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July 22, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We will now continue with head coach Les Miles of LSU.
COACH MILES: Afternoon. Summer's over. The youth baseball and swimming and basketball, walks on the beach with my wife, that's past. It's time to prepare. Frankly, I'm looking forward to it. It's that time of year.
Our football team's had a great summer. They're very ambitious. They've got a wonderful mindset. They're involved in pursuing a conditioning regimen that will allow them to come into these two-a-days ready to play a real quality opponent in Oregon.
It's a quality team, 16 seniors, 24 freshmen or sophomores in the two-deep, to me gives me a great blend of veterans and leaders and young guys that are really pursuing the field.
I think that there's a great leadership there. The guys that have been in our program and learned to do hard things and understand how you play in tight quarters, been through the wars in this conference. The three guys that we brought with us, Ryan Baker, T-Bob Hebert, and Jordan Jefferson, in my opinion, are examples of that, guys that have grown up in the program and are ambitious.
Offensively I think the addition of Steve Kragthorpe has really helped Jefferson. Jefferson is in his final campaign and really is at the best position that he has been in in listening and taking coaching. So he's been well-coached.
But there's another way to say it, another way to describe it, it might get it out of his hand. It might give him the ability to anticipate the throw better. It appears to me that that's happening. He also has a want to make this his team, to show leadership. I think, again, it's making a difference.
Offensively with Spencer Ware, Ford, Blue, I'm not so certain there will be a freshman that will go in there and compete. I think we'll be talented at the runningback spot. We'll have wide receivers that can make plays in Russell Shepard, Rueben Randle. I like some young guys that will step in there in Kadron Boone, James Wright.
Again, there's a number of freshmen that we're bringing in that might well play key roles in that part of our game.
One of the advantages that we'll have on offense, we'll have a veteran offensive line, guys that have all played. We'll introduce Chris Faulk at the left side, he'll be the one that's really played the least. Anybody that plays from that point forward will be a very veteran, guys like Alex Hurst at the right side, Will Blackwell, T-Bob Hebert, Josh Dworaczyk. Anytime that I've been around an offensive line that really had an opportunity to play well, be consistent, I've enjoyed the offensive output.
Defensively John Chavis, again, giving us great leadership on that side of the ball. Really we'll expect that defense will continue to have great production. We're going to miss Kelvin Sheppard, Drake Nevis, we're going to miss some guys that gave us great leadership in Patrick Peterson.
But there's a responsibility at the position that the guy that steps in there understands his role and demonstrates the same characteristics you would expect out of that position. We think Ryan Baker can certainly be that guy. If you had to look at our linebacking core, Ryan Baker, Karnell Hatcher, Lamin Barrow might well be three guys that you could see in there that have great athleticism and ability to play. Move Karnell Hatcher in from safety.
The defensive line I think will be a strength. Brockers inside might well give us the push in the front that we need. I think our defensive ends are as talented and athletic as I've been around. I think we have great speed there.
Sam Montgomery returns from injury, is completely back. He was preparing to have a great year last year when he got injured. He'll return to speed. Lavar Edward, Kendrick Adams, Keke Mingo, those four will play a lot of football for us and give us advantages.
Our secondary I think is youthful, but again very talented. We lose Patrick Peterson, but frankly I think we'll be fine in the corner spot. Tharold Simon, Tyrann Mathieu, Mo Claiborne, all three of those guys will step in and play significant football at the corner spot.
Safety will be fast and downhill to the ball with Craig Loston, Eric Reid, and Brandon Taylor, so I like our defense. I like the speed. I like how they deploy. Again, I think there's a lot of talent there.
In teams, we lose our kicker, Josh Jasper, who was an All-American, a very good player. I think Drew Alleman will step right in there and show that he belongs. We think in certain ways he can be better.
In punting, Brad Wing probably gets the first nod. But yet there's competition there with a guy named Howard and Hairston. I like how we start. But, again, we're going to have guys that can kick it.
