Miles, Tigers Put Finishing Touches on SEC's 'Kickoff '09'
LSU Sports Interactive
HOOVER, Ala. -- As the Southeastern Conference's annual media days, "Kickoff 2009," wrapped up on Friday, LSU took its turn in the spotlight along with South Carolina, Tennessee and Auburn. View the transcript from the formal press conference.
Courtesy of SECsports.com
COACH LES MILES
THE MODERATOR: We will continue on with LSU head Coach Les Miles. Coach, welcome.
COACH MILES: Well, summer is over. I trust it is for you, as well. The Miles family played youth sports and swam, had the opportunity to get our feet in some sand. I reacquainted myself with my children. I find I have four children, two of them that call me dad, and two of them that call me daddy. I enjoy that.
I'm still getting around and doing alumni talks. Last night I was in Houston. Any time you get a group of LSU faithful together, it is great energy. I'm fortunate to represent LSU. There is a great passion that surrounds the program. People relive their experience. It's always been one that's a family treasure, and they carry that experience out into the community.
Our guys are having the kinds of experiences that, you know, everybody in sport, for that matter, everybody in college, would love to have. This spring I had three football players that won national titles in other sports. Chad Jones and Jared Mitchell were part of a national championship World Series baseball team at LSU. Trindon Holliday won the 100 meters in the NCAA.
I can tell you, I insist on them going to school, I can tell you I insist on them doing the right things, and they're having the kind of experience that everybody in sport would love to have.
I want to congratulate Mike Slive and our conference. They've set up a great partnership with ESPN and CBS. We will be covered as well as any conference in the country. I think that's fair and right, because I believe in my heart that it's as competitive as any conference in the country.
I can tell you that coming off last year, eight victories and a bowl win was not enough. Our football team's a little more wanting, a little bit more ambitious. I think that's spilled into the preparation in the off season. We had a very good spring. I think our summer, a price has been paid as we go into fall camp. Very much look forward to getting that team together.
Offensively, certainly we'll be better. A year ago we put three freshmen quarterbacks on the field, all of which at one point in time got hurt. One currently has eight games experience as a starter, one three. I can tell you that both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee will take the field with a lot more experience and comfort with what we expect of our quarterback.
If we had to start today, I would start Jordan Jefferson, but I believe our offense will function extremely well with the idea that our quarterbacks are a little bit more veteran. Charles Scott, that offensive line, should catch speed quickly. I think our receivers are going to be an advantage for us. JoJo LaFell (Brandon LaFell) is expected by his coaches and his team to have a great year. Terrance Toliver, I think we can put a number of receivers on the field that can do damage to an opponent's defense.
Richard Dickson, our tight end, coming into his final campaign, is poised to have a great year. It's a diverse offense. It's one that's gonna be difficult to defend. We look forward to taking the field with them.
Defensively, we got a new staff. We put John Chavis in as defensive coordinator. His experience in this league, his comfort with a dominant defense, met very comfortably with those men on our campus where we have played dominant defense for our time. I think the introduction in the start, this spring, certainly as we go forward, went well.
Ron Cooper, our secondary coach, and Brick Haley, the defensive line, I think there's a great deal of experience and ability in the coaching staff. Again, our players want to play great, and understand theres a work habit and a work ethic there that's established. Again, I think it will fall together nicely.
The defensive line, we'll graduate some guys. But there will be some men there that have experience. We recruited well behind them. I think there will be some competition as we come to the line of scrimmage. A veteran at linebacker, the entire corporation, from Harry Coleman, Jacob Cutrera, Perry Riley, Kelvin Sheppard, all of which have a great deal of experience, and will give us a line backing core that will make the transition.
I think we're talented in the secondary. I think Chad Jones, being, you know, put in as our free safety, allowing him to get comfortable at a spot, will benefit his development. I think he's a very talented player. We look forward to that continuing.
But I think our defense will be better, as well.
In special teams, I think Trindon Holliday, our return game, is ready to mature. We look forward to some big plays there. We have a new punter in Derek Helton who, in my opinion, had a great spring, has had a great summer. I think our special teams will be lined with speed, will be able to cover, do the things we're capable of doing.
Every year a team takes on a new character and a new personality. It has to do with their talent and their skill. It has to do with the chemistry within that team. It has to do with leadership. And I can tell you that, as an example of leadership, Ciron Black, a four year starter, a guy that came in and played a lot, has been through all the games, played all the big games, and is in his final spring playing his best football. As he approaches his final fall, again, he's prepared to play, in my opinion, his best season of football.
Jacob Cutrera, played a lot of football, played in most every game, but really in a backup position, in a position where development had to take place, hard work, the competitive fire. Now it's his turn, it's his time.
I just really think that our leadership I think the philosophy is clean. I think they understand the team. I think they want to be a part. I think they're ambitious. I look forward to this team.
I'm anxious to coach 'em. Can't wait till they report.
I know there's some issues out there that people want to talk to me about. I had everybody and his brother ask me did I vote for Tebow. I certainly did. He has always had great games against us. Personally, I'm for him. I like who he is. So, yeah, I voted for him.
I can tell you this. I'm going to call Jefferson and my quarterbacks and hold them to that level of play. I think that anybody that didn't vote for him has that right certainly, but that's their call.
Now, I don't know that anybody's mentioned officiating. I think the officials have a very difficult time this fall. There's a rule change that, in my opinion, will really affect how officials call the game. It's the helmet to helmet contact. It will be interesting to see how it's called.
Football is one where you have to take somebody on in a frontal position, it's certainly a point of leverage, that helmet. And safety is a key. I certainly think that the rule is a right rule. But I think it has the potential to be over-officiated.
We have a great officiating the SEC, in my opinion, are guys that take their job very seriously. But I think it's a tough rule. It will be interesting to see how that all pans out.
Are there any questions?
Q. Last year was the first year you had kids that hadn't won 11 ballgames in a year. How much of a shock was that to their systems and how did that translate into work ethic in the spring?
COACH MILES: I think there's a level of acceptable achievement at our school. I think our guys understand it. I think championship is how we're measured. I understand how that happens. But it's not any fun.
I had somebody ask me, you know, Is that something you expect? You never expect to finish second, not at LSU.
I think our team has prepared in earnest. I think it will be seen this fall.
Q. Steve Spurrier said he did not actually fill out his ballot. He lets an assistant do it. Do you do the same? Do you approve it? How does that work?
COACH MILES: In this particular year, I had (SID) Michael Bonnette, in conjunction with me, fill that ballot out. But those were my calls, as well.
Q. What kind of differences should we expect defensively between what you had with Bo Pelini and what you expect now with Chavis?
COACH MILES: I think you'll find that the structure of the defenses are the same. They have the opportunity to operate out of a two shell or a single high. We can put four or three on the field, down linemen. I think that the opportunity to zone dog from the field, boundary, to blitz, I think you'll find that that is the same.
I think what is also similar is a want and a desire to give relentless effort. So I think there will be some similarities, but some differences as well, based on personnel.
Q. When you vote in the coaches' poll, you fill out your ballot?
COACH MILES: Absolutely.
Q. I don't know if there's a link between the two. What's the difference with what happened here now in the pre season ballot and that? Shouldn't you be filling that thing out yourself?
COACH MILES: Well, I do in conjunction. It's an over the phone conversation that takes place. Yeah, I think there's a responsibility that the school do it well and do it right. Certainly the head coach's opinion on players is most valid.
Q. Jordan Jefferson had a very impressive Bowl game last year. What is he doing to maintain his ability to get better?
COACH MILES: Well, he's bigger and stronger than he's been. In my opinion, the experience that he had in his true freshman year will benefit him tremendously. You know, so many times you want to get on the field, you want to get on the field, then you realize you have cadence, stems in motions, the ability to execute the offense becomes a little bit harder to do other than when you're standing on the sideline where it appears easy.
That adjustment and that experience will certainly benefit him going into the fall. He has had a great summer. He's stronger. He's bigger. He's run our seven on seven. Our players get together in the evening a couple nights a week and throw seven on seven. Both he and Jarrett Lee have done that. We expect those guys, we expect Jordan Jefferson, to have a great fall.
Q. With John Chavis coming on board, at the end of last season, specifically the Arkansas game, y'all had a few, I think you would call them, on field discipline issues that cost you in penalties, maybe cost the ballgame. In bringing Chavis on board, was that a charge you gave to him to shape up the Tiger discipline?
