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October 19, 2015

Les Miles

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

An Interview With:


LES MILES: Good afternoon. Nice to see you all. Excited over the position that we're in. Enjoyed the Saturday night Tiger stadium certainly. The place was electric. It was as good as it's been. The fans make a difference. There's no question that our guys play to that environment and how much we enjoyed it.

Like the position being No. 5 in both polls. Again, just kind of motoring along, see if we can continue to do what we've been doing. Florida played really well. I thought they competed extremely hard. I thought the defense was as it was billed to be, team that could run and hit. Now, we -- not necessarily were we perfect in every areas, but we played awfully hard, and there's no question in our fight we get a three and out and the ball is punted, the ball comes off of our punt returner, leads to a quick score and really for the first time this year we're down seven. We scored the next 21 points in the game and really responded to that position, showed a lot of fight in this football team, and we expected to play 60 minutes. We recognized that. And certainly we did.

On offense we were 423 yards, 221 yards rushing and 202 yards passing. Good balance. I think if I had to be picky on the offense, I'd like to get in the back end of the games, four minutes, and control the game, not have to kick it back to 'em, but our defense did a great job in both situations, kind of stopped them in a four-minute drive. And then when we turned the ball back to them, they stopped them again in a two-minute drive. So I thought the defense recognized the position that we were in and really played well to that.

Efficient on third downs. We were 7 of 14. We've not been a team that turns it over. We'll put the ball on the ground a couple of times in that game, but fortunate to get them back. We'll have to work on some of those things. Made some big plays, big plays in the passing game, Brandon to Malachi Dupre before the half, kind of a nice way to answer a score that the opponent just put on the board. And then the flee flicker certainly was another big-time play that was exciting to see for the coaches and for the fans and for anybody that was carrying the feeling for the LSU Tigers.

Leonard Fournette had 180 yards, two touchdowns, very physical game, ran hard. A lot of his yards were after contact. Continues to lead the nation in rushing yardage with 1,200 yards. I thought the offensive line did a really good job and were tested. That Florida defensive line I thought was very good.

They had, I want to say 12 or 15 sacks coming into this game, and the offensive line allowed none. They were -- I take it back. They were leading the conference with 21 sacks, and Vadal Alexander is the SEC offensive lineman of the week for his contribution. And I think we're doing a lot of good things. I think the offense is moving the football on the ground. I think we're catching the ball. Running backs ran hard. The quarterback is doing his job, doing the things that we ask him to do and as well as throwing the ball, but running it as well.

Defensively they held them to 55 yards rushing, 326 yards total offense and put a lot of pressure on that quarterback. That quarterback's awfully elusive. I thought we played awfully hard. We had five sacks and a number of quarterback pressures. Lewis Neal was the SEC defensive player of the week with 10 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. Always gives us great effort. A guy that you want to model yourself as on a team, you use Lewis Neal. Deion Jones had 10 tackles, two and a half tackles for loss, one sack. We had some breakdowns in secondary coverage and didn't make some really simple adjustments. And we think we'll do that.

I think Jalen Mills being back certainly will help, and I think our guys know where they're at and recognize with some adjustment and some improvement, that we can be a team that plays for the title.

So that being said, there's a lot of work to be done. We're not near that at all, but defensively I think one of the areas that we have to stop having those breakdowns and I think that we're good there. I think we'll do that.

Special teams, executed kickoff coverage much better. I liked the fact that Cameron Gamble did not allow a five-yard penalty before he kicked it. I mean he brought it all the way down to four seconds, which last week it was two seconds. You know, considering he leads the country in five-yard penalties as a kicker, I'm thrilled at how he's participating. And punt coverage was, you know, you hit a ball out in the middle of the field and it's a much more difficult position to cover. And Jamie has been really giving us everything that we ask him to do, and he'll continue to do that. And I have no problem with how he would participate. We want a big kick, and we want it into the boundary, and sometimes that huge leg is not easily controlled. But we'll get that under -- we'll take that under advisement and get that fixed.

Had a nice field goal fake in the back end. Anytime that you have players that are so confident in the play that they basically it's just the right time, coach. I had six people calling that before it ever came to my mouth. And again, it just was a very good play. Kragthorpe said he'd mastered the throw, and Trent never did put one on the ground. So he certainly gave us the opportunity to execute it. It was the right thing.

