Big 3: Tigers remain motivated

BATON ROUGE, La. -- At practice this week, Les Miles said he has seen a motivated LSU team following a heart-breaking loss to Alabama that all but killed the Tigers' hopes of BCS or SEC championships. The media has noticed a motivated practice schedule. Monday and Tuesday post-practice interview sessions have run close to an hour late, a sign that the Tigers are putting in a hard week's work leading up to this week's game with Mississippi State. Miles addressed that issue and others on Wednesday morning's SEC teleconference:

1. What's our motivation?: When Miles fielded the inevitable question about LSU's motivation post-Alabama, he said his team had plenty.

"Our team is, first and foremost, a very capable club," he said. "They want victory. We have a need to win and it's a weekly need."

LSU (7-2, 3-2) closes its regular season with three opponents it figures to be favorites against: Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas.

2. Get them the ball? Miles was asked about two players who have had diminished roles in the Tigers offense: wide receiver Russell Shepard and running back Kenny Hilliard.

Of Shepard, who has touched the ball just 17 times this season, Miles said "We expect to get him more balls. There are a lot of snaps he can play for us."

He simply has not been getting them. As a receiver, he is a forgotten man with six catches. Once the top-rated dual-threat quarterback and one of the top prep players in the country, Shepard's best work has come as a situational running back this season. Against Alabama, he carried twice while taking pitches as a running back. At running back, he also had a 78-yard touchdown run against Towson.

Of Hilliard, whose playing time has diminished since Jeremy Hill has emerged as a primary back, Miles said there are "reasons for his slowed improvement." He did not specify what those were, but did say Hilliard, who has not carried the ball in the last two games, should compete for more carries. Hilliard is second on the team in rushing with 420 yards on 71 carries.

3. Russell's improvement: Miles noted the play of Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell as part of the reason why the Bulldogs are off to a 7-2 start.

"He is a very capable passer," Miles said. "And they have a very nice scheme." Miles noted that wide receiver Chad Bumphis was "a very talented" option for Russell to throw to.

Russell is fifth in the SEC in passing, averaging 217 yards per game with 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions.