LSU Football: Academic Issues Could Sideline RB Michael Ford and LB Tahj Jones

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeFeatured Columnist IVNovember 4, 2016

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 05:  Michael Ford #42 of the LSU Tigers scores a touchdown in overtime that was called back after Ford stepped out of bounds against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 5, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

LSU's four-headed monster at running back could be down to three before the season starts.

Junior running back Michael Ford and junior linebacker Tahj Jones are currently involved in an appeals process to determine their academic eligibility, and their status for the opener vs. North Texas is in doubt, according to Randy Rosetta of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"There is some appeal process that's being undertaken for those guys, and we'll kind of have to wait to see how that all turns out as we get closer to the game," Miles said.

Ford was last season's leading rusher for the Tigers. The Leesville, La.-native rushed for 756 yards and seven touchdowns on 127 carries.

He was listed as the third-team running back on LSU's depth chart for Game 1 behind Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard, who are bracketed as co-No. 1s for the Tigers.

Even though Ford was somewhat buried on the depth chart, his absence would be huge for the Tigers.

Not necessarily this week, though.

North Texas won't pose much of a challenge for Les Miles' crew. But LSU is counting on those four horsemen to provide depth and fill in specific roles throughout the season.

If he loses his appeal and is out for a significant period of time, it will shift carries around to other running backs, all of whom need to stay fresh if LSU wants to make another run at the crystal football.

Jones was slated to start at strongside linebacker for the Tigers in place of Stefoin Francois, but was battling junior Luke Muncie for the job headed into the season. 

LSU has to replace outside linebackers Francois and Ryan Baker around returning starter Kevin Minter inside, the impact of Jones' questionable status hurts from a depth perspective as well.

Like Ford, Jones was going to be in the playing rotation whether he was listed as a starter or not.

Quality depth is what separates the SEC from the other conferences in college football, and even though Ford and Jones aren't listed as starters, their absence for a prolonged period of time would be a big blow to the Tigers' title chances.