Miles not hesitant to play freshman DEs

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Les Miles is not tempering expectations for either of LSU’s new defensive ends, Arden Key and Isaiah Washington.

The Tigers’ coach said after Monday’s practice that Key worked with the first-team defense in junior Tashawn Bower’s absence. Miles added that, even if the freshmen don’t supplant projected starters Bower and Lewis Neal atop the depth chart, they will play a role in LSU’s 2015 defense.

“There would be less hesitancy [to play the freshmen] than you might think,” Miles said. “In other words, both guys are very talented and very athletic and the difference is you like some other guys. You like Tashawn Bower and you like Lewis Neal, but there’s some guys that are biting at their heels.”

LSU’s full squad practiced together for the first time on Monday, the fifth day of preseason camp. The previous four days saw LSU’s starters and expected key contributors practice in the morning and mostly reserves, walk-ons and freshmen practicing in the afternoon. Key and Washington practiced with the veterans in the morning each day.

Bower missed his second consecutive day of practice on Monday, and although Miles did not specify his ailment, he noted that “it’s not deemed to be long term in any way.”

Some other notes from Miles’ post-practice press conference:

Harris still leads QB race: Miles said he has no timetable for naming a starting quarterback and that “I’m not that guy that’s going to make an early decision,” but sophomore Brandon Harris continues to get the first shot with the starters ahead of Anthony Jennings.

“I’m not put in a spot [to name a starter],” Miles said. “I can tell you who took the first snaps: Brandon Harris took the first snaps, but Anthony’s taken a good portion of them.”

Miles said there is a “night-and-day” difference between the two quarterbacks from where they were this time a year ago -- when Jennings eventually won the job and started 12 games. Although Jennings trails now, Miles said he hasn’t seemed willing to relinquish the job to his former backup.

“He’s competing,” Miles said. “I think he made a couple nice plays today, so he’s competing very well.”

WRs on the rise: Miles gave an interesting response when asked which receiver might become the Tigers’ top option this season. The first name he mentioned was that of freshman Tyron Johnson before then naming more obvious returning players.

“I think there’s a number of guys there that have the opportunity,” Miles said. “I think Tyron Johnson looked pretty good the last couple of days. I think Trey Quinn’s looked pretty good. Malachi Dupre seems to catch things that you throw at him. It’s a pretty good group.”

Speaking of Quinn, the sophomore wideout recently told reporters that he suffered from vision issues last season, when he tied for second on the team with 17 receptions (although his production trailed off at the end of the fall).

Quinn said new contact lenses have helped him see the ball more clearly.

“We kind of came of age to that late. Not certainly during the last season at all,” Miles said of Quinn’s 2014 vision issues. “But I think that’s become awfully important to him and it seems to make a difference.”

Quick hits: Miles listed Leonard Fournette and freshmen Derrius Guice and Donte Jackson as Tigers who have practiced as kickoff returners. Fournette was the kickoff return man last season, averaging 26.0 yards per return, including a 100-yard touchdown in the bowl loss to Notre Dame. … Junior Josh Boutte remains the leading candidate to play right guard. … Freshman Maea Teuhema has practiced on the right side of the offensive line at guard and tackle, with Miles saying he is “a very bright, very capable offensive lineman for a young player.” … Guice and fellow freshman running back Nick Brossette both “made individual plays today that are noteworthy -- that coming off the practice field, I can go, ‘Yeah that was a hell of a run’ and ‘That was a nice catch.’ It was just specific plays that tell me that both guys are talented.”