COACH MILES: No. That's my responsibility. And I took those observations you made in our last game as observations that I also made. I can tell you that that will not happen again.
Q. In dealing with Ciron Black on a day to day basis, I found him to be a very thoughtful person who considers his comments, measures what he has to say. Just wanted to get your impressions, after spending as much time around him as you have, about how much intelligence he's got and how thoughtful he is. Maybe if you see him somewhere down the line in a broadcast booth doing NFL analysis or something like that.
COACH MILES: Very talented man. Not only athletically, but I think he has an intuitive sense, an understanding what's going on, not only in his daily life, but in football. It's really interesting to watch a young man mature.
The fun thing for the coach is you get to spend four or five years with a guy, and you get to see him grow. You get to see where he came from, where he's going. It's reassuring. I think Ciron Black will be a great representative of LSU for years to come.
Q. The struggles that your quarterbacks had last season, how much do you attribute that to inexperience and how much do you value experience in your quarterbacks?
COACH MILES: When you put a young one on the line of scrimmage with the opportunity to execute, and you have schooled him and trained him all through practice snaps, you've gone to live. Live scrimmage, let's say you could get a game in in a two a day schedule. One quarterback could have a solid, full game. The experiences that he might have in that 70 to 90 plays just wouldn't prepare him for the season. It's just not enough.
So what happens is, is you'd like to have one quarterback that took every one of your snaps and you prepared him with every snap he just had for the next snap that he's about to have; that the situation he was just in would compare favorably to a situation he was about to be in, and on the field away from the coaches with a down and distance and a time clock pressuring him. There's nothing but experience that will teach that.
We're fortunate, in my opinion, to have two guys that have experienced that, and at this point in time can look towards their development to happen a little bit more even and with more success.
Q. Wondering if you enjoyed Omaha, and with all the air time you got when you were up there during the college World Series, coming during a key time in recruiting, if you noticed any benefit from that, a couple of your players playing key roles on that team, and how players playing other sports has evolved?
COACH MILES: I've been fortunate through my career to have guys that have played multiple sports. Bennie Brazell, a track guy, also played wide receiver here. Trindon Holliday certainly, as well. I think that if LSU is a consideration, and you have a great interest in a spring sport, certainly that's something that we have had the opportunity to work out.
I think there are times in a young man's career where he has to focus on getting it done in football. Certainly a quarterback has a great burden that he has to learn the offense, operate the offense well. Not necessarily is he ready to go to a spring sport.
I think it's harder. I think those guys that do that have a difficult time because of the academics. I think the load on the academic student athlete that has two sports is greater. The time frame where you get through with a spring football season and you get to really concentrate and finish your academic semester strongly without the lure of a practice or the want for a game, I think is easier.
But I think in our society, we want more. I think the opportunity to have those experiences is greater. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed watching Jared Mitchell lead off the third game with a home run. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed watching Chad Jones throw left handed and throw dominantly and look like a beast on the mound, come off and chest pump a guy and dang near knock him down.
There was a play at first base where Chad had to cover for the bag, a routine play where the first baseman has to leave the bag, the pitcher has to come over and take the throw. And I said to myself, If that runner had gone a little left of center, contact would not have been adverse for that pitcher.
I enjoyed my experience. I think that those experiences that those guys are having will mark their life very positively. I think it's important. The only thing I can tell you about air time, if they're taking pictures of a football coach in the stands, it's a slow game.
Q. Assistant salaries have been on the increase in recent years, especially in the SEC. I wanted your take on that. Maybe when certain guys become available, schools can get in a bidding war. How hard is it to keep other schools from raiding your staff in an atmosphere like that?
COACH MILES: I think we're fortunate to live in a country where those things, market value, is generally looked at as a positive thing. How wonderful it is for an assistant coach to be able to make a great living, provide for his family, talk about retirement, all the things that you want to do.
What he's done to put himself in that position is go to college, spend hours early and late generally at the beginning of his career and not be paid a darn. In fact, about $8200 a year in their GA years. To go basically as an intern to an assistant coach's job, work up the ladder. In my opinion, it's wonderful that the assistant coach's salaries are escalating fairly, in my opinion.
