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LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 2, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
An Interview With:
COACH LES MILES
COACH LES MILES: Good afternoon, all. Nice to see you. I can only tell you that this week came in at the right time. Kind of took an eight straight weeks of play and made it into a good, comfortable week. We had three very nice practices preparing for our opponent, and give them some time off and get them to relax, get off their feet and enjoy time.
I can always tell you that this is a special week for us. We look forward to playing Alabama. They're a very talented team, very capable team, and we look forward to playing in big games, and so many times it's difficult to muster the emotion and the passion when you lineup against a team that does not necessarily have the same name recognition as a very quality opponent in Alabama.
When you look at our teams as they compare, offensively, we've had success; we've moved the football. Averaging 466 total yards. The SEC, we have the leader in rushing with 309 yards per game. Fournette leads the conference in rushing. Brandon Harris is No. 2 in passing efficiency with 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns.
Our defense is second in the conference, allowing 93 yards per game in the rush, but getting better every week. The special teams, I kind of focused on that a little bit more this last week and kind of feel like we're tightening things up, and I like our plan. But we look forward to a primetime event and big-time game, and our guys will practice it and review it in their minds for this week before we play.
Alabama now scoring 35 points per game, putting 421 yards per game on an opponent a very, very quality back in Derrick Henry, 1,000 yards, 14 touchdowns. Quarterback Jake Coker has thrown for 1,600, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Alabama defense, first in the conference, allowing 275 yards per game and only 78 yards rushing.
Good special teams. They got a great punter in J.K. Scott, averaging 43 yards. Kenyan Drake and Cyrus Jones for the return men, very quality. But I like my team. I like the character. I think they will respond and play well in big games and play hard and have fun and look forward to playing this one. Questions.
Q. The Kevin Steele angle has been brought up a lot. Does it help when you scout this past week and this week, having Kevin Steele having been in Alabama last year?
COACH LES MILES: I have to be honest with you. We've worked as much as we can against what we see on film, and I don't know that the translation could help us any more than what the film gives us.
We certainly enjoyed Kevin Steele's expertise on defense, but that would be in defending the opponent, not necessarily in translating. So I guess what I'm saying is I don't know to what effect there has really been a Kevin Steele effect.
Q. You've played them 11 times. What's your favorite single memory of those games?
COACH LES MILES: Well, I have a lot of very favorite -- no, I can't do that. It's impossible. What you'd have to say, then, is that a player or a play in a year had priority over what could be this very next game, and it's hard for me to pick favorites. It really is.
I think Leonard Fournette is a pretty special back, and nationally I would support him for any award. I have a difficult time comparing him to the great backs that I've had here because frankly I've been to battle with all of them. And it's a pretty special place to be, and I revere those memories. So it's hard for me to pick one over the other. Well, I could give you two or three, but nah, I think best that I not.
Q. Some injury updates, I mean the guys that you had mentioned last week, Tre'Davious, Christian, John David Moore, what's the outlook? Do you expect them to practice today or are they taking things slow?
COACH LES MILES: I would expect that all of the guys that we mentioned will play in the game. There's going to be a guy or two that we might not practice today. But we would expect to have a full slate when we come to Saturday.
Q. If you were choosing to assemble a team just from scratch, the team that you've assembled this year, big offensive line, you guys are really moving the ball on the ground, is this how you would choose to build the team?
COACH LES MILES: Yeah. Yeah, to be honest with you, I like a -- yeah, this team would represent the style of person, character, competitor that I would -- physical attributes that I would want to play with.
Q. CBS has picked up this game in its feature, primetime spot the last five years. There are very few games that have this magnitude of a game. What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to coach in these games, and for your players, everything from seniors to even in the recruiting process, to have the scope of this game be this large, and just year after year it's just such a big game.
COACH LES MILES: Well, the good news is we've played in these games before, and we certainly understand them. I think our guys -- the big game can only get to be the big game -- the big game is only so big; right? I mean you're playing for all the things that you wanted to play for at the beginning of the year. You're playing for the lead in the west, and you put yourself with your achievement, this team in position to do so. So they should look forward to it. They should relish it. It's why you came to LSU, to be a part of this game.
Q. Tough loss for you and for your team in the off week with Sid Ortis passing away. Just your thoughts, what it's going to be like going into Alabama and him not being there on the sideline?
COACH LES MILES: Yeah. I was fortunate to meet Sid Ortis. His family knew that he was a great fan of LSU and reached out to Donnie Griffin, who was a pastor in the area, and I was able to make his acquaintance, and he had so much spirit and excitement and loves his Tigers. And I was really impressed by the representation that Alabama had back there. They supported him in every way, and we all will have our day, and he was with his mother and father and is in a better place. So I don't want to spend a lot of time on it, but I think about how fortunate that we are, that I am, that my family being healthy and being in position to continue. And Sid is in a better place.
Q. For the last five matchups, this has really been strength on strength, your power run game against their front seven. What have you learned or gleaned from those past tapes that have improved your performance each time you face them?
COACH LES MILES: Well, I can tell you that the opponent is just like the teams we've played in the past, great defense, talented offense, very capable special teams. I think it's going to be just that. I think it's going to be a quality game with the best of both teams being featured, and some special players on both sides. And kind of see how it goes, where the best are.
Q. What was your conversation like with Cam over the summer about how much should we put on Brandon's plate and how has Cam done this season just giving him what he can handle and him executing that well?
COACH LES MILES: Well, first of all, Cam is a tremendous mentor of quarterbacks, can teach quarterback plays as good as there is. And he's done a great job. Brandon Harris has done a great job, too, with the efficiency leader and doing the things that we ask him to do, and really there will be nothing that we'll ask him differently in this game than we've asked him in the past.
We expect to get the same style of Brandon Harris play, and we're fortunate that he's progressed like he has. He's one of the reasons why we stand here undefeated right now.
Q. Just out of curiosity, how often do you get asked by fans, hey, coach, are we going to beat Bama this year?
COACH LES MILES: Daily or weekly?
Q. You tell me.
COACH LES MILES: I can tell you that as an LSU fan, there is great interest in this game.
Q. Kind of going off what you said about Brandon Harris and his progression throughout the year, can this be a game that I guess further defines his legacy, if you want to call it that, or what he's building?
COACH LES MILES: Yeah. I don't know that we're looking for legacies or in the individuals building. I think it's a team event. I think it's being a part of a great offense. It's being a part of a team that has a great defense, whose special teams are much improved and ready to compete with the best and to play on par with the best teams in college. So I think he enjoys the fact that he is a part of that, and really a big part of it.
Q. Les, LSU and Bama have so many guys that go on to the NFL. Do Scouts look at this game -- how much do they look at this game when they're trying to decide how good a player will be at the next level?
COACH LES MILES: Yeah, I would think if you were an NFL scout and you had any wisdom to you at all, that you would line up and get the LSU and Alabama game and how much how they fared.
Q. In recruiting, you guys seem to battle for the same recruits every year. Why do you think that is, it comes down to LSU or Alabama?
COACH LES MILES: I think there are different choices. I think there's a -- both operate in the same Western division, certainly play in a great conference. But obviously there's differences.
Q. What advice would you have for Leonard going into this game? Obviously a lot of people are going to be painting this as a big stage for him in the Heisman race and whatnot.
COACH LES MILES: Yeah, I would take all that off his plate and just talk about victory and do the things that he needs to do to help his team win, and really just run the plays that we call, and he'll have every opportunity to achieve at the very highest level.
And certainly the greatest credential of a Heisman trophy candidate is a very successful team.
Q. The last two games in Baton Rouge, it's come down to the last drive, and they've been able to get it done. As you prepare for this game, or even the season, was there a lot more times spent on defense in those situations, and if it comes down to that again, how much better prepared do you think you are than maybe you were a year ago?
COACH LES MILES: Well, I think it's something that we've really focused on and we'll focus on it again today. It's an awfully important piece to really any game. You know, the two-minute drive before the half or the two-minute drive at the end of the game for victory. And we kind of went through those scenarios pretty routinely really from spring on. So it's not something that -- there's no void in the coaching there. I think they execute it extremely well.
Q. When you turn on the video and look at Alabama's defense, No. 1 against the run, No. 1 sacking quarterbacks, getting after quarterbacks, what stands out more to you? Is it the individual battles that they're winning or is it the scheme and the outnumbering people?
COACH LES MILES: No, I think it's -- I think they've done a very good job with scheme, but I think it's more -- they've put very talented men in the right position. They're seldom out of place, and they're in a position to make a tackle, and they generally do.
Q. Question about offensive line. How much do you think the ability to recruit and build a big, strong offensive line influences the way teams like you and Alabama and even Florida this year play and diminish maybe the need to follow the spread-out type trend?
COACH LES MILES: I think the spread offense is a tremendous way to move the football. I have no problem with it whatsoever. It's just a piece of something that we do. But we enjoy the fact that there is a physicality to the style of offense that we run, that we're going to challenge a defense and try to control the line of scrimmage and block them. And it's not necessarily a pass-only event, and I think that that's how our offense is built. I think we'll stay there.
Q. On the back side of that defensively, does this game force you to kind of keep your defense honest? Everybody is moving to spread attacks, but this one particular game usually is a power game, run-oriented contest. In that nature, I guess, does Kendell Beckwith help in this specific game.
COACH LES MILES: I didn't hear the last piece.
Q. Most of the year you're defending spread offenses. This year you have to really kind of load up in the front. Does this game keep you honest when you're picking your personnel? When you're trying to figure out who will be in the game, and does Kendell play a large part to that?
COACH LES MILES: Got ya. Yeah, when you line up against a spread attack, there is a tendency to want to play a little bit more nickel, a little bit more lighter athletic guys. It's kind of one of those things that we choose. We're looking for that long, angular athletic person. And Kendell Beckwith certainly fits that. He happens to be strong and capable, but he's also one of the faster guys on our team, and so he would fit that dual bill, the guy that can stand in against a power running attack, also have the athleticism to stop the -- what would be the gun run, for instance.
Q. What do you think of Derrick Henry, his style? Does it remind you at all of Leonard?
COACH LES MILES: He's a very good back. He's big and strong. Opinion, he's going to be somebody our defense is going to have to focus on and make sure that there's some helmets around him.
Q. Coach, this is the way I see it. The way I see it is your kickoffs could stand a little improvement. Out of eight kickoffs against Western Kentucky, there was only one touchback. The pass defense, couple of those touchdowns, the last two touchdowns they scored, they're receivers were playing solid there. And you lost another touchdown to a penalty. I believe that's four touchdowns you've had called back. You're fixing to get into a stretch here where you can't afford to have points taken off a board for penalties. Will you address those issues, please?
COACH LES MILES: Yeah. We've continued to become less penalized and less penalized really week after week. And although there have been some of those things that really cost us scores. But our team, we talk about penalties and we talk about the effect on the game of penalties certainly versus an opponent. And our team recognizes the better the opponent, the least and the less penalized you can be.
Q. How much do you believe this game is mental, believing they can go to Tuscaloosa and win, and do you use some of the previous games or do you think they do as motivation?
COACH LES MILES: Yeah, I think that this is a unique team. I think this is a team with pretty special players and guys that understand that games like this are won with character and hard work and really months ago. And I think that they'll find their path, and it's unique to this team, and I think it's what we want.
Q. Coach, John David Moore is able to go this game. How much does he add to an already strong offensive line, and especially with Dillon Gordon kind of maybe being missing? How much can he help Leonard and Darius and everybody?
COACH LES MILES: I think he's a guy that really in the last practices kind of went through every rep. So he's a very bright football player and a guy that takes some young players and take them under the wing and say this is what you want here, this is what you want here. And I think he makes a tremendous difference to us. I also like Bry'Kiethon Mouton. I think he's going to be just what we want, and I will not have any problem playing either one of those two guys in this game.
Q. Brandon being a difference maker with his legs this year, do you feel that is a part of the game that hasn't been present in the past and could be an asset this time?
COACH LES MILES: Yeah, I think anytime you have a quarterback that has the ability to extend a play and the arm enough to throw it to that guy, that you're constantly playing defense. It's a -- there's more responsibility and it's longer within the game and longer within the play. So I think his ability to use his legs certainly will be a part of this game. To what extent, I can't really tell you right now.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports