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July 28, 2006

Les Miles


THE MODERATOR: At this time we are ready to continue with LSU head Coach Les Miles.
COACH MILES: Morning. Glad to be here. I brought two players with me that I want to speak to briefly, two leaders that we're really going to count on in the fall. LaRon Landry, our veteran safety, All-American candidate, is a guy that made a decision last year to postpone wealth and the NFL and choose to return to school, to come back and play with his team and be around his schoolmates. I think it's a very self-less decision. I think it speaks to his leadership. When you get him in this room, please welcome him.
Dwayne Bowe is a tremendously talented receiver, very capable guy.
Both of those men are people that will be leaders on our football team. Very fortunate to bring those two with me.
I think it's appropriate that I start this conversation, this subject of this next season, with last year. What this football team had been through, the change in schedule, two hurricanes, in my opinion, gave great example to overcoming obstacles and really coming together. I think the best thing you can say about the '05 team is it was selfless and unselfish. They had great leadership and great character.
I hope this '06 team saw and understood the example that the '05 team was. I can tell you that we have ability and we have talent. We have a great core nucleus of a football team. The key will be the leadership of our football team, guys that are called to their role of leaders for the first time, guys that have played, guys that have ability. But because of a large senior class leaving, now there's a void. That those men would step forward and lead this football team, if they do that, we'll have a team that will achieve and contend.
We're fortunate at LSU. We feel like we can play and win every game that's on our schedule. We will pursue the development of our football team and not worry necessarily about who we're playing and where we're playing them, but how we're going to play. If we pursue that process and if we develop our football team, we don't really care who we play or where we play them. We feel like we're capable. Certainly if our team plays to the tradition of our school, we can be in the championship game.
Everybody talks about the road games that we have to play. I can tell you they count one. I can tell you that we have a lot of games on our schedule that are important. We'll enjoy the rhythm of that schedule. I think two home games and an away game, two home games, an away game, those away games being key as well. If we can get into the rhythm of that feel, if we can feel a momentum of a season, gaining momentum as we go through that, in fact, that can be an advantage for us.
If you're going to be a champion, you're going to have to win road games. We're not going to avoid who we play or where we play them. We're going to worry about ourselves and look forward to that road schedule.
On the offensive side, we lose some guys in the offensive line, but we think we have talent in guys that have played there, had ability. On the offensive side, if they come of age, I think that will probably be the first question.
I think at tailback we'll have plenty of talent. Alley Broussard has to come, his knee has to heal. He's in position to be that guy. He's in position in the short-term to be ready to play.
Justin Vincent is a guy that we can count on, has been there, is in great shape. I wouldn't go beyond Jacob Hester at tailback. I think our two freshmen in our freshmen class that will be on campus that has the ability and has the talent to step in, have a hot hand in our conference.
I think at tailback we're going to have enough. I can't tell you right now who will get the first carry of the year, but I can tell you that whoever gets that carry will be good enough to win with.
At quarterback, everybody's going to ask the quarterback question, so I might as well get to it first (smiling). It is the most often asked in every room that I've been in, it was the first question asked, and I only hope that it's the only question I'm asked game after game throughout this year.
JaMarcus Russell, very talented. He's bigger and stronger than he's been. He's in better shape, better condition. He's completely healed from the hand and the shoulder. He won 10 games for us a year ago. Very talented, 6'6", make every throw. We're going to look to him first.
Matt Flynn came in and played extremely well first team against the Miami Hurricanes in the Bowl game, deserves every consideration as a starter there.
Ryan Perrilloux had a very significant spring and will pursue the field as a true redshirt freshman.
So we have three good quarterbacks. We'll play them one at a time. I promise you the competition at the position will kind of necessitate a great play. We'll look forward to that play. Again, we'll start with JaMarcus first.
Probably one of the more talented positions on our football team is what we have at wide receiver. I think Dwayne Bowe, Buster Davis, Early Doucet, even Brandon LaFell is the fourth receiver, I think those men on the field are advantages for us. I think Dwayne Bowe could have just a tremendous year. I think any of the young men I mentioned will give us advantages, a tall, fast, capable, been involved in the offense and understand what we expect from them. There's some advantages there.
We're still going to run the football. We got to run the football better than we did a year ago. With an offensive line that is youthful at spots, that helps us. We'll start in earnest in two-a-days to develop and run the football better than we did a year ago. We still want to throw it like we did a year ago.
Defensively we graduate two tremendous players from the defensive line. I think Glenn Dorsey will step in and be as talented as any in the country. I think our opponents will not look forward to blocking Glenn Dorsey. Played a lot of football a year ago. Would well have started on most teams. I think he will be as good as any.
I think Charles Alexander probably will be healthier than he's been. He didn't play much last year because of a foot, a nagging foot ailment, had off-season surgery, and really is getting back in shape and should be full go for the start of camp. Will be good at defensive end.
Our linebackers, we graduated a number of guys. Luke Sanders should be back and healthy, should probably shore up the center. Darry Beckwith, Ali Highsmith are going to be really quality performers, veteran guys there. Maybe the strength of the defense is our secondary with two veteran safeties, LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels, Jonathan Zenon and Jessie Daniels as corners. We'll put a defense on the field like we did a year ago that should contend for national honors.
We're probably going to spend more time in summer camp continuing to pursue take aways. We probably caused more fumbles than I've been around in a number of years, but we just didn't get the recovery. We want more take aways on the defensive tied. We're going to see if we can continue to develop that culture on our defensive side.
Special teams we return Chris Jackson, who is our punter, excellent punter, and our kick-off guy, long field goals. Colt David returns. He handles our shorter field goals. So we should be capable in the kicking end of it.
We'll have great speed in our coverage teams. Our freshmen class will be sprinkled in there. They have real ability to get down the field, some defensive players that are excellent tacklers.
We will miss Skyler Green, there's no question. When you have the special teams Player of the Year in the SEC conference, he was probably given that title for his return numbers. But the reality is, is he fielded more punts that were kicked away from him that gave us great field position and had greater impact on games, even those games that he did not have great return yardage. We'll miss him without question.
I think Daniel Francis may get the first opportunity. He has great speed and seems to have a knack and sure handedness for receiving punts.
Trindon Holliday, one of the fastest men on our football team, track guy, one of the fastest guys in the 60 meter in the country, will also get a number of snaps in there as punt and kick return. We will have a good return team. I think we'll have good coverage units. Our kickers will be great or at least very experienced.
We look forward to the season. This will be a lot of fun. Our football team's talented. We'd expect we'd contend for the title.
Any questions?

