Nationals

No. 4 LSU's depth faces big test at No. 10 Florida

No. 4 LSU's depth faces big test at No. 10 Florida

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) LSU is about to hit the toughest part of its schedule now with a handful of key players either unable to suit up or hobbled with injuries.

Turns out the dismissal of the honey badger, Tyrann Mathieu, was only one of several episodes of misfortune for the fourth-ranked Tigers.

At least four players who were projected starters back in early August won't be on the field for LSU (5-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) at No. 10 Florida (4-0, 3-0) on Saturday.

Losing Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist as a cornerback and punt returner, was a big blow on its own. But it was just the beginning.

-Linebacker Tahj Jones has not played because of academic problems.

-Left tackle Chris Faulk, arguably the top pro prospect on the offensive line, is out for the season with a knee injury that he suffered during practice before the Tigers' second game against Washington.

-Top running back Alfred Blue is sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury from LSU's third game against Idaho.

-Then last Saturday, J.C. Copeland, a 270-pound fullback with three touchdowns this season, injured his knee against Towson.

Copeland returned to practice on Wednesday and still could play. If not, that would further test LSU's depth against the Gators, who had last week off and are getting healthier.

``It is a challenge. There's no doubt about it,'' said offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk, who has started for Faulk at left tackle but could move to right tackle this week. ``For a team to have the depth chart challenged the way that we're at, at this point in our season is certainly something that we have to hit head on.''

Meanwhile, there is mostly encouraging news on the injury front for Florida, which looks to be gaining momentum with each victory.

``We were able to get some guys back that I don't know if we had played last week would have been able to play in the game,'' Gators coach Will Muschamp said.

Defensive end Dominique Easley (sprained left knee), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (broken right thumb) and versatile fullback Trey Burton (back spasms) all are expected to return against LSU.

Easley and Burton missed the Gators' 38-0 romp over Kentucky two weeks ago.

Jenkins sat out the last two games after breaking his thumb in the first series of a 20-17 win at Texas A&M. He'll take protective measures, such as wearing a soft cast, against LSU.

``Certainly, his experience, maturity, play-making ability, being able to make some defensive calls and calm some guys down in situations in a game like this,'' Muschamp said of Jenkins. ``There is no question it will be an added boost.''

The knee Easley hurt is the same one in which he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last November against Florida State, so whether he bounces back quickly remains to be seen.

Florida also was happy to have an extra week to rest leading running back Mike Gillislee, who is averaging 100 yards a game but has been slowed by a groin injury, gaining only 56 yards at Kentucky. His practice snaps were reduced during the bye week to get him back to full speed.

``We've got to do what we've got to do,'' offensive coordinator Brent Pease said in reference to Gillislee's workload. ``If he needs to carry it 30 times this time, he'll carry it 30. ... Mike can handle that.''

LSU has built up quality depth. Since taking over in 2005, Les Miles helped LSU to continue to be an annual contender for a national title.

Without Blue, some of LSU's other talented running backs will get an opportunity. Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford have all had spectacular moments during their careers and freshman Jeremy Hill is showing promise. Hilliard and Ware are also big and tough enough to fill in at fullback.

Dworaczyk is a sixth-year senior and a former starter at guard. He said he feels comfortable moving to either tackle spot, and added that many LSU players are adept at multiple positions, giving the coaching staff a lot of flexibility.

Mathieu's departure in August forced LSU to start freshman Jalen Mills at cornerback, with Mills moving to nickel back and redshirt freshman Jalen Collins coming in at cornerback in passing situations. Mills has a pair of interceptions and Collins has broken up a pair of passes that wound up being intercepted by a teammate on the deflection.

``We don't recruit these guys for no reason. They're great football players,'' said receiver Russell Shepard, who works against Mills and Collins in practice. ``Those guys are ready because the coaches do a great job preparing them and our leaders on the team do a great job of showing them how we play our style of football.''

---

AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to this report.

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Nationals Roundup: Nats blow multiple leads in frustrating walk-off loss to Mets

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Nationals Roundup: Nats blow multiple leads in frustrating walk-off loss to Mets

The Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 6-5, Tuesday to drop their record to 19-29. 

Consider these news and notes as Washington trudges through its four-game series in New York: 

Players Notes:

NATIONALS: 

Erick Fedde made his first start of the season for Washington Tuesday night and put together a solid outing. The 26-year-old threw five innings of one-run baseball, allowing four hits, a walk, and strikeout. Thirty-one of his 61 pitches were sinkers.

Do you believe in the broadcaster's jinx theory? Perhaps you might after reading up on what Juan Soto did in the 2nd inning Tuesday. Then, later in the 8th, Soto scorched a go-ahead double to deep right notching his 100th career RBI. 

METS: 

Amed Rosario was the hero at Citi Field. His walk-off infield single off Kyle Barraclough was the difference in New York's 6-5 comeback win. 

The Mets got a quality start from starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, who threw seven innings of four-hit ball, three earned runs, two walks, and six strikeouts. 78 of his 118 pitches were thrown for strikes. 

Pete Alonso is lighting it up right now. His game-tying 417-foot home run in the 8th marked his 16th of the season. 

Injuries: 

SP Jeremy Hellickson: hamstring, expected to be out until at least May 31

RP Justin Miller: shoulder, expected to be out until at least May 31

SP Anibal Sanchez: hamstring, expected to be out until at least May 27

OF Andrew Stevenson: back, expected to be out until at least May 24

1B Matt Adams: shoulder, expected to be out until at least May 22

1B Ryan Zimmerman: foot, expected to be out until at least May 23

RP Koda Glover: elbow, expected to be out until at least May 25

RP Trevor Rosenthal: viral infection, Expected to be out until at least May 21

RP Austen Williams: shoulder, expected to be out until at least Jun 13

Coming Up:

Wednesday, 5/22: Nationals @ Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET, Citi Field 

Thursday, 5/23: Nationals @ Mets, 12:10 p.m. ET, Citi Field

Friday, 5/24: Marlins @ Nationals, 7:05 p.m. ET, Nationals Park

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Brandon Scherff confirms that he and the Redskins have 'been talking' about a contract extension

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Brandon Scherff confirms that he and the Redskins have 'been talking' about a contract extension

Bruce Allen identified getting a contract extension done for Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff as one of the Redskins biggest priorities of the 2019 offseason. To this point, however, nothing has happened. 

That doesn't seem to have Scherff concerned. 

"We've been talking, but I'm not really worried about that," he said after OTAs on Monday. "I'm here for another year, so that's all I'm worried about right now. Everything will take care of itself."

Scherff, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, has played at an elite level since his rookie season. He's made two Pro Bowl teams in four years, and until last year, had been remarkably durable. 

In 2018, Scherff's season started very strong. 'Skins coach Jay Gruden described the former Iowa Hawkeye as the best pulling guard in the NFL and it was well-earned praise. Then, in a Week 8 loss, Scherff went down with a torn pectoral muscle. His season was over. 

At OTAs, however, Scherff was a full participant with no brace or apparent encumbrances from the injury. 

"I'm feeling really good, just taking it slow and making sure I'm 100 percent," he said. 

Expect the free agent market to be quite bullish. Once a lesser-paid position than tackle, guards have recently started pulling in significant cash. Zach Martin's recent contract extension in Dallas pays him more than $14 million per season, and Jacksonville is paying Andrew Norwell more than $13 million this year. 

For Scherff, expect top of the market money. He has the talent, pedigree and ability that if Washington won't pay in the neighborhood of Martin and Norwell, he can wait for free agency. 

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