Western Kentucky lost only to Indiana by three points. This is a very good football team. All you have to do is watch film. They're good in offense, defense and special teams. I voted for them to be in the Top-25, if anybody asks. I think they're that good a team. Coached by Jeff Brohm. He played quarterback in the NFL for years, Redskins, and Coach Cameron, he passed each other. He's done a great job there. They're a really quality football team, talented players on both sides of the ball, very -- offensively very explosive. They're averaging 535 yards, 44 points. 535 yards is a lot of yards, I mean and to think that they've played some very talented teams.

They're the No. 3 team in the country in passing with 407 yards a game, and they scored 49 or more points in the last four straight games. So their quarterback, Brandon Doughty, every bit an SEC quarterback, big, talented, strong, smart quarterback. Big arm. Has already thrown for 2700 yards and 24 touchdowns. Again, enough to -- you watch the film, it'll get your -- he'll get your attention.

Although there's more, Anthony Wales, coming off 193 yards against North Texas, 111 yards the week before against Middle Tennessee. So the running game is up and going. Five players have touched the ball 24 times, with Taywan Taylor, 45 receptions, 825 yards and 10 touchdowns. So offensively, this team can really play. And they got a quarterback, they got receivers, they have speed. They have a running back that can hurt you up the gut. So our defense is in for a challenge, and certainly it's one that will be met.

The defense also is a talented team. They're really allowing 24 points a game. They held Vanderbilt to just 12 points. They forced 19 turnovers, 10 interceptions and nine fumbles. They're coached by a defensive coordinator that I know of, Nick Holt. He coached at USC and at Washington and is a very talented coach.

Special teams play extremely well, returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Field goal kicker is 9 of 10. So I just want you to know that this team coming in fits every bit as well in Tiger Stadium as other teams that we've hosted this year. So you'll find that there will be another really quality football team across the way from your Tigers. And what I would insist and would like to invite that crowd that was there last Saturday back. And tell them to come in and maybe wear a sweater, if the weather stays the way it is. But enjoy your day and make a lot of noise, because this will be a very good opponent. We'll have to play well to do the things that we want to do. And nationally ranked this team will be.

So any questions?

Q. You just mentioned about Western Kentucky's offense. Last year they finished No. 2 in the nation, this year sitting in the same spot. You clearly aren't overlooking them, but how do you drill that home to some guys that admitted that Eastern Michigan week they kind of joked around at practice and all that?
LES MILES: Well, Eastern Michigan was not 6 and 1 coming into the contest, did not have one of the nation's No. 1 quarterbacks and not a complete team. This is a complete team. This team will stop you on defense, will move the football and score on offense and will play very dangerous special teams. So we're -- we recognize it, and they'll not be -- it'll be easy for them to see. One thing about it, when you looked at Florida's defense, you said, man, that defense can play. They will find and make like observations with this Western Kentucky team.

Q. I think you about covered what I was going to ask. So I'm going to skip it.
LES MILES: I'm sorry I did that. Ted said he was concerned about this game. I am as well. I think they're a very good football team, and our football team hasn't seen them yet. Today is the first time that we see them. We put away our game of last week, and but I think that once our guys see how talented this team is, we'll come to play.

Q. Coach, two questions up front first. You made the point after the game of talking about Leonard Fournette, the piling on and hitting him late. Have you spoken with the SEC office?
LES MILES: We've turned in a number of clips. It was good open dialogue. I have not -- was very busy this morning, did not get to the call. It will be on me. I will see if I can get in touch with him in the next couple of hours or maybe tomorrow.

Q. And Brandon Harris after the game with us was maybe a little defensive, but he definitely has heard the rumblings that this team can't throw the football and he's out to prove a point. How do you feel with your quarterback being open with that and do you like that in him?
LES MILES: Well, I think everybody that plays with a little want to prove that, one, that they can best an opponent, and two, contribute to a team, and I think there's always the piece of -- there's always a personal chip in this. You don't play football at risk of injury without playing with a little passion and caring about how you're received.

But he needs not to worry about that at all, in reality. The opinions that matter will all come from that room, that big building that we practice in, and he'll not need to worry about what others say. Others don't know. And all they have to do is watch the film. All they have to do is see him spin a couple of passes and for them to realize, no, this guy can throw it. So he needs to just do the things that he's been doing and not try to exceed the play call.

Q. Two questions. An injury update on Dillon Gordon, and has Toby Weathersby apparently moved up into the rotation, and was there anything wrong with Maea Teuhema the other night?
LES MILES: Dillon Gordon looks like he'll be out. I don't -- I hate to say for the rest of the season, but I can't imagine him returning at this point. And Toby Weathersby is improved and a talented young man, and we expect him to be on the field a lot. And sometimes at guard, sometimes at tackle. Just a number of places.

Q. And Teuhema, was he hurt the other night?
LES MILES: No. I think he was temporarily nicked, but I think he's fine. And he came back in and played at the end of the game.

Q. I think Gamble is actually tied for that lead now because you guys had one against you.
LES MILES: That's correct. That was a wonderful thing, to be honest with you. Just to see that it could happen to somebody else.

Q. Regarding your special teams, why have the coverage teams, it seems like, regressed or not been as good? Is it scheme? Is it execution? Is it personnel, and how do you fix that? How do you get it going in the right direction?
LES MILES: Well, the good news is is the guys that are coming down under punts want to get it right, guys that are coming down under kicks want to get it right. I think it's a little bit of both, and it's certainly coaching and execution and, you know, just putting it together. And I think the effort and the energy is there. It just needs to come. We made nice strides, kickoffs. Now let's handle the punt and be in good shape.

Q. Coach, your punter is down about five yards from where he was last year. Is it technique? Is he kicking hurt? What do you think the issue is with him?
LES MILES: Well, I think there's been some physical limitations that at one point in time I don't know that there's -- that that's there now. I think that there was a -- I think he's comfortably working through some technique issues. I think we'll be fine there. I think he's got a nice leg. He's a guy that's a team guy. We ask him to kick into the boundary. He wants to kick into the boundary. It's something that -- it's who he is, and he'll get it done.

Q. (No microphone).
LES MILES: Well, he's dealt with a couple of nicks now and then, but I don't know if kicking hurt is exactly how I'd put it. But I'd say there was some limitations on his play early on.

Q. Coach, have you ever seen a kicker like that run that fast around the corner there, and did you see the photo of the mascot with his hands crossed?
LES MILES: I have seen him run that fast routinely. It was nice to see him continue to run that fast for the entire 16 yards. But now, the photo that had what?

Q. The Gators, he's got his arms crossed?
LES MILES: Oh, really? Their mascot?

Q. Yeah.
LES MILES: Yeah, I don't -- that probably would not have caught my eye, considering I was really staring at the things on the field rather than things off the field. I suspect that that may -- there's a lot of things that are very humorous at football games.

Q. Coach, Lewis Neal had 10 tackles on his first two years here. He had 10 tackles on Saturday. What's been the key to his amazing turnaround this year and what does that play in that role for him?
LES MILES: I think for the defensive line, I think Ed has done a great job. I think his enthusiasm for play and his technical expertise really are on par. And a guy like Lewis Neal, Lewis Neal wants to do it, always wanted to do it, and he's really just taken coaching. So yeah, we would expect that Lewis Neal would continue to play like that.

Q. What made you settle in with Taywan at defensive end?
LES MILES: Well, that's really his natural position. He's got great speed and quickness and a guy that has real strength for his body type. And you know, you move him inside, it would only have been because of injury or, you know, he is a defensive end.

Q. Could you touch on the job that Ed and Kevin specifically are doing with maybe that front seven, getting more out of it than you've probably seen production wise in the past?
LES MILES: Well, the linebacking core, Deion Jones had about 20 tackles. I mean he had a great day. Kendell Beckwith is in my opinion the finest Mike backer in the conference. And when you have four defensive linemen that will fly to the ball, and Kevin Steele does a great job organizing what would be strategy and scheme. You know, you're going to get some real quality play. And I have to be honest with you, you know, the entire staff is doing a great job. Corey Raymond is really coaching that secondary well. There's some mistakes being made, but that's where mistakes are made. They're seldom made in a place where you don't notice them. They're always made at a place where you do notice them. And that secondary, that's where you -- somebody goes for a long pass, it's gotta be somebody's mistake, and certainly that happens.

I think that we're pushing and coaching along a way that that'll kind of subside here pretty quickly.

So I guess what I'm saying is defensively, we have some things to fix, but I like the impact that both Kevin and Ed are having.

Q. And then Doughty, you touched on him earlier, their quarterback at Western Kentucky. Is he kind of the difference maker for that team to rise them to the level of play they are?
LES MILES: He is a very accurate, very strong-arm guy, and they ask him to do things that he can do. I think he's one of the guys that, along with several of their key players, that have made a difference for them.

Q. Les, Dillon wouldn't be eligible for a red shirt, huh? He played too much?
LES MILES: Dillon may be eligible for a red shirt. I don't know. It's so sad that he basically is lost for -- I think he played in three games, but the reality of it is he played very few plays, period.

Q. And who has to kind of step up now for you, obviously Jeter is back there. But who are you looking at?
LES MILES: Yeah, well, Jeter certainly is a guy that we've really focused on and looked at and feel like will be extremely good there, and we're liking Foster Moreau. He's a young guy, but he's very talented and physical. So we'll go there, along with at that DeSean Smith and some other guys.

Q. I believe LSU has nearly as many sacks through six games as you had all of last season in 13 games, and I'm curious to what extent does that improvement meet your expectations going into this season, was raising the sack number, was there dissatisfaction last year with that? Did you need to raise it a lot and what are the contributing factors to that?
LES MILES: You talking about our sack --

Q. Your defense sacking the other team.
LES MILES: Yeah. We have to have had pressure on a quarterback and on every quarterback that we play. And I think it's pretty simple. You know, that was kind of the call, and Ed came in and really has -- you know, they've rushed the passer, and they've turned their attentions to how in technique, and it's made a difference. And it's also come with guys like Lewis Neal who's had experience is now really ready to turn it over to a coach.

You know, so many times the young guys are not -- I'm not sure that that's the right technique, but after you've been there a while, it's kind of like when Cam came in with Mettenberger, Mettenberger had a really strong arm and capabilities, but really, you know, Cam unlocked the back end of his career, you know, his best play. And really I think that Ed's doing the same thing for some of those guys on the defensive line, guys that were in position to have really fine development. It's just that Ed got there at a time where they could understand what he was saying and could take it in full flow.

Q. (No microphone).
LES MILES: Oh, they understand Cajun, I guarantee it, at this point. The right and wrong of Cajun is pretty strong.

Q. Forgive me for going way back a little bit, but when Shaquille O'Neal played here, there came to be a feeling that they didn't call a lot of fouls on him because he was so big and strong. A lot of times he was hacked after shooting or rebounding and they didn't call it. Are you afraid a little bit that that might be happening with Leonard, that he's just so big and strong that they don't feel like there's a need to call some things on him that could be called, especially the end of plays like you were concerned about?
LES MILES: Well, I'd like to have Shaquille O'Neal play defensive end for me. If it was a possibility to go back and get some eligibility for a very talented athlete. Maybe even tight end. Any of those spots.

I don't know that there's any similarities there. I think Shaquille O'Neal is in a five-man game, certainly a dominant, dominant force. In an 11-man game, I think Leonard is as well. I don't -- I see the similarities, but I don't know that I'm ready to answer your question that way.

Q. Are you just worried for his well-being at the end of these plays?
LES MILES: Yeah, you know, I want to protect my players, and that's kind of one of the things that we sent in. You know, the driving back and fall on them, I think there's a point in time where that's called a personal foul, and that to me, one thing about it, when you have a back that's fighting like heck for yards and he's on his feet and you have stopped -- you have forward progress, the whistle needs to be blown and then when the whistle is blown, the defense is allowed to let go of them as opposed to continue to drive them 10 yards and throw them on the ground. Those kind of things need not to happen. But again, one thing about it, he has been a back of note for his career and understands that responsibility and certainly that -- as a defense would see him and how important the defense would see him to us in our success. So yeah, I'm concerned for his well-being. But again, to a point, it is football.

Q. You were talking the other night after the Florida game about showing flashes on all three phases, but not being consistent enough. Do you feel like that is the factor that's going to determine whether you guys are or are not a playoff team?
LES MILES: Yeah. Yeah, I do. I think we're a talented team. I think we're a team that is in position to do a lot of things. But I think it's all three phases, you know, offense, defense and special teams. And I think it really has to do with being consistent in all three phases at different points in the game. And when you let your guard down and kick one and don't cover it, whether it's a punt or a kickoff, or if you in the fourth quarter and you have the ball with one score on the board and you need to finish the game out, with 4:38 to play, you'd like to finish that out offensively. Defensively, you eliminate some of those mistakes that are made in our secondary and then suddenly we're really a dominant, dominant team, and playing dominant football is what we want to do.

Q. Do you expect J.D. Moore to be out another week?
LES MILES: I don't know. I don't know exactly there. I know that he's getting better. I don't know exactly to what extent, when he could possibly return.

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