In the return game, I think we'll look at Tyrann Mathieu as a punt returner. I think he gives you real speed, ball skills, the ability to make people miss. Mo Claiborne, Ron Brooks will step in there. We'll have real speed on our coverage units. We'll have guys that will go down the field.
I think the team is really in a position to achieve.
Our schedule, we take the Oregon game, our football team understands what that meant, what was implied in this summer, that you had to prepare with a purpose, preparing against a real quality team, and with six games on the road in this season. We need to make sure we make that road routine one that we all understand and we start very quickly understanding that we're going to be a very quality road team.
I think the schedule is as challenging as any I've been around. I look forward to preparing for it and taking them on one at a time. I look forward to the West Virginia game on the road, Tennessee. It's going to be a great year, and one that with this team, I think it will be challenging but, again, a lot of fun to prepare for.
I like the position of our program. We're graduating our players. Guys for the most part are working hard academically, athletically. We're in position annually in my opinion to play for a championship. We were last year. I think we're there again this year.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Coach Miles.
Q. You mentioned a little bit, but when you lose guys like Sheppard, Peterson and Ridley that were so vocal in their leadership, who do you think are guys that can step up and take that leadership?
COACH MILES: I think Ryan Baker is a guy that certainly gives you a great start at the backer spot. Eric Reid, even though young, I think he has great leadership and ability to make that secondary line up. I think the guys up front, Kendrick Adams has experience, Sam Montgomery has great leadership. So I think the strength of that defense is there will be guys, even though they've not been cast in that role, who are ready to assume those responsibilities.
Q. Can you comment on Ken Adams' development as a player last year, what you expect from him this year?
COACH MILES: Well, he came in with a lot of athleticism. A tall, lean player. He's really gotten stronger, thicker, added great strength to his game. So he certainly will be counted onto play a lot of significant football for us, and play very well.
Q. What do you think about the SEC legislation that caps players at 25?
COACH MILES: As long as we're all in the same position, I think 25 is something that we can do. I don't think there's any real issue there.
Q. The offense this season. A year ago identity on offense seemed a little bit of an issue. Are you and Coach Kragthorpe going out trying to definitively identify what type of offense you're going to have this year, create your own identity a little more specifically?
COACH MILES: We kind of liked our identity last year, to be honest with you. We felt like we ran the football well and had good balance when we executed.
The opportunity for a team to grow and mature as it goes through the season, we kind of feel like our identity is kind of established, to be honest with you.
Q. You obviously play Oregon first game in Dallas. How do you prepare for that potent offense? Do you look at that Auburn/Oregon game tape a lot to slow down that offense? How sweet would it be to taste the artificial grass in the Superdome January 9th?
COACH MILES: I don't know if 'sweet' is the adjective you needed to use there (laughter).
Preparing for Oregon certainly is something we looked at the Auburn game, we've looked at all their opponents. They're a very talented team: offense, defense, special teams. They have speed and ability. It will be a great challenge to our team.
The guys in the back of this room, the guys on my team, they understand that. They understand what's going to be required of them. It's going to be a great challenge. I like the matchup. It's going to be a great game to coach in and a great game to play in. We look forward to that.
Q. You recruited Texas for a long time. When did you first know of Willie Lyles and when did you meet him, if you did?
COACH MILES: I can't really comment. I'm kind of prohibited from commenting on Willie Lyles. The only thing I can tell you is we look for film and video anywhere we can find it. Those people that provide those services, we need to cover a broad area, and we want to evaluate our guys from a bunch of different spots.
That's really all I can say.
Q. I know you have a lot of confidence in Jordan Jefferson. Talk about Zach Mettenberger and what his role is with the team? Will he get a lot of playing time with the year?
COACH MILES: I think we're going by Jarrett Lee first. I think Jarrett Lee played significant football last fall. If you look at the Tennessee, Florida and Alabama games, he had very significant contributions in those games. Certainly he's competing in a similar fashion that he did last fall and this spring.
I think Zach Mettenberger is very talented. A guy that can also come in and compete. I think there's some competition at the position. I think that's an advantage for us. I think that Jordan Jefferson understands that. We will play that guy that gives us the greatest opportunity of victory. Right now I believe that would be Jefferson.
Q. Can you talk about keeping Jordan's confidence up. I know the bowl game helped. But certainly there have been people that have said, LSU is a quarterback away from winning a national title, and he has the two guys to look over his shoulder.
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think that Jordan Jefferson handles competition and that position as well as any. I think he has a confidence in who he is as a person. I don't think that he lets who's looking over his shoulder impact anything he's doing. I think he's leading. I think he steps forward to do the things that he can do. The things he can do has been enough. He's been a very productive quarterback for us.
Q. A lot of expectations from Michael Ford. Who are the freshmen you're talking about?
COACH MILES: In the freshmen, I like Terrence Magee. He's a guy that can potentially be somebody that can step in and do some of those things that we ask of him.
I think Michael Ford, he came in a very mature lifter, strong and fast runner, didn't finish runs as well as he was capable. This last spring really showed he was more than ready to do that. I think his ability to compete has improved.
Q. Given the ESPN reports about the film and information you got from Willie Lyles, and the fact that the NCAA is looking at it, do you think it will pass muster with them?
COACH MILES: All I can tell you is we're going to cooperate fully. I can't really make much more comment than that.
Q. Over the years special teams has always been something that's been beneficial to LSU. Recently Coach Schiano from Rutgers talked about getting rid of the kickoff. I want to know your opinion of that. Also, you've coached in different areas across the country. There's always been that theory that players and teams in the south that endure the heat earlier in the year are better off playing against teams from the West Coast that aren't used to the heat. Do you believe that?
COACH MILES: Well, first in special teams, I think the rules that are being adopted on really an annual basis are moving football to a safer position. I think the kickoff return, as an example, they eliminated the wedge. They really made a more one-on-one block. They're really kind of narrowing in on the helmet level in terms of helmet contact.
I don't see special teams being reduced in any way. I think it's based on what is a rule and a sense of making sure that the players that play are safe.
Heat. The only thing I can tell you about how we prepare as we go into a season is we don't avoid it. We're out in it every day. We certainly recognize when we get into the conference play, we're going to have to get ready for heat because it's really at every venue. If there's an advantage to that as we start the season, that's good news.
Q. A lot of commentators that have named the Alabama/LSU game as the SEC championship. How do you keep that kind of thinking from getting into your team and keep them from looking ahead?
COACH MILES: Well, we play Oregon in the first game, then we play six games on the road. Our football team is going to be looking to execute at a very high level, really defining who they are, having a pre-season that answers a lot of questions. It's very easy not to look ahead, I promise.
Q. Can you talk about the development of Anthony Johnson on the defensive line. What do you expect out of the freshmen this year?
COACH MILES: I think there's a number of freshmen that will come in and play. I think we've always made it a point that guys like Patrick Peterson or Tyrann Mathieu, really any number of guys, Jordan Jefferson played as a freshman. I think playing as a freshman is not an age issue; it is a skill and ability, ability to learn issue.
I think our guys in our freshmen class, I think there are a number of guys that will step forward. Anthony Johnson is an example of that.
Anthony came in in January, really a very good student. He can sing, he has real personality, and he's practiced an entire spring and summer in our weight room. So I think he's really ready to kind of step forward and play in games as an example of how we play freshmen.
Q. Can you tell us will the reasons for your lineup change today, particularly vis-à-vis Russell Shepard?
COACH MILES: Yeah, there were some things that Russell had to take care of back in Baton Rouge. The good news is, we're very fortunate to have leadership on our team. We turned to T-Bob very quickly.
Q. With regards to Jordan, have you been concerned about his ability to handle a lot of the abuse he's gotten on the message boards?
COACH MILES: You know what, I don't know really if I've ever been to a message board. I've certainly instructed my team to avoid the Internet. Those people that sign their name 'Slick Willie' don't necessarily have legitimate opinions.
The things that we do and the criticism that he sustains happens within our team room. And as long as he can make the people in that room happy, that's really all. He comes from a family, too, his father was a basketball player, his brothers are athletes. I mean, I just think that there's a piece to him that's very confident and understanding. That's just the way it is.
Q. CBS chose to move your game with Arkansas back to the day after Thanksgiving. I think the last six times you guys have played, it's been decided by a total of 19 points. Can you talk about this game, how it's starting to rate as a rivalry to you guys, to the SEC, and the move of the game to Friday?
COACH MILES: I've kind of enjoyed those Friday night games, to be honest with you, or those Friday afternoon games. It gives you another day to prepare for the championship game if you're fortunate enough to be in that game.
I think I enjoy the history behind those Friday games. And the rivalry certainly has been very competitive. Every time we lined up, I think from my first game here, those games have been tremendously competitive.
Anytime you line up in this league, and certainly against Arkansas, they're well-prepared and very, very talented.
Q. Last year Morris Claiborne was the number two behind Peterson. Now that he's the number one, can you talk about he's emerging across from him?
COACH MILES: I think Tharold Simon will be the center across from him. I think Mo Claiborne is as athletically capable really as any. I think he's in a position where he'll have a great fall. He's had a great summer. He'll certainly be able to play well.
Q. It seems like since the Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M, all the talent you have coming back, the expectations are really high. How is your team handling that right now?
COACH MILES: We've been fortunate every fall we've taken the field, the expectations have been high. I think the expectations in our room are highest. I think the things that our guys want to achieve certainly would match a very ambitious schedule.
I don't think that that is really an issue. I think our guys don't wear rankings as a tag or a weight. I think they understand it's not something that's been earned, that, in fact, they're going to have to finish a season to end up where they want. I think there's an understanding of that. I think it's been there. I think it will continue.
So rankings can be a compliment certainly, and it can certainly be a distraction, but not certainly at this level.
Q. You made a video for LSU Sports Net where you showed off your basketball skills against your son and daughter. How was that video set up? Did you really get sent shoes by Scott Van Pelt? Are your practice shorts really that short? Please say no.
COACH MILES: I did not make that video for anybody else but Van Pelt. It was a straight-up deal to send back to him based on the fact that he's been knocking my game-day shoes. So we took an afternoon and displayed my basketball ability very honestly. Made the shots that I shot. The slam was my slam. I defended my seven-year-old Macy Miles extremely well.
To be honest with you, the reason you do something like that is certainly I didn't think that that was going to be as big a deal, kind of like eating grass (smiling). But really it was a family outing. My wife threw up the jump ball. The national anthem was a full three-minute sing. The editor made me run through that. That was not the way it was. It was a full three-minute Macy Miles sing. It was a hoot.
At the end of the day, everybody laughed. It was just what you wanted. I don't know that it actually showed -- my wife said this: Les, there's nobody that saw that video will ever think that you can play basketball.
Q. You mentioned Simon as the number two cornerback after Claiborne. Is that because he's passed up Mathieu because of his cover corner skills or because you want Mathieu in the middle wreaking havoc too much?
COACH MILES: We have a comfortable spot for Mathieu. He can also play corner. Really Tharold Simon is a very talented guy. We want him on the field, as well. It's really good news.
Q. There's a report that Russell Shepard has a compliance issue related to off-campus housing arrangements. Is that accurate?
COACH MILES: I don't know exactly the specifics of that. The only thing I can tell you is this was an issue where there were some things that he had to handle in his personal life that needed an immediate resolution, so...
That's why he's not with us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach. Appreciate your time.
COACH MILES: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports