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July 23, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Here to conclude Media Days 2010 is LSU head coach Les Miles. Coach, welcome.
COACH MILES: The summer went well. The coach enjoyed following his kids' youth sports, and camp season just underway and got concluded. Had two boys in that that had some great experiences.
I don't know if I can go by the fact that my family's prospering in Baton Rouge. They're getting older. When I came to Baton Rouge, one of them was 10, and now is 16. One was 8, now is 14. I have an 11-year-old and a 7-year-old. I'm in Baton Rouge's debt. The family is growing well. I am enjoying how they're maturing.
I can tell you, it's wonderful to represent LSU. I get around this time of year, too. Like last night, I was in Houston, go to Lake Charles, a number of places, how wonderful it is to see the great families of LSU and the supporters. I can only tell you it's my great pleasure to meet those people year in and year out, and to represent them.
After last season, here's what we did. We looked at those things that we need to do to put this team in a position to win a championship. We looked at everything we did. We hired three coaches. Our weight/strength position, you know, adjusted. What we do on offense and defense we adjusted. We practiced a little differently. We've done a lot of great things.
Certainly we kept some those. Some things we needed to fix and put in a right perspective. We're working towards making real quality adjustments so that our team can focus on those things that will lead it to the championship.
Our team goes through a process. That process is, after a season certainly, and works in a weight room, and then after a spring, spring ball, works in the weight room. I can tell you we're better on offense coming out of the spring. We're more physical. We can run the football better. I can tell you that we're stronger. I can tell you that our defense is faster and quicker to the ball.
We tested our team after spring and found that they were bigger and stronger than they were before last fall. And that the summer, they've had a great summer. All accounts, they've worked extremely hard, they've been in the heat. I was passing by the runningback's room the other day, and I heard some commotion. I opened the door. My veteran, Stevan Ridley, Richard Murphy, were teaching the freshmen what to do.
I can tell you what I've been told is that there's always something going on in the indoor. There's a quarterback throwing balls, there's a quarterback throwing into a net, there's guys getting extra done, and getting it done routinely. It appears to me there's a great chemistry and attitude going on in this football team.
I enjoy those reports.
As we come out of a summer season, I think that our team will look forward to getting in a two-a-day schedule and working hard, understanding that the only place to get victory is beyond a practice schedule, beyond an opportunity at preparation, to look to the opener.
I think that this team is ready to do that. I believe that this team understands it's going to take a great effort to play and play well in the opener. When I allowed our administration to envision this game, the decision being made to take it, was only based on the fact that my team would accept the competition. I brought it to the team. It was unanimous. They looked forward to opening that game against North Carolina in Atlanta.
That gives them ownership in this decision. I think their preparation has been with purpose, and that purpose is to play well and win in the opener.
So I like what we have to this point. Again, our team, we graduate a number of guys, we return six on offense, we return four on defense, we return our punter and kicker. We lose a return man. I think we'll be a team that will have a very talented, young group of men in there with some veterans that, if it comes together quickly, will be ready to play and play well through maybe one of the more ambitious schedules that I've been around.
Certainly you play North Carolina, you play West Virginia in the -- before you play in the SEC Conference. You're getting ready to play a great schedule. I think our team understands that. They're wide-eyed and looking forward to it.
I like my team. I like my team's attitude. I like us in every game. So can't wait. The fall is here.
Defensively, I think my interior is pretty strong. I start there because that's how you build a defense. I think Drake Nevis and 'Pep' Levingston, Michael Brockers, Josh Downs are guys that, two-deep, will step in the middle. Kelvin Sheppard will be as physical as Mike backers as there is in this conference, and look forward to his leadership.
I can tell you, the ends are fast, and they're youthful like Sam Montgomery, Laver Edwards, 'KeKe' Mingo, Chance Aghayere, Kendrick Adams. Those guys will be fast off the edge - faster than we've been in a while. We'll start a couple new starters at linebacker. But, again, veteran guys that have been around us.
In my opinion, arguably it will be the finest corner tandem in the conference. I'm excited about the season that Patrick Peterson will have. I'm excited about Mo Claiborne in our corner position. I think we'll be very good.
Defensively, I think we'll put more speed on the field than we have. That's good. That's good for the Tigers.
Offensively, we got to run the football better. We put a down payment on that in the spring. I think our runningbacks have enjoyed it. I think our offensive line certainly encourages it. I think our offensive line is going to be bigger. I think some of the guys we put in, Alex Hurst at right tackle is going to be a very physical addition to our offensive line.
I think Jordan Jefferson, for that matter, Jarrett Lee. I think our quarterback position will play extremely well. This will be the first time in two years we've had a quarterback start the season that has a complete season's experience. Jarrett Lee will have more experience certainly. Both men have had great springs and strong summers. We'll be better on offense.
I like our receiving core. Russell Shepard is probably stronger and faster and better than he's been. He spent an entire summer on ball skills and being better at wide receiver. That's where he's at. We have Terrence Toliver, Rueben Randle that, in my opinion, will round out a receiving core that will be very talented.
Our punter and kicker is back. I have to find a return man. I think Patrick Peterson may well get that call. Give him some early opportunities.
I like this team. This team is going to be fun to coach. They're an aggressive group. They want to come together. Be a great start and then finish fast.
I can tell you this. It will only be a championship season, and that's the only point and direction of this program. That's where we're headed.
Now, the questions that you might have.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. You seem very excited and confident with this 2010 team. How do you think the defense will play out? The way you're talking, is that a guarantee?
COACH MILES: I love guarantees (laughter).
I think there's a uniqueness with every year. The uniqueness comes with the situations that the teams are confronted with, the personalities of the men that play, the competitiveness with which they play. I think that this team has as good a chance as any, so...
Q. Jordan Jefferson seemed to struggle, even into the spring game. You were hoping he would take ownership of the offense. Do you have any reason to believe he accomplished that over the summer? What have you heard about the summer workouts?
COACH MILES: You know, I follow Jordan Jefferson. I think what's happened there, is he's starting to realize that it's more than a position. That it's not just call the play and throw the ball. It's a responsibility to function the offense and to give us an opportunity at victory, and to see the defense, and to understand the call, and understand the check, and give a wider, more encompassing view of the position. I think he understands that better now.
I think, again, young guys, they develop in different rates. I think he's had a better summer than he had a spring. I think that he's better this spring and this summer than he was at any time last fall.
I also think that Jarrett Lee has had a great summer. He's still competing. He's still a viable quarterback. You put him in the game, he'll have an opportunity to win the game for you. There's a guy that had some difficult experiences and has gone beyond them and continues to fight. His team enjoys his spirit.
So I think the position itself will give us more. I think there's a greater understanding what the position means in football.
Q. Seems to be the perception in this league right now that Alabama and Florida are kind of running away from the rest of y'all. Is there any anxiety or urgency on y'all's part to close that gap immediately, particularly maybe you that was in that group with them with a BCS title?
COACH MILES: I don't have anxiety about that. My want is to prepare my team. I really feel like our view is how to make us best. I think if LSU does what they're capable of doing, that closing gaps is really not what we're after. We want to play well and play for a victory within each contest.
I understand that there are very many talented teams in this league. I know we play 'em every week. But I can tell you that our view is what we can do and how we need to prepare. I think we got talented guys on my team. I'm going to spend my time instructing them and look forward to the opportunity to compete against the very best.
Q. If Michael Ford matches the performance he had in the spring this fall, is he someone that you let loose right away in Atlanta or is he a guy you want to ease into the mix?
COACH MILES: No, I would give Michael Ford every opportunity to play a lot of football. He's had a great summer. He's a very mature young man. He's very talented.
No, the two veterans were teaching the class. It didn't mean that my view, my eye of that position, did not include Michael Ford very, very firmly.
Q. Obviously, there's a lot of reasons and ways you can improve as a football team. Where does improving the defensive line and getting better play, affecting the quarterback, really stuffing the run in the middle of that defensive line, where is that in your list of priorities to try to improve on?