I also think when you come to LSU, it's not just the salary; it's the want to coach the student athlete that comes to our school, it's the want to pursue a championship. So generally, I had great opportunity to keep my assistant coaches, other than go off and take a title that's higher or a head coach position. I've kept my assistant coaches pretty much.
It's a tough time in our economy right now. It's tough for guys to make a great living and be proud of the work that they do. But I think our economy will come around and I think our country is based on the pursuit of excellence. If that man is doing a great job, then doggone it, he's deserving.
I think everybody in every profession would only want someone to be given that title. He's making a great living. He's doing a great job. He deserves it. Then because at some point in time you will pursue that same excellence, and you will climb that ladder. At least that's kind of how I've seen it.
Q. Talk about your depth on the offensive line and also what do you like about Russell Shepard?
COACH MILES: The depth on the offensive line, you know, the five guys that will take the field, Ciron Black, Josh Dworaczyk, either T-Bob Hebert or (Patrick) PJ Lonergan at center, on the right side hit, and (Joseph) Barksdale returns, I think that gives us a great chance to be a very dominant offensive line.
Behind those guys, I think there are a number of men there that are in position to compete. Will Blackwell certainly has that ability. I mentioned two centers. At the tackle spot, we're really looking for a guy to emerge. There's a number of candidates there. I think we do have talent. But I'm waiting for that to take place. I think certainly there's some competition there and we have enough.
You also mentioned Russell Shepard. I think he's a tremendous talent. I think there's a definite challenge to our offense on how to use him, how to bring him along.
I believe firmly that he can be a quarterback. I thought he had a good spring. He's a very bright man. He has a great read. He understand secondaries. He seldom throws a ball in the wrong place by design. He knows where the ball is supposed to go.
In the spring of the year, you know, he had the right view. He checked the safety generally, the underneath coverage. Then if both routes were covered, he had a third option, which was a good option, which was run. I think his abilities will continue to improve. I think he's got a very bright future for us.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Trindon Holliday, if you could expand a little more on what he's meant to the program, the fact that he won the hundred meters, he could probably focus just on track, but he's willing to step out and play football for four years.
COACH MILES: I believe, and I've told him this, that he's a football player. I think he enjoys toughness. I think he likes to run the football. I think he does not shy from contact. I think he's been a great example of competitive edge and the ability to advance a guy that has a specific skill and get him on the field and use him.
I think he'll have a great fall. I think we're going to run him from the backfield a little bit more. I can tell you this, that he catches the public's fancy. Certainly every boy, I know my 10 year old is short, and he loves the idea that Trindon Holliday is not big. He's a great fan.
If you have to ask the people in our country who your favorite player is, and they happen to be 12 and under, they're going to come up with Trindon Holliday pretty darn quick, so...
Q. Maybe putting aside what happened this week with the coach's ballot, but the coach's poll, considering how important it is, one third of the BCS vote, do you think having staffers help do the ballot, is that enough? Do coaches owe it to everyone to put the required effort into the coach's poll?
COACH MILES: I think you have to have a staffer assist the head coach. I think it just makes great sense. I think there's an opportunity to check and review your selections. I think certainly the coach that operates in the SEC knows this conference best. I think it becomes one where the coaches from those conferences obviously have advantage in their rankings from their conference. You know, I think overall that it probably melts down to a really good, you know, very representative selection.
I think everybody can argue about it one way or the other. But I think overall, I think it's doing a good job. If you have to keep the Bowl system intact, which is a great reward for the student athlete, remember, the student athlete is really what this is about, and you allow them the opportunity to go to school and finish their semester and then participate in a Bowl, and you don't change the calendar significantly, and you come up with a representative No. 1, I think you've done your job.
I am for the playoffs. I just don't see how it works effectively. I think it's one of those issues where everyone in the room can come up with a playoff system without question, and then you bring in the presidents of the university. You said, How about the education of your student-athlete? Isn't that a priority?
Then you bring in the Bowls, you say, Isn't this a priority?
You bring in the TV, and you say, 'Oh, my goodness.' Suddenly the calendar for the student-athlete becomes changes and it becomes much more difficult.
Pick the top 10 and have a five team playoff, pick the top 8, have a four game playoff. I understand those things. Until it gets done, I'm not going to complain. I think this is a system that has its advantages.
Q. Could you talk about the influence that John Chavis has had on this team, the defense, and what differences his presence there could make?
COACH MILES: Well, I think John certainly has great experience, understands the want for dominant defense. I think our guys understand that, were really looking for that when John arrived on campus. I think he will expect, and our guys will deliver. I think the strategies behind the call, I think the effort and the technique behind the play, will be improved.
Spring has happened. It's gone by. You can see marked improvement in the defense. I would expect the same this fall.
Q. Last year there were two defensive coordinators. Were there too many voices? Was there confusion, too many cooks?
COACH MILES: I really don't think "co" had anything to do with it. To me, I thought both guys complemented each other. I think there was expertise on both sides. I think both coaches are tremendously qualified guys, and both took, you know, an opportunity to be a head coach, an opportunity to be the sole coordinator, and went on. I expect they'll have great careers and do great things in football.
Q. Could you talk about what you think went wrong in the second half of the season and how much that loss at Florida, getting beat that badly, affected your team's confidence the rest of the way.
COACH MILES: Well, I think any time that you have turnovers that mark a series of games, it's the greatest defeating statistic that there is. If you had one statistic, it wouldn't be possession, time of possession, it would not be rushing yardage, it would be turnover margin. I can tell you that, you know, if you look at the year that we won, I think we were second in the country. We finished well behind that this last year.
What has to happen is it has to start fast on both sides of the ball. You can't expect one side to play so much greater than the other that it can overcome miscues.
I certainly understand what happened at the back end of last year. I suspect our team does, too, looking forward to this fall.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Miles, thank you.
COACH MILES: Thank you.
OT Ciron Black
On preseason expectations:
"I consider it a blessing. It's preseason. I still have a long season ahead of me and a lot of playing to do. There are a lot of great guys in our conference that will be coming after me. I just have to play."
On Ole Miss:
"Ole Miss is a great team. You can't take anything away from them. They had an unbelievable season year last year. They came after us. It does give us an incentive to play harder. If we go out and do what we're supposed to do, we can beat anybody in this league. But that's if we play like we're supposed to."
On deciding to not enter the NFL Draft:
"It's my life. I had to look at it. Me and my parents made a good decision. We did a lot of praying and a lot of thinking about it. I realized I had a lot more to do. I have a lot more to work on becoming a better player, a better all-around player. When I made the decision it felt like a great decision and I haven't regretted it one bit.
"Right now we're really hungry. We ended the season on a great note with the Chick-fil-A Bowl. That wasn't enough. We only had one game to do that and we couldn't salvage the season with that one game. We came into the summer ready to go to work, ready to run. Coach Moffitt was trying to kill us but he wasn't going to break us because we were ready for it. We're going to camp ready to play, ready to get back into the season, ready to get back into the swing of things."
On LSU QB Jordan Jefferson:
"He looked really good. He's making his reads right. He's commanding the huddle, Jarrett Lee also. Both of them are commanding the huddle and doing what they're supposed to do as quarterbacks and leaders of this offense.
On his expectations for his senior season:
"Honestly I just want to go out a winner. I want to win on the field and win off the field. I want to graduate and get my degree. I want to be a good player and an example to the younger guys on the team. Just be a great player. On the field, trying my best to be dominant, to finish blocks. To do everything I didn't do last year."
"I think the hunger is there more than ever. From what happened to us last year, that's not our style of play at LSU. That's not how we want to be remembered. We went through the spring hungrier than ever. The intensity was there. Everybody bought into Coach Chavis' scheme that he brought in. That carried over into summer workouts.
On LSU Defensive Coordinator John Chavis:
"Intensity. He's a fired up guy every practice. Those two and a half hours we're out there he's in your face and you'll know when you mess up. He's brought a lot of intensity and the way he does things has helped out."
On playing Florida:
"They come here. It's going to be an exciting game like always. We're excited to have them at home. They're a great team. Tim Tebow and all the other guys and that big blue wall he has in front of him is a hard thing to stop and we're going to have to prepare for that game."
On Ole Miss:
"They're a great team. Every year, it's always a close game between us. I don't remember a time that we've just blown them out, at least not in my time here. They're a great team and deserve everything that they get."