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September 28, 2015

Les Miles

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

COACH MILES: Real quickly, it would benefit us all to recognize people that are having difficulty. Devon Gales suffered a very severe injury on the weekend. He played on the southern. Baton Rouge, Louisiana Central High School player. He's in our prayers. It certainly hits home when it's one of the local high school football players.

This weekend will be Eastern Michigan 6 p.m. central time. ESPNU Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. I just want you to know our team will look forward to it. It's kind of just what we need. The opportunity certainly is to get better.

I think we're a very talented team and we I think we play dominant at times, but with those penalties, we play too close. We have a series of penalties that offensively cost us 14 points. There was a 33-yard first down conversion that cost us a 92-yard Leonard Fournette run and a touchdown on illegal formation.

A red zone 5-yard penalty that certainly would've led to a touchdown if it hadn't occurred. Ended up taking a three pointer.

So on the defensive side, they had six penalties and it basically led to three touchdown drives. The interesting piece is we covered the participation without a helmet. When you run and push a player out of bounds without your helmet on, you cannot do that. It's a personal foul. You take risk to yourself that you should not. We've covered that, but you really need to see it and make an obvious example of it.

Then I did not see the late hit. I did not see the out-of-bounds hit. I did not see those.

I looked and looked and I found the one that they called, and I didn't see it. So I'll have to visit with the conference and see what they're seeing that I'm not and maybe get me on the right page.

But no matter what, we're in pursuit of a penalty-free game. That's what we're going to do.

This interesting thing, the Syracuse team is playing in a dome. I don't remember it as being loud. It was tremendously loud in that facility. Had couple issues in communications that needed to be ironed out.

I really think that Syracuse played awfully well. I think you could see that they have speed to the ball; there is not necessarily great size, but there is great athleticism.

If you look at all those names on the walls that adorn that facility, you recognize that there are some real players in those uniforms and that they're 3-0 for a reason.

They played hard. They played every down. I did not see - not one time - a Syracuse player give anything but great effort.

So congratulations to Coach Shafer and the way their team played. My guess is they're due for a pretty good year.

Offensively we put 425 yards on the opponent; 268 rushing; 157 yards passing. Made big plays in both the run and the pass.

Brandon continued to manage the offense and does the things we ask him to do and gives us the efficiency and the ability to make a big play all in one.

He threw a couple big throws to -- one to Travin Dural for 51 yards and one to Malachi Dupre for 42.

You know, the good news is we'll look forward to getting him more throws. He continues to improve and work at it, and has a very grounded view of what we're asking him to do and just getting it done.

So Leonard is the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for the third straight week. He rushed for 244 and two touchdowns. First back in LSU history to rush for back-to-back 200 yard games. In the first three games, he has 631 yards, which is the most in a three-game span for any LSU player.

Defensively we did give up a touchdown in the first half. Thought they played with great effort and intensity. The key piece is, again, not only did penalties continue, drives for the opponent, but it had to be multiple penalties.

So we're, again, on it. We're going to work at it and get it fixed. I thought Syracuse had a nice attack. I thought they used misdirection and ran the football well. I thought the quarterback did exactly what they should be doing.

You know, I think very accurate thrower, but still could run some option. Again, they did the things that they needed to do and move the football.

All in all, very glad to be in a position we're in right now. Like the fact that we're at home for a week and then on the road again, and then back at home and then on the road.

So I like the way that the schedule sets up. First and foremost, the important piece is to play well against Eastern Michigan. Eastern Michigan comes in here 1-3 overall; lost 58-36 to Army.

But offensively they really have moved the football against everybody they've played. They average 33.8 points per game; 248 yards passing; 187 yards rushing. Very nice running back in Darius Jackson who is averaging 102 yards per game.

They're going to come in here and play hard. Coach Chris Creighton is doing a great job his second year in building a program there at Eastern. Again, very excited to be back in Tiger Stadium. Nice to have a home game.


Q. Couple injury updates. Bower and Dylan Gordon, are both those guys going to be available this week? And how is Jalen Mills' overall recovery coming to the point you think he could play this year?
COACH MILES: Oh, absolutely. First of all, Bower got a lower leg injury, and in my opinion could have finished the game, played in the game, and got reps even in the last quarter, but took him out. We might give him a couple days off at the beginning of the week, but by the end of the week he should be good enough to play and ready to play.

I don't see anybody else really from the game...

Q. Dylan Gordon is okay?
COACH MILES: Dylan Gordon is probably maybe a week away from giving us a full game. But he's really improved.

Jalen Mills, I would like to say two weeks on him, but I'm not ready to say that yet. He's running and cutting and we'll have to see how that -- where his comfort is.

Q. Has he been quicker than you would imagine.
COACH MILES: Much quicker. I mean, really, really a -- you know, the injury itself has a good long view, but how aggressive he's approached rehabilitation, we really are shooting for him to return really about this time.

Frankly, I think we're not far off.

Q. Last week you addressed a number of carries that Leonard Fournette has taken. Curious if during the week you're ou doing anything differently, limiting his contact preparing him to shoulder that type of load?
COACH MILES: We don't have a lot of contact for our runningbacks during the week. We're not running live reps. We will strip and try to get the ball out of their hands, but we're not a tackle-drill practice.

But the reps that he gets are the ones that he needs, and he's really specific to seeing cuts and seeing the blocking scheme best.

So at this point, a lot of the things we've done we have done repetitively with him, so I don't know that his reps need to be anymore than they've ever been.

Q. It's obvious you're annoyed by all the penalties. When you say, We're on it, how do you do things differently in practice?
COACH MILES: Well, we bring awareness, first of all. Our team is a smart group of men. They have ambitions, goals for this season. It's not that they're, you know, defiant in any way.

For instance, I would first of all want to jump right on Deion Jones, except I can't find it. They're gonna have to tell me when I talk to the league office exactly how they see it.

Certainly the great effort and energy that was shown by Lewis Neal, you know, again, he's going to, Yeah, I remember. I remember I can't operate without my helmet.

Two of those penalties go away. Some of that is going to be technique work. Some of it was in an environment that was so loud you could not hear.

So I think it stands to reason that we can pare down these things pretty comfortably with some technique work, awareness, and certainly the help of the team.

Q. Leonard's willingness to take on contact, to embrace contact, is that unique, do you think? Can you just describe that? Is that rare? Common?
COACH MILES: I think it's a part of, you know, backs that have the strength and the size to use contact as an advantage for them. And then to combine that with his speed and ability to get away and then outrun people, I just think that's what makes him special.

Q. Would you ever tell him to try to avoid some of that to just save himself, save potential injury?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I want you to know something. I think what he's been doing naturally with his size and the cuts that he makes have been awfully successful for him to this point.

I don't know that I would want to change his style in any way. Frankly, he knows what his body can do. I wouldn't want him to listen to me and change the recipe in some way and create an opportunity for him that none of us would want.

Q. You touched upon the formation penalty that wiped out Leonard Fournette's 87 yarder. Do you feel that was a correct call? What is your overall opinion of that crew that...
COACH MILES: I'm going to ask again to get it from the league. My guys turned and communicate with the officials, both guys. Okay? So I'm just going to have guess that they said that they were okay.

But I had both Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre turn and address the official for being on and off, so it'll be interesting to see.

Q. What's your opinion of the crew that called the game?
COACH MILES: I'm certain that they did their absolute best. I've never taken the field in this conference with conference officials and felt like it would be any different.

But I'm going to -- again, couple things I need to have clarified. Generally Steve Shaw does a great job doing that, so...

Q. You didn't really touch on special teams. Kickoff team, both coverage and returns are at the back of the SEC, and punting is at the back as well. Are there changes coming for that?
COACH MILES: Yeah. Well, I think Jamie certainly started off with some really average punting for him considering how talented he is. I think he'll get comfortable and handle that better.

Our kickoff return, or I should say our kickoff team, needs to limit the return. I think you can see that thing tightened up throughout the game. As we would lineup late in the game, I think you could see our guys were really in their lanes and doing the things they needed to do to make us best.

Our punt returner certainly had a nice return. It was well blocked. Just a number of guys showed great effort on that return and allowed T. White to break it clean.

So I think there's a lot of positives. Certainly some things that need to be fixed, but a lot of positives as well.

Q. Coach, John David Moore, what kind of season is he having for you? When did it become apparent that he was going to play for you a lot this year?
COACH MILES: Last year some time it was apparent that he was going to play a lot. He has gotten stronger and bigger and still can catch it and run it.

He's really the knowledgeable player that you have to have at fullback. He knows where to go, who to be on. He gets it right.

Q. When you play a team like Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, you can't fool the players as far as they look at the tape. In games like that where players have to play against their own ability more than the other team, what do you do as a coaching staff to get them ready to play against themselves and not worry about the players on the other side?
COACH MILES: I want you to know something. If you had looked at the Syracuse film you would have said they were pretty good. They would have you recognize that you had best be ready to play against them. I thought they were very formidable going in and they were formidable coming out.