COACH MILES: Defensively, that's fundamental to every defense. You must stop the run first. You know, you can eliminate an offense's choices, and you make those choices just to pass, it gives you a great opportunity to defend 'em. You know, that's a part of the process that our defense goes through every year, and for that matter every practice. We tackle routinely. We strip and pursue. It's priority one.
Q. Seems like you've gotten off to a good start on the recruiting trail looking towards next year. Can you talk about the depth of the class in Louisiana, the start in general.
COACH MILES: We feel like in the state of Louisiana, if we do a great job recruiting it, year in and year out. We'll have the talent that would compete for conference and national honors.
We're very fortunate at LSU, we have an opportunity to offer quite an opportunity. It's one where you get a great education, academic support. In fact, the lifestyle and the living in Baton Rouge is a tremendous place to be from. Our guys, you know, have advantages. They have advantages in the fact that, you know, we're provided a great facility and great coaches, assistant coaches, that coach 'em. We're fortunate.
I think the recruiting class we're off to is a very strong one. Again, we're fortunate to have an opportunity that would attract the very best. We have 12 or so committed, and we're looking for some guys in short order to commit.
So with the recruiting class that's really out there, not yet signed, it's another top-10 recruiting finish, and that's what we need to have.
Q. Can you talk about Ken Adams and his role this year.
COACH MILES: Ken came in, newcomer, and really played first for us this spring. He showed a toughness, athleticism. I'm going to say he's 6'5", 250-plus, and runs very fast, long arms. Just really a very, very good defensive end. Really will continue to improve and continue to get the understanding of the scheme. We would expect him to play virtually in every game and if not start in most.
Q. You mentioned reevaluating the program in the off-season. One thing that troubled LSU last year was clock management at the end of games. What has been done to alleviate that? Just elaborate on that, if you would.
COACH MILES: We went through some of the situations we went through last fall. That did not go beyond my scrutiny. I scrutinized the coaching - me and others. I can promise you that those situations, some of those situations I'd never run into in coaching. Some of those situations I was, even though prepared for, had not envisioned the time constraints.
So what we've done is we've added that to our game week preparation. Maybe we're a little more prepared, a little bit more ready to play in those situations.
Let me give you an example. In the two-minute drill, in our acclimatization, the practices at the start of our two-a-day schedule, we're going to be in two-minute really for about 45 minutes in two practices, okay? It's never been given that kind of emphasis certainly at our place. We just feel like the teaching of the situation and the understanding of the situation is more important.
If you looked back over the time here, the number of games that we've won in two-minute situations, we need to re-up the understanding of what must happen in some of those clock management situations, both as players and coaches.
It's not just lip service. You know, we've changed.
Q. Can you talk about Chris Garrett's departure, why that came about. Are you looking for at least one or two quarterbacks for the 2011 class?
COACH MILES: It's unfortunate. Chris Garrett, really a talented quarterback, a good person, just did not, for whatever reason, have the want to fight and compete at LSU. Certainly at the next school, he will. We wish him the very best.
There's reasons for people to make transfers, to go in other directions. I certainly understand those reasons.
This next class, certainly there's a void. We need a strong quarterback class in the 2011 class. We're recruiting aggressively in that position.
Q. You mentioned Patrick in your opening comments. Are there any areas that you see that he can improve upon? If so, what are they?
COACH MILES: The experience of play is always a tremendous piece for every player, okay? No matter how fast, how well, what he can do extremely well, having put yourself in that position again and again and again, allows the reaction time to even be made quicker. You know, he'll be returning punts and kickoffs really for the first time with us. So there will be some adjustments in any number of situations. Certainly at corner, recognizing route combinations, knowing those combination coverages where he's got route technique. Again, he can improve and will improve throughout the season.
Q. Entering year two, under John Chavis, the defense, can you talk about the leaps and progression they're making now that they're more familiar with him in the scheme?
COACH MILES: The good news is that Kelvin Sheppard is requesting to call our defenses. He's much more familiar. You get into a position where the defense understands the call, what's expected from the call, how you would attack the call. Every defense has a play that is ideal to run against. When those plays come into the minds of the defense, once that play is called, defending that play is much more comfortable.
I think you'll find that that's happening. The defense is being called. The understanding of the players what the call really means, what it really entails, it's just better. I think our defense along those lines, in the mechanics of getting the call, understanding the call, communicating within the 11 guys, is just much better.
Q. Would you mind addressing the status of T-Bob Hebert and Dominique Allen in your program.
COACH MILES: Dominique Allen has broken team rules and is disciplined and therefore suspended from the team indefinitely. I'll be more forthcoming when I have more information as time goes on.
T-Bob Herbert is healthy and getting better. He's not back to a hundred percent at this point, but he can see a hundred percent in his near future. I think as the two-a-day season begins and he continues to work, he'll be fine.
Q. The SEC has won four national championships. In the years before that, we saw Texas, USC. Only one team from outside the south or the west, that being Ohio State, has won a title during the BCS era. With your background in the Big 12 and Big 10, can you put your finger on why the western and southern schools have been so dominant since the BCS started?
COACH MILES: It's interesting. There seems to be a more athletic team. There seems to be better ends, better corners. Seems like the receiving core is more athletic. It just seems that there's greater competition in that regard.
Other than that, I really don't know how to explain it. I can tell you in our conference, when good play good, you come out with a conference champion, they've been through it. They played the very finest competition. They've played it week in and week out. They've seldom had the opportunity to duck and have an off game. When they get to the title game, they've been there. They've played in big games. They know what big games feel like. They understand what the crowd's like. They know what an arena that is overflowing, what hype of a game is about.
I think there's a comfort within our conference, the teams that play, certainly those championship teams that get to the back end, they've been there, they understand how to play there, they're coming to win.
Q. Your contract wasn't rolled over the last two years. Does that make you think you have to have a season more like your first three seasons than the last two?
COACH MILES: I didn't really seek that role. My view, very honestly, has been a view of how to coach and prepare my team for victory. I'm very fortunate to have a good contract. I don't think that's the issue.
I think the issue is preparing my football team.
Q. I know you toured some of the areas affected by the oil spill with the governor. What did you see? What were your impressions? Are you satisfied with the government's response?
COACH MILES: It's interesting. I was a football coach going along for the ride. I really got twice the education that I ever could have imagined. I saw beautiful wetlands that I didn't know existed until I got in a Blackhawk helicopter and flew over top of it. I realized that the Louisiana Coast Guard and our local politicians are fighting feverishly to protect it. I realized that what was being done in the gulf with the leak was affecting industry, fishing, petroleum, and tourism. It was a very serious issue and is continuing.
There's much work to be done. I hope the cap stays on. I can tell you that the people of Louisiana, it's been interesting for me, I can't tell you how proud I've been in the short time that I've been there to see how this state handles difficulty. They handle it by being strong, standing tall, working hard, spending extra time, being proud of Louisiana. I think this is just another example of that.
I hope that our government, I hope that the powers that be, give us the ability to, you know, affect the people, not necessarily the legislation and the rules, but just to help the people. I think if they do that, I think we'll be fine.
I know this: there's a lot of men and women in Louisiana working awfully hard to make it work, so...
Q. You mentioned earlier your kids sort of voted to play in the Chick-Fil-A kickoff game. Talk about what the value of playing that type of competition is right off the bat?
COACH MILES: Well, we have a pretty good conference to play in. I've been around and seen some starts. I can remember a start in '07, where we played on the road at Mississippi State, then Virginia Tech at home. I really felt like that got us off to the style of start that we're going to need.
Certainly in our conference we play great teams. We need to start fast. We're not going to have time to gain speed and gain momentum; we got to start fast.
I just think that when your team sees that and understands it in the right context, you know, pursues that game in their own right, it gives them a responsibility to start that way and to prepare with purpose. Nobody went into summer not knowing that we were going to play a very good quality football team to start.
Now, the challenge is to make the offensive line best. The challenge is to make a defense ready for a very, very good North Carolina offense. The challenge is to ready this team to play a very, very good football team first, then carry that momentum into the second game, the third, West Virginia, on and on.
So the advantage is there's a real motivation to be ready first.
Q. What was your first reaction when you heard about Chad Jones' car wreck? Have you talked to him?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I went down there and saw him that night. Really, the morning he had the accident, he was in and out of surgery. I went down there and saw him and his family really that night. I communicated, heard, got communications regularly.
I think Chad Jones will eventually be fine. I suspect that he will be able to play in the NFL. I know that it's a difficult time for him and his family. We would love to have him back in Baton Rouge, let him continue and go to school and work out for us. I think maybe that's part of the plan. But certainly, you know, we wish him the very best. He's a wonderful man from a really very good family. Just want it to work out for him.
Q. With guys like Russell Shepard and Rueben Randall, the play-makers you have on offense, how difficult of a balance is it? It seems there's not enough plays to get them all the football as much as you'd like to. Can you comment on the depth of the Western Division of the SEC. Seems like it's stronger than ever.
COACH MILES: You make a great point. You have one ball and a number of play-makers. The responsibility of those play-makers then is to execute. If they continue to execute, then their number gets called. If their execution starts to fail, then we start getting it to the guy whose number is making first downs and having success. That to me is the first way.
But if you're getting first downs, then it becomes a lot of fun to press the ball around. The most dangerous offense is the offense that can't be stopped in any number of spots. If you just know where the one or two best options are, you can stop those. It's those offenses that have the ability to attack you in different areas.
The depth in the west, it's a very competitive league, there isn't any question. There's not a team that you play in the west that's just not capable. You know, it's a great league to play in. Week in, week out, you better play your best. I think that's a great challenge.
I think anybody that enjoys competition enjoys playing best teams. In the western division, we have it.
Q. Would you give us your impressions on what you've seen of Zach Lee. He's been on campus with you. Is there also some concern on your end he won't be there in the fall?
COACH MILES: Zach Lee has come in. First of all, Zach Lee is a student, enjoys going to college, and would be able to tell you that, I enjoy the opportunity to get my degree. I enjoy the opportunity to get the opportunity to play championship baseball and football at LSU.
When he came on campus, he was drafted 28th by the Dodger organization. Then that night, fielded phone calls about, Would you like to come out to California, see a game, spend some time?
He says, That's not the plan. The plan is to be in Baton Rouge tomorrow, get enrolled in school, get going in college.
What he's done is he's gone and got the young receivers, continues to develop his throwing motion, throwing them balls. He's a workman. He's a quarterback that has a personality that wants to get it accomplished and is not letting time pass where he's not just working hard at understanding the offense and those things.
There still is a chance certainly that the Dodger organization could pursue him financially. But I think the odds are with us. I think he wants to be a college student and wants the opportunity to chase a championship in both baseball and football.
I anticipate him being with us, but it wouldn't be without the realm of possibility that the Dodgers went after him hard.
Q. You talked about evaluating some things you did right and wrong last year. How specifically did y'all look at how you used Russell Shepard and what would the solution be to better utilizing him this year?
COACH MILES: Well, the first thing we did is we had him at quarterback. We wanted to give him the opportunity to develop there. His development, he could well have been a quarterback. He can throw the football, there's no problem there. But his development at quarterback and how it was going to take him, the length of time it was going to take him to actually get to the field, was really the mistake. We should well have put him at receiver first.
As he learned the receiving end of it, it would have gotten him on the field, you know, snap after snap.
Now that he is in the receiving core, it allows him to be on the field routinely. He still goes through a throwing regiment, still has the ability to learn to throw. It allows us to use him in other positions. Before, at just the quarterback spot, when he went on the field, the defense immediately knew he was coming in for the quarterback. The quarterback left the game. Now he is on the field the entire time. The quarterback will stay on the field the entire time. He will have the opportunity to move from position to position.
I think it's better than we've had. And, you know, frankly, had we used a different approach to him right away, it may well have gotten him to the field quicker.
Q. You finish off the regular season playing Arkansas. What does that game mean for your team?
COACH MILES: Certainly since I've been here, that game's been very, very competitive. Overtime, last-minute heroics. It's a great rivalry. It's a classic SEC matchup. It's important to us. It's important that that game ends the season, the regular season, and it carries a lot to it. The want to play and win in that one is something our players understand.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH MILES: Thanks, guys. See you.
End of FastScripts