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SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE MEDIA DAYS


July 18, 2012


Les Miles


BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA

THE MODERATOR: Ready to begin with LSU head Coach Les Miles.
Coach Miles.
COACH MILES: The summer's over. We had a number of fast pitch softball games, youth baseball games, went to the Olympic trials and watched tremendous swimming excellence, got to catch the back end of South Carolina and Arizona and now Media Days.
Media Days for me is that time where everybody turns their attentions to football and you get the question that says, Hmm, good point, that kind of says it's time to get ready.
Our football team is looking forward to getting onto the field. I can tell you, the conference needs to welcome both Texas A&M and Missouri. I think they'll really add to our conference. I think Commissioner Slive has done a great job in positioning this conference for the future and puts us in position to have great bowl games, post‑season play and, again, positions us for the four‑team playoff.
Our program is coming off a great year. When you do that, you need to recognize that we get great support. I am very fortunate to represent a great school, a great opportunity for young people. My athletic director allows me to hire and provide great service for my team.
We're doing a great job graduating our players, 77% graduation rate. When you consider the number of juniors that go on to the NFL, I think we ask them to have the full measure of success, both the degree and the championship. I think it's happening at LSU.
But it couldn't be done without a collective effort. I just enjoy that.
Our weight is down, our strength is up. They're practicing and working in the heat. I like how the back end of this thing is going to go. We're two weeks away from reporting, looking forward to getting the academics squared away, finishing strong. I think we're in position to put the team on the field that we need.
Offensively, I think Zach Mettenberger is going to give us a really nice quarterback. The key to him is take it a day at a time, not put the cart in front of the horse. Very talented guy. The things that he's done in leadership, the approach he's taken with this team has been very obvious. I think that he stays that way, as long as he improves, we'll like his play.
I think the veteran offensive line will allow us to play with an aggressiveness both in the running game and in the passing game. I like the chemistry in the throwing game with Odell Beckham and Russell Shepard, Jarvis Landry, James Wright, Kadron Boone, we'll have really, in my opinion, a talented, hard‑working group of wide receivers.
We're as talented at runningback. We have big backs that have experience. I'd like to get them down to two. I'd like to see two backs take the lead, Ware, Ford, Blue, Hilliard, and Hill. I want competition to be the rule. Obviously we'll have a fresh back in the game.
Our tight ends and our fullbacks, we have to get more receptions there. We're looking forward to a little lighter J.C. Copeland. He's a fullback that brings a nice, physical personality, really is more athletic. He's down in the high 60s. That's really a nice reduction for him.
Chase Clement will be our tightend and Nic Jacobs, and really a number of guys behind him. Again, he's a guy we want to get the ball to in the air more.
Offensively we'll have balance. We'll run the football and throw it. In my opinion, we'll run it efficiently and throw it efficiently and with big plays. The changes will be really the fact that the quarterback will not carry the ball as much. You'll naturally get more throws and I think we'll get a little bit deeper ball thrown. I think there's an enjoyment with the idea that Zach can make that deep ball throw very comfortably.
Defensively excited about John Chavis in his fourth year. He's consistent. We've continued to get better. Ranked in the top five in four categories. I think our defensive line, Sam Montgomery, Keke Mingo, Jermauria Rasco, Lavar Edwards are the kind of guys that can step forward and make it difficult on an offense to move the football.
Inside Bennie Logan, Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson, again, big strong push up front.
We'll be good at linebacker, Kevin Minter is in the center of it, calling us plays, giving us what we need. I think we'll have a secondary that will be as talented as any.
Tyrann Mathieu, Tharold Simon, Eric Reid, those guys will be on certain post‑season awards and guys that played in big games, been through the gamut in this conference, understand how to make big plays.
Special teams we return all of our kickers and punters. Drew Alleman, with 14 field goals a year ago, very talented kicker. Brad Wing, again, a big leg at the punting game. James Hairston, all‑SEC freshman in kickoffs. Reid Ferguson, a true freshman at snapper. I think our special teams participants will have speed under kicks and will have quality returners.
I think it's fair to say that in all three phases we'll have an opportunity to play very well.
Again, if we take it a day at a time, a game at a time, try not to get too far in front of ourselves, I think our football team can achieve greatly. I can tell you they're looking forward to coming off of last year. They've had a great spring, a great summer, and they're looking forward to taking the field again.
Questions.

Q. The new commercial for EA Sports video games featuring you and Mike the Tiger. Have you had any creative input into the making of that ad?
COACH MILES: No, I did not. I certainly enjoyed the experience. Very talented producer and crew around. The lines were narrowed so that I could perform them effectively (smiling).
I really thought that Mike the Tiger stole the show. We didn't get along on the set. He was kind of working the camera. It was really a difficult time (smiling).
It's interesting. We had a lot of fun with it. I can't tell you the number of people that walk by me, and he goes, "Like a son to me, a Tiger son."
People I don't know.
My 13‑year‑old Ben says to me, Dad, I just saw the commercial.
What did you think, Ben?
You've talked a to me like that, you really have.
Good news, bad news, so...

Q. There have been discussions about LSU ending the season with Texas A&M on Thanksgiving weekend if not Thanksgiving Day. What are your thoughts on the rivalry and how well they can compete in the SEC?
COACH MILES: I think the Aggies bring a very, very capable team, very lucrative recruiting area. They bring the experience of a real quality conference. I think they'll step in and be able to compete on a very even basis very quickly.
I think we look forward to them. I think it really makes the conference stronger. I think it's a greater national appeal. Our viewing audience, if you will, goes now to Texas. It's the great Midwest in St.Louis. I think the addition of really both teams is really good for the conference.

Q. Now that the off‑season has ended, over the course of the off‑season, with your personality, do you watch the BCS game one time and put it behind you or watch it a hundred times?
COACH MILES: No, I've seen that a couple times. There weren't that many plays for us on offense for me to spend that much time (smiling).
I can tell you that our team had a great year and played 13 straight very, very good, quality opponents and won. We didn't play our best in the last one. We understand that. That was last year.
We also remember and we look forward to playing like we play. It's about us, some things we need to fix. I think our team sees that.

Q. I know you said you put the game away after watching it, but all this spring when you speak to LSU fans, a lot of them want to know what happened? How do you explain that to them rationally, which is hard to do with LSU fans?
COACH MILES: I have to be honest with you. What happened was we played our 14th game and we didn't play as well as we did in our 13. I'm sure they watched the snaps like I did. It was the same team certainly. I think we played a very quality opponent. I think we played one more game than the rest of college football. We were the conference champions.
I think we recognized the things that we didn't get accomplished in that game and I think we look forward to taking the field again. I answer it this way: it's about us. There's some things that we can do better.

Q. Can you talk about Tyrann Mathieu's Twitter rant and what you made of it?
COACH MILES: I didn't get the Twitter rant exactly. I do recognize that there's some verbal squabble, if you will, at times. The only thing I can tell you is that our guys are certainly proud of their team and how they'll want to compete. I think he probably represented that.
I can tell you that no game is won in a Twitter page. It's a nice, pleasant pastime, very much like Media Days. But it's all about what you earn in the fall. I think certainly not only Tyrann, but those people that he was communicating with, they understand that, as well.

Q. A lot of people have LSU and Florida maybe as the pre‑season favorite in Atlanta. That's obviously your traditional rival. How could we have not seen that in the championship game before, but we have seen rematches like South Carolina/Auburn, Alabama/Florida, even LSU and Georgia?
COACH MILES: Yeah, it will be interesting. Anytime you play the crossover opponent, it's the team you end up coming back to play yet in the final in the conference championship, that will be an exciting rematch.
Certainly the key is to earn your way to the championship game. There's plenty of quality teams that we'll have to defeat and work to defeat and game plan before we get to Florida and after we get to Florida.
Yeah, they're a very talented team. Again, they're our crossover permanent opponent. We look forward to playing them.

