Despite rushing for a team-leading 756 yards in 2011, Ford is only listed No. 3 on the depth chart at tailback, behind Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue.
Hilliard, a sophomore who rushed for 336 yards last season, and Ware, a junior who had 539 rushing yards in 2011, are listed as co-starters and have been receiving quite a bit of praise from Miles during preseason camp.
"They've had the best camps and that's where we're starting," Miles said of Blue and Hilliard.
LSU may have the best depth in the nation at the running-back position, so even if Ford is lost for the season, the Tigers should survive.
Jones' absence might be felt eventually if he remains ineligible, because the Tigers rely so heavily on their defense.
The Tigers have already lost All-American defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who was dismissed from the team on Aug. 10, reportedly for repeated violations of the school's substance abuse policy.
Luke Muncie is the starter at the outside linebacker spot occupied by Jones, but Jones was expected to play a lot. He had 27 tackles and an interception as a reserve last season.
The Tigers also expect contributions from some of the six freshmen linebackers.
The two freshmen Miles mentioned most were Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones.
"Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones -- I think those two guys, by and large, have taken coaching fast enough to get to the field," Miles said. "As much as anything, that's the key piece. All six guys are talented guys."