Eastern Michigan is a team that can really move the football offensively and a team that has size and speed on defense and makes plays.

Now, I think it's our goal and it's about our path and what we have to and want to accomplish as a team. You know, I think that that point is made really every week, and sometimes against our very best opponents.

So in fact, our guys recognize it. In our conference you put a team behind you and let that team go beat up on some other teams, that's the advantage of conference play.

Q. Getting more and more snaps from Frank Herron and Greg Gilmore. Getting sacks, strips. What have you seen in how they've improved from last year?
COACH MILES: Yeah, both guys are playing more snaps; both guys are playing better; they're coming off the football; they're gap-sound; they both have talent and ability; they use their hands; they're quick for big men.

Yeah, we're very pleased that those guys can step to the front and give us real quality snaps really in every game.

Q. Do you have a rule for your punt returners that they don't field anything inside the ten?
COACH MILES: We would like that they would recognize where that ten yard line stripe is and not really step back into it.

Like in the first couple games T. White didn't step back into it at all. In fact, did a great job misleading the return team away from where the possible bounce would be.

But what happens many times is you put yourself in a position where you're saying, Okay, there is the ten, and then now you're focusing on the ball and you lose track of where that ten was. We have to make that point to him yet again.

I think it's one of the reasons he returned it for a touchdown. I said, Now listen, we just...

He says, Was I -- he caught it on about the 2 or the 4, one of those two. I said, Beyond the ten, we don't want to you back up. He says, Was I beyond the ten? I said, Yeah.

So there is some intent to catch a ball that transcends necessarily that ten-yard stripe. We'll get it across to him. He did a great job earlier in the season. I'm sure he will continue.

Ted, you have a question?

Q. (Indiscernible.)
COACH MILES: Well, we didn't get as much pressure on this quarterback for several reasons. One, he was on the move. He changed the pocket several times. And two, they are play-action. Times this he threw, and those play-actions, those were coming out of his hands very quickly.

So I think there are those things that if we hadn't given them extended drives based on multiple penalties within the drive, I think they would've had a very difficult time going length of field.

Again, we just need to stop those penalties. They would not have converted on six third downs if we don't extend drives on penalties versus when the defense was on the field and their offense was on the field.

So it's just something we need to work on.

Q. Will Clapp, how big of a part is he to the rushing attack and what have you seen from him the first three games?
COACH MILES: Well, I think Will has really come in and kind of settled down and is developing quite nicely at the right guard spot.

I think it's a spot where he'll continue to improve and continue to improve. I think the same about Mya Tahoma. I think he's coming and still there is some youth there, but put about one more game behind him and the youth seems to fade.

Q. Going back to Jamie and the punting, can you pinpoint what's going on there and how a guy who has been so successful in the past can just...
COACH MILES: I would be willing to tell that you Jamie will handle this on his own. I guarantee it's a drop. In this particular instance, may have been an uneven field. Some of that turf was just a little bit thick at times.

All those things affect that guy who is prescribed in his steps and his drops. It'll be interesting to see. I can't imagine that that won't turn around very quickly.

Q. I know you were mentioning earlier about the penalties wiping out or extending drives for Syracuse. When there weren't penalties (indiscernible) really good at third down on defense. I think like top 15 in th nation. Was that a point of emphasis in the off-season, and do you feel like it needs to be better offensively?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think it is a point of emphasis. I also think the penalties that we had really prohibited us from making some key third downs.

Yeah, I think we focus on this third down opportunity in almost every practice. That being said, we'll continue to improve.

Q. Leonard likes to deflect a lot of the praise. Says maybe the biggest change in his game is the confidence. As the coach that sees the tape and works with him day to day, what's the biggest change you've noticed on the field? And second part, he's obviously dealing with a lot more attention from the defenses as well trying to test him. Have you had to talk to him about maintaining his composure in those instances?
COACH MILES: Well, he's getting a lot more attention not only from the opponents' defense, but from the media. I just think he's handling it as well as he can. We're making our points to the officiating crews to take care of our key personnel. Not just Leonard, but our players that we think are subject to, you know, not necessarily only the fair hit.

So we're making those points as well. But what has to happen is when you become a guy that is a very talented and one of the reasons why your team wins, you're going to be targeted in some regard.

It's the official's job to make sure it's a level playing field for everybody, including some of the best players.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH MILES: His improvements, he's coming lighter, he's faster, and he's always been strong. I would guess that that would be that improvement that you're in reference to. When he runs with power and then when he gets in front, they don't catch him. That's kind of the key piece.

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