Miles, Football Hold Annual Media and Fan Day

LSU head coach Les Miles
LSU head coach Les Miles
Chris Parent (@chrisparent)
Michael Bonnette (@LSUBonnette)
Michael Bonnette (@LSUBonnette)
Assoc. Athletic Director/Communications

BATON ROUGE -- LSU head coach Les Miles, coordinators Cam Cameron and John Chavis, and the entire football squad were available to preview the 2014 season on Sunday at the program's annual media day.



The following is the transcript from LSU coach Les Miles at today's Media Day:

Opening Statement:
“Going into my tenth year, I can tell I look forward to this day. It kind of signifies the last time that this camp will be interrupted by media, and it's very sentimental to me because it's my tenth one. We're in camp now a week. We had a nice little walk through today. We're working hard.

“First four days of split squads have kind of really ensured that this team was in really good shape. We lost some weight. I think we're really in position to have a great camp. The attitude has been good. Offense quarterbacks are really competing, and as long as they do that and they continue to get better, we have to find a quarterback that can do all the things that these guys can do in the week, and can execute the offense extremely well, and I think we'll do that.
“The running backs, good group, Magee and Hilliard are the seniors, I think the young guys are very, very talented. I think we'll have fresh legs and a very talented running back corps, offensive line continues to improve, continues to work to get depth. We're breaking the ice, and some of these young offensive linemen are hanging around this William Clapp is going to be a guy we'll have to look at and see how he plays, and young Malone is again a guy that has potential to step in there and do some playing time and we're going to watch. Wide receivers very talented young group and very quality group of upperclassmen. Those guys I think will be there.

“I think what's interesting is seven practices in with 29 total we're really kind of a broadened scope kind of teaching with the broad basics and when we get really after the next seven practices we'll know a lot more how we're doing there. I think defense is certainly ahead of the offense in the fact that they're fast and really getting to the ball extremely well. It seems to me to be a very, very deep, very talented defensive unit.

“Young defensive linemen have stepped in and done some good. Lewis Neal is a guy whose name you haven't heard much of will be playing a lot of football. Again, I think some of those young defensive linemen, Frank Herron, some of those guys whose names you don't know are going to be very, very good players.

“The linebackers are still strength I think you look at Kwon and the battle at Mike backer with Beckwith and Welter and Louis at the other side and Deion Jones, those guys are fast and experienced now and it appears to me to be extremely good.

“The secondary I think will be really good at safety and really good at corner. The safeties are with the addition of Jamal Adams, I think Rickey Jefferson also, this guy is playing very well as a young safety. And I don't know if those two guys are certainly in the first group, but I can tell you they'll play a lot of football.

“Our special teams, a fellow who is coming off a very quality freshman year getting some deeper kicks and he's hitting the ball well. Jamie Keehn's healthy and kicking the ball very hard, great hang time and distance. Good thing about him, he's been through this a couple times now and understands what's expected of him. Trent Dominique has really stepped in and given us a great, very competitive leg, very big leg at the kickoff spot.

“So we'll have talented returners. Number of guys getting work every day. Coaching staff is a group of men that are very quality professionals. It's nice to have Cam Cameron in a position to mentor these quarterbacks. It's nice to see Chief John Chavis running the defense that's really very talented and capable and doing all the right things. Nice to have Bradley Dale Peveto back, the special teams guy, this year with most of my original staff. So it appears to me that camp so far is good. It's hard work. It's a grind. But there is improvement and great attitude.

Q. Talk about ten years. How have you changed in those ten years, and what have you learned here? How practical has that change worked out for you?
LES MILES: It's gone by so fast I just can't tell you. I don't know that I've learned a lot. I think the enjoyment of how this team works and the ability that they have, the want to scrap to be competitive, it's been a joy that's been there every year. So I hope the next ten years will go as fast as the last.

Q. You mentioned that there's a lot more teaching that goes into this fall camp than maybe some others. How does that affect, I guess, jobs are going to be one more in the field, and I guess what's that mean for the first three or four games of the year and how you guys approach it?
LES MILES: Well, we want to put the team on the field that gives the greatest chance at victory, and we're looking at guys that can go to the field and play, and there are plenty of those. This is a teaching camp by necessity. It's always a teaching camp, and we want to take the veterans and improve their level of play. We want to take those young guys and put them in position where we're taking steps on the field and improving right away.

If you look at it, we've played 29 freshmen in the last two years, and this is a class that a number of freshmen will predict to play. It's going to be fun. I can tell you one thing Trey Quinn is a guy that he learns quickly. He's very talented. I expect him to be one of those freshmen.

Q. Coach, can you talk about the roles of Kendell Beckwith and Ethan Pocic? They look good enough to be starters, but I know you're trying to find a niche for both of them. Can you talk about those two guys?
LES MILES: I would not be surprised if Ethan Pocic would start a number of games. I think he's working at center right now, and I think he's a guy that could be very comfortable at guard and probably his best position is center. So there is a guy that really will end up playing as a starter at some point in time in the season and will finish the career that way. He's a very talented offensive player.

I can tell you Kendell Beckwith is a very talented athletically, and really he and Welter are competing very closely for playing time at the Mike backer. In any event, at some point in time both or one, whoever is on the field for that matter will give us great play at Mike backer.

Q. Coach, as a follow up can you talk about surviving double digits in this league as a coach, because not many do. And number two, if one of your backs, be it Fournette or anybody else is head and shoulders above the rest, will it be their job or will you continue to kind of lean on the back field by committee?
LES MILES: That's what I call an add on question. See, he gave me double digits. Now I was figuring at double digits he's going to go in and explain that a little bit more, and then he went to running backs. So what I was going to tell you about double digits is we played double digits every day. It's generally 90 or below, and it's never in triple digits. As a coach that might have had the opportunity to survive double digits, I'm thrilled.

I can tell you this, the career thing, I never look back. I really think that our best football is in front of us. I'm really worried about the next practice and the next recruiting class, and that's just how you go. At some point in time in ten years will have a greater meaning and maybe 17 years or 20 years might have greater meaning. So now, you're saying something about the running backs?

Q. Yes, one is head and shoulders above the rest.
LES MILES: Yeah, we've always played with the best player, but there is a learning curve with some of the young guys and those guys, for them to play the entire game, for instance, one, they'd have to be in unbelievable shape. Two, they'd have to know the playbook inside and out, and there would not be then advantages to playing a group. I think there will always be advantages to playing the group even if one takes the lion's share of the carries or the lion's share of the snaps. So with advantage, we'll sub our running backs.

Q. Talk about improvements to Tiger Stadium.
LES MILES: Yeah, I think the stadium has taken another step. On the field when you look at those two Jumbotrons on the other end, when you consider how loud that place has been and now with that closed inside kind of capturing the noise, I think it's going to be exciting. It was the finest venue in college football, and I think it's just taken another step.

Q. You talked about liking the competition at quarterback. What you've seen so far, is there a time that you feel it's important to name a starter at that position? If you can, just tell us what you've liked about the competition at QB?
LES MILES: Yeah, I think the naming of a starter will be when one separates himself from the other. And when it's a real advantage to name him as a starter because he needs to recognize as does the team that this is where we're going. We're not there. I can tell you that accountability and the length of time that you need to stand in that pocket and learn the offense in my opinion both quarterbacks need that time. When it's appropriate or when it's right or two quarterbacks aren't going to play, we'll name a starter. But that's never really been the key to me. The key has always been the competition. And I promise you we'll play at quarterback in every set.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
LES MILES: Oh, in other words what we're doing. Coaching. Oh, okay.

I think the superlatives on the quarterbacks are both have good feet and pocket awareness, very accurate throwers. One is a little faster, one is maybe a little thicker and a little stronger. I think there are differing skills and differing passes that each guy throws it seems more naturally. I think they're both coming, and I think they both recognize that there is some necessary urgency of preparing the offense and understanding the playbook. So I know that I separated them at all, which you probably intended by the question, but in any event that's how it appears to me.

I have always enjoyed my life. I think that is a key piece of this. For me to separate myself from my family and to work for 85 guys on scholarship and 125 guys that are on our team, the coaches, families and their kids, I've really always enjoyed the interaction of football in every event, including practice and mundane walkthroughs and certainly games.

Q. What is your take on the Power 5?
LES MILES: The Power 5 vote, I think it's good for college football. I think it's the right thing. I think LSU will certainly look forward to participating in those rules discussions. Again, I think in the same vein that there will be separation from other conferences in the same vein, there is probably a necessity not to go too fast. Now the banning is the rule that you are allowed to use your own likeness in the NCAA is in the process of appealing that, correct? That is the legal ruling that you want me to comment on?

Yeah, I think that's I guess really interesting. College for me was a time where everybody was poor and it was really comfortable, and you wore blue jeans and your shirt wasn't just perfect, but that's the way it was. You were in college. I think that's kind of how I grew up. I think there is probably legal precedent for now how do you make that a right rule for everybody. That's a tough one.

There will be some guys whose jerseys will sell for $200,000 a year, and other guys whose jerseys won't net them a dime. So it's going to be one for the NCAA to adjudicate and make it fair. Certainly in places in this state you have to think that there would be a number of people that would buy jerseys. So there would be schools in the Power 5 conferences where that wouldn't necessarily be the case. So you might be able to, in a recruiting talk say to a young man, you know what? I would be willing to bet I mean, last year's running back made $200,000 just on selling his shirt. I would be willing to bet that should you set this up that that might well happen.

I think that those kinds of scenarios are something that really needs to be looked at and said which is right and fair.

Again, I think we're at a time in the NCAA where there is a lot of necessary scrutiny on what rules need to be in place, and what rules do not. It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Q. How do you feel about your depth at defensive tackle, and if there is any update on Travonte Valentine?
LES MILES: Travonte Valentine is still in the throes of the clearing house and making that all work. We're optimistic, but we'll know more when we know more. The other piece of it.

Q. Defensive tackles.
LES MILES: Yeah, I think we're really pretty good at the defensive tackle. LaCouture and Herron are our starters. We think that Quentin Thomas, we'll hopefully get him back here soon. Then I think we're talented behind that. So I think we're good there. We moved Lewis Neal in there to give us a little quickness and he's really been exciting to watch.

Q. Obviously, there is a need for leadership. Who are a couple of other guys behind closed doors that are leaders of this program?
LES MILES: Well, the coaching staff certainly has guys in their rooms. There's probably right around 15 what we would call union council, which is our leadership council. I think there are a number of guys. I think leadership is evident in La'el Collins, a guy that's really not eligible to wear 18. A guy that really turned down what was certainly wealth at some level to get his degree, play championship ball here and put himself in position to move his draft status up.

So that kind of guy is a leader in every level that we break. I like Tre'Davious White. He's young, but he's a tremendous leadership guy. Works hard. Does all the things, I want to say about a 3.0 student, so there are a number of guys. Again, we're fortunate to have leadership here.

Q. Do you expect some growing pains and mistakes along the way for the younger guys?
LES MILES: Well, I look at this picture up here on the offense and I'd have to think that our team would compare to that offense. If we can get the quarterbacks to facilitate and function, we're going to be good. I say that with the idea that young players are going to play. I say that with the idea that they're talented and they were recruited to that void. We're going to coach them hard. We're going to make sure that we try to anticipate mistakes and avoid them. But, yeah, I'm not anticipating just terrible growing pains there. 

Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Cam Cameron

On the offense as a unit …
“Our effort so far has been outstanding. We have great veteran leadership in La'el Collins, Elliott Porter, Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee. They are having an outstanding camp. We have really good competition with our wide receivers and running backs. We have some things to figure out with the offensive line, but we'll get them taken care of.”

On getting the quarterbacks ready …
“We are trying to get everyone ready. Anthony (Jennings) has experience with the two big games. We had some great competition this spring, but our goal is to have everyone ready for the same game. I think Coach Miles will be able to make that decision. The offenses' focus is to get everyone ready, and the quarterback position is no different.”

On the preparation by the quarterbacks …
“I've seen tremendous preparation with our guys. They are willing to do anything and everything. They understand it's the first guy in the building and last guy to leave expectation here. Zach (Mettenberger) showed that leadership last year along with Anthony in the Arkansas game. I think they understand that everything starts with our preparation. Our expectation in games is to play like they do in practice. If they play like they did this week, we'll play well.”

On the possibility of playing two quarterbacks …
“Coach Miles will make the right decision. Our job is to make sure everyone is ready to play like a starter. We have five guys in our (quarterbacks) room that we expect to prepare like starters. The expectation is to go in and play like an LSU starter. Everyone's skill set is different. None of the guys are exactly the same. We aren't going to call the same plays for each guy. We do expect all of them to be tough, to lead, to be able to execute our running game and flourish in whatever passing game fits them. It doesn't matter how many we have, they'll all have to play.”

On the newcomers as a group …
“I've been impressed with all of our young players including guys from last year's freshmen class. I can go down a list of freshmen and sophomores. There are still a lot of unknowns, but they are extremely bright and hard workers. From what I've seen, all of the guys are who we thought they were and then some. That's a really good sign for us.”

