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July 18, 2013
KEVIN TRAINOR: We're joined by the head coach of the LSU Tigers, Les Miles.
COACH MILES: Good morning. It's always fun to come back to these days. It marks the end of summer and the beginning of football. Summer for me, did some hyperbaric oxygen therapy research. We have two of the most noteworthy doctors in that field, Paul Harch and Keith Van Meter, in Louisiana. I operated with Our Lady of the Lake as a hospital.
What we're doing is we're looking at chronic concussion trauma and how best to protect our guys. I see it being done at other schools. I think it's a great step that certainly was a part of my summer.
I repelled down a building. I don't know that that was all it was cracked up to be. It was tall. It was up there.
I spent hours at kids' games. My son, the eldest, is baseball. He's currently in Pensacola. I told him to come over for it. He said, No. Baseball. I went to Elite 11 as a father, got in the 'dad line,' watched my eldest son compete in a camp in Columbus, Ohio.
I watched countless baseball games with Ben and Manny, my eldest daughter, who is a swimmer, is home for the summer. We have certainly enjoyed that family piece.
My youngest daughter, 10, Macy Miles, is a fast‑pitch softball Washington that be, is being coached by Beth Torina, the fine LSU head women's softball coach.
So summer went fast. I had no vacation. I took meaningful hours watching TCU film. But I'm looking forward to football, in case you wondered. I love baseball, I love watching my kids, but there's an itch that happens. It's one of those things that you, as a football coach, can't wait to get to because it's why you're here.
A year ago we lost three games by 13 points. We lost to one Western Division opponent in the last 90 seconds of the game. We return 14 starts, eight on offense, four on defense. We had 11 leave our team as juniors and put themselves available to the NFL Draft. We had nine NFL draftees in the last draft, a school record.
I think the piece we want to play for a championship and graduate, that's very much alive at LSU. We're in our second year, graduating our players in the 70 percentile. We've won more games in the last eight years, 85 victories, than any other conference opponent or conference team. We put 51 in the NFL.
So for us, we're fortunate that we can offer a young man a great opportunity at an education, a great opportunity beyond football and beyond college, a great career, and an opportunity that if he really shows the ability, like the 51 drafts, he can also end up in the NFL.
I like the position of the program. I think we've kind of made our mark over time. We're looking forward to this fall.
Offensively Cam Cameron will come in. Knowing him as a mentor to quarterback play, knowing him as a quality man and friend, knowing what he'll really do for us in a play‑calling position. We're looking forward to this offense. We feel like we'll have an opportunity to be very dominant there. Certainly they're playing much more confidently.
Our quarterback, Mettenberger, threw for 2600 yards a year ago and 12 touchdowns. We expect that quarterback play will be much better. Certainly the experience and the want that he has, has helped in leadership, the commitment of a summer program, has all been seen.
We returned guys from the offensive line that have played a lot of football. La' el Collins, Josh Williford, Trai Turner, Vadal Alexander, and we think Jerald Hawkins is going to play some very significant football for us.
We graduated some guys that left, went to the NFL without their degree as juniors, and we had some guys come in in the spring of the year, Anthony Jennings at quarterback, and Ethan Pocic at center. I think Ethan Pocic and Elliot Porter will be great competition there. We're fortunate that, again, we had some of those guys come in in the spring of the year.
At tailback, Alfred Blue, who was off to one of the fine years that a back has started a season with at LSU got injured in the third game. His health now, he could have played all spring. He did play all spring. We just didn't allow anybody to tackle him. We'd expect he would start this season fast.
Kenny Hilliard, big, physical back, 800 yards or so. Again, really tested in some of the biggest games against some of the best opponents, is back. Terrence Magee, in my opinion, a very, very talented runningback. They'll handle the chores.
I'll probably take a minute right now to talk about Jeremy Hill. Jeremy Hill has a legal entanglement. At this point in time he remains indefinitely suspended. I have a track record with really disciplining my team. We go through the same process that all of my guys will go through. Frankly, you know, we're gathering information as we go. So he's been separated from his team and teammates for the summer.
The fullbacks, J.C. Copeland, may be the largest fullback that there is, 275‑pounder that can catch and run, occasionally will bend a facemask.
Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, John Diarse, Travin Dural will be guys that you'll hear in our wide receiving cores as veterans. Feel like we have a very, very quality tight end group in Dillon Gordon, Travis Dickson. Have a freshman DeSean Smith that comes in with a very, very quality pedigree in his high school career, might expect he would play significant football.
Defensively John Chavis, his fifth‑year, schematically will have advantages. I like what he does with our defense, period. Maybe as talented a coach as I've been around.
We lost eight guys. The good news is we'll be a talented football team, but youthful.
Defensive line, Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson up front will give us great push. Both 300‑pounders, athletic men.
At perimeter, at end, Jermauria Rasco, Danielle Hunter, will certainly line up first. There's a number of guys behind them that will really compete. I like some of the talented freshmen that we have. Tashawn Bower, Lewis Neal. Those guys, in my opinion, have the opportunity to step in there and really provide competition.
Christian LaCouture, another one of those guys that showed up in January, is probably going to be slated to play inside. But, again, a 6'4", 315‑pound youngster that will play awfully well inside.
Linebackers, Lamin Barrow, veteran Tahj Jones. Both those guys know exactly what we'll be doing. Lamin Barrow is a team leader, a guy I wish I brought with me, to be honest with you, but busy. But he's a guy that has provided us leadership since he's been here.
I also like the Kwon Alexander, Lamar Louis, some of those young guys that will step in there and have played a lot of football for young men. Even though they played as true freshmen, in their sophomore campaign, they'll be more veteran.
In the secondary, Craig Loston, who is here today, give us great leadership at safety. Jalen Mills, Jalen Collins at the corner, I think, again, there's going to be some freshmen that will come in there and have an opportunity to wheat.
Tre'Davious White, Jeryl Brazil and Rickey Jefferson, all three will have an opportunity to step in there defensively and play well.
Kicking, we'll return our kicker, James Hairston has had a really good summer. Jamie Keehn, our second Australian punter. Again, you have to learn the language. You just can't speak to those guys. You have to know how to speak Australian.
Colby Delahoussaye, Trent Domingue are tremendous kicking prospects. So we feel like we'll man the specialist position extremely well.
Odell Beckham, Landry, Brazil, White, will get first looks at returning. I think we'll be talented, and I think our football team has enough veterans that have been in the wars and understand it. I think we're going to be youthful, but talented.
I think some of the freshmen that will come in will have a great opportunity to develop. Again, I like us.
We have a schedule that starts with TCU. Our football team looked at that game in an advance position and really is pointed for this opening. Great challenge, very talented TCU team. Gary Patterson does a great job there.
Georgia, Florida. Certainly we play the west.
We're looking forward to the challenge, to be honest. Our culture, bring it on. It's what we do. We look forward to lining up against the best in the east and the best in the west.
Again, I like us. I like us in any game.
KEVIN TRAINOR: We'll take questions for coach.
Q. You mentioned J.C. Copeland. Wanted to ask you about the fullback position. Not many schools in college football utilize a true fullback. Your expectations on that and maybe hit on the depth chart a little bit.
COACH MILES: I think the key to the fullback position is that, one, you can catch a ball in the backfield; two, rush the football so it's not just a blocking position; then, three, have the ability to block.
Connor Neighbors is another guy from Alabama State that is pursuing playing time, he's a guy, again, that can catch it and run it out of the backfield.
You know, I understand that second tight end is, that one back set, it's no more than that fullback position. I think it's something that certainly we'll use as a part of our personnel for as long as I'm there, so...
Q. 11 guys, underclassmen lost in the NFL Draft seems remarkably high. Did that take you by surprise? Did you feel like all 11 were good decisions by those players?
COACH MILES: I didn't hear the last line that you gave me, but was I surprised by it?
Q. Right. Did you think they were good decisions by all 11 of those players?
COACH MILES: Was I surprised by it? I think each guy has to make his decision. The thing that we've tried to do is make sure we don't give anybody deals. We're not trying to give the NFL a deal.
For instance, what's happened is our guys have gone early and then had success. So there's an understanding that even though you're put in the position that maybe you didn't have your best year, it's still an opportunity that you can have success in.
