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|Ridley wanting more carries|
LSU running back Stevan Ridley expected more playing time as a sophomore last year. But even he could not expect to be in the backfield at a critical time in the Alabama game and score the only rushing touchdown in the 24-15 loss to the eventual national champion.
"I was kind of thrown in there because of injuries, but I was excited about the opportunity to go in there and prove myself," said the former Trinity Episcopal standout. "That's something I will never forget. I look forward to more playing time against SEC opponents this year."
Ridley finished as the Tigers' fourth-leading rusher, with 180 yards on 45 carries, scoring three touchdowns.
After Charles Scott went down with an injury, Ridley was forced to step up. He had 14 carries for 50 yards in LSU's final regular season win over Arkansas.
"It felt like I was back home," Ridley said. "I was able to get into a rhythm. It was great having a team depending on me. I always told myself I could play, but I had to prove it to my coaching staff, which is what I've been battling the last two years."
Ridley said the experience of last year has helped in get ready for this season.
"At this level it's about what you do when you get the opportunity," he said. "This year we have some great backs in our bunch and I just want to focus and concentrate on playing hard and contributing."
LSU head coach Les Miles made it a point for the Tigers to be more physical this year after finishing 102nd in offense last year.
"Our offensive line is night and day from last year," Ridley said. "They are working hard and we have a lot more size. I'm really excited about them. They are walking around with a swagger about them and ready to show what they can do."
Ridley said he doesn't regret not getting redshirted for a reason.
"The coaches did that for a reason and it really doesn't matter," Ridley said. "We had (Jacob) Hester and (Charles) Scott, but it helped me in working with the first team some and getting more comfortable and confident. It helped me have the upper hand on some people coming in. I was able to learn the tendencies of the offensive lineman, where to make the right cuts and where to punch it through the hole. That's a big part of it. I'm excited about my role this year. I'm going to keep working and grinding. We all have one thing on our minds, winning a championship."
Ridley has been a key member of the LSU special teams, totaling six solo tackles and four assists. But the coaches have told him he will see less time on the kickoff teams.
"Me and Richard Murphy both went to the coaches to try and get on special teams, but they said there is a higher risk of getting hurt," Ridley said. "But I love to do that. I'm more than willing. I want to get all the playing time I can."
LSU was picked to finish fourth in the SEC West.
"We're hungrier than we have ever been," Ridley said. "Nobody respects us and we want to be respected. We're young, but I would rather have a young and hungry team than a veteran team where everybody expects to play. Everybody on this team has to compete every day. I think we will have a very good team and can compete for a championship."
Ridley said quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee have also grown up a lot.
"Jordan is doing good and everybody wants to be down on Jarrett, but they both have a whole different swagger in the lockerroom," Ridley said.
Ridley said the 19-17 loss to Penn State in the Capital One Bowl left a bad taste in the players' mouths. Ridley scored on a 1-yard run, but also turned the ball over on a fumble on the mud-drenched field.
"That's something I have to grow from," Ridley said. "That was a critical turnover. You can't always be perfect, but you have to strive for excellence. My coughing up the ball was a big mistake. But I have to learn from it, pick my head up and keep going. I know we were a better team than Penn State. We were much better than we showed the country that day. That's why I like being an underdog now."
Ridley is also excited about close friend Russell Shepard being moved to wide receiver.
"Russell is going to get all he wants this year," Ridley said. "I know the fans were mad last year that he didn't touch the ball as much. He's going to touch it a lot this year. He is a hungry, young player who always comes ready to play. And he conducts himself so well off the field. He is very committed and carries himself well. He's one of the hardest workers I know."
Ridley is also expecting big things from the defense.
"We lost a lot of people on defense, but we have some athletes stepping in," he said. "Kelvin Sheppard is a great athlete and I don't think many people want to be out there on (Patrick) Peterson island. He will lock you down. Our defensive backfield is as strong as it's ever been. And Drake Nevis is a force up front. We've got more playmakers than I can name."
Ridley said Miles is not oblivious to what fans and the media are saying.
"Coach Miles knows what is going on, but he expects to win," Ridley said. "Before, I think we had more individuals. The pressure is not only on Coach Miles, but on everybody because we know we have the talent. We have to do a better job turning it around. We're coming off one of our best spring and summer workouts. This is as strong a team as they have had here in 10 years. We just have to stay together and stay hungry."
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