SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE MEDIA DAYS: LSU
July 18, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
KEVIN TRAINOR: We're joined by LSU head Coach Les Miles.
COACH MILES: Afternoon. It's always great to be back. It means the summer's over and we're getting ready to get ready.
It's my 10th year of these. How fortunate I've been to lead the Tigers into battle. I review the very quality players that I've been fortunate to coach. The three guys that we have in here representing us this year are just the style of men that you'd love to spend a decade with.
The SEC Media Days are 1200 credentials and a bunch of chaos. It kind of lets you know how important the job you have is and how much you enjoy that piece.
I told Commissioner Slive in the last five minutes congratulations on Cox Cable picking up the SEC Network and the fact that there will be a bunch of people in Baton Rouge excited to watch the Tigers. I won't have to change my cable provider.
The Miles family, Smacker Miles, I took a vacation, I went to Austin, took my three children with me, so we had six, two parents and four children on that campus. It was miserable. I hated it. But it was great fun. I mean, it was not a beach, it was not sand, but it was my family, and that was the best.
Manny is my eldest son. He's pitching and playing football. FIFA was on TV. He decided to pick up a soccer ball, called up a couple buddies, he was in a soccer game for four hours. Think about that, right?
My Macy Miles is pitching in fast?pitch softball in Orlando, Florida, at the World Series. Certainly there's a lot of media there, as well. She's in a 10?and?under league. She has a 4?0 win as a pitcher, no hit. A very quality smasher's club that she faced this morning.
They're growing up. Young family arrived. My oldest was 10, she's 20. My youngest was one. I carried her into Baton Rouge, and she's 11. Anyways...
Team overview. This is our fourth straight 10?victory season. We return 16 starters: six on offense, seven on defense, three on special teams. We're a team that's really on the cusp of an opportunity to win championships.
If you look at the three games we lost, turnovers played a very significant role. It's an annual battle. Certainly we have, in my opinion, the style of team that can win championships. The necessity to do some of those things better year in and year out can make a difference.
The program is graduating our guys in the 70%. We're going to put 16 juniors in the NFL the last two years. We played what was 19 true freshmen in the last two years. 95 victories, 60 drafted, which is second only to one other team not in our conference, and 13 first?rounders.
So we're a program that achieves. We recruited the second nationally ranked team in the last year. We're a team that will expect some of these freshmen to come in and play. Leonard Fournette and Malaci Dupre, C.J. Garrett and Brandon Harris, to name four freshmen that we would expect to have great impact on our season.
102,000 in Tiger Stadium. If you thought we were loud before, we just got louder. How fortunate it is for us to play in such a great venue.
Offensively, quarterback will be Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris. It will be a very competitive event from the start to the finish. Cam Cameron, a guy who's made a career mentoring quarterbacks, is our offensive coordinator, will do the exactly right things with those guys. You'll see how well a freshman can execute at quarterback.
The veteran offensive line will certainly give those guys some time. La' el Collins and Jerald Hawkins will be two of the finest tackles in our league. We'll be veteran at the guards and at the center. It should give the opportunity for that offense to continue up and down the field.
We have two very quality tightends, really a quality list there of guys. But we have Dillon Gordon, who is coming into his junior year, 6'4", 285?pounder that can run and catch as well as block. We'll be able to put a very, very competitive group out there at that spot.
At runningback, we'll have two veterans with Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard. And we'll have two freshmen, Leonard Fournette, who is the number one tailback in the country ranked, and Darrel Williams, who is a very, very talented young freshman. We'll be talented there.
At fullback Connor Neighbors comes back with a lot of experience. A very talented guy.
At wide receiver, the two veterans, Travin Dural, who had a very strong spring, made the great catch against Arkansas at the end of the game to win it, and is really developing really nicely. Those young freshmen, Malaci Dupre, Trey Quinn, D.J. Chark, Tony Upchurch, those guys have all been looked at by our players.
There's a constant rumble in our building about the abilities that they have to go get a ball and participate. Trey Quinn continues to be reviewed by our players, because our coaches hadn't seen him, as a guy that's really experienced and understands, has great ball skills. So we're really excited.
The defense will be led by John Chavis in his sixth year. I think he's the best in the business. I think he's a guy that gives us real advantages in scheme, understands the ability and the ways to get the best out of our players.
In the defensive line, everybody that lines up against us will have to know where we play our defensive ends because Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco again may arguably be two of the finest defensive ends in the country, will play a group of young of defensive tackles who are anywhere from 6'4", 310 pounds, and they're all going to give you a very, very strong presence inside. So I think our defensive line will be great.
I think our linebackers will have speed. D.J. Welter is our mike backer, just continues to play better and better. Kwon Alexander may be the most active. He'll run under 4.5. Lamar Louis, another tailback in high school, runs under 4.5. Deion Jones may be the fastest linebacker that we have.
We're going to have speed and ability there. When you change the formation, that linebacking corps is challenged. That will be a great group for us.
In the secondary, Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson return at corner. Safeties, we come off of an injury with Corey Thompson. Ronald Martin continues to improve, had a great summer, lost weight.
Two freshmen that I want to mention at safety, Jamal Adams and John Battle. I think both those guys will come in and play significant roles for us there.
In special teams, Bradley Dale Peveto, who coordinated the national championship year returns. We were 13 of 14 with Colby Delahoussaye at field?goal kicker. Our kickoff guy we lose, but Trent Domingue, a very quality guy on our team, has a big leg. Cameron Gamble comes in, and Kyle Pfau.
There will be great competition there. We figure the opportunity to kick it out or play a nice tall ball, go down there with speed and hit it, will be available to us.
Punter Jamie Keehn returns. Big, strong legs. Certainly will have his most consistent years. We will have the style of returners that LSU will be comfortable with. Jamal Adams, Tre'Davious White, to name a few. Terrence Magee will return on kickoffs.
In conclusion, our kids have had a great summer. Our players, our team. They've paid a tremendous price. With the opportunity to have quality two?a?days, hard work, do it one step at a time. We have advantages.
Who's picked? I would be willing to bet that not many picked Auburn a year ago. So what generally seems to me to be our position is, Don't bother us, we don't care, we just want to work, we want to improve, we want to play one game at a time, we want to point at the next opponent.
We understand that doesn't mean that we're in the immediate talk, but if we continue to do the things we've done in the past, we'll earn our way.
I like us. I like us in every game.
Q. Obviously having 18 juniors going out the last two years, having to replace them, is it kind of a Catch?22 that you can point to all those guys getting drafted but you still have the holes to fill each year?
COACH MILES: Yeah, we'd like to have those guys back. I keep approaching the NFL on an opportunity for us to draft back some of our players that they take. Patrick Peterson, he'd have come back (smiling).
But there's a responsibility that the coaching staff has to see a void that will potentially occur and we have to recruit to that void. We have to make sure that our style of recruiting is the style of recruiting that we get an athlete that has a want to be something special, then that guy steps in and plays as a true freshman. Although not optimal, it's certainly something we've done.
Patrick Peterson was a guy that was recruited to a void that was similar.
We would like to have our guys give view to staying through and not approach a draft position where if you're a third?rounder that you would leave as opposed to wait and let that first?round go?ahead into the NFL and immediately move your draft status up because every year there's going to be a first round. 32 teams are going to pick. They're going to take them off the board. I would like to see some of those guys return.
It is not necessarily optimal. But we will absolutely deal with those young guys that are capable. Look forward to leave in what will be three years.
Q. Could you talk about how Leonard Fournette is doing as a person and player since he's gotten on campus? No matter what going forward, how does he pan out? Do you plan to do the runningback thing by committee?
COACH MILES: Leonard Fournette is doing exactly what he should be doing. He's getting in the weight room, running, getting in great shape. Pursuing the classroom, got great grades. He's quiet. He's not assuming. He's humble in his approach.
I think it's exactly where he needs to be. He expects himself to be something very special. I think if you look at Michael Jordan, he could not have been coached to be Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan accepted the role of expecting him to be better than any.
I think he has a quiet confidence there that will benefit him, and I think we will always have an opportunity to play at that spot, the runningbacks that are fresh.
I think that's an advantage. If you look at Terrence Magee, we've gotten them tired. There have been times when he just busted a big run, took significant contact. Kenny Hilliard had just played. In fact, we will need those guys that have fresh legs.
I think you can always kind of count on that from us.
Q. This time last year Cam Cameron had a veteran crew. How have you seen his approach change now that he has to teach the younger guys?
COACH MILES: He has not been involved, to be honest with you. Right now we're going to work out seven hours a week. So that allows our assistant coaches to have an hour with any of our players, one hour a week.
The approach, we got a real quality young freshman, a nice sophomore at quarterback, we're going to bring him on in a way that he can execute and do the things that benefit our team.
I think he's doing a great job, but we're not in the position. You get me 14 practices in in two?a?days, I'll tell you a little bit more.
Q. I was curious about your thoughts on the College Football Playoff system. The BCS had been quite kind to the SEC, especially the last eight years. Any concern about how this playoff will play out for the conference moving forward?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think the Playoff system is something that college football nationally wanted. I think it's a quality attempt. I think the Playoffs will eventually at some point in time expand.
I think that the Playoff will be equally kind to the SEC. The reason I say that is because there's just such quality competition here. The teams week in and week out are so prepared, so capable and talented. For them not to include one and possibly more in that Playoff would be, I don't know, maybe shortsighted.
Q. With Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris, you have two quarterbacks that can run. They're the only two scholarship quarterbacks you have, how do you temper the play calling for calling runs and try to protect them from getting hurt?
COACH MILES: We always have a quality tailback in that game. The opportunity to call runs for our tailbacks is something we will do and routinely do. We're not in a position where we have to dial up a quarterback carry. It's not just something that we have to do.
You'll find we'll have a very like approach that we've had. Zach Mettenberger didn't carry many balls either. I guess my point to you is we haven't really changed the offense.
Q. You mentioned the expansion, 102,000 seats. Without argument one of the best environments in college football. You're opening at a neutral site that hasn't sold out. As a head coach, I would expect you would want to exploit that home?field advantage as much as possible.
COACH MILES: We like to play as home, there isn't any question. We enjoy walking down the hill to that stadium. We enjoy the style of people that come in there that are intimately attached to our football team, and that the opponent has a very difficult time getting the ball snapped. We understand the advantages.
We also recognize that when you take a team, you're playing a very quality opponent, certainly Wisconsin is that, in a neutral?site game, and you're in a position where as a program you're going to be challenged, there's a real necessity to answer that challenge that allows a level of execution and allows a level of play that you need to start the season with.
I think there's some advantages to that. I think Houston is right down the street for us. It's a very quality place to play at and recruit, too.
I look forward to it. I've been in that stadium before. That will be a great venue. A very competitive game. Should be a lot of fun.
Q. You've had these sort of big games off the bat before, the Oregon game triggered a big season. Talk about this Wisconsin game. It has major implications. This is a dangerous team. Talk about how you're approaching that game.
COACH MILES: They're talented. They play offense, defense, special teams in a very physical manner. We recognize the challenge. Our program has taken these challenges.
North Carolina, Virginia Tech, great Oregon team. I mean, it's an opportunity for us to raise our level of play and really expect that those freshmen that are going to step to the field, those underclassmen that are now being counted on to show that they can play big roles for the Tigers, that they're ready to do so in the first game.
So we recognize they're a very quality football team, but we'll look forward to the competition, as well.
Q. You lost two starters at the defensive tackle position. Quentin Thomas is the only guy left with in?game experience. Has he been a leader for the young guys? How has the youth done in the off?season so far?
COACH MILES: Christian LaCouture we would expect to be a starter for us inside, has had a great spring, played significantly in the fall, and really we would expect that he would be a guy that would step right in there.
Quentin Thomas is also a guy that played a lot of ball in the fall. He has really matured, really defined himself as a guy that can give great contribution there.
But we have a number of guys behind that, some of which are true freshmen, some of which are guys true sophomores that we are really looking forward to getting to the field in keeping those first two guys fresh.
Q. Brandon Harris, highly recruited guy. What do you like about his game?
COACH MILES: Well, the key piece is he really throws the ball well. I mean, he is a guy that has real strength. He's innately accurate. He's got great footwork. He can extend a play, get out of the pocket, move around.
But probably the best thing about him is he anticipates that great play, too. He has the opportunity to see it and has the arm to get it there.
There's some real advantages with him.
Q. Without having the numbers in front of me, you've probably had more underclassmen leave for the NFL Draft over the last four or five years than any school in the country. Has it had a deleterious effect, harmful effect? You mentioned freshmen. Do you just consider them three?and?done guys now? Seems like you've had the most early exits.
COACH MILES: Absolutely we have had the most early exits in the NFL Draft. I think there's a real challenge to any program that loses a senior and junior class. I think in the last two drafts, it's been eight juniors. We do lead college football in three?and?outs.
Certainly there's a group of men that's very deserving if you look at Pat Peterson, 'KeKe' Mingo, Eric Reid, those guys that are first?round guys. I think there's no question that that is the dream of most high school players that are great players. That is they would put themselves in position to get their degree and have the opportunity to be highly drafted, drafted very early in the first round, and go on to the NFL.
I think that is a positive, very correct position for those guys. I think the third?round player really questions the fact whether or not I should come back, whether or not I should allow that first round to leave, and for me to increase my draft status, play for a championship, and get my degree.
We're approaching it. We want our guys to see the opportunity. But many times, you know, those decisions are made in a way that reflects the need of the family.
If you say getting a degree is certainly a quality outcome for college, and certainly we've graduated our guys in the high 70s, and if you say playing championship football is significant, then the NFL, that actual outcome of going to the NFL in a drafted position, is really pretty positive.
It's hard for me to, you know, ultimately say and convince one of those guys, like Stevan Ridley, who left in the third round, who stars for the New England Patriots. It's very difficult for me to bemoan that position.
Q. I know winning trumps all. What are some other factors that are key in staying at a school for a long tenure like you have?
COACH MILES: I think, first of all, you have to have a great school. I think the opportunity that we present in recruiting is, it's a place you're going to get your degree, you're going to play championship football, you're going to play one of the historic venues in college football. I think you have to have one of those. I recognize how fortunate I've been to be at LSU for the length of time that I have.
I honor the young men that I've coached. I recognize the advantages that we have.
I think if you're a guy that really doesn't spend time on where you're ranked, you're a guy that spends time on how to coach 'em, how to make 'em better, I think there is an advantage.
Q. You were touting the second network. How will having your own network be even more of an advantage?
COACH MILES: Yeah, I think it's 24/7, start to finish. When you're telling those players, you want your family to see you, you want to be covered, you want national acclaim, you want to have an opportunity at national awards, if you want to be on television, if there's that opportunity, if you recognize that with the network there should be an income per member that allows that member to serve the student?athlete at a very, very high level, I think it's just tremendously positive.
We're a society of immediacy. If you can see the coach on TV and if you can see how the practice is, you can see strength and humor, hard work, all the things that fit with the need of the 18?year?old college student?athlete, I think the advantages are having that network. I think the advantages are many.
Q. I'd be remiss in asking why you hated your time in Austin so much.
COACH MILES: Oh, no, no, no. It was just not vacation. I loved it. My daughter's doing wonderfully there. I enjoy the experience she's having, okay?
But it was not a beach. There was no hotel that I walked out and jumped into the surf.
But the great news is, as a family, we did some things we never would have done. I'm glad you asked this question (laughter).
Example. We rented bikes. It just happened to rain like hell. There was a bunch of hills down there. I want you to know something. As a father, I'm watching my kids going down this hill. I promise you, some of the experiences I had there, I'll not have again (laughter).
Q. Can Kevin Sumlin dominating the state in recruiting, you playing down the street in Houston, Alabama just announced a second game in Arlington, is the SEC taking over the state of Texas?
COACH MILES: I think our conference is a conference of choice. I think there's an opportunity for the very best players to want to play in this conference. I'm also a coach that coached in the Big 12 Conference and recognized the great advantages of Texas, recognized the great advantages of the OUs in that conference.
But you look at a high school athlete, you want to play against the very best, we can make that argument at the SEC.
KEVIN TRAINOR: Thank you, Coach Miles, for your time.
COACH MILES: Thanks, men, ladies.