Miles Addresses Media Prior to Georgia

LSU head coach Les Miles at his weekly press luncheon
LSU head coach Les Miles at his weekly press luncheon (@LSUsports) (@LSUsports)
LSU Sports Interactive

BATON ROUGE -- LSU head coach Les Miles addressed the media on Monday, as the Tigers begin preparations to face Georgia on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT in Athens.

Les Miles Press Luncheon
September 28, 2009


Opening statement...

“Certainly our football team met this morning and reviewed the fact that we’ve played four games, and we have four victories. That’s certainly where we want to be. Certainly we want to improve and play better along the way. I thought that there were some really good things there at the game. First of all, we had a four-hour delay in leaving town, and the weather certainly didn’t cooperate to start the game. I felt like our guys did what they had to do to get a victory. I also want to thank the 7,000-plus LSU Tiger fans who were there. They were in the top deck, and we heard them. They made a lot of noise. It’s always a pleasure to travel on the road with the people who follow us.

“I think defensively we played a very good game. I still think that there were three plays or so in that game where we can play smarter. We missed a tackle on one that led to a big gain, a broken play and one that should well have been tackled in the backfield that nets out again in another big play and a mistimed interception that personally could’ve been a big turnaround and gone the other way. Yet, our defense is playing with great effort, and in my opinion, if it continues to play with that style of effort and corrects those mistakes, it can be a very strong defense as we go forward. I’ve always said that a mark of a team is a turnover margin, and uncharacteristically offensively, we fumble on third and short, but our defense gets us three picks and a fumble. Again, I think that defense played extremely well at times. I don’t know that I’ve been around a situation with four shots from the two-yard line and not get in. I think that goal line stand was just great effort by a number of men. If you look at that (defensive) front, that front came to the line of scrimmage, and there were a number of guys who made big plays in there, including Chad Jones.

Chad Jones was recognized not only for his play on defense but that great 93-yard punt return as the National Defensive Player of the Week. Certainly he was recognized by his teammates this morning as he was the MVP (of the game). What Mississippi State’s defense did to our offense was put everybody they could up in the box and said to us, ‘Throw it,’ and we did. We threw it for 230 yards and a couple of touchdowns, and our quarterback (Jordan Jefferson), in my opinion, is handling those situations extremely well. The reality of it is that we should have protected him better, and we should have thrown for more. We will look into being more aggressive that way as we go forward.

“I still want to run the football. It’s too fundamental to me not to be important, and I want that. I want it for Charles Scott and that offensive line and Keiland Williams, and I want to be able to come off the football. But again, the defense can choose to play everybody inside, and that makes it a much more difficult position to run the football, and I wanted them to throw it. I wanted our guys to throw the football against that gaming front of Mississippi State’s. I think Jo Jo LaFell is having a real strong year, and his play is very difficult to defend. I think he’s making big plays. Russell Shepard got into the game for a short series, and I really wanted to get him back in the game in the second half. The difference is that we wanted to be in two-back, and we wanted to throw the football, and that’s not necessarily what we want to do with Russell Shepard in the game.

“If you look at special teams, the return that Chad Jones puts on is a great decision on a bouncing ball that he picks up and cleaning fields and then returns with great personal effort. We looked at that again several times this morning, and you look at Charles Alexander at about the midfield stripe at about 50 yards, driving a defender away from Chad Jones who’s returning the punt. You see Patrick Peterson directing traffic, and it was truly a great effort. There were guys who had great blocks like Brandon Taylor, who really had the first block that sprung the return, and Perry Riley got one on about the midfield stripe. Again, it was a great personal effort by Chad Jones, and certainly it was timely.

“The special teams did a great job in our kickoff coverage and covering the punt. They had a dangerous punt returner and a dangerous kickoff return guy, and we did a good job there. I felt like our punter (Derek Helton) did a great job in terms of punting the ball. Once he got the ball snapped to him, I felt like he hit the ball extremely well. I think his net for the day was 39 (yards), but he had a couple of timely punts and hit them generally with great hang time. We had 11 points given to our opponent on special teams miscues, and virtually all three were snaps. What has to happen is we have to execute the snap extremely well, and we cannot go into a big game with the opportunity to make big plays and have something so fundamental to us break down. We feel like we can address that, and it’s a very correctable mistake, so if you go forward from there, improve that offensive running game, enjoy the fact that someone puts a lot of guys in the box so we can throw it, take away the special teams miscues and play smarter on defense, that’s where we need to be.