Q. You did a really good job of utilizing all four runningbacks last year. Talk about how valuable that was to your team. Also who do you think will be the two lead runningbacks you want to take that role this year?
COACH MILES: It would be hard‑pressed for me to tell you who the two are. I like Ware, I like Hilliard, I like Blue, I like Ford. I'd like to have two guys step forward and take the lead and really keep one in a position to keep his legs fresh so late in the game we can put fresh backs in the game, or should someone get hurt. You end up with a real need for four backs.
I'd like, again, to start with two and let them be comfortable shouldering the load more than not.

Q. You mentioned playing 14 games. In your mind is that too many? How concerned are you about, with a possible playoff, playing 14, 15, maybe 16 games?
COACH MILES: It will be interesting to see. I'm guessing that those conference championship teams will have played in a playoff. If they've played in the playoff, you know, that piece and how it fits into what would be the two games thereafter.
I'm certain it can work. I think it will be a determination at some point in time that everybody will have to play a conference championship, this day, at this point in time, you have to pick two. It becomes more. It becomes 14 and 15. The issue becomes fitting it in a window that doesn't encumber an academic schedule and does not really increase the risk of injury.
In my opinion, you're going to have to have 10 days between the last game and the championship game just to heal 'em up and get 'em fresh for the game. So if you're going to play on January 1st in that first game, then that means those bowl games must take place, you know, well before that.
Here we go. Again, I think what the country's asked for is what they're getting, and that's a little bit more playoff and a little bit more games and a greater view. I think that's best. I think it will eventually work out very effectively.

Q. Looking back at last year, was that the toughest schedule you faced as a player or a coach?
COACH MILES: Yeah, we played everybody but the Green Bay Packers. But we enjoyed it. There was great challenge to that schedule. We answered the bell 13 straight times. Looking to play better.

Q. Playing north Texas, will you be mentioning Stony Brook to your players?
COACH MILES: Will I mention Stony Brooke? No, I won't. I recognize, and I think our team does, too, that anybody can beat you. It's not about our opponent so much, it's about how we play, what we need to accomplish. That's the approach.
We're going to play a great schedule anyway. I think our team will understand that if we don't come to play in the first games that, in fact, we won't be ready to play in the later games.

Q. I was wanting to see if you would expand a little on the Texas A&M Thanksgiving question. Do you have a preference between finishing the season like you do with Arkansas or would you rather see Texas A&M on the schedule at the end? How much has the Arkansas series, with the exception of last year, how has that series set with you as far as ending the regular season?
COACH MILES: Well, I think we're looking at what would be natural rivals. Arkansas certainly has been a very, very competitive game for us the back end of the season. Recognize that Texas A&M and LSU have a great history, several years.
But I think the reality of a season that plays in the Western Conference of the SEC, there's plenty of rivals to go around. You're going to have to space those things out to make it equitable. I don't know how we could play both Arkansas and Texas A&M on the same weekend, so...

Q. Two questions about Mettenberger. How comfortable are you throwing the ball deep? Do you have trepidation about taking him because of what happened in the past with him?
COACH MILES: I can only tell you how he's been with us, and he's been a very dependable, hard‑working man. I think with responsibility of the starting job, it's obvious to most that surround him that he recognizes the great opportunity that the team has and how he can contribute and participate in the season.
I think he's working at it really day to day. I don't think he expects it to be the answer. He recognizes there's an opportunity for him that will benefit our team.
I like to throw the football. I am a balanced guy. I want to have the ability to throw the ball deep, throw the ball efficiently. So that being said, I think we were about 60% in our passing efficiency a year ago. I think both quarterbacks that started were around 60%. If we can do that and throw the ball down the field a little bit more, continue to have balance in the running game. The only real difference in our offense is there won't be as much quarterback carry.

Q. When you were recruiting Zach, did you by chance call Coach Rick? If so, what was the gist of some of those conversations?
COACH MILES: I certainly reviewed those guys that we recruit. I got the real view of the incidents and understand kind of what happened there, and recognize that certainly people make mistakes. He's a guy that really has been, since that time, really done the right things and deserves an opportunity.
Frankly, since we've had him, he's been a very, very quality teammate.

Q. (Question regarding the quarterback situation and development, how he's doing.)
COACH MILES: Kind of the same stuff I just said.
The reality is he throws the ball extremely well. He makes all the throws. So, you know, we're going to take advantage of some of those secondaries that want to come up and crowd the front and really try to stop the run. We suspect we'll see some more pass coverage and then have an opportunity to run it a little bit more. I think our quarterback can throw it.
It's going to be more in the learning curve. The good news is he's not a young quarterback. He's had time. He's had a full junior college slate, been with us for a year in transition. Now it looks to me that he's kind of ready to go to the field. He's not that freshman, that sophomore that really doesn't understand the game. He has that.
So he's going to work, you know, to improve. As long as he doesn't require and put too much pressure on him, he's gonna be fine.

Q. You seem satisfied with the four‑team playoffs. Do you have any reservation of any of the details, like who should serve on the selection committee?
COACH MILES: The interesting thing is, over time the great scrutiny of this country on that selection committee will be very significant. They'll have to get it right. They'll have to defend their vote.
I think that's correct. I think that they'll find people from backgrounds that are not conference driven. Even if they were conference driven, they're just so tremendously loyal to the SEC, they would vote for the best teams, period. Same thing if they were Big Ten proponents or PAC‑12, whatever.
The point is that the person on the committee have integrity and be able to go beyond what would be natural conference allegiance. College football is too important. They're going to want to pick the best four. As long as they do that, they'll be fine.

Q. You mentioned John Chavis in your opening, how much the defense has improved the last few seasons. In my opinion, a guy that has been a little bit ordinary as far as X's and O's. He did a great job last season, showed a lot of different fronts. What might have led to that between you and some of your defensive staff members?
COACH MILES: I really got John Chavis mixing it up in the front seven, and then something about our staff?

Q. In my opinion, he's a guy that has been a little bit bland as far as his schemes and fronts. Last season did an excellent job of mixing it up more than he has previously.
COACH MILES: "Bland' is the part I didn't get (smiling).
I have seen him have a wrinkle. Remember, we played him several times. We took the lead in Tiger Stadium 21‑0. Had it been 24‑0, we would have won the game. We could not run the football against them. They gave us a real, real quality mixture then. Then we played them the championship year, the year we won the SEC, played Tennessee again. Again, he had a same mix.
I think he continues to improve with experience. I think we'll have a similar defense as we've had in the past.

Q. After the BCS championship game, there was a little bit of controversy with Russell Shepard wanting to turn pro. Can you talk about his role this season and his attitude going into his senior year.
COACH MILES: I think Russell is really looking forward to having a great senior year. I think he wants to be a guy that you can go to on a regular basis. I think he comes with a humble approach. I think he's looking to work hard. I think he's extended himself beyond high school reputation. I think he's looking to develop who he is. I think that's going to benefit our team.
I think he's going to have a much improved senior campaign.

Q. We talked to a lot of your players this spring, they wanted to use the BCS title game as fuel, and others just wanted to forget it, create a new memory. Do you have a preference for how your team approaches that or do you allow them to do it on an individual basis?
COACH MILES: Well, the approach will be taking universally by us. And how they would articulate it, I don't know. The only thing I can tell you is that they recognize the things that they accomplished and what they left on the table. The want to play best and finish is certainly something that we'll all take away from that game.
It can't be discounted what was accomplished, but it must be recognized that certainly we didn't play our finest game at the end.

Q. As part of the TV scheduling agreement with your Alabama game last year, the one this year, it was agreed this year's game would be at night in Tiger Stadium. Did you have any input in that? How important is that to you?
COACH MILES: Well, I can tell you that we enjoy playing night games in Tiger Stadium. It's the place that we would like to compete at. I can tell you that our AD and the powers to be suggested that this be the best time for us. I agree with them.
But we would have played and looked forward to playing a very quality Alabama team on that weekend really in Tiger Stadium.

Q. There were some observers at camp that said they thought your quarterback had the strongest arm of any others. Do you agree with that assessment?
COACH MILES: I did not have the good fortune of dropping in on the Manning camp. We had a camp on our campus in conjunction at the exact same time. I think that is, again, a nice compliment to a young guy.
I think the key will be completing passes, running the offense, being not just a guy that shows up as a strong‑arm guy, but a guy that understands the offense and his role within it.

Q. Can you talk about Josh Dworaczyk and his recovery?
COACH MILES: We're excited about it. He comes off of a significant knee, really gets his sixth year. He's trimmed his weight. He's stronger than he's been. He's lighter and faster. He was certainly a leader for us going into last year. He'll resume that role.
We'll use him significantly. It's nice to have a guy that's been through it, understands this conference, understands how to compete. Again, he'll provide great leadership for us.

Q. Could you just contrast both on and off the field what you see as the differences between the Big 12 and the SEC?
COACH MILES: I think there's great competition in the Big 12 Conference, as well. I think the venues are very comparable. I think both the Texas A&M and the Missouri venues will be fun places, exciting places for other teams to travel to.
I think the best teams in that conference can certainly play with anybody in the country. So, you know, they will add to us. They have great experiences in the conference they come from, and they'll be able to compete in this conference.
I think there will be a learning curve. I think they'll have to recognize that there's a little different breed of defense in this conference. But I think it's something that both schools will do very comfortably.

Q. LSU has not recruited Texas extensively in recent years. Do you see that increasing? As Texas A&M becomes accustomed to the SEC, do you see their style of play changing and have an impact on how Texas high schools play offense or defense?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think in the back end of that question, I think the high schools in Texas play a great brand of football. I think there's no way that that will change significantly. I think there will be a greater sharing of football in Texas when they really involve themselves into visiting Texas, LSU and other schools.
I think that Texas A&M will be able to represent to Texas that SEC member, and I think there will be a greater opportunity to go in there and recruit, as well, because it's a great conference and certainly Texas A&M represents that in that state. We'll be able to go in and say to them, If you want to play in that conference like Texas A&M, certainly LSU and those other schools in our conference would represent that.
I think there will be a little bit more open‑door policy in Texas. I think there will be an understanding by the Texas high school coach, This is a nice choice or prospect for my player. I think that will be a natural piece.
We've been in Texas pretty continually. I think we'll just be in Texas more.

Q. Can you go into the decision to bring Odell Beckham, a sophomore, to this event, and what that says about what you expect from him this year?
COACH MILES: Yeah, we bring players that, one, have leadership ability and, two, have talent, and that would plan to have significant impact on the season. So when you bring an Odell Beckham, you expect that he might be your leading receiver and make some significant contribution.
I think that being here and having the ability to articulate it, the ability to think it through when you all ask him questions, I think it's a benefit as he, you know, approaches the season.

Q. With all the news about head injuries and brain injuries related to football, some of the long‑term health problems, as a coach and as a father also, do you worry more about some of the health‑related consequences of playing football?
COACH MILES: I absolutely do. Yeah, I think it's important that you recognize, you know, what would be chronic trauma. As long as you're taking care of your kids, you're healing 'em, you're pulling 'em out when they have concussions or they have symptoms like concussions, you take the time to heal 'em, I think it's an opportunity then to continue their play.
I think mistakes have been made in the past. It's something that we as coaches and trainers are responsible to address. I think that we're certainly doing diligence on that. It's a very serious issue. I have two sons that play football. I recognize when they put on that helmet, it's different. There's other sports that are less combative, yet both guys have been healthy and both guys will continue to play.
With 85 sons on my team, I got to take care of those guys, as well.

Q. Everybody seems to think Mettenberger is such a good passer, do you have any second thoughts about not giving him a shot last season?
COACH MILES: Coming off of the national championship game, I would like to have given a lot of thought to things in that game.
But we were really getting him ready to play. I think the other two quarterbacks at that point in time were a little bit more advanced. I think late in the year, you know, he had an opportunity to take a couple of strides and got a hand injury that really kind of slowed his development.
Maybe he could have taken some snaps in that national championship game should he have not gotten hurt, you know, earlier in that bowl practice, so...
Thank you, guys.

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