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September 21, 2015

Les Miles

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

COACH MILES: Syracuse, noon kickoff. I think that'll be a part of the game prep. Carrier Dome, an indoor facilities. Been there before. Interesting place. I mean, they got a great law school and it's a great school.

Kind of the New Yorks college. Be a great opportunity for our guys to go east and experience a very quality opponent. Been there myself. Be a great challenge for us.

The Auburn game, felt like our offensive line played dominant. We didn't have a lost yard in the day. I don't know that I've been around one of those. Vadal Alexander was named the offensive lineman of the week. We rushed for 411 yards, an 8.6 yards per carry for every back.

Really proud of offensively how they played. Very physical wide receivers blocked. Tight ends were very strong. Fullbacks made their plays. Backs made their cuts.

Quarterback continues to improve and does the things that we ask him to do. He hits a couple passes, changes the game completely and the stats completely. You know what? Sometimes you have an overthrow. You know what? We'll take that.

Again, he allowed us to move the football. At times with his feet and he moved it at times with his arm. Again, always managing the situation and conversation. We as an offense, no turnovers. So that's a very positive piece to that day.

Leonard Fournette, SEC Player of the Week and the Walter Camp Nation Player of the Week rushed for a career best 228, 3 touchdowns on 19 carries. He had not a carry in the fourth quarter.

Again, I said this after the game and I say it again: The thing that makes him special is he's a very humble man. He is a great teammate, leader. He wants to achieve as a group and as a team. His teammates enjoy him and root for him to have the kind of days that he's had.

Defensively thought they played a tremendous game. Had 5 sacks. Allowed 260 yards of offense. And really, if you take 5 plays, and really plays that have been practiced and things that really were unusual and very surprising. I mean, for instance, Beckwith had the opportunity to come out and really clean up a quarterback, except that he spins and you know he's going down and needs a little bit of help and then he makes a play and it scores.

So there are a couple ways we can certainly improve offensively, defensively, and special teams, but that would be certainly one of those places that we can improve.

We pressured the quarterback from the start. Again, felt like we had a great game plan. Played a lot of young players. Places that we can improve. We pressured the quarterback from the start and again felt like we had a great game plan. Played a lot of young players. Frank Herron came in. Sacked, forced a fumble, and then recovered the fumble.

That play so reminds me of -- there was a play not long ago that Drake Nevis where just everything basically he could do to get to the passer, and then striped the passer and found the ball.

I was just really happy for him. He's a wonderful man and working hard and really improving every day. You can look forward to seeing him play often.

Back to Syracuse, again, talented team; well-coached team. Head Coach Scott Shafer, third season at Syracuse. Ex defensive coordinator, ex-DC at Michigan from 2008. Really he's done a great job there.

They're 3-0. Off to their best start since 1991. Big overtime win against Central Michigan. I'm from the midwest, so I know what a real quality MAC school is capable of.

I mean, if you look at what Toledo has done this year, simply put, Central Michigan is a great school and great football program.

For the Orangemen, for Syracuse to be in the position they're in, they've earned it, and we respect them. We see them as a very, very good, very strong program.

Also have to talk about the Central Michigan team because my wife is a Chippewa. If I hadn't said that she would not have fed me dinner for the next six years.

And to John Bonamego, who is the current head coach at Central Michigan and is also a friend of mine. So if I don't plug Central Michigan, honestly it would be a mistake.

Now playing in their fourth straight home game in the Carrier Dome we would expect the crowd would be their biggest, loudest, that the environment would be what we're used to: aggressive away stadium that benefits the home team, and one in which we have to fight to make sure that we play well.

So offensively they're averaging 35 points a game; 374 yards; 200 yards rushing; 165 passing.

Quarterback Eric Dungey suffered a concussion in the Central Michigan game. We don't know of his likelihood for the game. Sophomore Zack Mahoney came in and really led 'em in their game-winning drive. Very mobile. Moves his feet. Can throw the football. Real quality quarterback it appears to me.

On the day, in that game, they were 428 yards on offense, 5 touchdowns, and 21 for 36 for the last three games, I should say.

This runningback, Jordan Fredericks, top rusher with 197 yards and 2 touchdowns. Defense has allowed only 14 points per game; 334 yards per game; 47 yards rushing; 287 yards passing; they've got nine sacks.

Forced nine turnovers in three games. Really good up front. They have real mobility. They get to the ball. It'll be a challenge for us, and one that we'll certainly look forward to in the preparation.

The key for us to recognize we're in a good position. That position is going to depend on how we prepare for Syracuse and how well we play Saturday in New York. Our football team has to get this. If they do, we're in good shape.

Q. I don't know what you guys finished last year, but so far in the red zone, 7-7. What's been the key to that stat being where it is right now?
COACH MILES: Well, I think better teams score in the red zone, tight season. I think we're a team that can run it in those situations. I think we're also diverse enough to be able to throw and run, and so we give the opponent's defense a number of issues to deal with: mobile quarterback, a quarterback that can throw it, and a running game that we can put some big men in front of you and block you.

Q. Coach, did you get a chance to watch the end of the Alabama/ Ole Miss game? I thought Ole Miss had a good game plan. Out score 'em. Also, I like to ask how the players dressed out for the game this past week? How many players are you allowed to dress? And how many played, if you know that?
COACH MILES: I did watch the Alabama/ Ole Miss game, parts of which. Really thought that both teams played awfully hard. Thought it was a well-played game. Felt like Ole Miss certainly won the day, but I think there is -- yeah, I think they came in there with the right mindset, that being, you know, that they can win on the road there.

So we are allowed to dress everybody that's eligible. We have to predetermine the 80 players that can actually play in the game. So in other words, we could not play all 120, 119 guys that we dress, but we can play that predetermined 80 that we have to turn in to the conference.

And we do so.

Q. It's obviously very early in the year, but what are your thoughts on the Leonard Fournette Heisman talk? Obviously his teammates seem to be all for it because they believe he's such a great person.
COACH MILES: Yeah, I'm for national awards to our players, and I think Leonard is a good person and somebody who could easily be considered for a number of national awards.

That's not my focus. I think our team recognizes that if we have success and continue to do the things we're capable of doing, there will be a lot of national awards sprinkled throughout the team.

Leonard would be if not the first consideration, maybe the strongest consideration.

Q. Were you aware that he was tipped off that he was closing in on the single-game rushing record at LSU, and he wasn't really interested in doing that.
COACH MILES: I have to be honest with you, I did not know that. The point is, with a season in front of us, I don't know that I'm going to put him back in in the fourth quarter of the that game anyway. Playing a very quality opponent, a very physical group of men. I kind of like my runningback healthy.

Q. Deion Jones out of first half. What's the plan at linebacker with him out?
COACH MILES: We'll field another linebacker. Certainly Duke Riley will play in that mix. Lamar Louis is also another guy that will play in that mix.

It's interesting, we haven't had a targeting foul in three years, which is the length of time of the rule, and we've coached hard against it and we've worked hard against it.

It's a pain to have a quality player now standing on the sideline, but I think it's a quality rule and I would want that rule enforced as it was.

Q. Dylan Gordan, an update on his injury?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think he's day-to-day. He's not that serious. I think there was a point in time where we kept him out where he may well have been able to play. But I don't know the actual severity of it. We're operating very cautiously.

Q. You expect him to travel?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think we would expect him to travel.

Q. While we're talking injuries, if you could, just what happened to Leonard on the play, on the touchdown run when he came up a little limp. And also, why in that situation, since you were up so big, put him back in the game?
COACH MILES: I think he put himself back in the game to be honest with you on that situation. We're good with how we played him. We felt like we took care of him. But in the same vein, we need to give a quality review of his carries and when he carries it.

Q. So he's okay?
COACH MILES: Oh, he's fine. As hard as he runs, if he doesn't get bruises there is something wrong.

Q. After the game we talked about the realization that you all might a better team than some expected or maybe thought. Does your motivation message now change to the team to keep them focused on a different goal, a larger, better goal?
COACH MILES: The good news is it's the same. In other words, year in and year out we would expect we would play for the title or be in consideration for such.

The fastest way for us to be in consideration and be relevant is to continue to win. That starts today with our practice and our meetings as we approach a very, very capable opponent and an opponent that we're playing at their place.

Q. Back in the day, late '60 early '70s when you were a high school player, Syracuse used to recruit that area pretty heavily, especially for lineman. Did they approach you? Were you on the radar?
COACH MILES: I have to be very honest with you, I don't remember Syracuse, whether they recruited me or not. But I do remember Ernie Davis -- I remember my father telling me a story about the Cleveland Browns and the runningback at the Cleveland Browns. I could not have told you I remember his name in that conversation.

Certainly after the express and the movie, et cetera kind of all painted it in. I remember sitting at a kitchen table, and I must've been 10, 11, 9, or something like that. Had my father telling me a story about a very talented runningback that was not capable of playing. He was sick.

I was a Jim Brown fan. I just thought he hung the moon, and if he didn't, I want to know who did. The traditions that they had at Syracuse has always really allowed me to look at program as one of the classic college programs in our country.

Q. You mentioned that the noon start time was part of the prep for this week. What do you do differently this week then?
COACH MILES: Probably get 'em up a little bit earlier and allow them to have breakfast in and around the time that they would have breakfast game day.

Really, the schedule won't change much. Kind of we do the things we do.

Q. Two questions: One, there has been this notion I think that the LSU offense isn't geared toward producing a Heisman Trophy winner, especially with how much Coach Wilson splits carries. How do respond to that, and where does Leonard fit in there?
COACH MILES: Well, I think that there are very few people that can point at a guy in his freshman year and say that this is the style of offense that will make you ready -- Cam Newton, who was a tremendous player in high school, went to a college that, in fact, didn't work out for him right away.

To stay in one place, to say that he was going to end of at Auburn throwing a bubble screen? Come on. He can't win a Heisman throwing a bubble screen. And guess what?

I guess what I'm saying is the player seems to exceed the spot that the school has for him, and I think that that happens in a number of ways. I think if you go back and look at, for instance, Desmond Howard. He was not just a receiver, punt returner, a kick returner, a reverse runner, and guy who touched the ball and made things happen, right?

So I think to tell me that Michigan's offense back then was suited for a Heisman Trophy, I thought it was. Absolutely did think it was. I think we absolutely have one as well.

To be honest with you, I think the player so much determines how you use 'em.

Q. One more, Mya Tahoma with his first start, how do you grade out the way he played at left guard?
COACH MILES: I thought Mya played well.

Q. With the offensive line...
COACH MILES: Well, I'm trying to give as good a one-word answer as I can. I thought for a freshman he played extremely well and has quickness and moves his feet and has the ability to use his hands.

Yeah, I think he's a quality addition to the line.

Q. Over 400 yards rushing. What impressed you about that offensive line's performance? Not just based on the production, but the way they also really seemed to dominate the other posing D-line on Saturday?
COACH MILES: Yeah, they wanted to play. They wanted to play in a way that this conference could see that there was something going on at LSU. You heard to come out of their mouths. It's what they wanted to have happen.

They were satisfied at the end of the day, and at the end of the day only.

Q. Back to your experience at Michigan with Desmond. Did it become difficult when you guys were making a game plan or in the game not to think, Well, we need to give him the ball so... (microphone cutting out.)
COACH MILES: The national award never did. Again, it had nothing to do with -- basically you want to have Desmond Howard touch the ball. We want to go down there offensively and see at least ten touches, and then we wanted to figure that he would get a kick return or punt return or three or four.

So then the opportunity for him to do the things that he was capable of doing were there every Saturday.

Q. (Microphone cutting out. )
COACH MILES: Yeah, we figure he'll have plenty of opportunity to show how well he runs the football in offense as opposed to a special teams.

Although I'm not taking off the board in any way the fact that he might step back in there and return one in a key contest that we needed him.

Q. After the first game there was a lot of commentary about how LSU needs to throw the ball more to be effective. After the game against Auburn, do you just feel like saying, I told you so, or is the result an I-told-you-so in and of itself?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I don't operate in I-told-you-sos I swear. I do operate in my team's achievement, their victory, team victory. I think there was some enjoyment by the defense when we maintained the ball well in excess of our opponent.

I think you will find that when we go to throw the football and we're hitting it like we're supposed to that we'll throw for a pile of yards and make some big plays.

Again, I think it's the week and the time, not necessarily by design. I don't necessarily think you can just come out there and say when you have talented runningbacks, We're just going to throw the football.

I think they had best recognize that we can run the football, and then we should have opportunities to throw it with advantage.

Q. How about just the opportunity to take the show on the road, as it were, to have LSU showcased in an area of country where you normally aren't.
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think it's going to be fun for our guys. They tell me the weather will be good there. Nice and cool, which will be fun for our guys.

So yeah, haven't been to New York with an LSU team before. It'll be new experience, we'll look forward to it.

Q. Colin Jeter. Tell us how you found him last summer and what does he bring? Seems to be very versatile blocking and catching.
COACH MILES: Yeah, the post-graduate camps, the guys that had already graduated from high school and/or were in that piece where they could be immediately eligible from a junior college.

So we looked at a number of guys, and Colin Jeter stood out. Caught balls and seemed to have height and strength. We figured at some point in time that he would really continue to develop and continue to get bigger. 6'6", 240+ probably is where he is right now. Good ball skills.

He's a very good blocker. So we kind of recognize that and offered him grant and aide, and he accepted and he's on our campus today.

Q. Leonard is averaging 190 yards a game, but the other runningbacks, plus Brandon, are averaging 130 something per game rushing. Talk about having the depth outside of your No. 1 back and a quarterback who can run the football?
COACH MILES: I think Guice carried the ball six times for 45 yards.

I think Darrel Williams carried the ball eight or nine times for 47 yards.

Again, I think we have some elite backs that can shift the burden of carry off Leonard to freshen him up when need be.

We have a mobile quarterback, and that's always an issue with defenses that, you know, want to come up the field.

Q. If this question has already been asked, I apologize. I don't hear too well in here, especially without my aides. Some of you guys don't talk into the microphone. You talk at it. When you practice routine changes this week, playing in the morning, are you going to practice in the morning or indoors? I'm sure you have work out there before the game.
COACH MILES: Yeah, we've given thought to those things. We're going to practice here on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and probably be in grass depending on the heat. We just like being outside.

Then we'll go in for Thursday's practice. We will get 'em up early and suggest they go to bed early as we get into the back end of the week. We will leave early on Friday so that we can get set and do the things we would normally do on Friday there, and then put 'em to bed and be ready for an early wake-up call and an early readiness to play.

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