Those guys that prioritize their degree, and those guys prioritize something that they have yet to accomplish at LSU, those are the guys that return. Some of those guys that head out, they're awfully successful, they make a lot of money. It's very difficult for me to say that it was a good decision or a poor decision.
I'd be the first one to tell you that I'm not very good at telling you who is going to make that team and who is not.
Anytime that a guy doesn't get drafted, that's certainly a decision you need to reconcile with, Maybe I should have come back.
Q. How has Cam Cameron impacted your offensive philosophy? What did he bring to you that you didn't have last year? How do you see Zach improving under him?
COACH MILES: Well, I think we've always wanted to be a balanced team. I think that Cam has certainly allowed us to do that more. I think he throws the ball down the field extremely well. I think those are things you'll see in this offense as we go forward.
Q. Your team the last two seasons has entered the year No.1, No. 2. preseason. This year still a lot of promise, but maybe not quite as high. Is there something you can thrive under being not as much the hunted?
COACH MILES: When you're the No.1 team in the country, you tell your team, Listen, you have to earn that, that's something you get at the end of the year, a compliment to your program, but you really have not earned that position and will not until the back end.
A year like this year, where you're not necessarily picked No.1, basically there's a responsibility for us to control the outcome. The fact that our culture in that team room and in our team kind of looks at each game, an opportunity to play for victory, it really does not affect us really what the perimeter of that team room says about them.
Q. Has there been any communication with Jeremy Hill this summer? Has there been any communication since he was arraigned?
COACH MILES: Yes, we've visited with Jeremy Hill on a routine basis. He's not been in any team meetings, not been in any workouts. We've not allowed him in our facility.
It's been very hard on him, I know. Again, we recognize there's an ongoing process that's going to be fulfilled. We're going to sit on the perimeter and watch. We certainly are respectful of all that have responsibility there.
We'll let you know when we know.
Q. You talked about this before, but I was wondering if you changed your mind about alternative plans at runningback if you don't have Jeremy Hill, to improve the depth, maybe moving somebody. Also, could J.C. Copeland maybe play some at tailback?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I suspect if we enter the season without the abilities of Hill that we will have need at that tailback position, that some of those guys, J.C. Copeland is certainly a quality ball carrier. I think there's three at tailback besides him. I think Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard are as good as there is. You'll also look at Terrence Magee before we get to anybody else, I promise.
Q. I don't know if you're under the radar, you're still a top‑10 team, but not a lot of people picking you to be a national contender. Do you get more excited going into a season like that when you're kind of teaching more, trying to build a team back?
COACH MILES: You know, it's interesting. The excitement, it's not derived from where you're ranked or how people perceive you. It's the youth of your team, what you have to get coached, how you approach a practice.
I think that each team has its own potential, its own high‑side opportunities. Certainly what we're trying to do is play to our greatest expectations and exceed them.
I think it's more the youth, wanting to get the message across, teach that technique, make sure that that young player is evaluated so that he has the opportunity to play if, in fact, he is one of our best.
Q. Do you think if coaches were allowed to have contact with players in the summer that it would cut down on off‑the‑field incidents? Do you always think there's always going to be something happening; nothing you can ultimately do about it?
COACH MILES: I think the rules should be made such that the coach can have all the contact that he needs in a non‑football related meeting, either one‑on‑one or in a team setting.
I think that is currently the rule anyway. I think our guys, you know, for instance, to give you an example, we had a social media presentation two nights ago. Basically what we talked about was Twitter, Facebook, all the stuff, right? Basically the pitfalls.
I think those meetings are quality meetings, and I think it allows a segment of information transfer. But it's not necessarily allowing the coach just to spend time with the players. I think that's something that is also wise. I think it's good to have that mentor, father figure, coach hanging around.
Q. You mentioned in your opening statement your punter was from Australia and it's a certain language you have to speak. I wonder if you could give us some examples.
COACH MILES: Well, Australians have a higher voice (using an Australian accent). When you just speak regular English, it doesn't quite get across.
Of course, we've had experience with our Australians, so we're pretty comfortable with adjusting our dialect so that it fits the ability to communicate (smiling).
