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LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 22, 2014
COACH LES MILES:¬† I've seen the film and kind of given great view to the game.¬† I think that certainly we got Mississippi State's best shot.¬† I think there were some things that you just couldn't quite script.¬† Dak Prescott made some plays that, frankly, we had covered and we were in good position and didn't make plays because of the excellence of that quarterback.
I can say that the scramble rule coverage is one that certainly would have come into play, and we were in position to make a play there, and a very quality player came off of his coverage, and those kinds of things seem to be repeated at times throughout that game.
I liked how we fought.¬† I really feel like, if we had about 30 more seconds, we may have been able to come back and win that one.¬† But with four games left to play, I think the‑‑ excuse me.¬† With four games already played, I think there's some young guys grew up in that one.¬† I like how Malachi Dupre played.¬† I like Brandon Harris coming in off the bench and played extremely hard.
If you had to look at all three phases, you saw great effort.¬† You saw guys that were fighting hard, and simply we need to improve.¬† We're all accountable, every coach and player.
It's interesting.¬† Everybody's asking because it's everybody's want to get back on track, and certainly we will.¬† It's‑‑ it's not just one thing.¬† You can't just say throw this out, right?¬† Or throw this out.¬† It's not this player or that player, it's really we've got good players, and really our coaching staff knows what they're doing, and we're in good position.¬† It's just we've got to play better.
We have to have a sense of urgency along those lines, and I think our players and coaches will‑‑ you know, I suggested to you on Saturday night that I needed to see the film, and I really did.¬† Someone asked me about the offensive line, and so I went in there to watch.¬† I saw dominant play by both tackles, good play in and out at the guard spot in center.
Yet when you sputter and you put yourself behind in the down and distance‑‑ you know, I can remember when I first got here, if you rushed for about 100 yards, you thought you were having a great day.¬† We rushed for about 100 yards.¬† We were having a miserable day.
So the issue of protection, the dropped balls, the issue of protection when offensive linemen made mistakes‑‑ I just have to be real honest with you.¬† I cannot still say it's the offensive line.¬† It's the offensive line, it's the running backs, it's the quarterback, it's the wide receivers, it's we need to make a collective adjustment.¬† I believe that will certainly be done.¬† I like this team.¬† I like their attitude.¬† Defensively, I felt like their offense certainly was one that‑‑ let me go back.
Let me go back to our quarterback.¬† I enjoyed Brandon Harris coming in the game.¬† I enjoyed the fact that he gave us a tremendous lift.¬† He came in in a position that was very difficult, and we said to him, okay, make some deep throws and really use your arm, use your feet to see us win this game.¬† He did exactly that.¬† It was a tremendous lift, and he earned some more playing time without question.¬† And he earned some more consideration at quarterback.¬† He makes a case for Brandon Harris at quarterback.
And I will not minimize it, it was very positive.¬† But in the same vein, we'll look at him.¬† We've got a long season ahead of us.¬† Practice weeks are very revealing.¬† When there's a separation there, that will be noticed, and changes will be made.¬† I can tell you that, in any situation, in any down and distance, we'll play the guy that we feel like gives us the best opportunity at victory.
So that's kind of how we're looking at the quarterback spot.¬† Defensively, you're‑‑ I think, to me, there were some times there where a call didn't get on the field that should have been on the field:¬† A linebacker out of position, a missed coverage based on a quarterback scramble that led to big plays, and things in my mind that are technique, not necessarily that they're even a missed assignment.¬† It's just you were in the wrong spot based on the fact that your technique wasn't right.
I really believe that John Chavis will make that adjustment.¬† We will help him there.¬† Sometimes it's personnel, and sometimes it's not.¬† Sometimes it's you have to recognize what we're asking you to do in this position, and you need to play it differently.¬† Again, our coaching staff and players are in it together, and we'll make that adjustment.
I recognize that you get a team that plays lights out against you, and for their‑‑ it's the single most important contest in their careers, but in reality, our football team needs to realize that that's a great advantage to being at LSU.¬† Everybody will play their best.¬† We're looking forward to that, and now we have to be up to the challenge.¬† I think we will be.¬† I think that will happen quickly.
We play New Mexico State.¬† Aggies are 2‑2.¬† They're coached by Doug Martin, very quality coach, a guy that's prepared them.¬† You can see that they're aligned well.¬† They're in position.¬† They're averaging 30 points and 426 yards on offense, 267 yards through the air, attempt about 40 passes a game, very quality quarterback, good receiving corps, a defense that's allowed some yard, but in reality they're playing a very sound, over the top defense.¬† They're generally stingy against the run and can play the pass well.