“Certainly we need to be that for this Saturday because we play a very dangerous Georgia team, a Georgia team that is 3-1, lost the opener at Oklahoma State and has beaten South Carolina, Arkansas and Arizona State in three straight victories. I think that (head coach) Mark Richt has done a great job there at Georgia. Their teams always play hard, are very talented and extremely well coached. Their offense is averaging 30 points per game and 360 yards per game in total offense. They’re very dangerous when they get down in the red zone. They have a very good passer in Joe Cox. He’s averaging 245 yards per game and two touchdowns per contest. Their running back, Richard Samuels is averaging 70 yards a game rushing, but they run the football extremely well, and they have a number of guys who can come in and do that. A.J. Green, their great wide receiver, is just a tremendous talent. He’s a big, 6’4” guy who can make catches and is somebody that we will have to pay a lot of attention to.

“Defensively, they have a very strong front. They have very capable linebackers. They have very athletic defensive linemen who play over top. I think their defense is going to be very difficult for us to move against and certainly one that we will have to focus on.

“At this point, the focus has to turn to the very next game. We’re fortunate to be 4-0; we’d like to be 5-0, and only the next opponent stands between us and that goal. Everybody talks about rankings. Rankings have never made any difference to me and not to our football team. We understand we earn where we finish. The No. 4 ranking is certainly a spot, and that’s it. It’s close enough to be where you want to be in the end, but there’s no position except for the final ballot. When we get to the end of the season, that’s where we want to be ranked highly.”

On the fullback position...
“I think we’re developing that position. It’s not come along fast enough necessarily, but I don’t know that we can make it come along any faster. I don’t know that we’ve given it enough snaps in games to develop it, and it’s not something that we can enforce. It has to come naturally, and I think those guys are doing a good job. Frankly, we’re opting for other personnel groups at times over our normal two-back set.”

On if he’s concerned with the number of snaps his defense has to play...
“They found the energy in the goal line stand. No, there is some concern that we’re not on the field for longer on offense. We’d like to have the time of possession be an advantage for us as well. I can tell you that when Patrick Peterson scores, when a punt return scores and you have the miscues in the kicking game that you do, it limits possessions. We’re fortunate to be ahead in the turnover margin, but we want to be able to keep the ball more, and we’d like to get that defense off the field so it can rest.”

On the bad snaps on special teams...
“I think that we’ll evaluate staying with the changes as we go through the week, but I can tell you that the short snaps handcuffed our holder, and we feel like we can be better there. Water may have certainly played a part in one, but I think we can just be better there. I think our short-snap guys are plenty capable of giving us that. I don’t think there will be any issues there. Frankly, there is competition at the long snap, and we will have to see how it plays out this week, but we are very confident that we’ll have a guy that will snap it back there.”

On the starters on the offensive line being the best players at that position...
“They are the best players, and I can tell you that I’m critical. There are certainly ways that we can improve on the offensive line, but I think their play has probably been with the exception of pass protection in several instances pretty good. When we throw it, we have to throw it efficiently. We have to catch it and move the chains. We have to make big plays, so those teams that choose to load the box and allow us to throw it will have to pay a terrible price. I think Brandon LaFell is in that position. I think Terrance Toliver is in that position just for those days, and we have to continue there. I think that our line is performing. Are they performing at the level they want? No. Are they performing at the level I want? No, but I think that they are giving us an opportunity to win and should continue to develop along those lines.”

On how much time is necessary to devote to the Wildcat formation in practice...
“For instance, if you use it as much as 30 plays, that’s going to be over half a game. If you use it in 15 plays, considering the amount of plays that you’re getting in the game, that’s a very significant chunk of time. In my opinion, to make it and make the timing good so that it’s a real advantage for you, you’ll take a good segment of your practice time away from other things you do. If this guy gets nicked, are you out of it, or do you continue with it? Do you have not only the substitution but the position of the play-action pass that you want? There’s a bunch of things that go into it, and I promise you that we are giving thought to it on a regular basis.”

On if it’s the personality of this team that they need to pass to setup the run...
“I think what happens is that a team that lines up against you that says that they don’t want Charles Scott and Keiland Williams to carry the ball, they should have to pay a terrible price. The ability to throw deep balls and the ability to move the chains has to be in our ready list. I think you’re right. I think in certain sets, that’s always the case, and depending on the game plan and the people that you’re playing, if they want Jo Jo LaFell and Terrance Toliver and our wide receiver corps to get them, then that’s what we need to do.”

On what he thought of LB Ryan Baker’s play on the fourth-down play...
Jacob Cutrera was nicked, and Baker came in. On his first two plays, you could tell that he just did not exactly feel comfortable with where he was at. On the fourth-down play, he makes an instinctive hit down low, and Chad Jones follows it up. I can only tell you that it was a big play. It was one that he’ll remember for a long time.”

On if the tight end open in the end zone on the third down play was Ryan Baker’s man to cover...
“We understood exactly the call, and Patrick Peterson may well have been able to provide a coverage on that play. I can also tell you that our defensive staff said during the week, ‘Now, listen. If we make a call where we are taking the dive and we’re taking the pitch, and the other play that we don’t have covered, Chad needs to get down low and get ready to get up there and hit it.’ Daggone it if that wasn’t exactly what he needed to do.”

On using Russell Shepard in other looks...
“It’s really a piece that we’ve got to get to. Offensively, we feel like there are places where he can come in and make differences. First and foremost, we’d like to get Charles Scott and Keiland Williams going, and we’d like to see if we couldn’t get a package that’s developing and underway with Russell Shepard. It’s a work in progress right now. It’s not something we’ve gotten accomplished. He’s comfortable with the things we ask him to do. We wouldn’t put him out there otherwise. We’re trying to get him to the field as fast as we can.”

On why he thinks he has never beaten Georgia...
“I have no idea. The only thing I can tell you is that they are a very talented team. They’re well coached. They’re a team that has been very successful in this conference. I can tell you that our guys look very forward to competing with them. They are one of those teams that you get fired up to play.”

On his current players that are from Georgia...
“I think Perry Riley is really rounding into playing and being a very strong leader and great linebacker for us. He and his counterpart, Kelvin Sheppard. Sheppard made a great special teams play on a sky kick late in the game. He came in after that return and fielded a sky kick and made a big field position move for us on special teams, but he’s playing better and better each week. Both guys are becoming leaders on our team. Both guys will be remembered as really very good linebackers here. T-Bob Hebert was living in Georgia, but he was a Louisiana guy. I know that they are going to be playing wide-eyed and looking forward to playing. They’ll know a lot of the guys on both teams certainly, and there will be some conversation I’m sure between the two groups this week.”

On his defense playing on third downs...
“Depending on the down and distance, third and long is where your defense has to get off the field, and you have to have an advantage when you’re in third and long. If you’re third and five or greater, you’d like 35 to 45 percent to be their offense’s success. On third down and short, you’d like it to be 50/50.”

On his decision to run the ball to the short side of the field the majority of the time Saturday...
“One of the things that their defense did was that they overloaded, in my opinion, and played some of their best personnel to the field, so the opportunity to go and take advantage of some guys that we felt we had some mismatches against were to the boundary. Some of our calls were put just that way.”

On Jordan Jefferson’s learning curve with hot reads...
“He’s really coming on there. The mistakes that were made by him there were more procedure. We are going to make sure that on the third down we get the ball off. I think he was hurrying to get that done. He has to recognize that clock issue and secure the conversation at the line of scrimmage and the call and the line calls and get that ball snapped. He knows where the protection is. He knows where the hots are. He understands those things, in my opinion, better than a lot of young quarterbacks.”

On his first appearance at Georgia as the LSU head coach...
“I’ve never been to Athens, and I’ve never played between the hedges. I talked to (Defensive coordinator) John Chavis about it, and he said it’s a great environment. It’s very much like any of the great SEC venues. It’s loud and fun, and you’ll really enjoy it. I really can’t wait.”

On running the ball being all about attitude...
“I think our football team has an aggressive attitude. I think our guys want more opportunity to come off the football. I think there is attitude there. We really, in my opinion, have to get the rhythm so that we’re ready to roll. Hopefully, that rhythm will come this Saturday.”

On if Ryan Baker will take Jacob Cutrera’s place if he’s unable to go Saturday...
“Baker would work in. We don’t anticipate Cutrera will have an issue with going. We think that he’ll be fine. There are a number of guys there like Ace Foyil that will work in there.”

On any concerns that Georgia may be a little more battle-tested than LSU...
“No. I know that they are a very good football team. I don’t think there is any question regardless of the schedules that have been played. I think our concern is making sure that we are playing and executing at a very high level.”

On kicking off as opposed to punting after a safety...
“We felt like we have a greater hang time and distance. We looked at the distances and the hang times and just kind of felt like that was the way to go.”

On Pep Levingston playing on Saturday...
“Pep Levingston played significant ball in that game and played well. We think that he’s rehabbed, and it’s really about strengthening and continuing the course. We figure that he will play and play significant football as we go forward.”

On if the game dictated Pep Levingston playing...
“He was in a ready to go list, but we probably could have kept him on the side if we didn’t need him and felt like with the heat of the day and how the game was going that we needed to play him.”

On if he’s surprised Georgia is scoring so much against quality opponents...
“They are a very talented team. Their quarterback has stepped in. He has a strong arm. He makes great decisions with the ball. Of course, A.J. Green is making big plays for them on the perimeters, and the tailbacks can all run the football, so I don’t know if I’m surprised. They are certainly a very capable offense.”




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