On the improvement of the quarterbacks …
“It's so early. I've seen a lot of improvement through last spring and the summer. Now in a short period of time Anthony Jennings, Brandon Harris, Jake Clise and Brad Kragthorpe are all playing great. The constant theme with our quarterbacks is that they're athletic. They can all run, which is a positive. They have a similar skill set, but I'm' pleased with the way our guys are working. We better improve going against our defense.”

On replacing so many prolific offensive players from last season …
“I've never been to a place where you didn't have to replace players like you do here. I've been fortunate enough to be around great players. Unfortunately, you can't keep everyone around. You're always developing young talent and bringing in new guys. There are a lot of guys that are getting overlooked like Avery Peterson, Melvin Jones, Ethan Pocic and more. There are fifteen guys that I haven't heard a word about, and they'll contribute if they continue to improve. That's what gives us a chance to collectively replace great players. You don't ever replace an Odell Beckham Jr., but you can do it collectively. That's why this game is so fun. The faces change but the expectations don't.

On the tight ends…
“I think Dillon Gordon has a chance to be a dominant tight end. I think DeSean Smith is an ascending player. He played wide receiver so he won't magically play tight end in the SEC. It's a hard transition. Coach Ensminger does as good as job as anyone in developing those guys. Logan Stokes was originally a defensive end in junior college but becomes a tight end. Travis Dickson gives us great flexibility. He comes from a great football family. The expectation is to play as well as any tight end group in the country, and we expect them to do that.”

On the biggest adjustment from the pro game to LSU …
“They're almost the same. The one difference is that the players have to go to school. In a lot of ways, it's easier to play in the NFL as a young player than college. It's different for a guy his freshman or sophomore year. I marvel that our guys are able to play at such a high level their first two years given the jump in academics. The play changes in the NFL, but you don't have school. You prepare the whole day on football. In a lot of ways, it's harder to play as a young player than the NFL.”


RB Terrence Magee

On earning the No. 18 jersey …
“It means a lot to me to wear No. 18. I had a lot of guys in front of me that represented the number the right way. They set a good foundation and showed me how to wear the number.”

On Leonard Fournette’s impact on this team …
“I think he will make a tremendous impact for the team. With his skills and the things he can do for this offense, I think he will have a great year. He has quickness and versatility. It is unreal how he has come in and picked up on things so quickly. It is a big plus for him and for our team.”

QB Brandon Harris

On learning the system at LSU …
“You don’t realize how much football you don’t know until you get to a campus like this. Coach Cam Cameron has been great. Brad (Kragthorpe) has been the biggest influence on me since I got here. He has helped me, and we have been taking it step by step. I am continuing to develop. There is a lot of football you have to learn when you play at a big stage like LSU.”

On his relationship with Anthony Jennings
“It is a good relationship. Everything will continue to build our relationship. When I got here, I didn’t know Anthony. I knew of him when I got on campus. We have developed a relationship.”

On his readiness to play in a game …
“If the game was today, I don’t think any of us would be ready to play. We are seven practices in. We are trying to install our offense. We haven’t started prepping for Wisconsin yet. Our game plan hasn’t been put in. Nobody is ready to play right now. By graduating early, it has put me in that position to be ready to play.”

QB Anthony Jennings

On the impact of the freshmen receivers …
“They are doing great. Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre are really standing out to me. Those guys are going to be great players for our future.”

On the new south end zone expansion at LSU …
“I love the expansion. I have only been in there once since they finished. It is going to be a great asset for us, and I think teams will be scared to play there.”

On his improvement from last season …
“I have taken the biggest strides forward by just coming every day and trying to get better with the offense, leadership and mechanics. It’s really about getting better every day, and I am ready for the challenge.”

On the quarterback competition …
“We push each other to get better each day. I wish the best for him, and he wishes the best for me. We always push each other to the extent we didn’t think possible.”

RB Leonard Fournette

On learning a new system at LSU …
“They are teaching us right now. Any mistakes we are making right now, they are teaching us how to make it right. I don’t believe in growing pains because as a team we are good. Right now we are focused on getting to know each other and getting in the groove with each other.”

On some valuable lessons he has learned …
“I have learned a lot, especially from the blocking point of view. I am learning all the signs and signals. You have to get that in your mind and remember that kind of stuff.”

On imagining his first touchdown at LSU …
“I have thought about my first touchdown a thousand times. Seeing the crowd cheer for your first touchdown, it is exciting. Hopefully it will be the first game.”


Defensive Coordinator John Chavis

On the position battle at safety…
“Well, it’s big right now. If you said, ‘Who are the starting safeties?’, that will be determined. There are some guys that have played there that have some experience that are coming back and will be in the mix. Right now, we have five or six guys that are battling for those two positions. There’s competition all over the field. Ronald Martin has played a lot of football for us around here, and we’ve got several guys who have done that. It’ s a battle that will continue up until game week.”

On the Quentin Thomas injury…
“You’ve got holes that you’ve got to fill. Sometimes, they’re unexpected but the next guy has to be ready to go. We’ve got several guys that could be the next guy. So, we get the next guy ready to go, and we go play. It’s unfortunate for Quentin, I feel for him. We can’t look back. We’ve got to look forward and move on.”

On the importance of the linebackers for this defense…
“It’s a time for them to take on more responsibility, but we do what we do. We’re going to always be good in the defensive line because that’s where it starts. If you’re not good there then it’s tough to do a lot of other things. We’ve got some good talent, and I feel that it might be true that we have as good of a pair of defensive ends as anybody in the country.”

On athleticism versus experience on the defensive side of the ball…
“Athleticism will usually overcome experience if you’re working in the right direction. Athleticism is a big part of what we do. There are positions that are easier to learn, and it doesn’t take as much experience to get there. For some, it takes a little more experience because there’s a lot of mental focus, a lot of calls and a lot of adjustments. Some things happen at some positions that don’t happen at others. For example based on experience, it’s a heck of a lot easier to play cornerback than it is to play any other position on the field. You put a great athlete out there, and you can get him ready to play. The mental part of it isn’t nearly as tough. It’s more athletic ability that counts there.”

On the responsibility of the defense to possibly carry a team with a young offense…
“We want to play great defense regardless. It’s no secret, it doesn’t matter where you go or how you cut it. If you don’t play great defense then the chances of winning championships are lessened. You have to play great defense, and our goal is to be a great defensive unit. We work towards that every day. Our players work towards that, and our players strive to be a great defensive unit.”

On creating more turnovers this season…
“The emphasis was there, we just didn’t get it done (last season).  Is it inexperience or is it guys are uncomfortable and not playing fast enough? We were average in the turnover department, but there is always that emphasis there. We’ve got things that we teach and believe in and part of our philosophy. That’s a big part of it, but I can’t explain why some years you’re great at it and some years you’re not. We work it, we teach it and our players buy into it. Sometimes, you get turnovers because you find quarterbacks that throw it to you and backs that put it on the ground. Sometimes, you cause those situations by the way you play. Our emphasis hasn’t been any different but should the results be different, we certainly hope so. We were average in the turnover margin last year.”


Cornerback Tre'Davious White

On his improvement individually …
“I worked on pretty much everything. I went back and looked at every play that I played in last year, run support and pass. I feel that there are a lot of things I could work on, so I went back and looked at every play, not just the good ones, but every play. I sat down with (defensive back) Coach Raymond and asked him what I could do to be better, and he said I needed to work on the little things every day to get better and better.”

Linebacker D.J. Welter

On how he has improved this offseason …
“Last year I came in without ever starting a game and got a lot of experience. My teammates stood behind me, always pushing me to get better, and I felt like I progressively got better as the season moved on. Later in the season I started making some plays and started pulling everything together at the end. Coach is always on me, and my teammates were there to get better at the end. I'm building on to that now and looking forward to kicking off against Wisconsin.”

On if the defense feels pressure because of the youth on offense …
“Defense usually comes together a little earlier than the offense, but like Coach Les Miles said, Coach Cam Cameron is going to put them in position to make some plays that people will get excited about. On defense, we're doing our best to get that football back to the offense with three-and-outs, turnovers, and forcing punts. We need to maximize turnovers during the course of the game.”

Defensive end Danielle Hunter

On what he likes from fellow defensive end Jermauria Rasco
Jermauria Rasco is a good guy. The sky is the limit for him. He's quick, explosive, and powerful. Like I said, the sky is the limit for him.”

On going against the experienced offensive line in practice …
“It's like iron sharpening iron. We go against them, we get better and they get better. They show us new stuff and switch sides; we show them different techniques and quick sets. Every day we're both getting better.”

Linebacker Kwon Alexander

On who has the best beard on the team …
“I think Dwayne (Thomas) has the best beard. I don't have a beard; I think this is more of a goatee.”

On which of his teammates he likes going up against …
“I like playing against La'el Collins. He's one of the best in the league. I push him, and he pushes me to be the best linebacker to ever play the game.”




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