This week, it's about us improving.¬† It's about us looking at the time that we have to make adjustments and make those needed moves that make our football team better.¬† That's what our coaching staff and players are about, and we look forward to Monday's practice, where we kind of get this game behind us and go forward.
Q.¬† I got two of them, one on each side of the ball.¬† You talked about both of these, but whatever struggles the offensive line did have, is it chemistry?¬† Is it‑‑ I guess I'll let you just answer.¬† What is it up front they are struggling about?
COACH LES MILES:¬† A guy gives up a sack and then plays for the most part the rest of the day extremely well.¬† A running back goes the wrong direction, and then for the rest of the day plays extremely well.¬† A center‑quarterback exchange mistake happens, and really you don't know exactly who's at fault there, so you say both guys.¬† That happens a couple times.
When you take your turn to make your mistake, that's not an offense that can go up and down the field, and yet it's hard pressed to say basically it was inconsistent.¬† It was not great execution, but it was‑‑ you can't say it's one guy or two guys or the offensive line or it's just the entire offense.¬† It's not‑‑ you have three catches that are down the field catches in that game, and it's a whole different game.
Q.¬† That's a good segue because on defense the big plays‑‑ it wasn't just the normal routine plays, but the big plays.¬† I think there were ten for 20 yards or more.¬† Is that execution?¬† Personnel?¬† Scheme?¬† What was that?
COACH LES MILES:¬† A little of both.¬† I can tell you that technique is a key piece to this puzzle.¬† I think your inside guys will play better.¬† I think there's some piece that's they need to.
There was a defensive call that did not get to the field for one of the key participants.¬† There was another call that a very quality player left out and got to the field but did not get made for whatever reason.¬† Those kinds of things, as coaches, we're not going to change personnel because those men are quality players, but what those men have to understand is that's their responsibility, and the coaches have to realize that we have to make the call better for them so that it gets into there, gets on the field, they understand the call, and they're able to make the proper play.
So I guess what I'm saying to you is it's not just‑‑ I'd love to tell you it was that secondary mac or ^^ it was that linebacker or that defensive tackle, but it's not that way.¬† The good news is we have good players, and we just got to make them play better.
Q.¬† What specific challenges are you focusing on for the quarterbacks?¬† Jennings and Harris.
COACH LES MILES:¬† Challenges?
Q.¬† Yes.¬† What specifically are you focusing on to make them better?
COACH LES MILES:¬† Well, every game week has a specific characteristic of a defense that you're going to have to play.¬† Some defenses are going to pressure you, and you're going to have to hit the hot, and some of those things come with protection changes.¬† Some of those things come with routes that break.¬† Some weeks you rely on check with me more than you don't.
Each week has a specific challenge to that position, and really being able to handle the majority of those so that not only is the quarterback in best position to achieve, but that the other ten players on the field are in best position to achieve, and it's always an issue at the quarterback spot, and it's never a‑‑ it's the same issue that three drops, two quarterback exchange fumbles, a sack, two pressures, and suddenly that quarterback is in the game, and he's having a miserable day.¬† There isn't any question.¬† And some of which were of his own doing.
But to say that that would have been any better or any worse, it's just that week, in this particular instance.
Q.¬† When you think about what Brandon was able to do at the end of that game, do you sort of temper those expectations knowing, I guess, they weren't rushing a lot of guys?¬† They had a lot of guys dropped.¬† Or do you say this is a kid who may be able to help you guys out here in the short term?¬† And then what are the major hesitations with him taking over in the starting role?¬† I guess even playing more than like this past weekend when he didn't come in until Anthony got hurt.
COACH LES MILES:¬† First of all, I'm not going to temper what was a very positive contribution by Brandon Harris.¬† He comes in, we say, here's the situation.¬† Make these throws and handle protection and handle‑‑ and he did a great job, and he gave us every opportunity in the time that he was on the field to win.
Now, as you go to a season, if you go to a season or a game week, the requirement of the position and the multifaceted pieces that really will play out over time, and if, in fact, we're given an opportunity to see a quarterback really extend themselves from the other, I promise you that that decision will be made and we would play that lad.
I can also tell you that we will play the guy that gives us the best opportunity at victory, and we'd play him in any situation.¬† I think you'll find that this thing will take some time to play out.¬† I think it will play out very positively.¬† I look forward to the improvement at that position really start to finish.
Q.¬† Anthony Jennings got dinged during the course of the ball game.¬† Will he be at full strength this coming week?¬† Also, will Kendell Beckwith get more playing time?
COACH LES MILES:¬† Anthony Jennings is at full strength.¬† He'll practice today.¬† Kendell Beckwith really should have gotten a little bit more snaps in the last week's game.¬† That was the plan.¬† We opted to play Welter for the majority of the game last week.¬† We think that this week, that we will play them more‑‑ we'd expect that Beckwith would get a lot more playing time.
Q.¬† Coach, just to confirm, would Harris have come in the game had it not been for that injury late, or was it only because of the injury?
COACH LES MILES:¬† No.¬† I think he'd have got the call at that spot to come in and have his throws.
Q.¬† And a followup specifically to the two tight end I‑formation sets.¬† What advantage does that give an offense in the modern game? ¬†Do you think it maximized the potential of quarterbacks who operate out of spreads in high school?
COACH LES MILES:¬† Well, the two tight end set is just a piece.¬† It's not the answer all.¬† And it's a‑‑ where you have advantages is where you want to play the game.¬† And we should have advantage in a two tight end set, both run and pass, in the modern game.
I think that's something that plays in and out of game plans and not necessarily is a key figure in every game plan.
Q.¬† Les, do you have an update on Quentin Thomas?¬† I know he'd come out kind of late with his left arm?
COACH LES MILES:¬† He's nicked, we think, possibly a week or two.
Q.¬† And you mentioned Beckwith a little bit.¬† How do you feel like he's been playing?¬† It seems like he's grasping that new position at middle linebacker a little better.
COACH LES MILES:¬† We think he's really on the cusp of playing a very significant role in our defense, and he's‑‑ we're‑‑ we tried to get it done last week.¬† This week, certainly, he'll get an opportunity to play significant snaps start to finish.
Q.¬† Lastly, the starting group on the O‑line, does it change?¬† Do you expect it to be the same this week?
COACH LES MILES:¬† We would love to see what Ethan Pocic could do staying at the same spot for two times, for two starts in a row.¬† We really think that he's played very well, and we think that he'll play better at that spot.
In reality, it's not a demotion for Hoko.¬† We just think Hoko's also playing better but that Pocic is better there than Hoko.¬† So we may look at a substitute that will go to the left side or to the right side at that guard spot.
Q.¬† Obviously, it's early, but your two games against power five opponents, Wisconsin and Mississippi State, if you look at the point differentials between the first three quarters and the fourth quarter, it's a pretty drastic difference.¬† Obviously, you guys have finished strong, but how do you prepare your team to have a more balanced approach in these bigger games so you're not having to have these big fourth quarter comebacks?
COACH LES MILES:¬† Big comebacks, yeah.¬† The key is to start fast.¬† We're‑‑ we have to get better, more consistent play offensively.¬† I think that that certainly helps us, and then defensively, it was kind of a‑‑ hard to believe that they went down the field as many times as they did.¬† I think that's good.¬† I think basically what happens to us is we get content in the fact that we will put a defense on the field that will slow them down or stop them at any point in time.
Frankly, our defense has that pressure on them, and the expectations are high.¬† So I guess what I'm saying is, if we're about improvement, do the things that we're supposed to do, that these players who are very quality people and good athletes can step forward and do the job we ask them to do and start fast.
I think this group will do that.
Q.¬† Les, certainly the I‑formation is a big part of your offense, and if you look at quarterbacks that you've had success with here in the past, Matt Flynn, Zach Mettenberger.¬† Mettenberger wasn't mobile.¬† Flynn was a pocket guy who was mobile.¬† Now you have two quarterbacks who had never taken snaps under center in high school.¬† Is that a fit?¬† Can you take quarterbacks like that and turn them into quarterbacks in college where they can work under the I‑formation?
COACH LES MILES:¬† We see that both quarterbacks can operate under center equally efficiently.¬† We also want to look‑‑ have an opportunity to get to a gun run scenario with both quarterbacks and that then becomes a great place to play action and to launch your three wide offense.
So that is coming, and that's a part of the plan.¬† It just takes some time to get it to work.
Q.¬† Coach, as far as Saturday night, you've talked a lot about individual players and individual plays in the game, but you kind of hinted Saturday night that part of the problem may have been the game plan.¬† Can you talk about that now that you've looked at it in terms of your tendencies and predictability?
COACH LES MILES:¬† I think we're not going to separate the coaching staff from change as well as the players.¬† In review, I think the calls‑‑ the things that we wanted to get accomplished were certainly the correct things, and I'm‑‑ when I talk about the coaching, I say the game plan and the ability to communicate with this team such that they'll understand what exactly will we need from them.
I think I need to do a better job.¬† I think our coaching staff does as well.¬† And are committed to doing so.¬† Again, we have good players.¬† We want them to play better.¬† Whatever we‑‑ if we need to teach in a different manner, if we need to‑‑ if the signaller needs to be more specific to the position, in any event, that's what we'll get accomplished.
Q.¬† I've got two questions.¬† I'm going to ask them one at a time.¬† During the spring and then part of the fall, you talked about your three redshirt freshmen defensive tackles‑‑ Herron, Bain, and Gilmore.¬† They've kind of disappeared.¬† What's happening there?¬† It seems like it's a place where you're kind of weak now.
COACH LES MILES:¬† I don't see us as a weakness there.¬† I do see some of those guys stepping forward even more in this game.¬† I can tell you that Lewis Neal came in and played late in that game and probably played six or eight snaps, made four tackles.¬† There's a guy that's going to play a lot of football, and he's just making his case.
Some of those guys got onto the field in that game and made a case for more playing time, and that's what we needed to have happen.
Q.¬† My second question is I'm assuming you saw the video of Mississippi State's Day stomping players.¬† Is that going to be‑‑ are you going to petition the SEC office about that, or what is the protocol?
COACH LES MILES:¬† I think that's already in the works.¬† I think that‑‑ I think not only did TV catch that but that was something that we caught, that we sent in, and certainly the conference will do the right thing.
Q.¬† Coach, I think it was a 34‑10 game in the fourth quarter.¬† So I guess it wasn't a whole lot to cheer about early, but you did have a chance to win the game on the last play of the game, and the stadium was completely empty, basically.¬† What was your take on that?¬† You don't blame them or did you notice it?
COACH LES MILES:¬† I'm not questioning the‑‑ that group of people that left the game.¬† That's certainly a personal decision.
The only thing is with these Tigers you'd better stay because you just never can tell.¬† We're probably two feet from having on the last throw the completion that just erupts the place.¬† Except it's been a very quiet eruption.
Q.¬† We've known you for a couple of years and you never really publicly assign blame other than to yourselves.¬† Do you feel that's necessary?¬† In that building, do you get after these guys?¬† We all know‑‑ we saw the tape, and you can't admit it, don't want to admit it, that's fine.¬† But do you get after them?¬† Do they know the challenges that they're facing?¬† Is this something where it's not sugar coated like it is here?
COACH LES MILES:¬† It's really not sugar coated here.¬† We recognize change has to take place, and change, to say that was just a player change, is not the way it is.¬† To say that it is just the coaches is not the way it is, and, in fact, it is that building, and I am protective of that building.¬† It's important to me that so many people would be willing to throw out the baby with the bath water.
All I'm saying is, for me, I like our players.¬† I think they bust their tail.¬† I think they continue to improve.¬† I think, when they see this film, it won't be sugar coated.¬† It will be told to them as it is.¬† And told to the coaches already as it is.¬† And we‑‑ when I say we, I mean me.¬† We have to be better.¬† We have to make those changes, and we will.
Q.¬† Piggy‑backing on Jim's question, on Lewis Neal, is he a guy that you feel can play lengthy snaps at DT against some of the competition you guys are going to face?¬† Is I guess just because he doesn't look like a normal DT.
COACH LES MILES:¬† He played against Mississippi State.¬† He played late in that game and made play after play in that game.¬† I'm just saying to us, as a staff, those kinds of plays, we look forward to seeing those kinds of plays against anybody we play.
Q.¬† I did some research and found out that Notre Dame once had a halfback named William Shakespeare, not the guy who‑‑ not the bard.
COACH LES MILES:¬† What year was that?
Q.¬† I don't know, Coach.
COACH LES MILES:¬† I kind of remember that guy, to be honest with you.
Q.¬† But Saturday night is an indication, I hope not, because you guys have to face five more talented quarterbacks.¬† I don't know about Kentucky and Arkansas ‑‑ I'm not familiar with their guys‑‑ but you've got Marshall, Driscoll, Wallace, Sims, and Hill to face the rest of the season.¬† All of them are talented quarterbacks.¬† Would you comment on that, please.
COACH LES MILES:¬† Yes, we've faced talented quarterbacks in our past, and we really look forward to those challenges.¬† I‑‑ in this league, you face big, strong offensive lines and running backs and talented guys.¬† Frankly, we look forward to facing very, very quality quarterbacks, and we look forward to that challenge.
We recognize what just happened, and we don't want it to happen again.
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