Q. What is your policy on Twitter?
COACH MILES: Well, it's an amazing thing. 20 years ago there was not a policy on Twitter. You know what, 20 years ago there was not a policy on Facebook. You know what, I'll bet you that 20 years ago not one did a Harlem Shake, you know what I mean (smiling)?
Here is what's happening. Somebody gave me the magic. They said there's 500 million on Instagram, whatever the hell that is. There's three billion on Facebook. These are phenomena that are not just youthful. LeBron James, athletes, entertainers, businessmen of our day. I mean, it's an amazing thing.
What we really are trying to do is educate and give them their brand and the responsibility that they have to understand that this is a media outlet that, in fact, when you put a piece of information that you think you're just writing to your buddy, you are not.
The interesting piece is, I can't tell you the number of wonderful men that I have on my team. I'm telling you, quality guys, good students. When they get behind the social media cloak, they get to speak in a totally different way.
It's like, Where did you get that? How did you think this was even appropriate?
He said, I just was going to try some of it.
So basically what I'm saying is, this is going to be with us. This isn't going away. We have to handle it, you know, with responsibility. That's kind of how we're approaching it.
Q. If you were to think about banning it, do you have to think twice in that there are other coaches that let them tweet and that could become a recruiting issue?
COACH MILES: Well, again, it's kind of like saying, before they had cars, I'm not allowing any of my players to drive cars. Why? Well, I like the old buggy. It's safer. The horse is a problem, but as long as you keep the horse pointed in the right direction, you're okay (laughter).
I guess what I'm saying to you is, we've got computers now that you can carry in your pocket. If you hit the right button, you can talk to people. For us to not admit that's America, that's what we're doing, now let's do it right.
It's not easy. It really isn't. You make mistakes in a flash. Very difficult to correct.
Again, we're trying to educate, not necessarily make it a yes or no.
Now, I want you to know something. If I find a guy that is absolutely without regard, it becomes a repeated issue, he represents our brand: LSU. He'll lose that responsibility or the opportunity to be in that team room real quick.
Q. The two teams you're playing from the east that you mentioned were 14‑2. Two teams Alabama is playing were 1‑15. Can you talk about that difference, how that impacts you in the race.
COACH MILES: Now, scheduling. A key piece to every conference is that we'd be able to describe the path to a championship in an equal and direct manner. In fact, scheduling should not in any way decide championships repeatedly or throughout. In other words, given that a team would have an advantage over time, and it would not be reflective of a change in schedule, but it would be the existing schedule that would stay and repeat and repeat and repeat.
I recognize that we have a very difficult schedule. Let me tell you how I did when I came into this league. Certainly, somebody else will have to play Georgia and Florida, too. Certainly, somebody else will have to play Florida and Georgia, too.
Tell you what, since 2000, I was good at this. When I went to the SEC meetings, I brought all these statistics that were not necessarily listened to, but here is a for instance. We play Georgia and Florida for the seventh time this year. I'd have to say there's some other schools that have not played Georgia and Florida in the same year in my entire time here or since 2000.
I'd have to say there's a repeated scheduling advantage and disadvantage for certain teams in this conference based on tradition and traditional matchups.
I'll give you an example. Auburn played Florida and Georgia 19 times since 2000. That makes a heck of a difference. Now, how many times has the west gone through each opponent? How many times have they played them? Not that many times.
Don't pretend it's just a game. In other words, we're going to play the Green Bay Packers, we're going to play them 12 straight times. I promise you at the end of that, that team will have found that they're missing some talent, there's some skill guys that are injured, there's some bumps and bruises.
I think that scheduling is a tremendously important piece. Currently it's on the ADs, the chancellors, the presidents, and the conference commissioner.
In the meantime, here is where I'm at: I can't hardly wait to play 'em. We think at LSU that maybe we're the only team that can have that schedule year after year and play as well as we do, so...
KEVIN TRAINOR: Coach, thank you for your time.
COACH MILES: If there's anybody that would like the raw information about the scheduling, talk to Michael Bonnette. He has a lot of those specifics.
Nice to see y'all (smiling).
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports