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Jean-Francois' mind on more than just football

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The more he tried, the harder it was for LSU junior defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois to sleep Friday night.

For one, Hurricane Gustav was bearing down on the Louisiana coast, and his girlfriend's family all live in the New Orleans area.

And with the Appalachian State game being moved up to 10 a.m. CT start so it wouldn't bump heads with the contraflow evacuation through Baton Rouge, Jean-Francois knew he had to be up by 6 a.m.

"I kept waking up every minute and looking at my cell phone," Jean-Francois said. "Finally, I just stayed up and watched ESPN all night. I probably slept about two hours max. I just kept waking up and getting up, waking up and getting up to make sure I wasn't late."

This wasn't just any game for Jean-Francois, who missed all but the last two games a year ago for academic reasons.

This was his first game as a starter in Tiger Stadium.

"Yeah, it seemed like it had been forever," said Jean-Francois, who wasn't eligible to play last season until the SEC championship game and BCS national championship game, where he was named the Defensive MVP.

He's already been tabbed as one of the best interior defensive linemen in college football by analysts and scouts, but Jean-Francois was anxious to prove it.

"I can play a lot better when I get a few more games under my belt. I will play a lot better," said Jean-Francois, who broke up a pass in LSU's 41-13 bludgeoning of Appalachian State. "The thing about this defense is that we're two-deep just about everywhere, especially up front. We just keep rotating."

Two of LSU's normal defensive line starters didn't even start Saturday. End Kirston Pittman came off the bench to play some. He was "nicked," according to LSU coach Les Miles, and Tremaine Johnson had played lights out during preseason camp. Tackle Charles Alexander missed the game with a hamstring injury that's been bothering him.

"It's a great thing we have here, when you have that many good players the coaches can choose from," said Jean-Francois, who was in a hurry to go check on his girlfriend and her family.

In fact, football wasn't on any of the players' minds as they filed out of the locker room on Saturday.

"I'm from Miami, so I see six or seven of these things (hurricanes) a year," Jean-Francois said. "I know the stress it takes to get out and get away from a storm like this. I've told my girlfriend that she needs to head North. Everybody down South needs to.

"We dedicated this game today to all the people of Louisiana who are trying to get away."