Q. They're predicting another active hurricane season. With 12 games in 13 weeks, as a coach, are you at all concerned about the possibility of more postponements, switching games, the fact there's not as much wiggle room in the schedule?
COACH MILES: Any time there's not open dates to make adjustments with, if something comes on us, you know, you only hope it speaks to good competition and a fair schedule. Those are things you can't control. I'm sure that Commissioner Slive will make great recommendations. He did so a year ago.
I didn't know that Commissioner Slive was in the background. That plug was without recognition (smiling).
But you cannot predetermine what's going to happen. The good news is, is we've been through it once, we understand it as a conference, as a school. I don't think it will ever catch us by surprise ever again. Our football team understands the changes that can occur and understand the focus at task at hand.

Q. Did you agree with Xavier Carter's decision when he decided to go to pro track? Did you try to talk him out of it at all? What were your feelings on the whole thing?
COACH MILES: Well, in the spring of the year, he came to me and wanted to run track, was something that was on his heart. I certainly understood it. I want to say his track and field record was only equaled by Jesse Owens, which was some 50 years before. He had great and exceptional track talent. I think it would be wrong for me to have operated any differently than I did.
Any time a guy makes a decision on where he's to perform professionally or when he's to perform professionally, based on a dollar criteria, it's a very personal decision. It's one that, you know, in my opinion, it speaks to what he wants to do with his life, not necessarily what the football coach wants.
I support that decision completely. He would have come back on our football team and had great skill and talent to run, would have had to have developed in the receiver spots to be a greater part of our offense. The opportunity to go and get into professional track I think may well have been a great decision for him and we wish him all the best.

Q. Having been through this league one time, can you talk whether there are any surprises to you and what you may have learned going into your second year?
COACH MILES: Well, I only hope that having been through the league one time does not necessarily mean that every year we're going to have two hurricanes. That's the first hope that I would have.
I can tell you that I enjoyed it. I can tell you that the competition in this league is keen from bottom to top. I think the venues and the stadiums and the towns we got to visit were opportunities to compete and play. I think the experience with the SEC conference, I can see why there's such great pride in this conference. It's the best. I certainly enjoyed my first go-around.
I never want to go back, necessarily, to what happened in the state of Louisiana. I don't want that repeated. But as I look back on my coaching career, I will always think of this '05 team and what they went through and what they accomplished in what was our first year at LSU.

Q. What is the Ryan Perrilloux situation? Did you have to talk him in off the ledge from transferring? Do you figure you'll maybe have to in the future?
COACH MILES: You know what, it's difficult to explain for other guys. I can only tell you that Ryan Perrilloux has exhibited these qualities to me. He's become team. He feels that he wants to compete for an opportunity to play. Certainly he's going to have that opportunity. I would only hope that at every position, not just the quarterback one, that every position would look to the guy that's playing and root for him and want team success. With competition, as he improves, as he gets closer to the field, then his time will come. Who's to predict when that time may be, and hopefully for all it means success for LSU, whether he's the starter or he waits his turn.

Q. Everybody in the world has asked you about JaMarcus. Can you relate the story about coming back from your Middle East trip, your wife asking. I heard it's a great story.
COACH MILES: Well, the question was in reference to I went to Iraq as part of a USO tour. Landed in Kuwait, was there a day and a half, then we took a C-130 into Baghdad. We moved around those bunkers that were hit by the 1500-pound bombs. What was going on in Baghdad was very obvious. Late that night, I had a soldier I want to say at 11:30, it may well have been in that hour one way or the other, but it was about the last guy that I saw. I had not talked about the quarterback up until that time. About 11:30 that night, I had a young man from Louisiana come in and say, as the last thing that I did that evening, "Okay, coach, tell me who's starting at quarterback."
I had to be certainly -- it certainly shocked me I had to drive all the way to Baghdad to get that question again.
I went home. This is kind of part of the story. I went home. I am not a very good traveler. When you deal with nine-hour difference in your travel time, your sleep patterns are messed up badly. I am definitely a creature of habit, need the opportunity to count on at least six hours of sleep on a routine basis.
3:00 in the morning, I'm at home, I am wide awake. I mean, there is no sleep in my future. My wife is there, sleeping. Heck, I'd been in Iraq for a week, eight days, so you miss your wife. I kind of wanted her to wake up. You know, I'm, pssst, I kind of skooch over by her and nudge her a bit. "What are you doing? Maybe you'll want to wake up and talk." (Smiling).
Well, she was mad. She rolled over, looked at me. She gathered her wits about her and says, "So tell me, who you going to play quarterback?"
That seems to have been a question I've gotten pretty routinely and virtually everywhere I'm at.

Q. We know Ryan's future obviously as a quarterback. Have y'all given thought to maybe trying to get him on the field from time to time as wide-out or something else?
COACH MILES: I think we've given thought to it. I don't think we really are going to pursue it seriously. One, he is a very talented quarterback. Two, I think he wants to stay there and learn and not really spend a lot of time away from the position.
I just don't see it's in his best interest or, for that matter, the team's best interest.

Q. I'm tempted to ask you if we can submit our questions directly to your wife in the future.
COACH MILES: She gets some unabated time to ask them, I promise you (smiling).

Q. With the permanent 12-game schedule now, the teams either have one open date or none. Nobody has two any more. The hurricanes notwithstanding, did you learn anything from the process of playing 11 straight games without a break that you think maybe prepared your staff for the way the new schedule will cause you to operate?
COACH MILES: I think any time that you span a lengthy period of weekly games, there's some adjustments that must be made in your schedule to get a fresh team to the field.
I think there is through time a collective wear on a football team. That speaks to not only injury but just fatigue. I think there's a recipe for more rest and an adjustment of schedule as you get into a season of length without open dates.
You know, if you look at it, we were our best football team in the Bowl game. We added three starters that were not in the games prior in that Georgia game. That had to do with some break. I mean, for instance, Joseph Addai played his first game healthy. Will Arnold back at left guard, Jessie Daniels back at safety. There's some knowledge that you go through, that you hopefully understand when confronted with the next schedule that could be a number of games week after week for an extended period of time.

Q. You spoke very glowingly of LaRon. What about between the lines and specifically his talent as a pass defender?
COACH MILES: Well, there's no reservations with me in his abilities to play at safety. He has great speed, great size for the position. He has an intuitive break on a ball that's thrown. When he contacts you, when he brings contact in to bear, it is a very physical force.
No, I think he's as good as there is.

Q. Can Dwayne Bowe's eye surgery, did the coaches suggest that? Did it have anything to do with his dropped passes last year?
COACH MILES: It's something he pursued. Obviously he felt like there was a need. We were supportive. Weapon wanted the very best for him. I think he feels better about it now than he has in the past. I would certainly suggest that he'll have less drops for two reasons: one, the experience of last season, and two, a little improved sight.

Q. For those of us who weren't with you guys week to week, can you talk a little bit about the kind of chaos you went through off the field, maybe talk about your lowest point off the field going through what you did with Katrina and everything?
COACH MILES: Well, the team was tremendously resilient. Katrina hit and we did not know the schedule still. We went off to practice. There were some people on our football team who couldn't get in touch with their families, that had friends who lost everything, homes and job opportunities. Really, there was a hundred percent of our football team affected, a hundred percent knew somebody. We would regularly kind of canvas the group to find out what were the issues. It wasn't something that you could put behind you quickly. It was a constant ongoing.
Then the flooding in the city, you know, there was more.
I can tell you that I never thought about what I was going through at all, I can only tell you I was so busy worrying about my family which really handled it extremely well, really gave me no reason to concern myself, and then my team handled it well.
The '05 team had a group of men that were the core leaders that had integrity, character, and understood there was no time for them to take it easy, there was no time for them not to pursue excellence. Changes in schedule, I can tell you this, if something happens this year, our football team will understand changes in schedule.
We looked at a schedule that was going to start with three home games. One was postponed. Our second game, which was going to be against a national contender, a team that could have contended for the title on the West Coast, became an away game. We were going to play Tennessee for our first Saturday night, one of three, our first Saturday night in Tiger stadium, became a Monday night game. We then played a Mississippi State team the following Saturday on the road.
I promise you, we didn't come to a regular week until we played Vanderbilt. But our football team had a great feel to it. Nobody was bailing out. Nobody was looking for excuses. Nobody wanted to not be a part. They wanted to represent the state. They wanted to give. What they did is they stepped on the field and they played.
I can tell you this, for as long as I've been in football, a few years in the NFL, college football for the most part, I'll look back on this season seeing the adversity, seeing how difficult it was to corral the mind and put it all together. I'll look on how this team responded and I will forever cherish that memory. I don't want to go through it again. I don't want our state to have to endure that terrible time. But I will always look back.
I think you'll find that young men that were leaders on that team will have great careers in business and in medicine and whatever they do. They'll be great fathers and husbands. They'll understand what it takes to find something that's really hard to do and expand their abilities to do it.
I'll cherish this last year, as difficult as it was, I promise you.

Q. Can you talk about your line of scrimmage on both sides? You had some losses. Some of the younger players who you're looking to this year.
COACH MILES: Probably the guy that you're going to need count on first and foremost will be at left tackle, Ciron Black. I think he's one of the more talented freshman we had a year ago. We redshirted him behind Andrew Whitworth. We prepared him all season long to eventually take that spot. He should be in great position to play and play well there.
We lose Rudy Niswanger at the center. Brett Helms moved over there for spring and really played well at center. Will Arnold stepped in and played spring at the left guard. On the right side we have two veterans, Brian Johnson, who was a starter a year ago either at right guard or right tackle, and Peter Dyakowski who played a lot. That will be the front five in the offensive line.
On the defensive line, again, it will be Glenn Dorsey and we think Charles Alexander if not Marlon Favorite on the inside, then Chase Pittman on the outside, Ricky Jean-Francois or Tyson Jackson.
Again, kind of repeat this, that group, both sides of the ball, have to grow up quickly so that we can do the things that our football team will set out to do.

Q. Do you still have nightmares about Kenny Irons? Maybe where does he rank in terms of runningbacks you've had to coach against?
COACH MILES: We certainly realize that Mr. Irons is a very talented tailback. We watched him run with success against us. We take that under advice, under advisement. We understand that he's talented. We're going to play better.

Q. With JaMarcus Russell's size and strength, has there been any thought about maybe allowing him to utilize his athleticism and running skills more out of a shotgun or spread formation?
COACH MILES: Well, he's a guy who will run whether we decide to use that or not. We have. We certainly use that sparingly. We don't necessarily want to have him have injury. We felt like a year ago, when he did get nicked, that we wanted to remove that some from the game plan. I think the opportunity to do that might present itself a little bit more this year.

Q. Talk about the importance of having that go-to combination between the quarterback and receiver. What have you seen from DeMarcus and Dwayne? What makes them a good tandem and leads Dwayne to be your leading receiver?
COACH MILES: They both have great instincts for the positions. They both know where they're going to be open. I think the next thing that happens with two big bodies, if you look at Dwayne Bowe, he's the 6'2", 6'3", 225-pound receiver that runs extremely well, great routes, and fast. When you have a quarterback at 6'6", it makes for a great target. If you watch them work together, it's an easy feel for when that big target gets open and that big quarterback can give him the ball.
The good thing is JaMarcus reads so well that if he has to, it's not like we're going to call a rout and throw it to Dwayne. If he as to Early Doucet and Buster Davis, that crew are great opportunities to throw it to. But I think those two, they operate on the same plane. They're both big, they both understand their positions well. There is a comfort when Dwayne Bowe and JaMarcus hook up.

Q. The media has successfully predicted the champion of the SEC championship game twice in 14 years. The team that was picked by the media to win it didn't even make it to the championship game 10 out of the 14 years. That being said, are you pretty fired up that we picked Auburn today?
COACH MILES: That's a great point. I appreciate you asking the question that way (smiling).
Rankings and predictions for media day, for speculation, for sitting around the pickle barrel, talking at restaurants, they're great. It's certainly of interest.
We've never looked at that in any way to qualify our football team. We will qualify our football team when we arrive at practice in two-a-days, when we pursue games on Saturday. We look at playing and developing our football team, four quarters, playing solid, fundamental football, taking these games one at a time.
We'll not -- we don't really care what the predictions are, whether they're an advantage to us or a disadvantage. Doesn't make any difference. We'll look to earn our way. I think our football team will do that.

Q. Has there been much buzz about the academic issues at Auburn? Do you now look at that and go back to your own school and say, Do we have any issues there that we need to address?
COACH MILES: Well, I think any time there are academic issues with academic integrity, that you're concerned. I think across college football everybody wants to do diligence to that concern.
I can tell you that there are a number of issues there that need scrutiny and watching. I don't think that exists on our campus. I think any time that you're in a position where grades must come, you must have success, I promise you at our place there's a great emphasis placed on our young men's academics. I mean, I say when I recruit them that you're going to get every opportunity to get your degree and I will ensure it. We want support. You have to watch it, make sure that there is academic integrity. You make sure that they are earning their way.
But I think that will happen. I think that's happening across the board. I think the academic climate in our country collegiately is much better than it's been.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.

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