BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, leading rusher Spencer Ware and defensive back Tharold Simon returned to practice on Tuesday for the first time since being suspended a week ago for violating the team's drug policy.
The three were barred from Tiger Stadium for No. 1 LSU's 45-10 victory over Auburn last weekend, but coach Les Miles said they should be on the field when the unbeaten Tigers visit second-ranked Alabama on Nov. 5 in what has become one of the most anticipated games of the college football season.
"We're practicing, preparing them to play and operating along that way," Miles said. "We're going to plan on using them."
Both teams have this weekend off, giving them two weeks to prepare for an unusual regular-season showdown between the two highest ranked teams in the nation. The matchup between LSU (8-0, 5-0 SEC) and Alabama (8-0, 5-0) also is an annual rivalry game, and this season, first place in the SEC West is on the line, not to mention the inside lane to the BCS national championship game in New Orleans.
Mathieu has been one of the stars of the first half of the college football season. He has forced four fumbles, recovering three and returning two for scores. He also has two interceptions and ranks third on the team with 42 tackles, including five tackles for losses and 1½ sacks.
Mathieu has made so many big plays in nationally televised games that a grass-roots Heisman Trophy campaign has sprouted for the hard-hitting 5-foot-9 defensive back nicknamed "Honey Badger," after the YouTube sensation featuring the small but fearless animal.
The 5-foot-11, 223-pound Ware is the leading rusher for the Tigers with 512 yards and six touchdowns. He has been the battering ram of a punishing LSU ground game that has worn down defenses and averaged 189 yards.
Simon has one interception and his 29 tackles rank seventh on the team. He is a regular in five-defensive-back formations, which the Tigers use most of the time.
Miles said the three players worked hard and seemed to enjoy being back with their teammates, but the coach stopped short of saying their return would make a significant difference for a Tigers team that showed off its depth in its blowout of Auburn.
"Those three guys will do their part and do their share," Miles said. "Again, I've always felt pretty comfortable with whoever we put on the field. When I said I felt like our team would be ably manned [against Auburn] in the absence of players, I meant that. So I feel like these guys who are returning to action are looking forward to it."